Food Vendor Subcommittee Wraps Up Final Hearing

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Mobile Food Vendor Hearing
The Hermiston City Council's subcommittee on mobile food vendors held its final public meeting Tuesday night. The subcommittee is gathering public input on possible regulations for the vendors.

The city’s subcommittee on mobile food vendors held its fourth and final public hearing Tuesday night. Now it will comb through the feedback it has received during the past several weeks and make its recommendations to the Hermiston City Council, which will then be tasked with writing an ordinance regulating food vendors within the city limits.

Earlier this year, the city deemed it necessary to establish regulations for food vendors after receiving complaints that covered several issues, including their appearance as well as safety hazards. A recurring complaint about the food vendors is that many of them tend to be stationary rather than mobile.

“In all the research into the different cities, we never found what we have here – vendors who remain in one place 24/7, 365 days a year,” said Hermiston City Councilor George Anderson, a member of the subcommittee along with fellow councilors Manuel Gutierrez and John Kirwan.

The question of how mobile the vendors should be was a topic of debate Tuesday night. There have been suggestions that food vendors must pack up and leave their location at the end of each day. Sharon Harvey, owner of Sharon’s Sweet Treats, a barbecue wagon parked near Ace Hardware, said such a requirement would create a hardship for her business.

“In my situation, it’s impossible to move back and forth every day,” Harvey said. “If you negotiate with the land owner and they say it’s OK, why should the city say we have to move?”

Mobile food vendor Tony Melius, who owns Lutong Pilipino, also opposed the idea of having to pack up and move at the end of each day. Melius said his trailer is not parked in one sport year round. He travels throughout the area to various festivals during the summer. But, he added, moving off his location each and every day would be difficult.

Some in the audience Tuesday night questioned why regulations were needed in the first place. Anderson then read a letter from Gary Arsenault, the owner of Last Chance Tavern on 11th Street, which outlined a list of complaints against a food vendor parked near the tavern.

In his letter, Arsenault said the taco wagon did not have adequate parking, wash stations or a public restroom, conditions which he said created safety and health hazards.

Hermiston resident Mitch Thompson, who said he frequently eats at the taco wagon, disputed the complaints, as did Hermiston resident Jorge Valenzuela.

“What I appreciate about this particular mobile vendor is it attracts customers in the area who are Latino,” Valenzuela said. “It’s a great example of what a local business is – he has a lot of customers and the tacos are great.”

The mobile food vendor subcommittee will now work on recommendations for the city council to consider.

“We’re going to make general recommendations,” Anderson said after the meeting. “We’re not going to write the ordinance.” The subcommittee’s recommendations are expected to be ready for the council sometime in August.