The Ladies Building at the Union County Fairgrounds, intended as a community resource, is turning into a dangerous headache according to Sheriff Jimmy Edwards.
He told Union County Supervisors Monday that his department had been called there to quell trouble “well into the double digit” times in the past year.
It’s an issue he has raised with supervisors during past terms as well.
“They may say it’s for a birthday party but then it turns into a dope-smoking drunk with rap bands,” he said.
On a recent call, he said, the odor or marijuana was so strong that deputies could smell it by the time they reached a nearby tire store.
Another time, someone called from the Ladies Building during an event saying they had been sprayed with pepper spray.
Now, he said, the facility is rented by the fair board through the Extension Office. The staff there has no good way to determine whether a request is legitimate, for something like a birthday party rather that what is criminal use. “There needs to be some way,” he said.
Jurisdiction for the Ladies Building is somewhat unclear. The fairgrounds is in the city, but is county-owned property, so county law enforcement often gets the call if there is a problem. Of course the city is within the county but sheriff’s officers generally defer to New Albany police where an incident is inside the city limits, even though deputies have jurisdiction inside the city as well.
Edwards did not know how often city law enforcement had responded to problems at the building, but that they have.
Supervisors said they don’t want to stop making the building available to the community for legitimate uses. They said increasing the rental fee or deposit might help but Sheriff Edwards said in a case where a couple of hundred people would be there raising money would be no problem for renters.
A possible solution would be to require renters to pay for security that has the authority to shut an event down immediately.
Now, other than paying a deposit, he said about the only rules for the facility are to be out by midnight and no alcohol.
“I can assure you we are going to be talking about it,” board president Randy Owen said.
Community Development Director Billye Jean Stroud, who was at the meeting, noted that the city’s community center is undergoing renovation and expressed concern that that facility could fall victim to similar problems. The size and location makes that a little less likely, however.
Edwards said he was afraid that if the fairgrounds problem continues we will have situations such as the City of Columbus where shootings have occurred. Some incidents with weapons have already occurred and even good people can cause trouble with alcohol or other drugs.
“If we keep renting it for a juke joint, there’s going to be a killing,” Edwards said.
Earlier reporting on this subject: https://www.nemiss.news/throw-down-at-the-fairgrounds/alcohol, Fairgrounds, Ladies Building, marijuana, New Albany, Union County