I am also happy to report that many city officials were in attendance including 2 city councilmen, a county council representative,our Deputy Mayor, Chief of Police, Fire Chief, heads of Redevelopment and Community Housing.
The first order of business was to address concerns expressed by the residents present at the first town hall meeting:
- Streets torn up by utility companies: The Mayor reported that he always tries to work with utility companies and not surface a street only to have it torn for repairs of utility lines or pipes. He has a plan to resurface State St. from 265 to Arni's but the water company will be installing a 30in. pipe. So the resurfacing will have to wait. He also stated that the streets belong to the people not the city.
- Police cars should be parked in high density neighborhoods when the officers are writing their reports: Chief Applegate replied to this issue. He asked everyone to report sightings of police cars which are on duty but are sitting in parks. He went on to say that our police force is down to 54 offices with 5 in the Academy and 2 serving in Iraq. With 3 shifts that only leaves 4 or 5 officers on the street at one time. He also went on to say that 85% of the city's budget goes for public safety. They also rely heavily on block watch groups and neighborhood associations. He asked everyone to watch for cars that are not normally in the neighborhood. Yes, everyone has guests but look for unusual activity.
- Flooding in neighborhoods: This is the responsibility of our Storm Water board. They are trying to clear the creeks of debris so the water can flow to the river. Their number is 948-5320 ext. 26 if anyone wants to report any problems.
- Trash on Hwy 64 in view of West St.: This falls under the responsibility of INDOT and they have been contacted.
- Repairs to Spring St. Hill: Scheduled for August.
- Code Enforcement: A new person will be hired to help Pam Badger. They intend to make a sweep of the entire city and address all of our problems.
Mr. Bob Lane from the Housing Authority spoke at length giving a profile of the average resident of public housing. He said that 57% of residents are on Social Security or SSI and the average rental rate is $158.00 per mo. He went on to say that 45% of the residents are very young mothers aged 17 and under. The residents also must pass both a criminal background check and credit check. He went on to answer several questions.
Q. Are people coming to New Albany from other cities and moving into our public housing?
A. Although it is illegal to discriminate, preference is given to Floyd County residents. Also many people are losing their homes and forced to move into public housing for the first time.
Q. Aren't a lot of people just spending a short time in our projects? And don't their children spend a short time in our schools?
A. This is true, some residents are transients.
Q. Louisville has a plan to convert their public housing to single family homes or duplexes, can we do that here?
A. There is no federal money to do this, it would require a huge investment from the city.
Q. Do we have off duty police officers to guard the streets? People are afraid to let their children play outside.
A. Although some police officers do act as security for the Housing Authority, they are already stretched so thin that they don't have the time. Surprisingly the worst time in the day for crime is 2:00PM to 10:00PM.
This covers about the first hour of the meeting. If I continue this article will be way too long.
All in all it seemed to be a productive meeting. I think people appreciate that our city officials are taking the time to listen to our concerns. I know that I did. The heavy presence of city officials showed that they are interested, and this is not even an election year!
Part II will be posted in a couple of days. Thanks for taking the time to visit.