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York merchants cite downtown complaints

Members of a business owners group have urged York city leaders to address downtown problems - from unkempt streets and sidewalks to parking issues and vacant, unsightly storefronts.

Nine members of the York Downtown Business Association expressed their concerns in a recent letter to City Manager Charles Helms and York City Council members.

"The City Council does not show downtown any attention," Jeanne Ferguson, a former York business owner who owns downtown property, told the council at a recent meeting. Ferguson said downtown "needs a commitment from the council."

Ferguson, Dickerson Motor Co. owner Jim Dickerson and Dogma & Fetch owner Jordan Garrett listed concerns that included:

Maintenance issues such as trash pickup, street and sidewalk cleaning, tree stumps and weeds

Traffic and parking issues, including speeding, the need for pedestrian crosswalks and the enforcement of a two-hour parking limit

The need to recruit new businesses to fill up empty storefronts.

"We need to get some action," Dickerson said. "I know it's not easy."

City officials said York Police officers have canvassed the downtown area recently to speak with the business owners and make a list of their concerns.

The city will do what it can do address the concerns, Helms said. "We are committed to the downtown."

Councilman Harmon Merritt agreed, saying it's in the city's best interest if downtown merchants are happy.

"With the number of complaints that we heard, I feel the city will make some efforts to satisfy these complaints," Merritt said.

"I don't think something will be done overnight. Plans have to be made."

Garrett spoke of a recent shopper who came to his pet store from out of town being by the appearance of downtown York, citing empty storefronts and trash.

Helms said the city hasn't had the staff to assign an employee to downtown maintenance on a full-time basis. He said downtown trash cans are emptied once a week, usually on Thursday or Friday.

"I'd love to have a person on Main Street all the time," he said.

Police Chief Andy Robinson listed some of the concerns police officers heard while talking to business owners - beer bottles in the road and parking areas and a need for street cleaning; business owners parking in front of other businesses, blocking customers; speeding; and a tree in front of a business damaging the building.

Two business owners said they did not want a greater police presence in the downtown because they felt their customers would feel harassed.

Mayor Eddie Lee said the parking problem has been referred to the city's public safety committee.

According to minutes of that committee, the city has a two-hour downtown parking limit, but it has not been enforced because the city doesn't have the resources to devote an employee to writing parking tickets.

Lee said the city will do its best to "neaten up downtown," and address the parking issue.

Ronnie Bailes, owner of The Men's Shop, one of the oldest businesses in York, said he has heard many of the concerns before. He said he picks up around his building almost every day.

"It's always the same concerns, there's litter and there's maintenance to be done," Bailes said. "The city is working on that, it's just taking some time. But I'm sure the city will work on this."