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Red Oak ordinances anger businesses and residents

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Spyco told flags are distracting
Joey Dauben
The Ellis County Press
RED OAK- Pat Criswell, owner of Spyco Screen Printing and Sign company in downtown Red Oak, said the city's code enforcement officer, Sgt. Steve Anderson, told him to take down a myriad of American flags he placed all along the side of his business, located at Waller and Methodist Streets.

Criswell said it was around the time of the terrorist attacks, and he was just being patriotic.

He said Anderson was simply doing his job, but the fact of the matter is the American flags were something all businesses and homes were displaying and they shouldn't have been taken down.

Criswell, who also placed flags on Main Street near the city's historical marker, said the city tries to harass businesses.

Karen Gililland, the owner of Flags N' More in Red Oak, said her company and Spyco were working together at one time.

'Pat saw the area of Highway 342 through Lancaster decorated with American flags,' she said. 'All of the businesses through Lancaster put up flags. He [Criswell] and I both agreed it would be a nice thing to do that, but with Red Oak.

'My company makes a ton of American flags, and ever since Sept. 11, the flags have been in high demand.'

Gililland said she assumes the mayor, Todd Little, was the one behind all of this.

Both Gililland and Criswell said Little isn't fond of Spyco.

'The mayor does not like me,' Criswell said. 'The City of Red Oak is antibusiness. Basically, they're just trying to run me and everybody out. The city [said they] received a complaint about the flags, and so they came out and told us to take them down. There isn't even that much traffic in the downtown area.'

None of the repeated calls made to Little or Red Oak City Manager Ken Pfeifer during the last week were returned as of press time.

The Red Oak sign ordinance includes a $25 permit fee for signs, flags, and banners. Criswell didn't have to pay for a permit, he simply put the flags up as a sign of patriotism. In order for businesses to obtain permits, the sign or flag in question must meet all building codes within the city.

Criswell pointed out one reason the city might have had a problem was that yard signs with the American flag had advertised 'signs courtesy of Spyco Printing Co.'

The ordinance states, 'no advertising sign of any type shall be erected within 50 feet of an adjoining residential district except by special permit of the city council.'

Karen Favors, the City of Red Oak's beautification coordinator and the only official to return phone calls, said Criswell did not call or apply for a permit for his business.

'Mr. Criswell has an American flag, a Texas flag, and a Spyco flag on his building,' Favors said.

'The ordinance states you must apply for a permit before displaying a sign or flag with the businesses' advertisement.'

Favors also said the building is in violation of several city codes and the owner has not 'held up to their end of the bargain.'

Criswell had received notification of the violations, but no citations have been issued, Favors said.

'It's not fair that we make everybody else [other businesses abide by the codes] do it, but not him,' Favors said. 'We don't want to be unpatriotic.'

Brenda Criswell, the wife of the Spyco owner, said she and Mr. Criswell both know about the building code violations.

'We just lease this building,' she said.

'It's our landlord that deals with the city. They [the city] told us to take down the American flags.

'They never said anything about the Spyco flag.

'We have been getting phone calls, e-mails, and visitors saying how much they appreciated the fact we placed the flags around downtown. Citizens question us as to why we had to take them down, and we told them that the city told us to.

'They [citizens] urged us to write letters to the editor about it, but it wasn't even us who contacted [The Ellis County Press].'

'It's good that Mayor Little is trying to clean up the city,' Gililland said.

'I think it's great that he's trying to make our town look better. But don't take down the American flag. That's what this whole thing is about.

'This city has stepped on too many toes [in the past]. It's time we start stepping back.'

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