CPD, Hoppe hold safety summit in Sixth Ward
The meeting follows others across the city.
Sep. 29, 2009
With the start of the school year and the return of student renters, residents of Columbia’s Sixth Ward held a safety summit Tuesday night at Unitarian Universalist Church to get information about city health codes and traffic law enforcement.
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe, health department inspector Marsha Perkins and several police officers who patrol southeast Columbia fielded questions about how residents should respond to speeding drivers and partying students who generate excess garbage.
“This is a really a chance for residents to ask questions and get answers and make suggestions where we don’t have some answers,” Hoppe said.
Columbia Police Department Capt. Dianne Bernhard, who oversees officers patrolling the southern half of the city, said the Sixth Ward has a low crime rate compared to other wards in the city. Maps of local crime hot spots on display at the meeting showed two intersections and a mobile home park as areas where officers are often summoned.
“Compared to some other areas, in general, it’s a very nice place to live,” Bernhard said.
Marsha Perkins, senior environmental health specialist for the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services, stressed the importance of keeping weeds trimmed and garbage in closed containers to prevent infestations of mice, snakes and mosquitoes.
Several residents told Perkins they had seen buildups of trash around rental houses after parties, which sometimes floats down the street during rainstorms. Perkins encouraged them to call her office and ask for an inspection if they believe it violates the health code.
“That’s disturbing,” Perkins said of the floating trash. “If it’s something like that, please call me.”
Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton also talked about the department’s new geographic policing strategy. Under that plan, areas such as the Sixth Ward are divided into small segments patrolled by beat officers. Several layers of superiors oversee the officers, which Burton said would increase accountability.
Columbia Neighborhood Response Coordinator Bill Cantin addressed neighborhood concerns about groups of students living in rental houses together, even if some are not on the property’s lease.
Cantin said a city ordinance defines a family as no more than three unrelated people living together in one household. Cantin cited the example of a married couple with children, saying that family would be allowed to have one unrelated person in house without violating city health code.
Sixth Ward resident Meredith Donaldson said she lives near a house occupied by four college students. She said the students are generally good neighbors but there are too many of them according to the ordinance. She said allowing the situation to continue might make other students think such arrangements are permissible.
“They’re responsible but they just have too many cars on the street,” Donaldson said. “If word gets out, next year, we might have sophomores and they might not be as responsible.”
The meeting was largely attended by middle-aged couples and homeowners, with few college students present. Hoppe said notice of the meeting had been given to several neighborhood groups and newspapers, but said she is considering holding a similar meeting to address concerns student renters have, possibly on the MU campus.
“We could do another smaller meeting focusing on East Campus to focus on student issues,” Hoppe said.