By Sarah Baker
Mayor Madeline Rogero held her first “Night Out” meeting with members of the Mechanicsville community on Tuesday April 10 at Clinton Chapel AME Zion Church. The mayor was just one member of an expert team who was available to hear from and offer encouragement to the residents. Rogero was accompanied by City Council members Finbarr Saunders and Marshall Stair and several city department leaders including Jim Hagerman, Director of Engineering, Christi Branscom, Director of Public Works, David Brace, Deputy Director, David Massey, Neighborhood Coordinator, Tom Clabo, Chief Civil Engineer, Becky Wade, Director of Community Development and Joe Walsh, Director of Parks and Recreation. Former Mayor Daniel Brown, Alvin Nance, CEO/President of Knoxville’s Community Development, and Tom Strickland, Communications Director were also available to offer support and to answer questions.
The meeting was facilitated by R. Bentley Marlow, Mechanicsville Neighborhood Association President. The Mechanicsville Neighborhood Watch Association, the Mechanicsville Community Association and the Old Mechanicsville Neighborhood Interest Group all participated in the discussion which ranged from drug problems to traffic issues to dog waste left by unleashed pets.
The mayor is hoping that these “Night Out” meetings will help neighbors and the city work together. “We want neighborhoods to be organized, to work on issues themselves, and it really starts with a certain expectation and taking responsibility in your own neighborhood, and then working together in partnership with the city,” said Mayor Rogero.
Some members of the community expressed concerns about safety. Brian Tillery became emotional when explaining how his thirteen year old has to sleep in the middle room instead of his own bedroom because his bedroom is at the front of the house. “Bullets don’t have eyes,” said Tillery. “We have to lock down. We have to work together.”
Other residents expressed concern about teenagers not having enough to do. Jennifer Butler from Emerald Youth’s Just Lead program reminded everyone that the GLAD Center was open 7 days a week and is free of charge. Joe Walsh encouraged everyone to get their families outside and to take advantage of the parks. When Marlow asked about benches and picnic tables needed at the neighborhood park, Walsh expressed a willingness to assist with that.
Paul Berney, Mechanicsville resident and officer of the neighborhood watch, informed everyone about a new neighborhood walks program that will take place every Monday and Wednesday. On April 21, Earth Day, there will be a neighborhood clean-up.
The subject of 311 came up often. Police Captain Don Jones encouraged people to use it when appropriate in order to establish documentation of particular issues. Earlier in the evening, he also assured people, when asked about it, that arrests had been made involving a recent shooting in the area.
Concluding the meeting, Rogero said, “I hope you realize that we do care. We care about what’s happening to you. We hear you. We’ve taken a lot of notes and we’re going to do whatever we can to make Mechanicsville a better place to live.”