Someone is targeting a gas station owner, but why?

Wayne Meadlin owns a gas station in Fort Worth, Texas that most folks know as the place where old cars are restored. He has worked at Meadlin’s Texaco Service Center for 56 years, sells full-service and self-service gas, and is an antique like the cars he fixes.

Proudly, he shows off his handwritten financial ledger, brags that he’s never used a computer and explains his billing system.

A customer calls and asks Meadlin to pick up her car, fill it up and check the tires and oil. Meadlin fetches the car, fills up the gas tank at what last week was $6.19 a gallon for full service and then drives the car back. He says he is popular with older customers in Westover Hills and Rivercrest.

At the end of each month, he goes through his ledger and writes a monthly bill for each customer.

Wayne Meadlin

He also restores antique cars. Now he’s working on a ’57 Oldsmobile and a ’48 Chevrolet flatbed truck. Yes, Meadlin is lost in time, but time has begun to catch up to him. Meadlin says that for eight months he has had three government agencies and Texaco breathing down his neck. Somebody has been repeatedly complaining about his property. He doesn’t know who.

The complaints have forced him to change some habits more than a half-century in the making. He began working as a 12-year-old in 1955 at what was then his father’s shop.

Last week, Meadlin pleaded no contest to a code violation in Fort Worth Municipal Court for parking too many cars outside his garage. The fine was supposed to top $1,200, but his lawyer got it knocked down to $800.

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Don Watenpaugh, a customer of Meadlin’s, asked The Watchdog to look into Meadlin’s plight. Watenpaugh told me that the Texaco station is a landmark that passers-by enjoy. He doesn’t like what is happening to his friend.

In several interviews, Meadlin told me that, aside from Code Compliance, he was visited by surprise inspectors from the Texas Department of Agriculture who measured the fuel coming out of his pumps. He says he passed. I checked with the department. Turns out his inspection was not triggered by a complaint but was routine.

Meadlin told me that Texaco was also called in to inspect whether the station met the corporation’s image. Meadlin showed me the results: He passed every category for appearance and standardization except one: He didn’t have the latest Texaco decal on the front door.

He also says police were called to his shop because someone complained that his cars were illegally parked on the sidewalk. He didn’t get a ticket. Police have no record of a call but say their records may not show it since no ticket was issued.

Meadlin’s biggest problem, it seems, is that Code Compliance has begun strictly enforcing a city ordinance that only two cars can be parked outside his garage for repairs in addition to two inside.

“If you raise a hood outside the building, they consider that repairing a car,” he says. He says he can’t change a tire of another car outside because doing so would violate the rules.

Meadlin told me that the source of his problems is someone in the new Liberty Bank branch across the street. He worries that an employee doesn’t like the appearance of his shop.

Bank President David Moore told me that his bank has not complained. He checked with his employees, and none of them had, either.

That’s correct according to what city staffers told me. “We see these types of cases regularly,” Code Compliance Director Brandon Bennett says. “Almost all of them, like this one, are initiated by a citizen complaint from a nearby resident.”

His inspectors gave Meadlin several months to comply before the matter went to court, Bennett said. Auto repair shops near neighborhoods must be monitored for possible release of hazardous fluids along with unnecessary noise and blight.

“In this case, it is clear that the code enforcement officer recognized the personal attributes of the operator and gave him an exceptionally long time for compliance,” Bennett said.

Moore said of the inspectors: “It does sound like they are starting to nitpick and really check things close.”

When a code officer told Meadlin that he could be fined $1,000 a day for each violation, Meadlin says he replied, “You should have told me what I should do.”

The inspector replied, “You should know the law.”

Meadlin recalls answering: “Well, I’ve been doing the same thing for 50 years. How would I know the law changed?”

As the antique man told me, “This is all new to me.”

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Are you tired of fighting the bank, the credit card company, the electric company and the phone company? They can be worse than scammers the way they treat customers. A popular book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong, shows you how to fight back — and win! The book is available at WatchdogNation.com as a hardcover, CD audio book, e-book and hey, what else do you need? The author is The Watchdog columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Visit our store. Now revised and expanded, the book won two national book awards for social change. Twitter @DaveLieber

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Comments

  1. Joseph S. Caldarera says:

    Dear Wayne:

    I am related to the Meadlin family that was, and still is to a lesser extent, from the small town of Cooper, Texas. Our common ancester is CHARLES ALLEN MEADLIN.

    My mother was Mary Meadlin, daughter of Mathew Meadlin who was the son of Charles Allen Meadlin.The normal spelling of our name is "Medlin" but a cenus-taker misspelled our name "Meadlin" and so I am certain beyond a doubt that we are related. I have done some research on our family tree. Would love to share notes with you.

    Joe Caldarera