Whitehall residents bring crime concerns to council

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Whitehall residents in the Maplewood Avenue and Etna Road area brought safety concerns to City Council at their Oct.16 meeting.  

Becky Diggs shared how her neighbor’s dog  was shot and killed recently by youths on bicycles.  The neighborhood abuts a Columbus apartment complex on Napoleon Avenue, and has had ongoing problems with violent crime.  

She noted that another neighbor was robbed at knife point going to work one morning, and another person knocked on her door for help, after the same thing happened to him.  

Her children have had three bicycles stolen from their yard and kids throw rocks, and jump her fence to swim in her pool, she said.

On the same night the dog was killed, the perpetrators also shot at a car.  The homeowner who lost the dog also had a bullet hit the kitchen window but no one was hurt.

Another neighbor, Rochelle Willis, said that she walks her dogs around at night, and never sees any police cruisers in the area.  She also told of hearing gun shots on a regular basis.

Al Martin stated that he has watched people shooting, and when he called Columbus police officers he was told to go over and keep an eye on them until officers arrived.  

Martin said that he was not about to do that.  He also stated that he has seen kids with guns in his yard drop their gun, and come back for it.  

"It’s not as bad as it was seven, eight, nine years ago, but it’s bad," said Martin.

Councilman Mike Shannon said that the Napoleon area is on a heightened watch through a federal narcotics task force for a high-crime area, and includes agencies at the federal, and state levels, as well as Whitehall and Columbus.  

Other council members said that this was the first time they had heard of the task force.  

Shannon, along with Council members Leslie LaCorte and Chris Rodriguez, will be looking into opening dialog with Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, and Columbus liaison officers for the east Columbus neighborhood.

Resident Georgia Bays has lived in the city since 1956.  She is upset with the lack of respect that some residents have when it comes to maintaining their properties.  

She commended Service Director Ray Ogden for his ongoing efforts to handle the problems, noting that she understands that he is understaffed for the amount of complaints and violations incurred.  

"If Councilman Jim Graham is chagrined at what he has seen, why can’t other council members make a note of things as they see them, jot them down, and bring them to Ogden’s attention?" asked Bays.  "Council should have looked towards the betterment of the city rather than big raises for themselves."

In other business, there were two public hearing for resolutions to authorize the submission of applications for financial assistance from the Franklin County Housing, Community Development and Weatherization Program for funding curb and gutter replacements for Seigman Avenue and for funding restroom replacement at Whitehall Community Park.

Ogden and Parks Director Terry Gee are both vying for the same grant program.  

Ogden’s would provide a 70/30 percent split for curb and gutter replacements of 4,200 linear feet on Seigman from Yearling Road to Beechwood, which is a high traffic area for school children and buses.  The cost estimate is $135,000, and the city’s cost would be about $40,000.  

Gee’s grant is an 80/20 split with a cost estimate of $117,000 for a new  rest room in a more centralized location at Community Park.  He said one other facility had to be closed, and that the one to be replaced still works, but is not up to standards, and is not handicap accessible.

The next council meeting will be Oct. 23 at 7 p.m.

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