Consumption of alcoholic beverages, mischievous behavior and disorderly conduct will not be tolerated at the Salem City Park during Fourth of July festivities next year, according to Salem Police Chief Al Roork.
"Things really got out of hand this year and eventually somebody is going to get hurt if we don't do something about it," Roork said at the Salem City Council meeting July 28.
Roork said he, Salem Police officer Marc Long and reserve officer David Keck were unable to control public drinking and wreckless behavior at this year's Independence Day festivities. He said three officers cannot be expected to control a crowd of approximately 2,000 people.
"We had numerous individuals drinking in public, and others shooting off personal fireworks, which is prohibited," Roork said. "There was one drunk guy running around the Civic Center mooning people. We couldn't catch him."
Salem Fire Chief Heath Everett said the rowdy behavior was not only inconvenient to families who were trying to enjoy the show, but it posed a danger as well.
He said people were shooting fireworks at him and the pyrotechnicians as they erected the fireworks display.
"If one of those black powder charges had gone off it would have been bad," Everett said.
Everett said spectators are required to stay 500 feet away from the area where the pyrotechnicians set up their fireworks. He said a tape barrier was set up but it had little effect.
"There were people sitting within 75 feet of the fireworks," Roork said.
Mayor Gary Clayton said the city will meet with the Salem Chamber of Commerce, which puts on the show, before next year's event.
"I think some ground rules need to be put into place with the chamber before this happens again," Clayton said.
In other city council business, Clayton said Fulton County has turned in its application with the state to receive the first round of funding for a proposed county sport complex.
The five-year project could begin next year if the funding is approved, Clayton said.
"It's something our baseball and softball commission has wanted for some time," Clayton said.
The sports complex would include four lighted baseball fields, a skateboard ramp, concession stand, bathrooms, playground equipment, a basketball court and other facilities.
Clayton said Fulton County Judge Charles Willett told him the complex will be located just outside the Salem city limits.
He said the 20-acre site is on the South Fork River just north of town.
The county will know by the end of the year if it will receive funding for the project, Willett said. Construction could begin the spring, Clayton said.
The council voted to table a vote on a resolution to support a statewide beverage container sales tax.
Clayton said he's talked with several people in the community about the proposal.
"The response has been pretty negative," Clayton said. "I think most people around here are opposed to another tax."
Environmental groups around the state are pushing state legislators to pass the tax.
Ruth Reynolds, an environmentalist from Cherokee Village, said the tax would reduce the amount of litter on Arkansas' roadways.