Reminder Assistant Editor
AGAWAM The temporary parking ordinance has been called by City Councilors and townspeople a mistake, a lie and a sour bill of goods that hoodwinked the entire council. For one small business owner who lost months of revenue because of the ordinance -- enacted in June and repealed in November -- a simple apology is not enough.
On Dec. 31 former Mayor Richard Cohen was delivered a presentment letter from attorney Kevin Maynard of Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas LLP on behalf of his clients Richard and Michael Palazzi, owners of South Agawam Storage on Main Street. The letter states that under the ordinance, the town of Agawam and public officials "wrongfully prevented" this business from parking cars as it had done for approximately 20 years.
The Palazzis are looking to recover $54,000 in lost revenue as a byproduct of the ordinance. Michael Palazzi told Reminder Publications that he is seeking the lost revenue not only from those cars he was unable to park for those attending Six Flags but also the lost revenue of 29 cars permanently being stored on the property -- cars are stored for $40 - 60 per month and trucks and RVs for $60 -- 120 per month.
Palazzi explained that he was instructed to remove the 29 cars from his property or face the consequence of fines or prevention of receiving a special permit -- under the parking ordinance those private citizens or businesses looking to park cars on a temporary basis were required to apply for a special parking permit with the Board of Appeals. Palazzi said discriminatory practices by town officials prevented him from even obtaining a special permit, causing even greater loss of time and revenue.
"People have to be accountable for their actions," Palazzi said. "People have to pay their bills and feed their families. My livelihood is storing boats, cars and RVs."
However, Cohen said he strongly disagrees with Palazzi and remained loyal to the stance that the parking ordinance was only ever about public safety. "I find that his demand is frivolous and without merit," Cohen said. "I found it very ironic that I received the letter on my very last day in office."
Mayor Susan Dawson said that she would have nothing to do with the presentment letter or possible impending lawsuit as it would be an "ethical conflict" because Palazzi was her campaign manager and member of her Transition Team. She added that she has turned the matter over to City Solicitor Christopher Johnson.
Johnson said a thorough investigation of the Palazzi's claims must be conducted before the town will respond to the presentment letter.
Maynard said the town has six months to respond to the letter before moving forward with any further legal action. "He's not looking to be unfair to the town; he's just looking to have what should have been had in the first place," Maynard said. "It is not his goal to file a lawsuit with the town but to recover what he could have, and should have, made. I hope that the next stage is sitting down with town officials before this goes too far."
Palazzi said he was not looking to be unreasonable and therefore chose not to include his attorney's fees in the $54,000. Maynard called the figure a conservative sum.
"I just want them to be taught a lesson for what they've done and have accountability for decisions," Palazzi said. "No one's watching out for small businesses. I have to stand up for my rights as a small business owner. I don't want to take advantage of the town. I just want to make ends meet."
When asked if he believed other businesses affected by the temporary parking ordinance would also seek reimbursement for lost revenue, Palazzi said no because their primary business was not to store vehicles.
Palazzi said despite his battle with Six Flags, he has offered to work with them to resolve parking through private meetings. He explained that if safety is a concern he's offered to build a fence, gate and sidewalk at the rear of his property that would connect his parking to the footbridge. He added that no response or decision from Six Flags was ever received.
City Councilor Donald Rheault said he does not believe the ordinance was ever about safety but about Six Flags' lost parking revenue. He added that the council will have to "take a good" look at the proof and financial statements provided by the Palazzis to see if there's a "justification" for a return on lost revenue.