Property upkeep and combating homelessness are top priorities for Wilmington’s west side/center city residents

The momentum for Mayor Dennis Williams’ town hall meetings is growing as more than 100 community members packed the historic Quaker Hill Meeting House to address issues concerning the west side and lower center city area of Wilmington.

The meeting was the second of four town hall addresses that Mayor Williams developed in an effort to connect with residents of each city’s regions.

The mayor and several city department heads were on hand to layout their latest initiatives and field questions.

One of the top issues among residents at last night’s meeting involved the city’s license and inspection department. The west side and center city areas are known for the 18th century buildings and historic culture, however residents expressed concerns over vacant properties and garbage plaguing the area.

Jeff Starkey, director of the license and inspection department explained that the city is working on a few new initiatives to ensure properties are up to code.

“We’re doing a neighborhood concentration where you may see inspectors out walking the streets,” explained Starkey. “We’re trying to focus on exterior issues, chipping paint, things of that nature. Broken glass or windows.”

Vacant, un-kept properties are a magnet for criminal activity and Starkey encouraged vacant property owners to meet with his office to obtain list of options to rehabilitate or sell the property.

Another major concern from residents was the increased presence of mentally ill and drug rehab patients that wander the neighborhood once they are released from treatment.

“We’re not a dumping ground,” said lifelong resident Deborah Scott. “Don’t use center city as a dumping ground.”

 Scott said she’s concerned for the well being of the youth in her neighborhood who are exposed to the unstable residents.  

“We’ve got spring and summer coming, we’ve got youth out there,” she said. “Something has got to be done.”

Mayor Williams was in complete agreement, noting that he has met with Connections, a local community support program, and has urged them to come to the town hall meetings and meet directly with residents.

“My heart bleeds for these people who are homeless and have mental problems, we will work with them too but they cannot take the neighborhoods over,” said Williams. “Sleeping in flower pots, exposing themselves, urinating, driving people crazy, saying all kinds of crazy things to the children, we can’t have that either. We’re going to do our job. Our police department will do their job, we will do everything we can but I want all the players to come to the table. We can’t have one meeting over here with Connections and one meeting over here with the community.” 

Combating criminal activity and violence also remained a top priority for both the city and residents. 

Wilmington Police Chief Christine Dunning said she’s in the process of developing new ways for residents to receive and report information with her department.   

“One key component I’d like to do is to try and increase the communication between the police department and the citizens, especially in the neighborhoods,” said Dunning.

Dunning said she would like to implement a way for people to text the police department. She is also looking into a web program called Town Watch, which would allow the public information officers to post reports and gather information from the public.

The town hall meetings continue Wednesday at the Latin American Community Center and Thursday at the Walnut Street YMCA. 

Williams added that he plans to conduct similar meetings quarterly. 

“We’re going to finish up this week and were going to be back in about three months and then another three months because we want people to see us, as I’ve said I’m not going to be a 9th floor mayor and when we make mistakes, we want people to criticize us,” said Williams. “We don’t want people to say we’re doing a good job when we’re not doing a good job.” 

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