COLUMBIA — Residents of Columbia's north neighborhood met for their fourth meeting with the city to move forward on plans to create a community center and neighborhood watch program in the community.

Roughly 40 residents attended Tuesday’s meeting at Derby Ridge Elementary School.

At the last meeting on Feb. 7, residents agreed that adding a community center and a neighborhood watch program could act as a catalyst for change in the neighborhood. Kids could use the center as a place for their extra-curricular activities, and a neighborhood watch would provide added security and foster community involvement, residents said.

The group decided to create a single team of community members to work together as leaders to implement the plans. Several community members volunteered to take on leadership roles.

LaShonda Wallace, a north neighborhood resident, said her three kids motivated her to take on a community leadership role. A community center would be an asset for her kids, she said.

"They have nowhere to go and no extra-curricular activities available," Wallace said. "There are a lot of kids out there that need a place to go and do things."  

Resident Ahmonta Harris also volunteered to take on a leadership role — he already sees himself as a leader in the north neighborhood.

"In order to be a leader, you have to know your neighborhood and you have to be known in your neighborhood," Harris said. "I stand out in my neighborhood and kids look up to me and care about what I have to say." 

Tuesday’s meeting was a part of the city’s continued implementation of its three-year strategic plan, which aims to reduce racial, social and economic disparities in the north, central and east neighborhoods. These neighborhoods were identified because of their disproportionate crime, unemployment and poverty rates.

Carolyn Sullivan, one of three city consultants hired to work on the strategic plan, said Tuesday's gathering was supposed to be the final city-sponsored meeting in the neighborhood, but City Manager Mike Matthes decided to extend the consultants' contracts for three more months to build on the discussion from previous meetings.

Sullivan said the consultants will continue to work with the residents, run meetings and provide leadership training to residents. 

Megan Corbin, a community organizer with Central Missouri Community Action, said that the organization has a "step up to leadership" program that equips residents with the tools to advocate for themselves and their neighborhood with city government officials and serve on boards and commissions. 

The city hired consultants Nikki McGruder from Diversity Awareness Partnership and Sullivan and Elisa Glick from New Chapter Coaching to run the community meetings and facilitate discussions between the city and residents. 

At it's March 6 meeting, the Columbia City Council will consider a contract with an architectural consultant to help design a new police station in the north neighborhood.

Sullivan said a community room for residents will be a part of the new station. The city originally said it didn't have the money to include the room but changed its plans after the positive results of the north neighborhood meetings.

"This is a big win for you," Sullivan said.

Supervising editor is Ellen Cagle.

  • Spring 2018 state government reporter. I can be reached by email at kaitlinwashburn@mail.missouri.edu, by phone at 619-565-5768 or on Twitter @kwashy12.

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