A business owner at Union Street and Milwaukee Avenue asks for help in ridding the area of drug dealing and other problems.
By MEGAN SCOTT
Published May 21, 2004
DUNEDIN - Ed Dean calls it the forgotten corner: Union Street and Milwaukee Avenue.
He says he has watched drug deals in front of the convenience store, people drinking beer behind the coin laundry and panhandlers begging for money in front of his bar.
Dean says this has been going on for two years. Now he's taking action.
Dean, who has owned Simon's Pub on that corner for 18 years, pleaded with city commissioners Thursday to help him clean up the neighborhood, which he says has become a haven for illegal activity.
"There's been a lot of drug activity here," Dean said. "If somebody moved to the neighborhood and drove by and saw what was going on here, they wouldn't want to come in here. My neighbors and myself need to feel like this is part of Dunedin."
Pinellas County sheriff's deputies are working on the issue, spokesman Mac McMullen said. They had two pay phones removed last week from one side of the parking lot to curtail loitering. And deputies are patrolling the area, he said.
Even Sheriff Everett Rice has become involved. He met with Dean last week at his bar.
"We have been working with this gentlemen concerning this issue," McMullen said. "And we have stayed in contact with him. If there are things that need to be done, we need to hear from him in order to correct anything that is going on right now."
Commissioners and a couple of deputies heard from Dean again at Thursday night's meeting. A few of his neighbors also spoke to officials about some of the problems.
They mentioned the trash in the parking lot and the old dryers behind the coin laundry. They also cited people using the lot as a cut-through to avoid the traffic light.
"There's been a lot of money put into downtown Dunedin," said Kim McAfee, who lives within walking distance of the bar. "It looks fantastic. But here we are on this corner and the last thing we want to be is the "south side of Dunedin.' "
Dean said he is frustrated with the owner of Munchee's Food Stores, who he said refuses to call the authorities when he sees drug dealing.
The owner was not available for comment, but an employee who declined to give his name, said there was nothing he could do to stop what was going on. The employee also said he did not know the owner's name.
Jim Blankenship, who lives in the neighborhood, considers that a cop-out answer.
He said when the pay phones were there, people used them to call drug dealers. The dealers would come to the corner and exchange drugs through their car windows.
But he said drugs are not the only issue. He also wants the area cleaned up.
"I'm the one who has to live here and deal with the increase in crime," Blankenship said. "There's always been a stigma about south Dunedin. The cleaner this area is down here, the better it makes it for people's property."
Dean says he would like to see the parking lot repaved, code violations stamped on the coin laundry and deputies crack down on the people who use the lot as a cut-through. He also wants his neighbors to start calling the authorities when they witness crime. That is one reason he is starting a neighborhood watch.
He acknowledged that it has gotten better since the phones were removed, but there is much more work to be done. He said Clearwater police need to become involved because the corner is on the city line.
Thursday night, commissioners seemed to be on board.
Mayor John Doglione suggested contacting Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne. He also asked John Lawrence, Dunedin city manager, to keep residents up to date on what was happening.
Commissioner Deborah Kynes said the city would work with him.
Dean said he was satisfied with the response.
He doesn't want the neighborhood to get worse.
"We're taking back our corner," Dean said. "It's gotten really stupid out here. All I care about is getting people off my corner."