BY SABRINA BATES
DRESDEN (June 28) – Long-time Dresden business owners, Tim and Trinette Baker, want to let the community know they are working to remedy the complaints, apparently fielded by Dresden Mayor Jeff Washburn, about activity at the couple’s garage on Maple Street in Dresden.
In a letter dated June 21 from Mayor Washburn to Tim’s Garage, “abandoned vehicles” not moved from the street and property within 30 days of the letter will be towed at the Bakers’ expense. During a recent City of Dresden Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting held June 7, the couple’s business was the topic of discussion and target of a potential lawsuit proposed by Washburn and City Attorney Beau Pemberton.
The mayor told board members the parking at Tim’s Garage along the street is an ongoing problem and been a concern by local citizens. Pemberton told board members the problem won’t be resolved without litigation against the business. Both appealed to the board as a proposed lawsuit would incur legal fees and the mayor cannot move forward with litigation without the approval of aldermen.
The Bakers contend they had no knowledge they were going to be the target of a potential lawsuit or the topic of discussion at the recent board meeting. Both say they have tried working with the attorney and mayor to resolve the issues and have gotten a series of conflicting answers to their questions.
In October 2020, Tim’s Garage received a letter from the city warning of a potential lawsuit and involuntary removal of vehicles.
Tim Baker said he initiated a meeting with Pemberton to discuss the letter and what steps the business owners can take moving forward to remedy the situation.
“I walk on pins and needles up here every weekend. We are constantly moving vehicles along the street,” Tim Baker noted. The street is used now for only those vehicles that are ready to be picked up by the customer.
The city ordinance referenced each time a “violation” is mentioned states in part:
“13-402. Storage on private property restricted. It shall be unlawful to park, store, or leave, or to permit the parking or storage of any licensed or unlicensed motor vehicle of any kind, for a period in excess of thirty (30) days, … upon private property within the city unless the same is completely enclosed within a building or unless it is in connection with a business enterprise operated in a lawful place and manner and licensed as such, when necessary to the operation of such business enterprise.”
Tim’s Garage has been in business since 2005. Prior to that, it was Maddox Garage, where Tim Baker was employed since 1998. A Google image of the property shows vehicles parked along the street in front of Maddox’s Garage.
After last year’s letter, the Bakers asked what they could do as a business to clear vehicles from the lot where the customer, in some cases, never picked up their vehicle and never paid their bill. As Trinette explained, their hands are tied in those situations, but Washburn offered to get them paperwork to start the process of mechanic liens against abandoned vehicles. As a result, five of the vehicles were removed. They are in the process of removing at least that many more.
While the ordinance stipulates they must be removed within 30 days, the business owners were given 72 hours to remove vehicles from along the street. Another ordinance stipulates if a vehicle is parked along the street, law enforcement has to place a citation on the vehicle and the owner has four days to pay the fine.
The couple was also advised vehicles cannot be parked within 30 feet of the STOP sign on the adjacent street. Tim said they understood why parked vehicles would pose a hazard near the STOP sign, so he marked off the 30-feet and requested the city put up a “No Parking” sign near the intersection months ago. No sign has been placed near the intersection.
“We understand the potential hazard parking along the street could cause. Once we started realizing that was a concern, we started moving the cars. We don’t want people to think we don’t care about Dresden because we do care about this city and its citizens,” the Bakers shared.
Tim Baker said he offered to put up a fence along his property, but was told by Pemberton a fence is not necessary. In April of this year, the couple purchased the adjacent lot on Maple Street for the sole purpose of having additional business parking. As it is a grassy lot with trees, the couple has to have trees removed and a parking area put in place. A concern expressed by the Bakers is the potential litigation. If the couple is forced to hire an attorney, costs for getting the adjacent lot in shape and funds needed to pursue mechanic liens on some of the vehicles would levy a financial burden for the business.
Customers will use the street to drop off vehicles over the weekend that are in need of repair. Tim will spend time running to the shop at night and on the weekends to move vehicles that may be in violation of ordinances. The couple said they were advised the business will be ticketed for every violation. The city has cited in the most recent letter, vehicles on the property for longer than 30 days will be towed at the business owner’s expense, and those vehicles do not belong to the business.
Tim and Trinette Baker haven’t received any failure to appear in court citations and the two meetings held by those involved (Washburn, Baker and Pemberton) were at Tim Baker’s request.
Trinette said she has seen her husband stay after hours to help the Dresden fire and police departments for quick fixes and free system checks in an effort to help offset city costs for vehicle repairs.
“If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t be trying to correct any of this. We are appealing to our customers and the citizens of Dresden to show up at the board’s meetings in the next few months to voice their support,” the Bakers said.
During this month’s meeting, the green light request for a lawsuit by Washburn failed 4-2, with aldermen Sandra Klutts and Willie Parker voting yes; aldermen Lyndal Dilday, Ralph Cobb and Kenneth Moore voted no and Gwin Anderson passed.
After the meeting, Washburn said he was disappointed the board voted against taking the matter to Chancery Court noting it sends a message to citizens the board does not care about cleaning up the city, further stating Tim’s Garage was a blighted property in the City of Dresden.
The board meets the first Monday of month in Dresden City Hall at 6 p.m. The next meeting of the Dresden Board of Mayor and Aldermen is at 6 p.m. Monday, July 5.