Racy language angers track neighbors
By By Connie Nowlin Managing editor
When Merlene Forbes moved in near the Atmore Drag Way, she anticipated traffic and noise from race fans and race cars. What she was not prepared for was being held hostage in her own home by the obscene and graphic language broadcast during a rap audition held at the race track Sunday afternoon.
According to Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith, some 12,000- 15,000 people packed the event, which had requested and received four sheriff's deputies for security help.
"We had no idea there was going to be this number of people out there," Smith said. It had been indicated to him the event was a concert, rather than an audition. Smith said that the number of officers at the event was not adequate security for that number of fans.
But very little could be done about the language of the lyrics because Escambia County does not have either a noise or obscenity ordinance.
That may soon change.
Smith went to Escambia County Commission chairman Larry White the morning after the event to ask about proposed legislation to regulate crowds and noise at events outside city limits.
"The county commission had addressed it last year. They needed an act from the legislature to require permits. We don't want to cause schools or churches a problem, but we are definitely going to address it so this doesn't happen again," Smith said.
White agreed that something needed to be done to enable the county commission to regulate crowds, language and noise.
"We had intended to introduce a bill that would give the county commission authority to establish guidelines for public safety's sake, but a state bill was submitted by the Association of County Commissioners of Alabama that would do the same thing," White said.
The bill proposed by the ACCA was bottlenecked and failed to win approval during the last legislative session.
The county commission already has its ducks in a row to present a bill this session, regardless of what any other governing body does.
"We are preparing a local bill and will ask our legislature to grant (the county) the authority to set regulations for such gatherings." A local bill only pertains to the area in which it originates, whereas the state bill that failed would have given regulating authority to all county commissions.
"Then (when the bill becomes law) we will discuss the problems and guidelines for public safety. We need the authority because it is becoming a bigger problem as time passes. And we have no authority now."
The commissioner said he had already discussed such a bill with state Rep. Frank 'Skippy' White and that Rep. White will probably sponsor the bill for the county.
The city of Atmore does have a permitting process through which events are regulated.