Monday, August 25, 2008

Watkinsville Woodyard

Adam Thompson wrote an interesting story about the Watkinsville woodyard for today's paper. The story is pretty accurate in its description of the situation, although I wish the ABH would have posted the years of correspondence we have had with Mr. Callaway regarding the appearance and condition of his property so readers would have had some context on how long this has been going on. But what I found most interesting about the story was the reaction it generated -- many people calling the council elitist, etc. Lets walk through the facts:

  1. Various mayors and city councils have been trying to get Mr. Callaway to clean up his act for more than 10 years now. This goes all the way back to the days of Mayor Sammy Sanders and Mayor Toby Hardigree. Incidents included illegal burning, vehicles in the road, obstructions of the sidewalk, etc.
  2. We have given Mr. Callaway multiple chances to just run a reasonably clean operation for years, and he couldn't keep it together. In fact, he operated for a year without a business license while the council waited for him to clean up. We have tried multiple types of "carrots" to get Mr. Callaway to clean up and unfortunately finally had to resort to a stick.
  3. At the end of the day, keeping old vehicles in various states of repair, unsecured wood, etc. was a liability for Mr. Callaway and the city as long as we knew it was going on. Something had to be done.
As for the comments after the article, I find these (and countless others in the Athens paper and elsewhere) one of the more disturbing aspects of "journalism" today. While papers search for "eyeballs" and use comments to measure the reaction to the story, those offering the "commentary" hide behind a shield of anonymity and are given free reign to spew venom and make whatever accusations they want in the name of "interactive" journalism. If only these people had the courage to at least attend a city council meeting, come to a planning meeting and contribute something positive, call and discuss their concerns in person, or even run for office...

The fact is, the vast majority of the citizens in Watkinsville expect to have a clean city. They don't want old vehicles littering yards and businesses. They enjoy the mix of history and new development. They want speeders to slow down and appreciate a responsive police force.

The mix of businesses in the city is as good as it has ever been (especially considering the economy), with everyone from traditional downtown merchants to auto parts stores to a full industrial park. We're not perfect, but I don't think anyone can accuse us of not listening to our constituents. As we grow, we'll continue to listen. We also know you're not going to please everyone in this business, especially in an area that is changing like ours.

Photo Credit: John Curry, Athens Banner-Herald

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