Three concerned citizens from the Austin Bottom area of DeKalb County attended the county commission meeting Monday night complaining of a recent disturbance at the Austin Bottom landing and the lengthy amount of time it took for authorities to respond.
Chuck Stacey says Austin Bottom Landing, which is a gathering spot for people who like to drink and party, is increasingly posing a safety concern for residents in the area and they want it closed or restricted for use only as a boat launching ramp.
Stacey says one person was seriously injured there last week in an assault.
Most of the problems occur late at night and Stacey would like to see more law enforcement patrols in the area.
Sheriff Patrick Ray says his deputies have patrolled the community but it's "hit and miss" on catching the troublemakers, not knowing when they are going to be there. Sheriff Ray says his officers are doing their best but can't be in the area seven nights a week because there are usually only two officers on duty at night to cover the entire county.
Foster proposed an idea which he says might make things better. " I've talked with several people about it and we think cleaning up the area, making it a better ramp, making it more user friendly, getting more people in there would probably be a better solution than trying to close it. If you've got families there you're less likely to have these people that you're talking about in there(undesirables). We've got approximately forty ramps around the lake and four hundred plus miles of shoreline. I live at Holiday Haven and it's the same way down there. You go down there on a given night and there's nobody there and you go back another night and there's forty partying and you can't get your boat in. From working that area years ago, I know it is out of the way. I think improving it to the point that you do get more families down there and patrolling it maybe a little more will help, maybe talking to the TWRA officers and getting them to run by there more often, because I know we did when I worked for them. The Corps also maybe needs to do some more. We could put up the signs (boat launching only) but it's federal property. Even though technically the ramp area is leased to the county, the county can't enforce federal laws, which would have to do with camping on that property. We can enforce state laws that have to do with firearms, alcohol, and that kind of thing."
County Commissioners say a constable position is open in the fourth district and they asked Stacy, who is a retired law enforcement officer, if he would be interested in being appointed until the next election. Stacey said if he had to provide his own vehicle, he probably wouldn't want the position. Constables also receive no pay other than fees from serving papers.
Stacey says he and a group of residents in the Austin Bottom area plan to meet with officials of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to further discuss possible solutions.