City forum

Elizabeth City Community Development Director Kellen Long (right) answers a question at a community forum hosted by city leaders at the city fire station on Harney Street, Wednesday evening. Also in attendance were (l-r) Police Chief Larry James, Fire Chief Chris Carver and Public Works Director Dwan Bell.

Crime, speeding and pickleball were among the issues Elizabeth City residents discussed with city leaders at a community forum Wednesday evening.

Police Chief Larry James, who organized Wednesday’s forum, said it will be the first of several that city leaders will hold across the city in the coming months. Wednesday’s forum was held at the city’s fire station on Harney Street.

“This will be a time as your city representatives to listen to your concerns, your thoughts, your ideas and your recommendations,” James said. “I know the police department falls short on things but we are here for you. We want to hear from you and we want to listen to you so we can take it back to our department so we can better serve you.”

Several residents expressed concerns about gunfire and shootings in the city. One Harney Street resident asked that the police department put foot patrols in problem areas.

“I would like to see more police in the neighborhood,” the resident said.

A Sawyertown resident voiced a concern that she “didn’t hear any feedback from the city in the newspaper” after a recent shooting in the neighborhood.

“Elizabeth City is in the news almost every week,” the resident said. “It’s just not Sawyertown, it’s everywhere. What are you going to do to try and combat some of the crime? The shooting goes on almost every week.’’

James said a new tip line which offers up to $5,000 reward that leads to an arrest and conviction is now operational. Residents can text a tip to 390-8477 which will remain anonymous. City Council recently approved providing funding for the tip line.

James said residents at crime scenes are sometimes hesitant to talk with police.

“The information will come back to a secure location at the police department and only certain people in the department will see that information,” James said. “Once we get information, we will use that information. We are trying our best to solve crimes out here but we do need help. We are creating different avenues where you can communicate with us.”

James said that the department is actively investigating crimes in the city and will continue to do so.

“Every day, we are putting our minds together to work things out,” James said. “We are trying to find out who these people are. We are working hard.”

Other city officials attending Wednesday’s meeting included interim City Manager Richard Hicks, Fire Chief Chris Carver, Public Utilities Director Dwan Bell, Parks and Recreation Director Sean Clark and Community Development Director Kellen Long. All listened to residents’ concerns and answered questions. Around two dozen people attended the hour-long event.

Several residents expressed concerns about speeding in the city, including two who called Harney Street a “racetrack.”

One said they would like to see a traffic signal at Harney and Elizabeth streets while others would like to see traffic-calming measures like speed bumps be installed on additional city streets. Eight speed bumps have been installed on Main and Church streets.

A resident who lives on Main Street said speed bumps installed in the neighborhood have helped slow traffic. He said he would like the city to do a traffic-calming study.

“It made a big difference, it made it feel like it was a neighborhood again,” the resident said. “It’s helping and I think it would help in other areas because it is just not on Main Street. It’s happening all over.”

Bell, the city’s public works director, said he plans to ask City Council to approve a traffic calming study once the new council is sworn in. Hicks said earlier this week no date has yet been set for that.

“I have received calls about Harney Street, and other different areas,” Bell said.

A resident said the lines on pickleball courts in the city are wrong. She said there are too many lines on the court, which is also used for tennis. She also said she would also like to see the city try and get more youth involved in the sport.

“Pickleball is a huge thing going on in this country,” she said. “I would like to know if there are any plans for a dedicated pickleball court. It’s a great sport for a kid to get into because you can get into it right away. It is easy to learn.”

Clark said he look into having a space at a city tennis court dedicated for just pickleball.

One resident said she appreciated city leaders meeting with citizens but asked that future forums be better advertised.

“All of us have a lot complaints, but we didn’t truly know about this meeting,” the resident said. “This is wonderful, but (before) the next meeting please let everybody know so you can have more people out here.”

James said he would do a better job of promoting the next community forum.