ABBEVILLE — Business wasn’t good for a downtown merchant and he wants to know why.
Roger Wellborn said placement of barricades during the Spring Festival adversely affected his business at Abbeville Hardware Store. The store usually sees up to 200 customers a day. During the festival, the store instead saw from 25-30 customers.
He presented pictures of barricades in the street near his business at the Wednesday council meeting. Customers were driving around barricades to get to his business, Wellborn said. Some barricades were put on the business’ property.
“This was an easy fix,” he said. All he asked was for the city to move three barricades, which would have allowed access. One of the barricades was on the sidewalk, and another was in the store’s driveway.
When a fourth barricade was put in, drivers started jumping the curb, Wellborn said. Wellborn said Friday that some customers use trailers to pick up items and they didn’t have room to maneuver.
No rides were in the street in front of the store, Wellborn said. What was being blocked off?
Machinery was in the area, Mayor Trey Edwards said. Concerns about traffic turning around at barricades arose. In some cases, traffic damaged brick islands. Barricades were used to maintain the safety of festival visitors. The city tries to keep inconvenience to a minimum.
“I never get answers back when I talk to you all,” said Wellborn, who has operated the hardware store for about 2 1/2 years.
He also aired frustration in January when he attended a council meeting regarding a lack of response to a complaint involving a city staffer who acted up in his store in an incident last fall that included profanity. He said then he wanted to know why a business is treated in such a manner. “This is not how to get businesses into town,” he said.
Wellborn said he had a video of the incident and offered to show it to city officials to avoid a “he said, they said” situation. He said no one visited to view the video.
It seems the council doesn’t want the city to grow, he said in January.
A result of Wellborn’s frustration was a “For Sale” sign placed in front of his business. A May 10 post on the business’ Facebook page featured a photo of the sign.
The closure is for personal reasons, he said, although Wellborn expressed gratitude toward his customers. That gratitude was reciprocated at the council meeting as about 12 other people walked out of the council room with him. Wellborn said they all were customers.
Four people have contacted him about buying the store; two of them seem to be serious prospects, Wellborn said, adding that he is willing to stay with the business for a short time to provide training to the new owners.
“It’s a good business; a profitable business,” he said.
“I want this business to stay good,” he said. “The customers in town have been wonderful; they’ve been good to us. I don’t want to let them down by closing the store.”
Before discussion was underway at the council meeting, Edwards said if anyone has complaints toward any city official, they should send written complaints to him; or if the complaint is regarding him, it should be sent to the mayor pro tem. Edwards said he would like to meet with Wellborn and other business owners to discuss the matter to reach a compromise.
In a related matter, Wellborn aired concern about a time limit for “For Sale” signs. After a certain time, fines can be levied. He showed a picture of the old post office with a “for sale” sign that had been up for sales. He was informed that sign at the old post office was up before the ordinance was passed.
In other business:
City Manager Blake Stone said the Spring Festival attracted from 12-13,000 attendees. Up to $91,000 in ride ticket sales were made. Goals for future festivals include looking at more handicap access, more lighting and possibly using a shuttle system to get people to Court Square. Stone suggested moving the festival to Friday through Sunday to reduce impact to downtown business owners. Council member Chris Crawford mentioned the city might have to reach out to churches and council member Matt Gambrell said some vendors might refuse to work on Sunday. Crawford also lauded the city staff for the work done on the festival.
Mayor Edwards hopes to have up to 60 volunteers ready to clean up the old Harbison Cemetery on May 29. Work will involve weeding, tree trimming and cutting grass. He said grand funds to cover maintenance expenses are being sought.
A property owner pledged to clean up derelict vehicles on his property after Edwards presented photos he had taken and presented to codes enforcement officials.
Work on the McGowan Street water line could begin in either August or September, Stone said. The project will encompass the street from Haigler Street to Taylor Town Road. The project cost will be $768,500.
Jonathan Meyers and Tyler Goss were appointed to four-year terms on the city planning commission.
The council approved a request from Cassandra James about putting a vending machine at the Opera House. The city would get 15% of gross revenue. Stone said he would talk to James about the proposal.
Stone said the city will need to update its business license practices to match a state law. The goal is to standardize rules throughout the state. The new law will be effect Jan. 1, 2022.
Stone said the Abbeville Community Performing Arts Board aims to establish summer and fall workshops and hopes to bring back live theater in the fall or winter. It also hopes to use the Livery Stable and the civic center as sites for workshops.
Council passed the first reading of an ordinance establishing loitering and failure to stop regulations by a 5-4 vote. Police officials said action will be taken only if there is a problem or a complaint.
Council passed second reading of an ordinance to amending sewer use rules to match state and federal standards.
Council passed the second reading of an ordinance to streamline language of economic incentive programs such as the Bailey Bill (which provides tax-freeze incentives on historic structures) and the city’s grant program for small business owners. Stone said he would present information on money provided to entrepreneurs at a later meeting.