Business owners voice concerns about Woodstock Square

Owners: Woodstock area has grown rowdy

WOODSTOCK – Owners of a business on the Woodstock Square raised concerns that the area has grown rowdy in recent months – particularly in the area of a faith-based youth center.

Don Frick and Lisa Hansen – who each have a hand in the family run square business The Backdrop – brought the issues to the City Council earlier this month. They said Revolution Youth Center, which moved into the square last June, brought with it sometimes foul-mouthed and disrespectful kids, discouraging customers from their business.

They also took issue with other “characters” on the square and, as much as anything, said their concerns had fallen on deaf ears for too long, according to the minutes from the June 3 City Council meeting.

“We just had some concerns about activities on the square and we wanted to make sure that everyone was aware of them,” Frick said last week.

City officials have since spoken with Revolution management and several other business owners. They’re working on setting a public meeting about the issues, which could come together in mid-July, Director of Community and Economic Development Cort Carlson said.

Woodstock Police Chief Robert Lowen said activity on the square tends to increase during the summer, but that 2014’s summer hasn’t brought more incidents than a year ago. But Revolution, he said, brings a different kind of challenge.

“The Revolution Youth Center brings a new dynamic to the Square as a gathering place for youth,” he said. “I think that’s what has the attention of some of the business owners.”

The city has hired and is training an evening-hours community service officer to keep an eye on the square. That position had remained unfilled since it was vacated during the financial crunch, but officials had budgeted to make the hire this year even before concerns from business owners.

A planned change in hours by Revolution also is making an impact. The center is open from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. during weekdays this summer – past when most businesses around them close, said Len DiCicco, of Revolution.

But the center would like to expand those hours when students head back to school, he added.

DiCicco said the center has made sure volunteers are outside when a group of youth takes to the sidewalks, and that Revolution is doing all it can to be sensitive to their neighbors’ concerns while continuing the center’s mission.

“We’ve provided a place to come and hang out – but it is a place of help, and a place of hope,” he said. “We’re trying to teach kids respect. Respect for each other, and for the community, and for the place.”

The center’s efforts have been well-recieved by Frick, who thanked Revolution for their understanding.

“I give credit to their organization for wanting to make it good for the community,” he said. “And it’s getting better.”

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