Closing the tailgating loophole
By Kevin Dye
Madison County Prosecutor Steven Pronai visited West Jefferson Village Council Monday night to see if the village would consider annexing a piece of property that has caused some problems on football Fridays in the fall.
The long, narrow strip of land is 6.5 acres and it runs parallel to the high school football stadium. The property also contains the bulk of the parking lot near the football stadium, just west of the high school. Originally it was thought that the property was in the Village of West Jefferson, but it instead lies outside of the village.
“I’m here tonight on behalf of Jefferson Local School,” Pronai said. “They approached me about this section of property near the football stadium. Apparently there were some complaints last year about things that took place at football games and since the property was in the county, the West Jefferson Police Department could not do anything about it.”
The problems and the activities by some who parked at the game caused area residents to call the West Jefferson Police Department. Even though they were already on scene for the football games, they had no ability to address any problems since the parking lot area was outside of village limits. That meant that the only recourse was to call the Madison County Sheriff’s Department and that meant folks could cover up their activities before deputies could arrive on the scene.
“I’m here to ask council if they would consider an ordinance to annex the property so the police department would have access to it,” Pronai said. “If village council would be willing, I will get with (village law director) Ron Parsons and draft an ordinance. I have talked with Ron about this already and he sees no problem with it.”
Council members agreed that the problem existed and needed attention.
“This needs to be done,” council member Doug Eakins said. “The same problems will continue if we don’t do something.”
Pronai said that the issue can get on a fast track once the ordinance is drafted. Notices will have to be sent out to adjacent property owners and then the county would petition for the property to become an annexed area of West Jefferson. Even the school district did not realize the land was not a part of the village and that is why they sought Pronai’s help with the matter.
“Superintendent William Mullett didn’t even know this wasn’t in the village,” Pronai said. “The police chief can’t do anything about that area. Most of the parking lot is not in the village.”
Pronai said he will also take the matter to the next West Jefferson Planning and Zoning Commission at their next meeting on Feb. 6. While he was present, Pronai also had praise for the village police department and the new chief Terry Ward.
“I would also like to say the police department is doing a good job,” Pronai said. “Cases are coming in and the paperwork has been completed well. The village conviction rate is good, especially felonies at one hundred percent.”