County commissioners authorize use of $350 million to address violence in schools, community

Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 12:20 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - County Commissioners took a major step on Friday to address violence in our schools and the community by authorizing County Manager Chris Coudriet access to $350 million to do just that.

The multi-million-dollar authorization happened at a joint meeting between the New Hanover County commissioners, the New Hanover County School Board, and members from the City of Wilmington and law enforcement. The meeting was called in response to the shooting at New Hanover High School where one student was shot on Monday.

“The commissioners came here today to take action. We consider this an absolute healthcare crisis, it’s an emergency in our community. I got a lot of flack for selling the hospital but I did it to help us get better healthcare but we also have a pot of money that we are sitting on that we can access when we have a crisis in our community. Kids are being shot at school, this is a crisis. They’re being shot in the street, it’s a crisis. So I would like to make a motion that allows the county manager to access — a part of, not all of it, part of — whatever amount necessary of $350 million that we have set aside to address this crisis that we have in our community,” Commission Chairwoman Julia Olson-Boseman said.

The money is not going to come from the $1.3 billion from the foundation the commissioners created following the hospital sale, instead, this money has been earmarked for commission use.

Coudriet now has permission to use that money to help address violence, but there are questions as to what that will look like. Commissioner Rob Zapple said this motion means that money should no longer be a hold up to implement programs, saying that too often elected leaders discuss ideas, but funding often delays any actual action.

“First off, it is not a blank check ... they are going to work with the staff with the Board of Education, the county commissioners to find those specific programs that have measurable metrics and then we are going to reconvene sometime in October/November to sit down and take a look at where exactly that money will be dedicated to,” Zapple said.

Other leaders from the community, including Judge J. Corpening and District Attorney Ben David, were in attendance at the meeting and weighed in on how to best address violence in our youths.

“I applaud the county commissioners for their leadership and immediately allocating this money, every statistic shows that you spend $1 in crime prevention to save $8 in future costs of incarceration,” David said.

There’s no word yet as to what exactly this money will be used for, but several folks at the meeting mentioned a program used in Durham called Bull City United.

New Hanover County School Board Superintendent Dr. Charles Foust sent a message to families Friday afternoon supporting the joint effort by New Hanover County Commissioners and the Board of Education. Foust stressed the need for multiple agencies to join forces to develop a comprehensive plan.

The Commissioners voted unanimously to dedicate funds for the district to invest in safer schools, violence prevention and intervention in our community. To ensure the safety of our staff and students, we must develop a comprehensive plan, one that includes our local law enforcement agencies, community partners, county leaders, district staff, families, and students.

Though this event happened at New Hanover High School, we understand that it has far-reaching effects throughout our community.

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