PLAQUEMINE, La. (WAFB) - It’s not just the unmistakable whistle of the near-constant train making noise in Plaquemine recently, but Terry Como, owner of Como’s Motorcycle Service & Repair, is making some noise of his own that he hopes will get the city’s attention. He has been in charge at his shop for two years, but claims most of that time has been spent in a back and forth with those right across the street at City Hall.
"They're bullies and you can't win," said Como. "You meet their need and they keep finding other reasons to approach you."
The 62-year-old says it all started with a complaint about old tires on his lot. Pictures captured by the city inspector, along with a notice from the city, came with a warning to get rid of the tires over concern about mosquitoes. At the city’s request, Como says he cleaned up and even spent thousands of dollars to build a tire rack, complete with a cover, in the back of his shop.
“We built the tire rack and thought that would end it, but it didn’t end it,” he added.
A few months later, he was slapped with another notice telling him to clean up. The city said then he was violating a number of nuisance codes. Como says he cleaned up things once again, but then on Friday, Sept. 27, says he was given five days to move his equipment away from the street or he says the city was going to take action.
"I had to move everybody's stuff to keep the city from towing it Friday and they were going to tow it," said Como. "The inspector came every day to remind me."
The repairman says he cannot help but think he’s being singled out and maybe his business is getting a little extra attention because of its location smack dab in the middle of the Historic District in downtown Plaquemine.
"I keep the shop clean. It's just ridiculous what's going on," he added. "It just gets to the point where they've got their foot on your neck and they're choking you."
Mayor Edwin Reeves Jr. says that’s just not the case.
“He came out the box,” the mayor said. “He got highly insulted, but we send those notices every day to everybody in this community that don’t comply with our restrictions.”
Reeves tells WAFB’s Scottie Hunter no one is targeting the business, but they’re simply trying to maintain a certain standard across the city. The mayor started a clean city initiative after taking office in 2017 and says he has made every effort to ensure every business does its part.
"I made a concerted effort to clean up this city. I've towed over 200 vehicles, I'm tearing down my 33rd house as we speak since I've been mayor in two and a half years and I'm not backing down," said Reeves. "We are not harassing anybody. They've just got to clean up."
Not far from Como’s business, the 9News Investigators found a similar repair shop that WAFB has chosen not identify, but pictures of the spot show tires stacked up outside around the business. Over on Court Street, there’s also an abandoned lot with worn out police units and overgrown grass swallowing up the space.
"The same thing I got beat up for, they're doing today," Como said.
Documents the 9News Investigators obtained from the city inspector show the abandoned junk yard did get slapped with the same violation notice as Como’s repair shop. The inspector also said the other business with the tires out front does not fall in their jurisdiction, but actually is under the oversight of Iberville Parish. According to a notice sent to Como’s shop, one of the rules the city says he violated was storing tires in a residential area. Turns out there’s a home near the business, but Como’s property has been zoned commercial for decades.
WAFB's Scottie Hunter asked the mayor if the notice that went out that was checked residential was a mistake.
“I would think so,” Reeves answered. “I didn’t see it, but yeah, that was a mistake because it is zoned commercial.”
The mayor calls all of this a big misunderstanding and tells WAFB he treats all of the businesses the same. If the city sees a violation, it steps in to make sure the issue gets fixed. While things are a little more in order at the shop now, the mayor says pictures the city inspector took paint a much different picture of what it looks like on a day-to-day basis.
"It was very embarrassing because it's in the heart of our downtown community and everybody sees it every day and it was pretty bad," said Como.
Como says he’s in remission from cancer and had a serious surgery back in July that kept him away from the shop for about six weeks. While he admits things may have gotten slightly on the messy side then in his absence, he’s just asking for a break and hopes he’s not too late to save his beloved bike shop.
The city has asked Como to appear before council members at a public meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 8 to share his side of what happened. Since Como has cleaned up, the mayor says the hearing will no longer be held to make a decision on whether to pull his business license, however, he tells WAFB he’s still interested in having Como explain himself before the council.