Aldermen Find Loitering Situation 'Disturbing'

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The increased number of probationers standing on the sidewalks outside of local businesses in proximity to Providence Community Corrections (PCC) may lead to a new loitering law in Woodbury.

Alderman Charlie Harrell made a motion to draft a loitering ordinance outside of businesses for the Town of Woodbury. The motion was seconded by alderperson Faye Knox and gained unanimous approval of the Woodbury Mayor and Board of Aldermen during the regular November meeting at City Hall.

A committee, including Harrell, Knox and City Attorney Dale Peterson, will contact MTAS to see how effective loitering laws are in other cities and communities. The committee is charged with bringing the ordinance before the Board during its December meeting.

"It's a darn disgrace, and I am disturbed by it," Harrell said in making his motion. "I am disturbed and I would like to see us draft an ordinance against loitering on the streets outside of any business."

Mayor Patrick reminded the aldermen that Woodbury does have businesses where people sit outside legitimately so he advised them to consider that and be careful with the wording; reminding the Aldermen they can't single out businesses.

Lori Christesen, owner of Cannon Arts Dance Studio, addressed the Board concerning an abundance of problems her business has experienced due to increased number of probationers who line the sidewalks and street surrounding her business on Main Street on Wednesdays. This is the only day PCC is open and probationers do not have scheduled times, according to Chief of Police Tony Burnett, so many show up following work.

"Where these people are standing is not private property, it is public property, so our hands are tied as to what we can do," said Burnett, who has conducted meetings with PCC Director Shawn Hollis to assist in alleviating some of the problem.

"We have made contact with Mr. Hollis to address the problem," Burnett said. "They realize they have gotten more people in probation and their business has picked up. They have hired a security guard to help keep people inside and that sort of thing. We try to have a police presence there but our hands are tied as to what we can do. I think they want to fix the problem and they are trying to fix it."

Burnett said he has talked with Hollis about the potential of scheduling visits to control the traffic. Another option is adding an additional day PCC will be open; however, Christesen told the Board such a potential solution would only add to the existing problem.

Christesen has had to stop conducting classes on Wednesdays because parents of her dance students do not want to bring their children through the lines of people.

"This situation is untenable in my opinion, for small children," Christesen said. "Last year was not so bad but the number of people on probation has grown. We have streams of people that hang out on both sides of my dance studio on Wednesdays. There is vulgar language, cigarette butts being thrown down, and alcohol consumption. I now can not have any classes on Wednesdays because moms do not want to cross that group of people."

Christesen said she has lost "$200-to-$300" per week because of the situation.

"The worst thing is we are losing the image of Woodbury," Christesen said. "I think people make mistakes and I understand the Court system but this has gotten out of hand. It is not the image we want for Woodbury."

Christesen showed the Board pictures of probationers lined up on the sidewalk in front of, and alongside, Cannon Arts Dance Studio. She also showed photos of probationers "peering into the windows watching her dancers."

"I don't know what type of offenses they have next door," Christesen said. "I don't know if there are sex offenders in that group or not, but I have beautiful young girls in these classes and it makes parents very uncomfortable when you have a certain element next door to a dance studio. I don't want people glaring into the windows, which are what they are doing."

Mayor Patrick reminded Christesen and the Board they could not subjectively put PCC out of the building.

"I want to help you, and I understand where you are coming from and I understand the problem," Patrick said. "This is a private enterprise thing and they rent that building. We would hope that Providence would get a bigger location or move off of the Square, but we can't make them do that."

Patrick told the committee formed to look into the loitering ordinance to come up with wording that is "proper for the occasion."

Peterson pointed out individuals, not the business, would be charged under a loitering ordinance.

"Short of a loitering ordinance there is nothing we can do," Peterson said. "We can't interfere with private business. We want to control the problem and the problem would be the same if (Christesen) let children hang out on the sidewalk of the dance studio. It would be dangerous. I don't think we want people loitering on sidewalks."

In other business, Peterson also brought up a potential "Peddler's Ordinance. Peterson said he was contacted by an individual who wanted to run a hot dog stand on the Downtown Square on Tuesdays. The Town of Woodbury forbids peddling of any type on the Square, according to Peterson.

This would include vendors for events such as Good Ole Days or other special events. Peterson has drafted a new ordinance which allows individuals or vendors to obtain a peddler's license before setting up operation. Most charitable organizations would not have to obtain a license but they would have to go before the Mayor and Board of Aldermen to gain permission. Any special event with more than one vender (i.e. Good Ole Days), would apply for a blanket permit as opposed to each individual vendor gaining a license. The revised ordinance, which includes door-to-door solicitation, will be brought before the Mayor and Board of Aldermen during the Dec. 6 meeting.

Dotty Duggin was approved to be reappointed to the Central Tennessee Solid Waste Planning Board, and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen also unanimously turned down a proposal from AT&T regarding lowering the rent payment on their cell site located on the old water tank behind Old Manchester Road.

The Board also adopted ordinance number 441 on second and final reading. The ordinance amended Title 4 of the Woodbury Municipal Code. The Board also adopted Resolution 06-11 to establish a set of parameters by which dept obligations will be undertaken by the Town of Woodbury. The Board also approved Resolution 07-11 to exempt The Gathering Place, located in the Old Feed Store Antique Mall and operated by Mike and Deborah Vaughn, from the requirement of having a Type 1 suppression Hood System.

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November 12, 2011 at 9:36am
I understand there is a problem on Wednesdays, however I do not see how drafting an anti-loitering ordinance will help in any way, loitering is generally defined as remaining in any one place with no apparent purpose. These individuals are required by the judicial system to report to probation so obviously they have a purpose for being there, in fact they are required to be there. It seems to me a better approach would be to persuade the probation company to take some actions to remedy the problem, i.e. schedule appointments, have more than one reporting day, etc. It is my understanding the probation company contracts with the county to be able to provide probationary supervision for a fee, and this contract is approved or disapproved by the County Commission, if the probation company will not remedy the situation on their own, simply contact your county commissioner and have them vote NO on their next contract, and award the contract to a company that will. Just my thoughts.
November 12, 2011 at 10:15am
And excellent thoughts they are ...

I've had another: Based on my estimations, PPC profits to the tune of around $100,000 a year from Cannon County probationers. If the county ran the service, instead of contracting it out, that would mean $100,000 less taxpayers would have to spend on judicial services.
November 12, 2011 at 10:56am
I agree with Kevin on that, and it would also mean the probationers would report to the Sheriff's office instead of on the square.
November 12, 2011 at 11:01am
Kevin explain how the taxpayers are spending a $100,000 on this service. Do you mean the people on probation are spending a $100,000 a year for the services or is Cannon County paying $100,000 a year for the services of PCC?

Also, I am in agreement with Phatfrog (love the name by the way, they are always unique) in that how is a loitering law going to be enforced on thirty different people standing outside of a business waiting to get inside because a judge required them to attend.

I am not to sure that couldn't cause a bigger problem than it was worth and I believe if I were in their shoes I would go back to court with my ticket and have the judge explain to me how I was going to submit to his requirements of probation and submit to the loitering laws of the county.

Also, if a group of people are waiting in line to enter a resturant why wouldn't they be considered loitering?

I know it was said a law can't single out a specific business, but the very discussion of creating this law is specifically about this business.

How can anyone say we are not singling them out when no other business or issue has arisen?
November 12, 2011 at 11:26am
Taxpayers are paying nothing for the service. The county earns nothing from the service. If the county ran the service, it would receive the profit PPC is now enjoying. Again, I have estimated that to be around $100,000 a year. If the judicial system had that money coming from probationers, it would need less from taxpayers.

"... how is a loitering law going to be enforced on thirty different people standing outside of a business waiting to get inside because a judge required them to attend."

The judge requires them to attend probation. The judge does not determine where the probation service is located.
November 12, 2011 at 12:16pm
why not talk to them about renting the empty green building on water street - it is large enough to set up seats inside no one would have to be outside ---
November 12, 2011 at 12:28pm
The county taking over the service PPC provides is an idea worth looking into. However, the county would still have the same issues that PPC faces.

If it were to take over the business then we would still need a place for the people on probation to meet. We would need to hire someone to actually run the office. We would need to pay a salary, benefits, insurance and rent on the location. So I kind of see why it is easier to let PPC run it vs. the county.

I still find it very hard to believe that loitering laws pertain to this situation when you have a conflict with a judge requiring these people to attend probation.

No the judge does not determine where the probation service is located, but they do determine if the defendant is required to attend and if this is the only place available then the people on probation have no choice.

Enacting a loitering law and enforcing it against the people who show up to fullfill the requirments a judge has set forth is as ludicrous as giving a loitering ticket to the people who stand outside and inside of the courthouse every week waiting on their case to be heard.

How is that any different? They are required by law to show up, but we are going to give them a ticket? That doesn't even make sense.

There are so many people blocking the doors of the Register's Office, The County Clerk's Office and the Clerk & Master's Office you can't get in the doors on court days.

How many of those people even need to be there? Most of them have half their family there that doesn't even have any business with the court that day.

This is a big can of worms to open. The focus should be on what can be done to require PPC to have less people all at once, have it by appointment and to not sign a new contract with them as Phatfrog suggests.

Instead we focus on the people standing outside who are required to be there.
November 12, 2011 at 12:39pm
yes, these people are apparently being called the "dregs" of society. Chances are good, they are a lot of peoples' next door neighbors. It's so silly in my opinion. They are there waiting to go in after work. They have families and homes and some, are ,I agree ,habitual offenders. But they are humans. They are not bothering a thing. Maybe the disgrace is that Woodbury has so many citizens on probation. If there were more intervention as youth, maybe when they get older, they won't be standing on the streets embarassing the prominent citizens of Woodbury. And yes, PCC makes a lot of money! If Cannon county took probation over it would be quite a few dollars for something. Maybe they could use the money to build a place where the youth could meet to have activities, such as Boy scouts and girl scouts. My son's scout troop has an extremely hard time finding any place in the whole town of Woodbury willing to accomodate a meeting 2 times a month. So much for youth intervention!
November 12, 2011 at 1:45pm
This may sound good to take in 100,000.What will it cost to run this office.It may take more than 100,000? And where will the office be?
November 12, 2011 at 4:03pm
To my knowledge PPC has one person on staff here, one part-time security officer on Wednesdays, and an office which I don't see costing more than $500 monthly to rent. Undoubtedly they also have bookkeeping costs. I estimate they have 100 probationers a week on average paying a minimum $35.

I don't know if those figures are accurate but I do think its worth studying to see if it would benefit the county financially.

As to where the probation office is located, to my knowledge it any be anywhere in Cannon County. The state probation office is in the same building as SAVE, the Food Bank, the Veterans Office, the Election Commission and the Ambulance Service.
November 12, 2011 at 6:14pm
Why don't the Town of Woodbury let the citizens decide what to do about this situation. I recommend to put this issue on the next election ballot, whenever that maybe be. Let the citizens of Woodbury decide if Woodbury needs any loitering laws. As for me personally, I think the court system need to start handing out more jail sentences than probation sentences. Some of the repeat offenders just continues to get a slap on the wrist than the punishment they deserve for the crimes they commit.
November 12, 2011 at 9:11pm
I agree wih Denver01! Not only is the loitering a problem, but when I went to take my 4-year old niece to dance class, I noticed the ground was littered with empty bottles, cups, cigarette butts and so forth. Not only does this make the businesses around there look bad, I don't think it's good for small children to be walking through such filth. I know how to get PPc out-DO NOT RENEW THEIR LEASE!!
November 12, 2011 at 10:27pm
As Junebug 18 says, these probationers aren't strangers: they are our sons and daughters, cousins, neighbors and friends. They will be in the line behind us at the Pig and sitting on our pews in church. These probationers are required to report on this one day, the space is too small to hold them, so what does charging them with an additional crime of loitering do? It has the potential to keep them on probation longer!

Basing laws on short term problems makes for bad law.
November 13, 2011 at 6:19am
If we enact a loitering law and give these people tickets then the same enforcement should be made to everyone who stands outside of the courthouse court room on any day court is in session.

That is as HUGE safety issue when 30 people jam pack the courthouse stairs to the point no one can get up or down the steps. Of course a blind eye is turned toward that.

I can't see how standing outside of PPC would be any different from standing outside of the courthouse.

I can't see how standing outside of PPC would be any different than waiting in line to get inside a resturant.

CutiePie you absolutely nailed it! Basing laws on short term problems makes for bad laws.

However, Cannon County government has always been a reactionary government instead of one that looks beyond the moment they are living in!

November 14, 2011 at 12:17am
I knew nothing about PCC so I did some searches and in trying to find information. I found this article about the overcharging and probation increases without regulation that happens from PCC. Not that this is an answer for the loitering problem but it brings up the question of using such an organization. I am fully aware that this is only one article and one perspective on this company.
I also want to understand why we, Cannon County, paid for all the "beautification" work on the square only to allow such a littering congested forced congregation.
I too am not sure a loitering law will stop anything since these individuals are forced to show up there.
Article on PCC:
November 14, 2011 at 7:51am
Does the counties contract allow this private company to rent a closet with inadaquate restroom facilities to conduct their business. These loiters ,dregs, neighbors or whatever these "people" are called are doing nothing more than attempting to satisfy requirements demanded, by us, of them. This problem was created by the county and ppc.

i cant believe there are not state codes that wouldnt force ppc to provide adequate accommodations.
November 14, 2011 at 9:13am
More jail time for offenders and less people on probation might help with the crowd! If you think you are just going to get a slap on the wrist and probation, I don't see how that makes someone think twice before they commit a crime.
November 15, 2011 at 9:14am
We need the service PCC provides but the location is terrible. Who rents the space to them?
November 19, 2011 at 10:13am
As a business owner on Main Street I feel compelled to advocate for the merchants as well as the families who frequent my dance studio. I appreciate that the probation office provides a neccessary service. In the article I was even quoted as saying that" I understand that people make mistakes." For a couple of years we coexisted side by side without incident.However, something has changed regarding the PCC caseload in the last year. The amount of people, the trash they leave behind, and the time they are spending on the streets in front of my studio as well as on the side street, is impeding my ability to provide the level of service that my families and the community have come to expect. Since I have opened the dance studio in 2009 ,I have seen many businesses come and go. It is very difficult to maintain a profitable business on Main Street without the added complication of closing the doors on Wednesdays. Other merchants such as the Scoreboard, were forced to close on Wednesdays .Woodbury merchants no longer can benefit from the parents of my students who frequent local businesses . I have a lot of time and money invested in the studio which would make it difficult for me to relocate..Commentor Junebug wishes for an afterschool program for youth. The Cannon Arts Dance studio provides such a local program at reasonable rates.You say you need a location for Boy Scouts to meet. How about Wednesdays after school at the dance studio? Before you answer, drive by on any Wednesday between 4-7 and see if that would be a location appropriate for children.
Respectfully submitted,
Ms. California
November 20, 2011 at 10:18am
It angers me to see all these people standing outside the dance studio. My little cousin is a student there and I just want to stop and tell all these probationers to get in a damn single file line. I could care less about why they are there. I only care about the well-being of those young kids, parents, and teacher of that studio.
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