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New Hanover county manager rolls out $89 million 'community violence' plan, commissioners split over how exactly to move forward

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NHC
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Chair Julia Olson-Boseman during the October 18 Board of Commissioners meeting.

At today’s Board of Commissioners meeting, county manager Chris Coudriet came forth with a plan on how to combat community violence — and commissioners made a significant change to how the plan will be rolled out.

Judge J.H. Corpening kicked off the presentation with opening remarks. He lamented the struggles these communities face, saying children are at the heart of it.

“Please don't blink, others have blinked. It's not time to blink, it's time to respond. Our children are killing children. It's got to stop," he said.

The plan outlined how roughly $89 million would be spent over the course of three years. $43 million would go to “hardscaping” schools, or adding physical measures to ensure safety. The goal was not to make children feel like they’re going to school in prison, but according to county manager Chris Coudriet, there were measures needed to secure school campuses, including entrances and exits.

Coudriet suggested that school resource officers and security become a permanent fixture in schools in New Hanover County, as well as adults on busses to form relationships with and provide safety and supervision over schoolchildren.

“But who is that adult model on the bus that a child can begin to identify with, understand their shared experiences and have trust that, you know, this is happening, maybe in my home, this is happening maybe in my neighborhood, this is going to happen this afternoon on the school campus," Coudriet said.

The other $46 million would go to “people-first” spending, or spending geared to helping the community grow.

“Wraparound services” which are there to support families in the community are needed to continue the intervention work outside of the schools. While there’s a few, there’s more that needs to be done. The issue of community violence is more than a school issue, Courdriet said. “We cannot arrest our way out of this problem.”

Interpersonal conflict between individuals without training in de-escalation is what leads to deaths in the community, Coudriet said, emphasizing the importance of de-escalation training.

“And then we are building the capacity in our community to deal with conflict resolution, and de-escalation, and that we are training our professionals who work in schools or work in the community to see a threat forthcoming and have the appropriate skill set to deal with those," Coudriet said.

Related: New Hanover's county manager can now tap into $350 million for school safety. How will that actually work?

Going into this meeting, Coudriet had essentially been given considerable freedom to spend money how he saw fit. But during a discussion, Commissioner Jonathan Barfield sought out alternative ways of funding the program -- and to keep spending accountable.

Contention bubbled up between board members as they voted on whether or not alternative spending would be used. Barfield was joined by commissioners Rob Zapple and Deb Hays in a vote to explore other funding avenues — and to have spending approved in advance by the commissioners.

Chair Julia Olson-Boseman expressed concern, asking if the plan was being brought to a halt.

“So we're hiccupping is what — we're blinking, we're stopping, is that what you want to do commissioner Barfield. Is that my understanding?”

Barfield chimed in to explain his rationale behind the vote.

“I said earlier, I had no intentions of blinking or stopping. I just want to be informed every step of the way [in terms of what] resources that we're extending — doesn't stop anything," Barfield said.

By the end of the meeting, Coudriet was now required to lay out budget amendments to be brought forth to the board before any spending is to take place. Coudriet said he planned to do that, but did not give any concrete timeline on when such an amendment would be brought forward.