Council mulling Project Next Step request

Published 12:17 pm Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Contributing Editor

Washington Police Chief Mick Reed made his case to the Washington City Council concerning temporarily using part of the former Beaufort County Ed Tech Center property on East Seventh Street to house the department’s Project Next Step.
Reed made his case during the council’s meeting Monday. The council, after asking some questions and expressing concerns, agreed to consider his request.
The city recently purchased the property. It has plans to demolish the building to make way for stormwater-drainage improvements.
Councilman Doug Mercer asked Reed if the department wanted to use the entire building, which has eight sections. Reed said Project Next Step would require just one office. Mercer expressed concerns over the city possibly having to provide utilities to the entire building to serve that one office.
During the discussion, it was determined that each of those eight sections is served by its own heating, ventilation and air-conditioning unit.
Mayor Archie Jennings addressed concerns about the temporary use of one of the building’s sections getting in the way of the proposed stormwater-drainage improvements.
“Let me be clear on this. This is just a stop-gap measure,” said Jennings.
In a memorandum regarding his request, Reed outlined what he sees as advantages to granting his request. They are:
• The temporary use of the building would allow Project Next Step to remain in a vital location that supports the mission of the project.
• The money saved by eliminating the cost of rent and other expenses associated with the project would further the department’s goal of funding the project through the remainder of the current fiscal year.
• The move would provide additional time to pursue options for continuing Project Next Step.
Project Next Step, funded by a grant authorized by the Governor’s Crime Commission, is designed to identify criminal activity in a targeted neighborhood.
The project identifies individuals involved in unlawful conduct and presents a unique manner to deal with them. If successful, the intervention eliminates overt criminal activity while bringing city and community resources available to alter the individual’s lifestyle, according to project spokesmen.
For additional coverage of the meeting, see future editions.