POCAHONTAS, Ark. – Mark Futrell just wanted Dennis Calaway to move his campaign vehicle so handicapped customers of Futrell’s Pharmacy could access the ramp.
“The owner of the vehicle refuses to remove the vehicle or park on the inner part of the square,” Futrell wrote in a Facebook post. “I have tried to communicate with the owner of the vehicle, by placing a kind note on the windshield requesting not to park there.”
The oldest pharmacy in Arkansas, Futrell’s Pharmacy is located in the Historic Downtown Pocahontas Square. The pharmacy has been a staple in the community for as long as anyone currently living can remember.
However, its customers were inconvenienced for a week because the only handicap accessible ramp for the pharmacy was in the middle of the sidewalk. Parked directly in front of that, for the entire time according to Futrell, was a vehicle owned by county treasurer candidate, Dennis Calaway (R).
“Several patients use the ramp with powered wheelchairs to get their medications,” Futrell wrote.
With no amicable end to the disagreement after approaching Calaway, Futrell contacted Pocahontas Police Department’s chief. He said the chief also tried getting Calaway to remove the vehicle but because there was no city ordinance against the behavior, legally, Calaway could decide to stay in spite of the wishes of patrons and business owners nearby.
So he did.
Futrell didn’t take Calaway’s decision without another effort to change the situation. This time, he took to Facebook, making a post about the behavior and showing photos of the vehicle in question.
With hundreds of area residents sharing and reacting to the post, it caught the attention of Calaway, who began to reply with a litany of reasons why his parking choice wasn’t a bad call.
“It was quite alright two years ago for Tim Scott, a DEMOCRAT candidate for Mayor to keep a vehicle parked on the square during the election season,” Calaway wrote on Facebook. “There is actually only a 1/2 a space in front of the pharmacy no part of the vehicle is parked in front of the pharmacy. But if the flower beds were removed I think it would allow for a WHOLE PARKING SPACE in front of the pharmacy.”
Shifting focus, he then seems to be claiming he is promoting safety by blocking access to the handicapped ramp.
“But the truth about the handicap is that it would be very dangerous for a handicap person to get out of their vehicle into that “dangerous traffic” going through the square – lots and lots of gravel trucks and chicken trucks that could injury the handicap person,” Calaway said. “And do you remember when the van with UNLICENSED DRUNK HISPANIC drivers ran in to the parking spaces and demolished a flower bed at the handicap ramp. (sic)”
Calaway next accused those commenting against him to be “Hiliary” supporters. Several replied, accusing Calaway of racism for his comment about “hispanic drivers.”
However, as more began to reply, with most vehemently opposed to Calaway’s approach, Calaway began offering suggestions about how voters could change the laws to deal with unreasonable individuals.
“Let’s pass a one-hour ordinance but those who work and live on the square will have problems,” Calaway wrote.
It did not end there.
“So when there is a parade around downtown and others can’t drive through it is is infringe (sic) on others’ freedoms so the parade shouldn’t be allowed?” Calaway asked.
A Chamber of Commerce employee chimed in, mentioning how it can be difficult parking and not being too far out in the street at Futrell’s. Calaway decided to go on the attack.
“Why were you parking on the square?” Calaway posted. “You are an employee of the chamber, and taking up a parking spot that a customer of a business could use.”
The chamber employee simply replied she was filling a prescription. Calaway did not reply to her again or offer an apology.
Some suggested Futrell have the vehicle towed but with it being a state highway and a public parking spot with no city-ordinance-enforced time limit, Futrell’s hands were tied.
“Due to several complaints to the mayor’s office, I have been assured that it will be taken up at the next city council meeting,” Futrell wrote. “Once again, I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience to my patients and customers.”
The inconvenience did seem to find its conclusion, Thursday night, in the heated online discussion. After overwhelmingly negative comments toward Calaway’s behavior and attitude, he acquiesced and informed the thread he had moved his campaign-slogan covered vehicle.
It was a gesture that came too little, too late, for some voters.
“I asked him to remove his sign from my yard,” One resident posted. “He needs to quit making excuses for hindering the operations of a local business (an important one at that) and do the right thing.”