May 5, 2010 10:45:00 AM
Kristin Mamrack -
Residents Tuesday exhorted the Columbus City Council to better address issues of crime in the city.
A resident of Columbus for more than 50 years, Dennis Long urged the council to close the Everyday Club and Lounge, located at 1603 Seventh Ave. N., following a deadly shooting April 20 at the nightclub, in which an unnamed suspect opened fire, killing one man and injuring three others.
Quentin Antonio "Que" Spencer, 20, of 455 Merry Valley Drive in Columbus, was killed in the shooting.
Noting "drug activity" and the club''s role in "contributing to the delinquency of minors," as well as its location in a neighborhood, Long also urged the council to adopt ordinances regulating such establishments.
"Your failure to act in a responsible way makes you responsible for the young man''s death," he told the council, referring to Spencer, and explaining he visited the council, in the past, with similar complaints.
Long said he contacted the state Attorney General''s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the city''s Building Inspections Department and other agencies to see what action could be taken and offered to "provide financial support" for Spencer''s family to "file a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner (of the club) and the city."
Columbus Mayor Robert Smith, who was out of town on city business and did not attend Tuesday''s council meeting, owns the building occupied by the club, but not the club.
Local developer Chris Chain also expressed concern to the council.
"I''m concerned about things happening in a downtown I helped rebuild," he said, referring to a weekend incident in which, he said, a fight from patrons in a nearby nightclub, Fuhgetaboutit, resulted in someone being thrown through the plate glass window at Huck''s Place.
Police are still investigating the incident; Chain owns the building in which Huck''s Place is located.
"What are our basic rights?" he asked. "I have worked hard to build this community into a Class 1-A community. What are the basic rights? If somebody is out on the streets and drunk, isn''t that reason to send them to jail? Why isn''t that happening?"
Noting seven previous incidents of property damage at Huck''s Place, Chain suggested the police use golf carts to help patrol downtown Columbus.
"What''s existing outside that business can''t happen," he said, referring to Fuhgetaboutit, which is owned by Freddie Fields. "If we, as citizens, don''t start taking over our streets, they''re going to take over us. People have to be responsible.
"We don''t need this type of stuff happening downtown," he added, explaining he didn''t "care" what happened inside Field''s club, only outside of it. "We don''t need people scared to go home; they live there, too."
"The way I feel about this is Huck''s is a bar, just as much as we are a bar," Fields said, this morning. "I''ve had my window broken out before, but the police can''t arrest someone unless they see it happen. We''re not responsible. Somebody has left Huck''s before and come by our place and done damage; it''s the same thing.
"There are a lot of people downtown now that weren''t downtown before," he continued. "Everything that happens downtown is not Fuhgetaboutit''s fault. We try to clean up the town at night to make sure things don''t go on. We have just as much right to be there as anybody. We have police officers downtown and I''m sure they''re doing their job. We don''t have a problem downtown that I know of. I know there''s a lot of people and maybe people are drinking downtown, but they''re also drinking when they leave the (Columbus) Country Club. We''re running a clean, legal place."
"I came to this council over a month ago," Long added Tuesday night, after Chain finished speaking. "I was ignored totally and now you''ve got a dead kid. That''s what''s going to happen downtown."
The council took both matters under advisement.
In another matter, the council unanimously voted to pay the city''s share of a required match to restore the historic Highway 82 bridge across the Tombigbee River.
The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors Monday voted to pay $133,333.33 -- a third of a 20 percent match on a $2 million Mississippi Department of Transportation grant -- to renovate the bridge into a pedestrian walkway.
And the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau earlier agreed to pay a third of the required $400,000 match on the project.
"I hope this council will take the same aggressive approach to address some of the same issues brought before us tonight," Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem said after the vote, referring to the citizens'' complaints of crime in Columbus.