HOUSTON – The Houston Civic Center in Joe Brigance Park is a community building but apparently needs city oversight to help keep it nice and safe for all.
Police Chief Billy Voyles voiced his concerns to Houston Alderman earlier this month about the type of events that have been hosted recently in the main room of Chickasaw Development Foundation Civic Center on Starkville Road.
“We have had a couple of fights where we’ve had to send officers down there and we’ve had to send officers down there when the music went a little, too late,” said Voyles. “I know it’s a public building and we want people to enjoy it but we don’t want things to get out of hand.”
Voyles suggested the city look at making the rules for renting the building more stringent and requiring renters to hire security.
Mayor Stacey Parker said a deposit is required, but repeated repairs are a cause for concern for the city work crews and keeping up with who is responsible for damages is an administrative headache for city hall.
Public Works Director Rico Nichols said his crews work hard to keep the park clean, but a Saturday night party can leave empty bottles and cans in the parking lot on Sunday morning.
“We don’t get around to cleaning it up until Monday,” said Nichols. “We also need to find a way to block off the kitchen if people don’t pay to rent it. Right now we have no way to lock down the kitchen and you can just rent the main room and still get in the kitchen.”
Aldermen said they wanted the Civic Center to be a source of pride for the community. They also pointed out it is rented most weekends and is one of the larger public gathering places for the community.
“There are a lot of family reunions and birthday parties up there and we want people to use it – that’s what it is for,” said Dist. 2 Alderman Shenia K. Jones. “We need to look at ways to make it accessible but also make it safe and keep it clean.”
Voyles said many of the birthday parties on Friday and Saturday night get rowdy.
“You can’t tell me you’ve got a birthday party for a 5-year-old that goes to midnight,” said Voyles. “It’s the adults who are up there fighting and tearing stuff up.”
Voyles also said events for adults should not allow underage kids inside and events hosted for teenagers should have chaperones and need to end before curfew.
Voyles explained some of the events get rather large and when they close down late, juveniles are forced to walk home after curfew.
“We’ve stopped groups of kids – girls and boys – after midnight and they have told us they are walking home from a party at the Civic Center,” said Voyles. “That’s no excuse for breaking curfew. When you have kids walking the streets after midnight you are asking for trouble.”
Voyles also said security for any event on city property should require the hiring of local, certified law enforcement.
“Having someone put on a jacket with security written on the back isn’t good enough,” said Voyles. “If we don’t make city property secure and someone gets shot up there, the city could be liable.”
Aldermen said they would look into the rules and regulations and consider making changes to renting the Civic Center.