North neighborhood meeting

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COLUMBIA – North Columbia neighbors met Thursday to discuss the development of a new police facility, after-school program and food pantry in the north neighborhood.

City Council Member Michael Trapp moderated the meeting.

“What we’re really doing is community organizing,” Trapp said.

Many community members attended the meeting, even people new to the area.

Tori Stevens, a resident in the north neighborhood, said, "We know they'll be able to know what's going on in the neighborhood instead of judging the neighborhood."

“In our community we have a pretty high rate of crime in that neighborhood. These meetings make a change in that neighborhood,” Neighborhood Leader Sophia Smith said.

The new police facility discussed would be for officers that operate in the north. Those officers would be moved to that station to cut down response times and reduce the crime rate in the area.

Members of the north neighborhood also wanted a community space in that building, which is being incorporated into the design plans.

Getting the police building is a four-phase process. It is currently in phase two. Soon there will be a public hearing to get community opinions on the project.

Community members are also pushing for an after-school program and the addition of a food bank. Both programs would be volunteer-run and neighborhood-driven.

“There are other food pantries in the city, but nothing really on the north side,” Trapp said.

The food pantry would specifically serve the north neighborhood.

The after-school program would offer things like sports, tutoring and even IT education. 

“We have children that stand on the street corners with nothing to do,” Smith said. “It leads to a lot of negative outcomes sometimes.”

Officers at the meeting confirmed that a majority of problems with young children happen in those 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. hours after school.

The next step is presenting the business plan and budget to the city. Building and Site Development is concerned the plan will need space similar to the Boys and Girls Club. Trapp said in the presentation it needs to be clear this is a smaller scale plan. 

Trapp said the city has funds to pursue for this project. However, the city needs to be shown a volunteer-based plan that is “worthy of financial support.”

Community members in the north neighborhood were also concerned about the next Fourth of July.

There have been “firework wars” in the north neighborhood, where groups of people shoot fireworks at each other.

Trapp suggested that people are participating in this “war” because they cannot get to the downtown events. He said alternate events, like strategic block parties that close down certain streets, would be helpful.

Officers at the meeting shared stories about how they spent the day in riot helmets and were shot at with fireworks during these incidents.

Trapp said he hopes these meetings will continue the neighborhood's progress.

“The changes we've made in this tiny sliver of the city has had city-wide impact,” Trapp said.