County officials, area merchants at odds over filming companies
By 01/17/2001 00:00:00
Ellis County Press
WAXAHACHIE - Government officials and area merchants are on opposite sides of the table when it comes to film crews on location in Ellis County.
The commissioners' court voted unanimously last week to ease up on regulations, authorizing County Judge Al Cornelius to enter into short-term agreements with film companies rather than forcing them to wait for the court's approval.
'We are finding it very hard to encourage these filmmakers to come down and use Ellis County,' said Cornelius.
The judge said the filming benefits the county in several ways.
'Of course there's $1000 a day for instance, to help defray utilities,' he said. 'It brings people in, they buy supplies. Often times they buy their food here. It gives the county good PR.'
But merchants heartily disagree.
'Financial benefits?' questioned Ferris merchant Carmela Haywood during a November merchants' meeting spawned by filming of an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger.
'You'll never see that. It isn't like they say ‘filmed on location in Ferris, Texas.''
'Most of the time they bring their food with them, set it up on your sidewalk,' said Peggy Blair, owner of The Blair Shop in downtown Waxahachie. Blair said city officials tell film crews to 'make it right' with the merchants but never stand behind the edict.
Blair said she is always against blocking of city streets and other thoroughfares, as is Maypearl citizen Wayne Smith. Smith said a police roadblock on FM 66 stopped him for over 10 minutes last week due to a movie shoot on supercollider property.
Tim Whatley, owner of Hunter Feed and Seed in Waxahachie, filed a complaint with the city after he lost an estimated $2,000 due to the filming of an Applebee's commercial.
Whatley said he was rebuffed when he asked film crews to move. 'I was informed this had been cleared by the city and they told me I should take this up with City Hall.'
But City Manager Bob Sokoll's response was merely to say the production company should have notified him.
'We're looking for a solution for the future,' said Billy Haywood, co-owner of Hidden Treasures in Ferris. Haywood said government officials should write specific guidelines to protect merchants, and then enforce those regulations.
But officials want a looser standard.
'We set the guidelines on a case by case basis,' said Cornelius. 'If we have a citizen who would be disrupted, we would insist that be taken care of first.'