UNCW, City Task Force member speaks out after councilman comment - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

UNCW, City Task Force member speaks out after councilman comments

What seemed like a simple agenda item quickly brought controversy to city council's agenda brief Monday morning. (Source:WECT) What seemed like a simple agenda item quickly brought controversy to city council's agenda brief Monday morning. (Source:WECT)

An item on Wilmington City Council’s agenda that seemed simple quickly turned controversial Monday morning.

The resolution, to be brought before council Tuesday night, would approve the renaming of the University Community Relations Task Force to the University Community Relations Alliance.

According to the resolution, the Task Force was created in 2004 by the City and UNCW to “primarily address the concerns of the neighborhood areas immediately surrounding UNCW.” That includes issues such as parking, rental of homes by students and code enforcement. Its 14 members consist of UNCW’s Assistant Dean of Students, Student Body President, and several City representatives, among others.

Chief Code Enforcement Officer Steve Harrell is a member of the Task Force and told City council that “alliance” better describes the ongoing nature of the group as opposed to “task force,” which implies a group that only addresses specific concerns.

City council member Charlie Rivenbark did not agree.

“I don’t think we’re getting anything done,” Rivenbark said to Harrell. “I think what you’ve got here is a feel good committee that gets together once a quarter and talks about a lot of problems and nothing is getting done.”

Patrice Willets is a member of the Task Force as well as a realtor in Wilmington. She said she was shocked to hear Rivenbark's comments.

"I was surprised there was any negative opinion about the Task Force," Willets said. "We sit there with the intent of solving problems, trying to find ways to communicate with students on how to be good neighbors, and communicate with the city of the needs of the area right around UNCW."

Rivenbark passionately described seeing constant code violations near UNCW’s campus and offered to drive Harrell there to see for himself.

“I could ride you through there on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday night," Rivenbark said. “Those parking requirements you say we’ve passed ordinances on, might as well be that blind hanging on the window,” Rivenbark said.

Harrell told council members his code officers always enforce codes in that area and that they have cases on a regular basis.

Rivenbark requested to see those cases, with the addresses, violations and outcomes included. He also added he thought someone from city council should be added to the task force, even as an ex officio member, to bring information from meetings back to council on a regular basis.

“It’s awful out there, Steve,” Rivenbark said. “This [Task Force] has been going on for 14 years? I wouldn’t be proud of that.”

Willets said she would gladly welcome Rivenbark to the committee so he could see their progress for himself.

"That would be wonderful because then Mr. Rivenbark would be able to see how many times we have answered questions without the general public coming before City council to have them answer the question," added Rivenbark.

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