Hendersonville City Council members on Thursday shot down a police department request to permanently close Prince Street leading to Hendersonville elementary and middle schools, saying that solution was too drastic given the magnitude of the problem.
Police Capt. Doug Jones and Chief Herbert Blake made the request after efforts to bar traffic from the street during morning and afternoon dropoff and pickup had proved to be costly.
"At least once a week, sometimes twice a week someone runs through it," Jones said. "We have had several completely destroyed."
Council members Steve Caraker, Jerry Smith and Ron Stephens all spoke against the permanent closing, favoring instead installing a stout steel gate that would badly damage blockade runners, instead of the other way around.
Capt. Jones said he had surveyed property owners and residents of Price Street. Of three letters he got back, two favored the street closing.
Ron Stephens, apparently referring to a growing animosity toward the city after the shooting last month of an unarmed black suspect who was fleeing police and distress with the county School Board for refusing to merge the largely segregated Hendersonville and Bruce Drysdale elementary schools, urged the council to stop short of the permanent closing.
"One of the things that concerns me is the timing of this," Stephens said. "We've got some issues going on now. When we widened that road (U.S. 64) a lot of black people got upset that we invaded their place" at Oakdale cemetery. "I can just see the possibility of stirring up another issue. It could even be some people from out of town."
Members of the black community complained several years ago when the road widening plan was first proposed, fearing it would encroach on the traditionally African-American side of the historic graveyard while leaving the other side untouched. Councilman Caraker noted that the city responded with a careful and comprehensive study of the black graves, including the discovery of some unmarked pauper plots. African American residents ended up appreciative of the city's efforts, he said.
The police shooting case led to community meetings and a call by local and state NAACP leaders for a fuller accounting of what happened and an apology from the city.
Rep. McGrady helps 'primitive man'
Tasting my way to the top