Aldermen adjust schedule for work on burned bldgs.

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Following a visit from downtown building owner Johnny Perkins,the board of aldermen Tuesday decided to reset the timetable forcleanup of the May 24 downtown fire debris to Nov. 1 for finalcleanup, rather than the earlier Dec. 1 deadline.

Perkins told the board he believes the previous timetable wastoo long and could affect local Christmas sales.

“Businesses have already been adversely affected by thissituation,” he said. “It is an eyesore and a safety hazard. Thelast three months of the year are the Christmas shopping season,and this could be a great detriment to shoppers.”

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Perkins, who owns the building directly across the corner ofWhitworth Avenue and Monticello Street, said he believed thetimeframe to have the area cleaned should be moved up from Dec. 1.That date was set at the last board meeting, but Perkins last nightlobbied for a Sept. 1 cleanup date.

Mayor Bob Massengill explained that the board had set theearlier timetable to try to give owners of the businesses enoughtime to come up with a plan and funding for the cleanup. The mayoradded that he agrees something needs to be done.

“So many things are looking good in the downtown area that wehate to have anything to detract from it,” he said.

Perkins pointed out that waiting until Dec. 1 could be a problembecause if, for some reason or another, any of the cleanup is notdone, it then falls to the city and might not be done until afterChristmas time.

“Just because one irresponsible business owner didn’t haveinsurance on his business and won’t clean it up, it’s hurting therest of downtown,” Perkins said. “All it takes is a front-endloader and a dump truck to do this.”

Charles Lofton, the owner of the building which housedTri-County Loans, Louise’s Family Fashion, and BrookhavenElectronics, did not have insurance on his building. Posey Placeowner Jan Bullock had insurance, but her policy does not cover theextent of the damage.

Perkins also pointed out that not only is the area an eyesoreand a possible safety hazard, employees of Celebrations, which islocated in the bottom of his building, have reported seeing peopleentering the wreckage.

“So it’s a potential health hazard, too,” he said. “I don’t knowif you all knew there have been people in and out of there.”

Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell made the motion to move thefinal cleanup date to Sept. 1. After some board discussion, hismotion was later amended to Nov. 1.

Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates was uncomfortable with moving thedate up so drastically to Sept. 1, saying the business ownersshould be contacted first.

“We need to see what comments the owners have. We can’t keepchanging it back and forth,” he said. “But we should talk to them,and they might want to move it up.”

Massengill said he had already contacted the business ownerswith the timetable, and did not mind amending it.

Ward Four Alderwoman Shirley Estes asked if it were possiblejust to clean the sidewalks by a Sept. 1 deadline and placebarriers between the debris and the sidewalk. Massengill said thecity couldn’t afford the risk.

“It could be disastrous to let people come too close to thosebuildings,” he said. “Perhaps we should move the date up to Nov. 1for final cleanup, since that’s two months before Christmas, thoughnot the Christmas shopping season.”

Estes seconded Maxwell’s amended motion, saying that she wantedher reason for seconding clarified in the minutes.

“My second is dependent on emphasizing the concern of thedowntown business owners and the hazards posed to the people whoare going in and out of those buildings,” she said.