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Forward Township discusses possible restrictions on soliciting

From left, Forward Township Supervisors Sheryle Long, Mark Wilson and Susan Oliver-Stough chat after a meeting on Tuesday night, June 11. William Pitts/Butler Eagle

FORWARD TWP — Supervisors on Tuesday evening, June 11 discussed taking action to restrict door-to-door soliciting of homes and businesses.

“We’ve had a number of concerns with people going into the township soliciting for home improvement,” said Mark Wilson, chairman of the township’s supervisors. “We want to make sure that people going door-to-door have a background check, as a way of protecting the citizens.”

Potential solutions discussed by the supervisors include requiring a permit for door-to-door soliciting, as well as implementing a “non-soliciting list” — a list of residences and businesses which would prohibit soliciting on their property.

Wilson provided one common example of soliciting in Forward Township.

“Paving crews come in and go door-to-door saying, ‘We'll be glad to install asphalt, or tar-and-chip you're your driveway for a price today,’” Wilson said. “Some of these are done well, and some of these aren't done well.”

The township’s legal adviser, Rebecca Black, was highly in favor of the idea of restricting door-to-door soliciting, based on a negative experience she had with representatives from a pest control sales company.

“This is so embarrassing, but I fell for this too. I said, ‘That's a great idea. They’ll keep all the bugs out of your house,’” Black said. “None of it worked. You can’t ever get out of these contracts. Even as a licensed attorney, you can't get out of these contracts.”

Black also mentioned the possibility that some of the people performing door-to-door soliciting may have a criminal record.

“The companies that bring people in ... they're not doing background checks,” Black said. “We have run into this situation before where there are convicted felons that are going door-to-door.”

“It’s a safety concern for our community,” said Supervisor Susan Oliver-Stough. “Our community wants to know if the people who are coming around asking for business are legitimate and that it’s safe to open their doors to them.”

According to Wilson, the township currently has no ordinances requiring that door-to-door solicitors receive a permit, nor does Forward Township have a “non-soliciting list.”

Neighboring municipalities do require permits for door-to-door soliciting, including the city of Butler and Butler Township. Others, such as the boroughs of Callery and Seven Fields, have a “do not solicit” list, which allows residents to register should they wish to not have door-to-door solicitors.

Black asked supervisors to acquire a “sample ordinance” from a neighboring municipality regarding door-to-door soliciting to give the board some guidance on how to approach the issue.

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