Vidalia accepts hotel sign request

Published 12:21 am Saturday, December 16, 2017

VIDALIA — A request to place a sign near the Vidalia Riverfront at the Tuesday aldermen meeting quickly devolved to heated voices, insults and accusations.

The conversation ended with Aldermen Tron McCoy telling a local business owner, “Now I’ve got an enemy for life.”

Virgil Jackson, a local business owner and resident of Vidalia, requested the aldermen’s approval to redesign the old Raceway sign for his Comfort Suites hotel at November’s aldermen meeting, but it was denied.

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The reason for the initial denial stems from a proposal Mayor Buz Craft said was discounted before the application was ever presented.

Craft said before the November meeting, he and Jackson talked about the sign. Craft said Jackson offered to advertise the convention center on the top rung if the city would pay for the electricity to the sign.

Craft said he asked aldermen if they would be interested in such a partnership, but they were not.

The size, design and content of all signs in the town limits must be approved by the aldermen, but Craft said it is a relatively routine process and applications are rarely turned down.

The application Jackson submitted in the November meeting did not include details about the city providing energy, Craft said.

Yet the application was denied in the aldermen meeting without any discussion.

“The snag in my opinion,” Craft said, “was that they didn’t read their packet. For them to not even discuss it tells me they didn’t read it.”

At the Tuesday meeting, Jackson returned with a new application to get the sign approved.

In the meeting, Craft asked if Jackson would like to say anything before the aldermen voted on the sign.

“I have spent $8.6 million on that riverfront over there,” Jackson said.  “I’ve taken in over $40 million. I just paid a bill for a tax for 70-something thousand dollars. I have lost more money this year, and the town has lost a percentage of what I’ve lost.”

Jackson went on to say that the current Raceway sign is an eye sore and a hazard, and that he was shocked his application wasn’t passed.

“I was just absolutely dumbfounded,” Jackson said. “I expect tonight for everybody to vote 100 percent for this thing. And if you don’t, you’ve got an enemy for life.”

McCoy asked if Jackson would like to add some clarity to Jackson’s original proposal, to which Jackson said: “Haven’t you read anything before you come in here tonight? I sent another letter in … Have you read the letter?”

McCoy said he had read the letter but that he did not understand why Jackson sent in a second letter.

“Because you were too dumb to read it the first time,” Jackson replied.

“You are way too old to play with me like that,” McCoy said.

After several moments of heated back and forth and Craft calling for order to little affect, the room quieted.

Before the application was put to a vote, McCoy announced his disapproval.

“I vote no,” McCoy said. “Put him out. We didn’t have order from him making all that noise back there. Put him out.”

The application did pass, with all other aldermen voting yay on the issue.

After the vote but before the next item was raised, McCoy leaned forward in his seat to get the final word.

“Now,” he said. “I’ve got an enemy for life.”