NEW HANOVER COUNTY — New Hanover County is putting millions toward establishing a call center, assigning resource coordinators and more police officers to schools, building a full-service grocery store on the Northside and other investments it expects to help reduce community violence.
Following the shooting at New Hanover High in August, county leadership began penning a strategy to address inequities that lead to violence and stop bloodshed before it happens. A final, four-year, $39.5-million action plan was adopted Monday morning by the board of commissioners.
The officials also approved the initial $3.6 million in spending to kick-start the plan this year. Here’s how it will be broken down:
New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office will receive $560,003 for its youth-violence intervention program known as Elements, which currently has a waitlist. The money will be used to hire seven youth intervention specialists and three caseworkers.
By 2025, Elements will receive a total of $2.7 million in relation to the action plan.
Community Justice Services will get $69,405 to expand Too Good For Violence into high schools, with two new case managers and two new program assistants. The program is slated to receive $853,677 from the county as part of the plan by 2025.
New Hanover County is also establishing its version of Bull City United, starting with $372,873 this year and a total of $2.6 million over the next four years. Based on the model used in Durham, a team — made up of a director, business and data analyst, three mediators, three outreach workers and one supervisor — will work to prevent violence on the streets.
A $563,219 allocation will position 20 community resource coordinators at seven schools starting this year. These coordinators will serve as a single point of contact for students and their families to reach a variety of local services. There will also be one Latin coordinator and a supervisor.
The coordinators will be based at Gregory Elementary, Snipes Elementary, Forest Hills Elementary, Freeman Elementary, D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy, Williston Middle School and New Hanover High School.
With an allocation of $287,481, the school system will hire four resource officers for Snipes, Forest Hills, Freeman and Gregory. The four new positions are enough for each elementary school to have a dedicated officer, instead of campuses sharing as they have in the past.
New Hanover County is also launching a community call center with an initial $408,761. The public will be able to report information about perceived threats in schools or the community. A 13-person team will work the center round-the-clock, researching and responding to concerns and monitoring social media.
At a cost of $54,942, the county’s 114 school resource and parks resource officers will go through threat assessment training to improve their awareness and response.
The county is using $886,000 to upfit the fourth floor of 320 Chestnut St. The 5,100-square-foot space will serve as the home to some of the new programs and positions created as part of the greater action plan.
LINC is receiving $150,000 to design its new boarding school, which will house young men who have been headed down the wrong path. The students will obtain their GED or high school diploma or learn a trade while in the program. LINC is also slated to accept $1.4 million and $2.5 million in 2024 and 2025 to construct and open the school.
New Hanover County is contributing $300,000 this year toward opening a 6,000-square-foot grocery store on 2 acres of donated land in Wilmington’s Northside neighborhood, a food desert. The county is partnering with the city and Northside Food Co-Op on the project. An additional $2.1 million will be allocated in fiscal year 2023, according to the action plan.
“I am really pleased that we have a purposeful, well researched and well-thought-out plan with a goal of making an actual impact on community violence,” Chair Julia Olson-Boseman stated in a press release. “Our community, our kids, and our families deserve to have equitable and easy access to resources, to live in a home where they feel safe, and to have the tools to be able to succeed. This plan is multi-pronged, it looks at specific areas of our community to make direct investments, and it offers opportunities for students and families who need it most.”
Originally, commissioners directed staff to utilize a portion of a $350-million pot of money from the sale of the formerly county-owned hospital system to Novant Health. In October, a majority of the board redirected staff to explore other revenue sources.
The finalized plan uses a significant portion of the county’s $45-million allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act. The county will use $1.5 million of the federal Covid-19 relief funding this year and nearly $10 million in total.
To do so, it is cutting back on other planned expenditures it reportedly overbudgeted for, including a free broadband service, after-school transportation and employee Covid-19 testing. The county also plans to find $3.6 million elsewhere for a project to build a business park on Blue Clay Road.
The action plan will employ $1.3 million from the fund balance this year and, in total, $4.8 million over the next few years. It also uses $14.6 million in escrow or principal from the revenue stabilization fund, including $751,184 this year.
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