Neighbors decry loss of peace
Residents of Micha Way duplexes bring safety concerns to Madison City Council
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
Nearly a dozen residents of the Madison Square duplexes off Micha Way appeared before the Madison City Council Monday night, telling council members that they simply don’t feel safe in their own neighborhood anymore.
Bill Doyle, the owner of the duplex complex, said that he appreciated the audience with the council.
“I had a three-hour meeting with some of my residents the other day, and I felt this was urgent enough to bring forward to you,” said Doyle. “Basically, there’s been a recent break-in that’s been part of a continuum…my concern is the brazenness [of the crime], in broad daylight; the bottom line is my residents just don’t feel safe.”
Doyle was referring to a daytime burglary in the duplexes which allegedly involved repeated trips into the house in question during daylight hours. He says the woods between the duplexes and Highway 441 are a problem area for the residents.
“There’s sex going on in there, there’s drugs going on in there; they’re congregating there and there’s an element that has no respect for authority—I think they think they’re invincible,” said Doyle, referring to young people who hang out on the periphery of Madison Square. “I’m concerned that something bad is going to happen; somebody innocent is going to get hurt,” he said.
Residents of Madison Square spoke about the loud music, cars, carousing, drinking, card playing, and drugs that allegedly go on in the woods and in the walkways around the residences on Micah Way (which include another group of duplexes, not owned by Doyle, as well as the Orchard Grove apartments).
“I need help; people are leaving,” said Doyle. “They don’t feel safe.”
“We’re going to help you do something about it,” said Madison Mayor Tom DuPree.
Bobbi Randall, the manager of the Madison Square complex, said that residents there sign an agreement saying that their children will be in by 8 p.m. and that adults will be inside by 11 p.m. These civil curfews are permitted in the Madison Square lease agreements, but requests to make the curfews a city rule were met with caution.
“Curfew may fix a couple of things, but there are unintended consequences,” said Madison city manager David Nunn. “How do you enforce that curfew? If you see a child who is breaking curfew, do you arrest them? We don’t want to put in place a rule that is unenforceable,” said Nunn.
Representatives from the Madison City Police were at the meeting, including Assistant Chief Carl Jones, who wanted to let residents know that there are ongoing investigations going on regarding problems in Madison Square that the police are not yet able to discuss.
“We are concerned about this,” said Jones. “But there are [investigations] going on that we really can’t talk about; I will make sure that the [assigned]t officer for your neighborhood stays in regular contact with you,” he said to Randall. “The wheels of justice turn slowly, but they do turn, I promise you that.”
The council agreed to form a committee made up of residents, management, police, and city government representatives to share information about specific problems in the neighborhood and also specific ideas for solutions.
Morgan County NAACP president Laura Wilson Butler advocated that the complex hire private security, an idea that the group is considering. Council member Connie Booth said that she has found Neighborhood Watch programs to be effective, and the group will consider that alternative as well.
“With Neighborhood Watch, you look out for each other, and the police help you,” said Booth. “You don’t feel so alone and helpless.”
“I think we’re off to a good start by getting this group together,” said council member Fred Perriman.
The council will discuss the problems at Madison Square and the ongoing solutions at its next council meeting in two weeks.
In other neighborhood news, Nunn said that the city is working to solve problems cited by water customers in the Buckhead Manor subdivision off Old Buckhead Road.
“We’re experiencing some pressure spikes out there,” said Nunn. “There’s a large service pump—when it shuts down, water bounces around in the mains, and it’s causing pipes to rattle…we’re looking at ways to ameliorate that situation. We don’t want people’s plumbing to be damaged, or for people to be awakened in the middle of the night by rattling pipes,” said Nunn.
The city is also progressing in its preparations for next year’s Bicentennial celebration, the showpiece of which will be the opening of the new Town Park slated for this December 9. Bicentennial committee members Judy Senft and Ashley Hunt were at Monday’s council meeting to talk about the installation of a number of historical markers throughout the county (Morgan County celebrated its Bicentennial in 2007).
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity,” said DuPree. “We appreciate the help of everybody.”