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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

Lake City Council Rules Against City Manager, Grants Business Owner An Appeal

By Stew Lilker

LAKE CITY, FL – Last night in City Hall, Lake City Business owner Kendrick Maeweather appeared before the City Council to try and save his business, a game room and arcade, in downtown Lake City. Under questionable circumstances, Lake City shut down Mr. Maeweather's business for six months. Mr. Maeweather told the Observer that he had not received any summonses from the Lake City Building or Police Departments.

Kendrick Maeweather told the City Council: I am a business owner north of town. A couple of weeks ago I had my business license suspended for incidents that happened on City property. I filed an appeal. The appeal reached the City's office the day of or a day before deadline, but when I called and asked when I would be put on the meeting for the board they said that I wouldn't be because it was not received on Mr. Lee's desk until a week later.


This photo was taken after last night's City Council meeting. Mr. Maeweather let the Observer into the building, whose electricity had been shut off earlier in the day. The building was spotless and neat. Mr. Maeweather's business license is for a game room and arcade. It was granted by the City.

Later in the meeting Larry Lee, the Director of the Building Department, known in Lake City as Growth Management, said he was out of town for training and did not know when the letter arrived. City Manager Wendell Johnson emphatically stated that the letter did not arrive until after the time to appeal.

Director Lee suspended Mr. Maeweather's business license for six months.

Mr. Maeweather told the Observer that he cannot make his child support payments because of the actions of the City.

Mr. Maeweather showed up at the City Council meeting to ask for the right to appeal.

Lake City's Mayor Steve Witt made sure that Mr. Maeweather had his say.

Mr. Maeweather told the City Council: With my license being suspended my livelihood is going down. Not being able to care for my family; not being able to work. I am just asking for a hearing to be able to address my issue.

City Councilman Eugene Jefferson: You said you sent your paperwork in a week before the deadline?

Mr. Maeweather: Yes sir. The deadline was the 13th and I turned it in on the 13th. Somehow or other they said that he [Building Department Director Larry Lee] didn't see it until the 21st. According to him that is what made me ineligible for the proper appeal that I need for my license.

City Councilman Jefferson: Where did you turn it in -- in his office?

Mr. Maeweather: Yes sir. Yes sir. I turned it in to his secretary. I spoke with Mr. Lee on the phone. He said that it was all right that I turned in to his secretary. A week or so went by. I didn't hear from him. (Mr. Maeweather explained that he spoke with the secretary). She said that since Mr. Lee didn't get it till the 24th, I wouldn't be able to put in for my appeal. You know -- to appeal the decision of my business license.

Councilman Ward asked Mr. Maeweather if his letter was time stamped.

Mr. Maeweather said it wasn't.

Councilman Ward did not ask Building Department Director Lee why it wasn't.

Councilman Jake Hill:  And you said something happened on City property?

Mr. Maeweather explained that everything that occurred happened on City property. He said, "Every incident that was documented by the City -- it happened in the parking lot. They suspended my license for the things that went on in the parking lot."

The parking lot lies north of Mr. Maeweather's business. It is City property.

Maeweather called the police himself

Mr. Maeweather told the City Council that he called the police "as a tax paying citizen" to ask for help. He said, "This is who I turn to when I need help."

Mr. Maeweather continued, "It's like I'm being down rated for calling the police. Nothing's good coming out of me calling the police. It's like I'm getting the bad thing happen to me."

Councilman Hill asked Police Chief Gilmore if she was aware of any arrests that had taken place "down there."

Chief Gilmore received a letter

Chief Gilmore explained that she had received a letter and that she had contacted the Building Department who told her that he [Maeweather] was not supposed to be in operation. "When we get a call we respond. I think I am answering your question."

Chief Gilmore continued, "I got a call about you in reference to your patrons in the parking lot. They are your patrons, right?"

Mr. Maeweather said that some of them may have been and some may not have been.

Mr. Maeweather, "I have asked for help from the police department more than one time, but I never got it."

Sheriff Hunter agreed to help, but

Mr. Maeweather said he went to the Sheriff and the Sheriff agreed to help him, but that it's in the City.

Mr. Maeweather said that he would pay the Police Department extra to patrol the area.

Mr. Maeweather said he asked to speak to the Chief about the issues at his business, but he was never able to speak with her.

Mr. Maeweather was looking to pay an off duty officer to patrol a public parking lot and street around his business.

Mr. Maeweather said that when the police are in the parking lot there aren't any incidents.

Chief Gilmore did not say if she knew anything about what had been going on around the pool hall.

Mr. Maeweather told the City Council and the Police Chief, "They [Building Department] are basing my suspension on things that went on, on City property."

Chief Gilmore, "I understand."

City Manager Johnson weighs in

City Manager Johnson said there is a history with this that is in the Building Department files. "The license was revoked for repeated violations requiring police presence... He was notified appropriately. He was notified of the appeal process. The letter he was referring to was not received at the Growth Management Department until after the appeal period had expired... I don't know what the date is on the letter, but Growth Management didn't get it till after the date. If he wants to appeal this... the appeal has to be made to the Planning and Zoning Board."

When Mr. Johnson was advised that the appeal had to be made to the City Council he remarked, "I never heard of that."

Mr. Johnson said, "He [Maeweather] did not meet the criteria for the appeal process and it's well documented."

Epilogue

The City Council unanimously granted Mr. Maeweather his appeal. It is scheduled for Monday, April 2nd in the Council Chambers at 5:30 pm.

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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Lake City Resident Tells Council: There's no place for us to go.


Jessie Caldwell asked the Mayor if he could speak.

The Mayor welcomed him to the microphone.

"His suspension affects my community," he told the Council

Mr. Caldwell asked if anyone has any knowledge about what goes on "across the track[s] -- Railroad Street?" "There is no place to go to play pool or to socialize."

"I don't think it is fair for his business to be suspended for six months -- where do I have to go? I travel a lot, Tampa, Jacksonville, Miami -- you can go out and shoot an easy game of pool -- drink you a beer. Lake City, it's nowhere to go."

Mr. Caldwell continued, "The problems this man has is a parking lot across the street... When you're shuttin a business down you're shuttin things down for the community. You're not just hurtin him, you're hurtin the community... It's so sad there is nowhere for us to go.  Railroad Street was where people used to go and you're tryin to take that away from us."