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December 2, 2020

Editorial: Commissioners show policymakers have role, too

Shootings don’t typically make their way to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners meeting agenda, but it’s happened twice this year. In both instances, county staff and commissioners took appropriate action to prevent further problems or asked needed, tough questions.

The most recent example occurred Monday — when commissioners considered a temporary use permit from Reaper’s Realm haunted house and trail to continue operations after a shooting incident prompted chaos among a large and unprecedented crowd for the China Grove area attraction. the business last appeared before the commissioners to request a two-year permit in 2017. While it was approved, the business failed to return in 2019 and continued to operate this year without the necessary documentation.

County officials said the shooting prompted a review of the business’ permits.

It was fair for the county to allow the business to continue operating because of the steps its owner, Tony Jenkins, said he’s taken, including additional security, outlawing drop-offs because many in the crowd last month did not have a ride home when things got out of control  and requiring teenagers under 16 to be accompanied by an adult.

It was also the right step for commissioners to avoid another two-year extension, instead opting for an approval through the end of the year.

Will the opening year of the 2021 Halloween season draw a crowd as big and unruly as this year? In addition to the shooting, there were fights as teens were waiting for their parents. How about a second entrance to the property in the case of an emergency? Neighbors have raised concerns about noise, too. All are relevant questions in the context of permits to continue operations.

Meanwhile, commissioners earlier this year took swift action to terminate a lease with Thelma’s Down Home Cooking at West End Plaza after six people were shot and three were treated for other injuries during a party that was not previously approved at the county-owned facility. The rapid response by first responders was critical in ensuring the event didn’t turn out worse and that there weren’t any deaths. One person shot and bleeding profusely was transported to the hospital in a police cruiser.

Because West End Plaza was county-owned, commissioners and staff took swift action to review the restaurant’s lease and found new violations in addition to prior issues, leading to the termination.

Law enforcement and other first responders haave clearly defined roles in responding to shootings, but county commissioners have shown there are times when policymakers also must step in to secure the safety of the public.

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