Bellefonte do-not-disturb list goes into effect

lfalce@centredaily.comJune 4, 2014 

— If Bellefonte has its way, residents might never be bothered by a knock at the door that isn’t from a friend or neighbor.

The municipality’s “do not disturb” list registration has gone live on www.bellefonte.net. Visitors can scroll down the right rail and there, just below the link to pay the water bill, is the link to freedom from random vendors interrupting dinner or waking a napping baby. Almost.

Borough Manager Ralph Stewart said there are a few caveats to the ordinance, exceptions to the rules cribbed from similar measures passed in other municipalities.

First of all, access to Girl Scout cookies has been protected. Stewart said youth groups are still free to peddle hoagies, wrapping paper, Easter candy, etc., to their neighbors.

Likewise, charitable organizations are allowed to collect donations or participate in fundraising activities, so if the members of Logan and Undine fire companies are looking to drum up support, they can still canvass the locals.

Insurance agents are covered under a separate law that protects their abilities to promote their services. Veterans are also free to conduct door-to-door business.

Politicians and preachers are protected by the highest law of the land. Anything deemed “proselytization” falls under the umbrella of free speech and has to be permitted, up to a point.

“It’s a constitutional issue,” Stewart said.

That is why, he said, the ordinance does ask that those organizations still register with the borough. If what starts out as a plea to save a soul and ends up as a sales pitch, residents would be able to complain to the municipality about the bait and switch, and steps could be taken.

So just what would the ordinance weed out?

“Believe it or not, for such a small town, we get a lot of vendors coming in,” Stewart said.

Some are selling for-profit products, like vacuum cleaners or children’s books. Some are offering services like water treatment, painting or driveway sealing. Some are completely legitimate and others are not.

Stewart said many elderly residents can be targeted for scams that use door-to-door sales as a cover. This list and the registration process could help cut down on that.

Companies or individuals looking to do a house-to-house business in Bellefonte can check in at the borough office and receive a copy of the “do not disturb” list, a file of addresses not to be contacted.

Stewart said at Monday’s council meeting that vendors would only receive the addresses of those who signed up, without the names or phone numbers that are also collected on the borough’s form

However, Councilman Walt Schneider questioned whether those signing up should include names, suggesting that the information in the list could then be collected in a Right to Know request and end up revealing more than protecting.

Stewart said he did not think that information would have to be disclosed but said he would investigate.

Lori Falce can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @LoriFalce.

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