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Signs of the times

By By Connie Nowlin Managing editor
Anthony Bishop Williams is a man of principles, and it seemed that things were not being done fairly when the business he manages on South Main Street was notified by building inspector Alan Nix that its signs were in violation of Atmore's sign ordinance.
It seemed unfair because businesses on either side of Williams had the same type of sign that he was asked to move or remove.
But because the signs were in violation, Williams removed them then and there.
"I'm the kind of person that if I'm out of line, I want to get in line," Williams said.
But he did point out to Nix that there were other businesses with the same type of signs.
And Nix did go to the business across the street and those signs were moved from the right of way.
But with his curiosity piqued, Williams went around Atmore looking for, and photographing, signs that were in violation of the ordinance, written in 1999.
Although Nix himself was not available for comment, building inspector Milford Lassiter was.
He said there was no doubt a lot of signs were not in compliance with the ordinance, and the problem is getting worse.
"We are pushing it (sign ordinance) to clean up the streets," Lassiter said. "It is a concentrated effort to clean up Atmore, but some people misinterpret it. And it can be a long process (to get signs removed) if the people don't cooperate. It has to go through the courts."
Williams wondered out loud if his business was targeted first because he has been publicly kicking around the idea of running for public office in the city.
But when the employees of the stores either side of Williams' were contacted by the paper, they said the store owners and/or managers had been told by the building inspectors that the signs had to come down.
The reason given at two of the stores why they had not already removed the non-compliant signs was the men to move them had not yet been available.
Still, Williams has questions. Why is the ordinance being enforced now? Some of those signs had been in place since the store opened, he said, nine years ago.
Lassiter said that there are two people in the department who do inspections, but they have been cut to half time because of budget constraints. It is only now that they have had the time to address the sign issues.
Williams agrees that the sign population has spun out of control and he would love to see Atmore with a cleaner, neater look.
"If the agenda is to clean up the city, I am all for it," he said. "But it looks like it could have been better planned. They never take down the old yard sale signs that are all over the place."