Church gets permit to solicit donations from middle of road
The town of Franklin recently passed a Charitable Solicitations ordinance in order to have more control over groups who stand in the middle of the road asking for money.
But it appears the ordinance has backfired. The group the town was trying to keep away met all the requirements in the ordinance, including a $2 million insurance policy, and was issued a one-time permit to solicit donations in the street.
Franklin residents are accustomed to seeing Shriners or volunteer firefighters with boots standing at intersections collecting money for their cause, but a group from Kentucky has been soliciting in Franklin to supposedly raise money for New Life Church Inc., based in Louisville. The church’s mission is to help the homeless.
“Apparently the people of Macon County are very generous, so they keep coming back,” said Franklin Police Chief David Adams.
Adams said the group came into the police department, paid the $25 fee, brought their $2 million insurance policy and received a permit to solicit in the streets. The group has to give the police department a five-day notice of when it plans to use the permit, but no date has been set yet.
With several complaints from people saying the money is pocketed and not given back to a church, Adams said for people to be wary of donating to the out-of-town solicitors.
“We’re just trying to get the word out that you don’t have to give them money,” he said.
Town Attorney John Henning Jr. told the board at last month’s meeting that passing an ordinance would protect the town from liability if someone were injured while collecting donations in the middle of the road.
Mayor Bob Scott voiced his concerns about the ordinance during the meeting, including the insurance policy and $25 fee for the permit.
“I do have some reservations about this — I’m not sure we defined ‘charitable,’” he said.
Henning said the state statute already defined “charitable” and that the ordinance was to address people standing in the road soliciting contributions. He added that the $2 million insurance policy also was required in the statute.
“So if you’re going to allow these charitable solicitations of donations in the streets, this is the way to do it,” he said. “I can’t promise you that you won’t be sued if something happens, but you would be doubly protected with that policy.”
Scott said the ordinance language seemed restrictive, “but I’ll go along with whatever you guys want to do.”
Adams asked if the police had the authority to decide which intersections people could solicit from because certain intersections pose a traffic hazard.
Henning said he would look into that issue, but as of Feb. 2 Adams didn’t have an answer to the question.
Scott said he was afraid passing the ordinance would negatively impact other charitable organizations raising money.
“If a cheerleader [doing a car wash] gets a little excited and jumps out into the road, are we going to write them up?” he asked. “Is the ordinance being presented to clear up one situation or is it going to clear up a whole lot of situations?”
Alderman Verlin Curtis said there had been several complaints about the one group.
“No one seems to know who they are. I don’t think they know who they are,” he said.
Alderman Patti Abel said she thought the ordinance could clear up a lot of potential situations in the future.
The ordinance passed unanimously.