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Vandalism prompts loitering crackdown at Historic Courthouse plaza

A rash of vandalism has prompted the county to remove public benches and post "No loitering" signs at the Historic Courthouse plaza.


County Manager Steve Wyatt announced the changes at the end of a meeting of the Henderson County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday.

“We have had an increasing issue with vandalism here at this historic facility outside,” Wyatt said. “We would like for people to be able to come and enjoy the grounds but the problem we’re having is destruction of property. So we’re posting signs and doing some other things to allow law enforcement to enforce no loitering and to keep an eye on the building knowing that after hours there’s not permission to be around the facility."

County personnel have found damage to the building, the rock wall bordering the courthouse plaza and to the Monuments of Freedom. Wyatt said the county is imposing mild enforcement measures for now. Although he did not mention it in the commissioners' meeting, the county also removed the benches this week.

"That’s our first effort to attempt to deal with this," he said. “We’re trying to deal with it in the most gentle fashion in the beginning but there are actually potential other measures that I would have to discuss with the board should the problem continue.”

Board Chairman Grady Hawkins also said that vaping has been an ongoing problem. The signs now posted on the plaza and in a side yard specifically ban loitering, smoking and vaping.

Not everyone is happy with the changes. A disappointed downtown employee submitted a comment to the Lightning's website.

"I am from Tryon, and work across from the old courthouse," said the commenter, who did not leave a name. "I was very upset to see the nice benches removed, and hideous signs reading 'no loitering, vaping or smoking' I used to relax there, now I feel there are no places other than the street side benches. These benches, while nice make you feel as if you are in the main road, and it is nice to be able to recede from the street, and observe life from a space near the tree, or on a lawn."

A Facebook of the story triggered 11 responses, six of them negative.

"Removing the benches that the taxpayers paid for, at a public building that the taxpayers paid a fortune to renovate! Who and when was this approved??" commenter Angela Meyers wrote. "I need to know before I vote. Surely there are other security measures to try first! Outrageous! I understand loitering can be an issue for merchants and visitors on Main St. but this seems extreme."

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