High-Maintenance Man

Welton Street property owners have spent thousands to keep their district clean. So what do they have to show for it?

Last summer, after Jones threatened to dissolve the district, Montoya finally stepped in and became involved in Welton Street politics. Once on the board, Jones says, it took over a year for him to "filter in what they were doing. I just couldn't do it overnight. When I found out I had the right to call a board meeting, I called a meeting."

The meeting this January was the first ever for the thirteen-year-old maintenance district.

Parker wasn't invited to the meeting at the Glenarm Recreation Center, but he heard about it and figured he'd better show up to defend himself. People there were "unhappy about the appearance of the street. They wanted to talk without Parker," says Norman Harris. "He was the employee, they were the owners. Only the owners and the board were allowed. They wouldn't start the meeting with him there."

Parker says Jones tried to force him out. "He threatened to put me out of the meeting," says Parker. "That's his words. He comes talking about how I didn't have a right to be there. I knew if he laid his hands on me, I was goin' to jail. I'm 66 years old. I ain't gonna let nobody hit me."

Parker called the cops on his cell phone. But when the cops arrived, they asked Parker to leave. He did, after first issuing a warning to the city.

"The only thing I said to Montoya was, unless they give me a thirty-day notice, I will see them in court," he says. "That's what my agreement calls for."

By now, though, Jones was not the only person complaining about Parker. Several months ago, Willie Wallace, who runs Five Points Beauty Supply, sent a letter to Public Works complaining about Parker's performance. "The Welton Street pedestrian mall is in very bad condition," she wrote. "The maintenance is most undesirable." She listed why: few trees, bad lights, "stained and unclean" sidewalks, poor snow removal. "I am not pleased with how these boardmembers have handled my tax dollars," she wrote.

Her daughter, Catherine Robinson, sent another letter, noting that she did not see "the businesses along the Welton Street pedestrian mall getting the benefits of these assessments."

Although both letters were sent to the city, McKinley Harris responded. He told Wallace that he was "unaware of any dead trees and probably will not know anything until spring," that "all lights are presently working" and that the "sidewalks are cleaned every morning six days a week."

McKinley Harris is just covering for his pal Parker, Jones says. "McKinley, Big Al, Parker--they're all friends," he adds. "That's why they band together to give him the contract again. They're connected together."

"I'm a friend of everyone down here," responds Al Richardson. "I think we need some unity in street maintenance. We should not get angry and bring personal dislike into this."

Richardson's not alone in praising Parker. "I really think the district helped," says John Selman, who owns a record store across the street from Jones's place. "I would rather pay someone else and create a job for someone."

Leonard Dixon, who runs Joe's Shoe Repair, says he thinks Parker has done an excellent job. "What Crayton don't understand is he's down here at five in the morning," says Dixon. "By eight or nine in the morning, the winds blow, and here comes the trash."

The Welton Street Maintenance District held its third official meeting on May 7. Jones was voted in as treasurer, and Urban Spectrum publisher Bea Harris was named president. They are now the only two who can disburse district monies. (Bea Harris did not return several phone calls from Westword.)

Jones brought three new bids on the maintenance contract to the May meeting. Two were for less than the $700-a-month fee Parker is requesting; the third was almost double that amount.

The boardmembers decided not to accept any of the bids and voted to keep Parker on the job for another month--until they can decide exactly what services they want in the future.

The fourth meeting in the thirteen-year history of the Welton Street Maintenance District is set for June 13. At that time, the board will determine who gets the maintenance contract for next year.

Catherine Robinson says she's willing to give the city a chance to make sure things run smoothly. "Once everything is brought right in the open, we'll see if there is a resolve from the city," she says. "It's not fair to judge at this time."

But Jones vows to remain vigilant, no matter who gets the contract. "I ain't tryin' to uncover anybody," he says. "We ain't been treated fair."

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