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Williamsport business owners urge officials to establish nuisance ordinance

September 11, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

Voicing concerns about safety and disruptive behavior, several residents and business owners on Monday urged the Williamsport Town Council to look into establishing a nuisance ordinance to curb activity they said is hurting businesses and quality of life in town.

Rose Harris, an owner of Desert Rose Cafe and Catering at 42 N. Conococheague St., said people linger outside of her shop, drink in public and often ask patrons for cigarettes, which has negatively affected her business.

Harris said she’s heard numerous concerns from her customers, saying the people who loiter bother them.

“I know these people, and I’m still intimidated by them,” Harris said.

River City Cycles owner Scott Gordon also spoke, saying the town council needs to hold the landlords of properties responsible for the tenants to whom they rent.

He said it’s gotten to the point that he advises customers, including many tourists from out of the area, to secure their bikes and valuables when they come into his store at 16 N. Conococheague St.

Another speaker said his sister came to visit last Christmas and did not feel safe with the “vagrants” that congregate in town.

All three speakers received applause from the crowd of about 25 people inside Williamsport Town Hall, including Councilwoman Maya Haines, who shared their concerns.

Haines said she had an interaction with a man causing a disturbance in a store, and when she asked him to leave, the man lunged at her.

“I do feel threatened by him,” Haines said.

Deputy 1st Class Carl Witmer of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said at Monday’s meeting that he arrested the man twice in the past week. The man was in custody with a $3,000 bond and soon will be evicted from his home, Witmer said.

Mayor James McCleaf said this is not a new issue, and the town had at one time looked into establishing a nuisance ordinance, but it was shot down.

“I see it everyday when I drive home, and I’m sure other council members do, too,” he said.

McCleaf said the town needs to determine its “plan of attack” to curb disruptive behavior that is causing concerns for shop owners.

“It hasn’t fallen on deaf ears,” McCleaf said, adding that it could be possible to issue fines to property owners for nuisances caused by their tenants.

Witmer, who is assigned to Williamsport, said there are two operational cameras installed in town that help authorities monitor activity, but he might try to secure grant funding for more.

The two cameras — one currently on North Conococheague Street and the other on West Church Street — have been loaned to the town from the Hagerstown Police Department, he said.

Witmer said the goal is to try to deter criminal activity associated with the loitering and people causing problems.

“We are going to take a very active approach” to this issue, McCleaf said.

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