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Wilmington City Council will hear report on opioid response program, rail trail, and more

Wilmington city hall.

Wilmington City Council meets Tuesday night and will hear presentations about the city’s opioid response task force, affordable housing, and the northside rail trail. WHQR’s Ken Campbell and Ben Schachtman have a preview.

Ken Campbell: WHQR's managing editor Ben Schachtman joins me now. Hello Ben.

Ben Schachtman: Hi Ken, how are you?

KC: I'm okay. So at Tuesday night's city council meeting, we're getting an update on the opioid Task Force. What did this pilot program endeavor to do and what do we know about what might be presented?

BS: So, this pilot program was launched two years ago, it was a quarter million dollars a year. And the basic idea is trying to get mental health services and or peer counseling to people who suffer from overdoses within three days --- there's sort of a window there. And the goal is to get them into detox and treatment as quickly as possible and make sure they sort of have a package of all the resources they need. It's more expensive and more complicated than maybe initially thought. They did some tweaks and adjustments are about a quarter of the way through the first year. And what we'll be hearing Tuesday night is sort of the report on how the program worked in general, and this will release, you know, probably dictate whether or not the city continues to do, it launches a full time permanent program. And I think a lot of other cities that are dealing with the opioid epidemic, are also going to be looking at this to see whether they might want their own versions of it.

KC: Okay, so $500,000 is a lot of money to you and me, but do you think they sort of low balled this?

BS: I think it's a great question. I think the important part here is whether or not funding streams can be applied to it. So whether that's federal state and local funding, whether all that money can be put together. In terms of what the county has at its disposal, in terms of funding, there's a lot of money coming through the sale of a hospital that could be applied to this. So I think it's a feasible program, it just comes down to whether or not the program directors feel it was successful.

KC: Okay. And also, there'll be a hearing at the meeting on the city's use of federal funding to help address affordable housing and the homeless. It sounds like there's a number of sort of approaches that are that are being looked at. So I guess, how much funding are we talking about? And how has it been distributed so far?

[Details on the funding source and uses here.]

BS: So some people actually would like there to be more funding. There's a number of different programs, the one the two largest programs are block grants for home improvement and home ownership. That's federal money that comes in and is used by the city. And then there is other funding through dozens of smaller programs has about two dozen local community driven nonprofits that tackle a whole range of issues, everything from child abuse, to substance abuse, to homelessness. And, you know, each one of those issues, I think you could probably find people who would like us to spend more money, but sort of the effectiveness of each of these programs will kind of be broken down and we'll get to see that.

KC: Okay, also on the agenda presentation on Wilmington's Rail Trail. What can we expect there?

BS: So this has moved pretty quickly, actually, it's been an idea for the better part of a decade. And this would turn the sort of sunken rail bed that runs all the way from Cape Fear Community College, all the way up to around 10th street through the north side of Wilmington. It would turn that into sort of an active park. And there's a little bit of trickiness, because the railroads, which are owned in perpetuity, passenger rail could come back at some point. So whatever they do in the rail trail program, they have to set it up in a way that trains can basically use it at some point in the future. So sort of one side of that sunken rail bed could be turned into like a pedestrian path.

[More on the rail trail here.]

KC: And I understand also there's sort of a ceremonial thing taking place at the meeting.

BS: Yeah, so this happens every once in a while when canine dogs from the Wilmington Police Department retire, and it's the WPD policy that they allow canines to retire into the homes of their trainers and handlers if if they want that. They get a whole presentation and they usually get to say hi to City Council, and it's, it's a personal favorite of mine. I don't know why --- I'm a sucker for it.

KC: Okay, well, that's a preview of Tuesday night's city council meeting. WHQR's managing editor Ben Schachtman, thank you so much.

BS: Glad to be here.