Benton-Stephens Neighborhood Association approves possible Neighborhood Response Team expansion

Friday, March 7, 2008 | 4:19 p.m. CST; updated 11:50 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

COLUMBIA — Residents who attended the Benton-Stephens Neighborhood Association meeting Tuesday voted in favor of expanding the Neighborhood Response Team boundaries of the city to incorporate the neighborhood.

Columbia’s Neighborhood Response Team has been around since 1999, working to aid and repair properties in the central city by policing the area and working with residents to assess any problems in the neighborhood. Assessments of properties are done from the street level and look for code violations that include damaged roofs and peeling paint. The NRT works to alert owners of such violations and to provide help from city programs to improve housing, according to the response team’s Web site.

Neighborhood Response Specialist Bill Cantin told residents about the benefits of expanding the NRT to include Benton-Stephens and what it would mean for the neighborhood and asked how they felt about the idea.

The current NRT boundaries are Business Loop 70 to the north, College Avenue to the east, Park Avenue and Ash Street to the south and Ridgeway Avenue to the west. The NRT also has plans to propose expansion to East Campus neighborhood and make the new western boundary West Boulevard.

After a question-and-answer session, a majority of the 13 present at the meeting voted for expansion, which passed by acclamation but was not unanimous. People who weren’t able to attend also expressed their sentiments on the issue, said Frederick Schmidt, president of the Benton-Stephens Neighborhood Association.

“Anything that helps the neighborhood is a good thing,” Schmidt said.

Benton-Stephens resident Kurt Albert, a self-employed carpenter and landlord who has owned fixed-up houses in the neighborhood, noted that in the past few years, the number of houses that have been in disastrous shape has gone down.

“If there is anything we can do to take care of sore spots, I’m for it,” Albert said.

For expansion to officially take place, City Council would have to pass a resolution that formally expands the area, Cantin said. If the council passes the resolution, Benton-Stephens would be included in the expansion in June or July.

Cantin plans to present the NRT’s annual report summary and discuss the possible expansion of boundaries at the City Council work session tentatively on March 17.

For more information on the Neighborhood Response Team, go to its official Web site.

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