By Rosemary K. Otzman
Nazar Jacksi, owner of the Marathon gas station at Five Points in Belleville, and Farhad Sumo, who runs the station, came to the Belleville City Council meeting on Monday to ask for guidance in dealing with DPS Director Keith Boc.
Boc, who usually attends the council meetings, was not present and his absence was not explained.
Jacksi said he purchased the long-vacant station at 35 South Street in April and opened it about a month ago after extensive renovation.
He said six months ago he asked Boc for an LED sign and Boc told him no. Jacksi said he asked about the Citgo station that has an LED sign and Boc told him Citgo would be ticketed.
But Citgo continued to have its sign and Jacksi said the rules in town should be for everyone. He said Boc told him the Citgo sign would be taken down, but it wasn’t.
Then, Jacksi said, Boc changed his line and said the Citgo station has a permit. Jacksi wanted to see the permit, but Boc wouldn’t show him.
Then, Boc told them that their sign flashing “open” was not permitted. Jacksi said there are seven or eight “open” signs in Belleville that are flashing, including one across the street from them at the oil change.
“He came in shouting,” Sumo told the council, telling of the day Boc came roaring into his store. He said customers were there as Boc yelled.
“I have a problem!” Boc reportedly shouted and Sumo thought there might be a problem with the gas pump or something. Boc had no ID tag and did not give his name or identify himself as coming from the city.
“Who are you?” Sumo said he asked. “I don’t know who are you?
“Each day he gives us a very hard time,” Sumo said of Boc.
He said Boc complained of signs and advertisements.
“When I came, no one welcomed me,” Jacksi said referring to city officials. He said people came as customers and thanked them for opening.
Jacksi said then there was a letter to him and his tenant with an $8,000 property tax bill.
He went over to see Boc and Boc ordered him out of his office, Jacksi said.
Jacksi said he told Boc that if he went to his house, that would be wrong, but, “I told him this is a government office where you serve the public.”
Then, Boc called the police from next door, Jacki said.
There was reportedly a loud argument that finally was defused by Clerk/Treasurer Lisa Long, who brought calm to the confrontation.
Mayor Kerreen Conley asked Jacksi if he had a copy of the sign ordinance and Jacksi said he didn’t.
Mayor Conley said there is a sign ordinance and a new version being put together. She said it would have helped Jacksi to know what’s allowed.
Boc did not give him a sign ordinance.
The sign ordinance has been in the process of revision for several years and has yet to make an appearance on the planning commission agenda in its final form. The August planning commission meeting has been cancelled for “lack of agenda,” although the sign ordinance was slated to be on that agenda. Now, the sign ordinance is expected to be on the Sept. 12 agenda.
“We appreciate you being here,” Mayor Conley said of the new gas station, noting that it looks nice.
Jacksi said he wanted to look at the permit that Citgo has.
City Manager Diane Kollmeyer said she has a copy of Citgo’s permit and it was issued in 2009 and it is a non-conforming permit, since now LED signs are not allowed. Also, flashing neon signs are not allowed. Also, banners are not allowed now.
Jacksi asked if he should take down his Welcome Marathon banner, noting others in town have banners. He was not directed to take down the banner.
“We want to comply with the rules, but we are the only one treated this way,” said Jacksi. “The only one.”
By Rosemary K. Otzman