Businesses prepare for ice rink opening

CONYERS - Some greet the opening of the ice rink in Olde Town each year with excitement; others brace for a season of frustration and expense.

Have An Ice Day Productions will open the skating rink at the Pavilion in Olde Town at 4 p.m. Friday, marking the start of the holiday season. The ice rink will be open most days through Feb. 8. Hours vary, but generally ice skating is available from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and until 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

However, some nearby business owners are gearing up for another three months of cleaning litter and vandalism around their storefronts.

Dee Huchel and her husband, Wayne, own the Pampered Puppy, a dog grooming business on South Main Street, next to the Pavilion. She said throughout the months when the ice rink is up and running, it is a "daily exercise to clean" around her property.

Huchel said her property is littered over the weekends with garbage, cigarette butts and empty alcoholic beverage bottles. She said it is not uncommon to find used condoms and packages on the ground in front of her business. Huchel said that she has come to work in the morning more than once to find someone has vomited on her front deck.

And that's not all.

To protect her property, Huchel purchased and installed in 2006 a heavy chain secured with padlocks across her driveway.

Despite buying one thick enough that only bolt cutters - or a large vehicle - could break through, the chain was cut twice during that holiday season and white substances were sprayed in the locks. Huchel said she filed police reports about the incidents.

"In 2007, I gave up, and I just kept picking up and cleaning up," she said.

But this year, Huchel has taken the added step - and expense - of purchasing and installing surveillance cameras around her property. In addition to the cost of the equipment, Huchel now must budget about $100 a month for the next five years for the monitoring system.

"This is my property, and I will protect it," she said.

Huchel took her complaints to the Conyers City Council and appealed for assistance.

"I enjoy the holiday events, but we want to protect our property," she said during the council's Nov. 5 meeting. "Any help from the city would be appreciated."

Huchel said she believes the problem can be traced directly to young people left unsupervised at the skating rink.

"These kids are left unsupervised and are hanging out and smoking," Huchel said Tuesday from her office at the Pampered Puppy.

She added that the Pavilion is a popular venue for events throughout the year with weddings, concerts and other gatherings, which have never been problems.

"Throughout the year, everything is fine. We never have any problems," Huchel said. "I just don't understand people leaving their children unsupervised."

City officials and owners of Have An Ice Day Productions have taken steps to crack down on unruly juveniles this year.

"Based on the vandalism and loitering we've experienced in the past, we added an addendum to our contract with Have An Ice Day and two officers will be there from 8 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday," said Jennifer Harper, spokeswoman for the city of Conyers.

She said these officers will be off-duty Conyers Police Department officers and they will be paid by Have An Ice Day.

Harper said the company is also required through the contract to hire a private security guard that will be on hand during school breaks over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

"We always have patrols that drive through Olde Town, but we will largely be concentrating our efforts there at the Pavilion and the Botanical Garden and hopefully bring a stop to a lot of this by having a presence," she said.

Calls to Have An Ice Day Productions seeking comment were not returned by press time.

Conyers does enforce a curfew that prohibits any person under the age of 15 to be in public between midnight and 5 a.m., unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

"We truly find a lot of problems with unsupervised kids and we, of course, encourage parents to take responsibility for their kids," Harper said.

Aimee Jones can be reached at aimee.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.