Local News: Maple Street Closure ok’d; Suspended Florence Officer back on the job; Florence Man facing theft charges

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Local News

Rhody Street Closure Approved

Maple Street between First and Bay Streets will become a pedestrian only retail mall during the 105th Rhododendron Festival next month.  The Florence City Council approved an application last night submitted by the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce to relocate the traditional Vendors Fair.

Despite critics concerns, Chamber President Mike Rose said the move was made to help neighboring businesses in Old Town.

Mike Rose – “One of the key reasons we wanted to move it over here was also to bring more of the bodies, the traffic, down into Old Town and down into the Bay Street area.”

For the last two years the vendor fair was wedged into the Boardwalk next to the Carnival.  That turned out to be a poor location because of the noise and exhaust from the carnival attractions.

Critics of the move, all business owners in Old Town, said they didn’t want it in the area.  They fear festival goers would spend their money in the transient stalls and not in the permanent storefronts along Bay Street.  Jolie Becker with Mo’s Restaurant said their business “takes a hit” when street vendors offer food.

Despite those concerns, the council agreed with Rose and the Chamber of Commerce and approved the street closure with several conditions, including a requirement that the street be cleaned up immediately and the Fire Marshall approve any layout to ensure public safety.

Fired Officer Reinstated

A Florence Police officer who sued the city last year for discrimination is back on patrol.  Terry Walton returned to work last Friday after an agreement was reached between the city and the Florence Police Employees Association.  Walton was fired by the Florence Police Department in August of last year following an investigation surrounding a chronic spinal condition he says was diagnosed in 2010.

Department officials said a “fitness for duty” exam in July cast suspicion onwhether or not he was actually disabled.  They placed him on administrative leave in July, then fired him August 29th.  Walton claimed the firing was because he challenged what he called “harassment”.  In November he filed suit against the city seeking reinstatement and $450-thousand for emotional stress.  City officials declined to comment on the rehiring.  The lawsuit is still pending.

Theft Charges Pending Because of Stolen Flood Gate

A 22-year old Florence man is facing charges of theft, disorderly conduct and transporting stolen metal property with intent to sell.  Tory McKenzie Wenham was arrested Sunday afternoon by Reedsport Police and charged with the theft of steel beams used in the flood gates of the Winchester Levee in downtown Reedsport.