Pizza Express issues a response related to a dispute about using their driveway as construction begins for a major project at Texas County Memorial Hospital.

To the editor:

In response to your article on Houston Herald website dated June 30, 2011, and also in the story featuring TCMH in the Houston Herald on newsstands on July 7, 2011, “Hospital working on easements with neighboring businesses,” we want to set the record straight!

Rumors were floating around for several months that Texas County Memorial Hospital had plans to use the Holy Cross Lutheran Church’s property as an ingress/egress to allow whomever to use the property to come and go for whatever needed. This now turns the Pizza Express and Holy Cross Lutheran Church entrance into a street. This entrance was not built to be a street.

It is really funny that no one had ever contacted the landowner of Pizza Express until about two weeks ago. Pizza Express had already voiced concern to CEO Wes Murray of the rumors that was going around about the intentions for the entrance several months ago. He informed at that time he would have to get back with his general contractor and architects and find out what their plans were.

(Pizza Express owner) Richard (Wood) saw and asked one of the board members if she could tell what the plans were and she said she was not able to attend the previous meeting but would have Wes come and talk to us. He did on approximately somewhere between June 15 – June 17. He then asked if we had heard anything on the matter and we said no because we had not, and expressed once again our concerns for safety of our customers and the added congestion and the devastation to the business using this entrance would cause. June 21 the general contractor came over and informed of the intentions of using the entrance for cars, trucks, heavy trucks and whatever else they needed entering and exiting, and they would be chatting the parking lot of the church and putting up a chain link fence to secure their equipment and supplies.

He was asked how they where going to get there and he said use the south entrance to the parking lot. He was informed the property he had plans to enter all that equipment and traffic in and out of is the parking lot of Pizza Express until he entered the parking lot of the church. We expressed the same concern for the safety of Pizza Express patrons with the increased traffic and congestion and the devastation to the existing two Pizza Express businesses. The front of the entrance has a fruit stand that is also owned by Pizza Express’s owner and customers there park on both sides of the entrance and at times all the way to the highway on both north and south entrance.

The added congestion caused by the hospital proposal would be fatal to both businesses owned by Pizza Express. There is property to the north of the hospital that has not been used as a business for a few years now. Why isn’t that considered if they need a way to get in? The only traffic going in the north hospital entrance where the empty property sits is that belonging to the hospitals or clinics.

The money being discussed for the use of the property: not sure where that came from. Never saw or heard any figures or amounts. Money is nice but not everything. The safety of customers is and always has been the No. 1 concern. I’m sorry that Mr. Murray feels that I have caused him a significant inconvenience but Pizza Express customers’ safety is No. 1. I’m also pretty sure that Mr. Murray would not be in favor or let me place a cook shack or fruit stand on the hospital parking lot for 10 months or two years to interfere with his patients and add congestion to his place of business and definitely not for free.

When the general manager of the project was told that this parking lot was not going to be available for what he had purposed he said fine, “we have other options and you just saved me $40,000 of work at the Holy Cross Lutheran Church.” Why was there the need to go to and start a blog slamming Pizza Express for trying to take care of customer safety and business?

It is also very interesting too that in a time of a down economy that any other entity would try and add extra hardships on a small taxpaying business that for your information has contributed to the tax dollars of this city, county, and state for many years, since 1984. I don’t know of any other single food establishments privately owned, non-franchised that has made this commitment or sacrifice. Pizza Express pays more than $4,000 a year in real estate taxes and has paid up to as much as $2,500 in generated sales taxes for the City of Houston, Texas County and state of Missouri per month.

This doesn’t even take in to consideration all the people that have been employed in the history of Pizza Express. It doesn’t take into consideration the people that are still employed here and depend on or need and value their jobs. The countless dollars that has been given to area schools, organizations, individuals, for fundraisers of all kinds. Why would a business that is funded by taxpayers dollars try and blame a hard working family and business who is trying to survive these tough times as bad guys because of them not getting the aspects of their project lined up accordingly? How can a project even be bid when there is no definite established way to handle regular traffic and construction traffic into their property? Did the cart get before the horse? It is also made a big deal how the church was so willing to let it happen. Well who knows or cares how much the church would have profited from what the supposed agreement between all of them. The church is used maybe eight to ten hours a week normally. Pizza Express uses their parking lot for more than 66 hours a week! What a difference who would be impacted significantly? I hope the board of trustees sees and understands the issue in more than just the eyes of their CEO and general contractor.

The hospital and their cafe have a direct impact on all locally owned food businesses that pay taxes. Is that not enough of a hit against private enterprise? Isn’t it a shame that someone would rather have themselves look good than the survival of two small town businesses and one that has been around since 1984. Think of the tax money Pizza Express has contributed to the area to be hammered like it has been. TCMH and Holy Cross are both tax-free entities. One more quote Mr. CEO –  Hope you remember it: “Business is Business.”

Respectfully submitted,

Linda and Richard Wood

[Editor’s note:  Points of clarification — For many years, taxpayers have not paid any hospital property tax. County institutions collecting a tax are: county health department, sheltered workshop and library. The blog referenced is a multimedia asset of the Herald and appears on its website.].



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