Commissioners hear update on multi-million dollar community violence plan, staff prepare for listening sessions

Commissioners heard the latest on a multi-million dollar violence prevention plan for New Hanover County Monday morning.
Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 2:51 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Commissioners heard the latest on a multi-million dollar violence prevention plan for New Hanover County at their meeting Monday morning.

Since their last meeting, staff has identified millions of dollars worth of alternative funding, proposed a timeline, and set a strategy to tackle hardscape improvements at area schools in partnership with the board of education.

When the community violence plan was first announced, the county manager was granted access to a $350 million pot of money from the sale of the hospital to fund it. However, last month, commissioners asked for staff to bring forth formal budget proposals each step of the way and consider other funding sources, rather than just using the hospital account.

The county manager confirmed Monday that staff found a combined $37 million in alternative funding to help foot the $89 million dollar bill for the comprehensive plan. The presentation proposed redirecting $9.3 million in American Rescue Funds, $14.4 million in fund balance, $6.1 million in escrow interest and an estimated $7.3 million in organic revenue growth from property and sales taxes to tackle community violence initiatives.

County staff plan to present $3.3 million in budget amendments next month, and begin their 2022 initiatives as early as April.

The comprehensive plan is divided up into four priorities: wraparound services, community communication, relationship building/elimination of educational barriers and finally, at-risk training and intervention.

The first two priorities would begin in 2022 and include expanding the work of local nonprofits, a violence program similar to Bull City United, putting SROs in select elementary schools and a call center where people could report threats. The work on relationship building and removing barriers would begin in 2023, including expanding pre-k, adding SROs to all county elementary schools, and putting more adults on school buses. The final chapter would begin in 2024 and would help support the full cost to attend programs that grant career and technical training certifications and the construction of a boarding school in partnership with LINC.

Commission Chair Julia Olson Boseman expressed concerns in the past that requiring formal proposals and budget amendments would slow the project’s timeline. On Monday, she said she was optimistic the entire council would be on board with the improvements.

“I’m just happy to see it moving forward, I don’t care where the funding comes from, I just want to see our kids and community safe, and I’m thankful that if it takes this to get all five commissioners to buy into the funding, I’m all for it,” said Julia Olson-Boseman.

Last month, commissioners Barfield, Zapple and Hays all expressed their concerns with writing a blank check for the county staff to build the program and requested a more formal proposal with more in-depth information going forward.

During Monday’s meeting, the entire board appeared to be pleased with the progress over the last month.

“Let’s do it — we looked at it, we researched it, you can’t just make a knee-jerk reaction to this and spend the taxpayer money without having knowledge as to what you’re going to spend it on, and making sure that that money is really going to do the job that we needed to do. I think we’ve gotten to that point we don’t need to belabor it, we’ve got some issues in our community that we need to address and that’s what we’re doing,” said Hays.

Monday night is the county’s first listening session for the community, called the “Lets Talk: Community Violence Forum.” People can give feedback on what they want to see baked into the plan tonight on Zoom at 6 p.m.

A second session scheduled for Wednesday night will be more centered on issues in schools and will feature representatives from New Hanover County Schools’ Central Services, school administration and parents.

Links to both webinars can be accessed here.

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