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June 17, 2014 10:57:02 AM
Oktibbeha County supervisors may not have an opportunity to discuss a potential ordinance mandating safer night club rules until July as officials travel to the coast this week for a conference.
The county tentatively scheduled the next board meeting for June 23, but it is unknown if any new business will make it to the agenda and force the meeting.
Earlier this month, District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery pushed forward a proposal that would create stricter life-safety rules and limit operating hours for county nightclubs, but his motion died at the table without a second.
Supervisors said they would take the newest draft of the resolution under advisement, but it is unknown if the board will act on the matter this month as the June 23 meeting is not yet officially set.
County officials, in coordination with the Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Department, began drafting the ordinance after a March shooting injured five people at Club Rock, an establishment located a few miles outside of Starkville on Rockhill Road.
It is believed the ordinance, when finalized, will receive a majority of support from board members.
The new law would go into effect 30 days after passage.
Besides limiting operating hours to 1 a.m. and forcing patrons from the premises and its grounds, the new ordinance would also establish a regulations committee, comprised of Oktibbeha County's sheriff, county fire coordinator, administrator, attorney and one citizen, to suspend or revoke operating permits for nightclubs found in violation of the provisions.
The new rules also curb establishment overcrowding and force key life-safety provisions, including emergency lighting and patron access to functional, unobstructed emergency exits.
Nightclubs must also post signage banning weapons and are responsible for ensuring that no guns, knives, brass knuckles or other weapons are brought into the building by anyone other than licensed security guards and other officials.
"I don't foresee any stumbling blocks for this legislation," District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said. "I think it will be good for the county, because right now, we don't have anything on the books like this. We need to have parameters in place that gives our sheriff and his deputies something to work with. It'll make the county safer."
Supervisors have been critical of Club Rock over the years due to the volume of emergency calls stemming from incidents at the nightclub. During the county's first meeting after the latest shooting, District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard said the business "hands down ... has the worst track record over a period of time than of any other establishment" in District 2.
A temporary injunction against Club Rock was granted after deputies received credible information that a retaliatory shooting was subsequently planned and ready to be carried out at the location, court documents show.
Last week, Circuit Court Judge Jim Kitchens amended the injunction against the club and its owner, Larry Fair, by allowing him and a relative to continue working on the property, but the nightclub's primary operations are prohibited until chancery court holds a nuisance abatement hearing for the establishment.
Kitchens also allowed Fair to use the property for church fundraisers, as long as he coordinates those events with OCSD and they end in a timely manner.
The nuisance abatement hearing was assigned to 14th Chancery Court District Judge Dorothy Colom, documents show, but a hearing date has not yet been set.
Based on witness interviews, investigators believe a crowd of approximately 1,000 people were gathered at the nightclub when at least 20 gunshots from three separate areas of the facility's parking lot were fired on March 30.
Five people were injured in the shooting.
Investigators began developing leads through community chatter, or second-hand information, after uncooperative witnesses yielded few clues.
No arrests have been made in connection with the latest shooting.
Supervisors previously sought a temporary injunction against the nightclub in 2011 after police and fire representatives said the establishment posed a safety hazard to patrons.
The facility has a maximum capacity of 189 people, county officials said in April. Comparatively, the largest Oktibbeha County Chancery Courtroom has a 126-person capacity.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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