The Newton County Board of Commissioners had a lively debate this past week about what to do after a May 30 party at the Nelson Heights Community Center was marred by a gun reportedly being fired into the air by a passing car and hours of people milling about in the streets afterward.
There were also reports of the party apparently being tied to a local gang.
While Henderson said nothing illegal happened at the center, board members agreed that some tighter restrictions need to be placed on the center. We agree.
The fact that the center is in this situation is a shame because it was built to be a safe gathering place for the people of the community, in particular children who needed a place to go after school to work on homework and learn, as opposed to being out on the streets.
The center sat empty for a long time because of funding shortages and disagreements about who would run it. Many in the community were skeptical that Commissioner J.C. Henderson would run the center effectively when he was named chairman of its board of directors in 2013.
However, based on the talk in the community, the center’s afterschool program, run by Director Veda Miller, has been a success. Children’s lives are being enriched.
And that’s why the county and the center’s board need to be careful with who they let use the building.
Yes, it’s a community resource, but if people’s private events put the center and the surrounding community at risk, they need to be stopped.
The decision to rent out the center to groups who don’t show respect for themselves or other’s people’s property was a poor one.
Henderson said he discussed the issue with Sheriff Ezell Brown and the two decided future renters should have to pay for a law enforcement officer to be stationed.
We think that’s a good start, and we also agree with Chairman Keith Ellis’ suggestion to consider a 10 p.m. curfew and Commissioner Levie Maddox’s suggestion to be more vigilant about who is renting the facility.
Henderson also expressed his opinion that the issue was being raised in an effort to harm his chances at winning a runoff election.
In our opinion, Henderson’s comments are political baloney. It’s no secret that many people want Henderson out of office, but there have been no shortage of sources for valid critique of Henderson. He’s not responsible for the actions of his constituents, but he is responsible for protecting county property.
We appreciate Henderson’s efforts to fight for a community center for his district and the endurance he displayed year after year in getting it up and running. And, because of his commitment, we expect nothing less than that same effort to keep the center and surrounding community safe.