MADISON — Citizens of Madison attended a city council meeting to express their concerns about a homeless camp near one citizen’s home, which is located near the Benjamin Price Bridge.
According to one citizen, who spoke to the council publicly at the meeting, concerns about local theft, loud banging noises at all hours of the night and public displays of bathroom functions were her concerns, particularly when her children are outside playing on their property.
“We have had some homeless people down there all summer and they are burning fires at night and that crew left, but there is trash everywhere and they are pounding and building,” she said. “They get arrested and get out the next day. I have spoken with (Madison PD’s) John Adams, my husband has spoken to (Sheriff) Randall White, we’ve spoken to (Madison Chief) Chet Burgess and to (Madison Councilwoman) Carolyn Mullins and someone was, I think someone was supposed to go down there. The first group has left, but another crew has come in and they haven’t torn anything down.”
The citizen expressed her fears regarding the makeshift camp.
“The river has been low for awhile and we fear that they are going to come across and be around the kids,” she said. “We know some have been arrested for stolen merchandise. We want to know who to contact to tear the whole place down. We want the tarps down, the wood down. They change (clothes) down there and use the bathroom. As dry as it has been, they could catch the whole hillside on fire.”
Councilman Buddy Hudson expressed that collectively, the council and law enforcement would find a solution to the situation but also expressed concern about the legal aspect of the situation.
It was unclear at the meeting whether the property was city or county property, but it was noted that campers were also breaking into the nearby empty ice plant building that was purchased by the Boone County Community Development Corporation in March.
“I’ve spoken to (BCCDC Director) Kris Mitchell and she said that due to a conflict that the deputy sheriffs will not come down there,” said Councilwoman Carolyn Mullins.
In 2017, Charleston officials settled a lawsuit brought after then Mayor Danny Jones decided to eject a group of homeless people living in “Tent City” in below-freezing temperatures.
As part of the settlement, the city agreed to create a $20,000 fund for people who claimed to have lost property when the encampment on the bank of the Elk River was disassembled. The city also agreed to create an outdoor storage facility for homeless people to store their personal items.
In December 2016, the Charleston City Council passed a resolution that requires the city to provide 14 days written notice before vacating such a camp. It also increased the city’s contribution to the Prestera Center by about $25,000 for the hiring of two full-time outreach workers who will act as liaisons between law enforcement, homeless individuals and the Charleston-based business community.
One public attendee at the Madison meeting suggested pelting those in the encampment with BBs from a BB gun to “flush them out,” but the sentiment was quickly dismissed by the council.
“I sympathize with you and I understand your concerns,” said Mayor Sonny Howell. “We’ll work on that down there and come up with a solution.”
In other City of Madison news, the city honored Emergency Management Coordinator Steve Byus and Boone County Emergency Management Director Michael Mayhorn with plaques in recognition of their completion of the FEMA Basic Emergency Managers Academy.
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 304-307-2401.