Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Local News

June 26, 2013

Downtown book sale may be derailed

Plans for Mr. Bill’s Book for a Buck Blowout sale scheduled Friday through Sunday hit a roadblock and remain up in the air after Monday’s meeting of the Johnson County Commissioners Court.

Court members, by a 3-2 vote, denied Cleburne business owner Bill Miller permission to use a county parking lot adjacent his store.

The court’s decision leaves Miller, and area residents pitching in to help him out, the choice of finding an alternate location for the sale, or hoping city officials will allow him to use the sidewalk in front of and on the side of his building.

The sale, which remains in limbo, had been planned for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday outside of Bill’s Books, 116 S. Main St. in downtown Cleburne.

City officials, citing health and safety violations, ordered Bill’s Books closed in May. Miller, 81, retains ownership of the building, which he’s operated as a bookstore since the early 1980s. The city orders allow Miller to enter his building to remove stock, clean or make repairs, but prohibit him from living in or operating a business out of it.

The order granted Miller until September to correct the more than 30 violations listed. Miller estimates the repairs would cost thousands of dollars, which he doesn’t have. Miller, who has since moved to Grandview, said he hopes to sell the building.

Several residents helped Miller organize the book sale, which was also meant to raise money to help Miller out.

Miller hopes to sell off as much stock as possible and open a shop on a smaller scale in Grandview.

Johnson County Judge Roger Harmon and Commissioner Rick Bailey voted in support of allowing Miller to use the county parking lot. Commissioners Don Beeson, Kenny Howell and Jerry Stringer voted to deny Miller’s request citing liability and precedent issues.

“This isn’t anything against [Miller] at all,” Beeson said. “It’s just we’re afraid that if we do this for one person we could be opening a Pandora’s Box and getting into the area of anybody wanting to use county property for book sales, garage sales and other things and I thought it was just best not to involve the county in that.”

Stringer cited similar reasons and mentioned an earlier court vote.

“My view is that a year or two ago a private citizen wanted to use county property to do some kind of fund raiser and, because of liability and other issues, the court turned him down,” Stringer said. “I made the comment in court that [denying Miller’s request] was a difficult thing to do because you want to do everything you can to help the guy. I have the highest respect for the gentleman and understand people are wanting to help him, but we’ve also already set a precedent on requests like this and I think we need to be consistent on it.”

Howell also called it a hard decision.

“Some days court is fun and some days it’s not fun,” Howell said. “It’s one of those things where your heart tells you to do one thing for the guy, but then you realize you’re representing the whole county and if we start letting citizens use county property, no matter who it is or for what, we open a whole can of worms.”

Springfest and other organizations allowed to use county property have to sign releases and purchase insurance, Howell said.

“Personally I’d like to help the guy and I hope he’s able to use the city sidewalks,” Howell said. “But as far as, if we’d allowed them to use the parking lot, they’d still need to get liability insurance and all that, which would probably cost more than they’d make in the book sale.”

Bailey said he understands the arguments against allowing Miller use of the parking lot, but added that he wishes his fellow commissioners would have put a bit more consideration into the request and made an exception.

Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain agreed.

“I’m obviously disappointed in their decision,” Cain said on Tuesday morning. “Although I respect their  right to make that decision, but still hope we can work together to help resolve Mr. Miller’s situation.”

Cain stopped short of voicing support for Miller to hold the sale on the sidewalk.

“I’ll have to talk to [City Manager Rick Holden and Fire Chief Clint Ishmael],” Cain said. “We want to do everything we can within the rules to help Mr. Miller out, but we also have to make sure we address all the safety concerns.”

An account for donations in Miller’s name has also been set up at Pinnacle Bank and residents may make donations at any location.

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