Carthage city officials are looking at a proposal to allow food trucks to operate within the city, but the measure has some local business owners concerned about the impacts on brick-and-mortar restaurants.

Right now, they say they have a lot of questions about how food trucks would be allowed to operate.

“We’re not against it, at all,” Sunflower Mercantile owner Scott Reeves said. “We just don’t know anything. I think sometimes the unknown is scary especially when you’ve invested as many thousands as we all have.”

The Carthage City Commission is currently looking at a proposed food truck ordinance, after the Kona Ice company told officials they wanted to do business within the city.

A draft food truck ordinance would require mobile food vendors to pay for a vending permit: $50 for a temporary permit, $200 for an annual permit and no cost for a nonprofit. It would also require vendors to have a certified health certificate and food handler’s license from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Hours of operation would be limited between 6 a.m. and midnight. Vendors would be able to park on private property if the owner granted permission, and the ordinance requires bathroom access. Food trucks would not be allowed to park in a public right-of-way or block access to a parcel or ally or fire lane. They’d also be banned from parking where they’d be a visibility obstruction at a street intersection.

Food trucks would be required to maintain 10 feet of clearance from other structures, more if they work with grease and don’t have an automatic extinguishing system. The ordinance also details regulations for cooking, propane and gas equipment.

Anyone violating the ordinance would be fined up to $500 for each offense.

The proposed ordinance would need to go through three readings and votes at commission meetings before it becomes law.

Reeves knows food trucks can be a popular attraction, and he said an upcoming food truck park on U.S. 79 would be great. But he wasn’t sure how the city would collect sales taxes from someone who isn’t local, if there would be additional fees for any food trucks parking on city property, such as Davis Park, or how far from brick-and-mortar restaurants they’d be required to park.

Kevin and Kristi Whitsett own the Rafter W. Steakhouse in River Hill. It’s outside the city, but they’re still interested in how the food truck ordinance will be written because it could trickle out into the county.

They said the proposed permit fees seemed too low, although Kevin Whitsett said he liked that the temporary permit would only allow operation for a certain number of hours. They were worried allowing outside food trucks like Kona Ice could detract from locally-owned businesses whose profits are put back into the local economy through taxes, donations and commerce.

“These people come from out of town,” Kristi Whitsett said. “They’re not giving back to the infrastructure, because whatever they make is leaving.”

Reeves, and Kevin Whitsett, aren’t sure food trucks would be a long-term attraction in Carthage.

“I see the other side as well,” Reeves said. “If they were to put it in, it’s a real risk for a food truck to come here because this is unknown territory. They may come here and loose their shirt.”

Reporter

Carthage native Meredith Shamburger has worked for the Panola Watchman since 2018. Before that, she worked at sister papers in Longview and Marshall; the Dallas Morning News; and The Daily Voice, a hyperlocal news company in Westchester County, New York.