When will the Rocky Mount City Council and Manager pull their heads out of the sand? Who in the world is going to come to Rocky Mount when a game is cancelled due to GUNSHOTS not weather?
That’s exactly what happened on Friday night November 6th at the Top Gun “Winter World Series” game that was held at the Rocky Mount Legion Field on Howell St. At one point the players, coaches and spectators were ushered into the dugout for safety. Thank goodness no one was injured but just think how terrified everyone was during and after this incident.
Top Gun brings many tournaments to the Rocky Mount Sports Complex that has lost $20 million from 2008 to 2013. I’m confident this is PR nightmare for the Rocky Mount Parks and Recreation Department. This particular two weekend tournament was comprised of 339 teams from CT, GA, NC, SC, VA and WV. This is a lot of people when you think about all the coaches, players and family members who will go back and tell friends what happened and advise them not to come to Rocky Mount because they might fall victim to gunshots.
It just so happens this field is across the street from a Community Council members business. On August 2, 2015 there was a drive-by shooting outside this business. Luckily no one was hurt but two car windows were shattered, with people in them, and the member’s building was shot five (5) times, that they know about. On September 16th someone was murdered, one block from this business and City Hall, directly behind Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church.
The combined crime in this area provides another argument, beyond the reasons The Community Council has written about previously, to NOT build the “proposed” Event Center. People will not come to a community where they do not feel safe. Please don’t fool yourselves by thinking the “Winter World Series” players, coaches, parents and tournament sponsors are not telling their friends about the violence in Rocky Mount.
On February 24, 2015 Rocky Mount Telegram Brie Handgraaf reported that folks raised concerns on how the fear of crime would adversely impact the “proposed” Event Center. At that time, she interviewed Rocky Mount City Manager Charles Penny discussing the “success of the Sports Complex as evidence that the fears are unfounded.” Mr. Penny was quoted as saying “We are already a destination location, and people come to this community and have a good time.” Penny was further quoted as saying “They don’t walk around and say they are worried about the crime, but they enjoy their time all over Rocky Mount.” I bet after Friday people, including me, are worried about being a victim of crime.
While a great facility, The Sports Complex is losing money. The “proposed” Event Center is going to have a difficult time operating in the black let alone covering the $50 million building price tag. All of this is going to fall on the shoulders of taxpayers.
Here’s a thought … don’t build the Event Center. Take a portion of the money to raise the salaries of our Police Officers and Firefighters. Take another portion to hire additional Police Officers to patrol the streets. Maybe an increased police presence will deter crime allowing citizens and visitors to feel safe.
***This was posted as a Letter to Editor in The Rocky Mount Telegram on Sunday, November 22, 2015***