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CONA discussion focuses on police and code issues

(ran East, South editions)

Neighborhood leaders on Wednesday searched for solutions to citywide problems and for ways to strengthen their organization.

The Council of Neighborhood Associations counts not quite two-thirds of the city's 110 associations as members. Incoming president Karl Nurse led a discussion among some 40 neighborhood representatives at the Sunshine Center about how to increase that number and address problems that neighborhoods face.

Members returned periodically to police and code enforcement issues, and the ways in which those departments sometimes overlap.

Because police control the street and codes investigators control yards, departments have trouble determining who, for example, should write up a car that straddles both. "They point their fingers at each other," Nurse said.

Other members complained of a shortage of community police officers.

"They are putting the CPOs out to do detective work, to babysit Baywalk, and to all kinds of task forces because they do not have enough police," said Ingrid Comberg, of the MLK Business District. Nurse promised to get the facts by the next meeting.

Nurse, codes director Sally Eichler and Mike Dove, a deputy mayor, will propose a city ordinance that would allow codes investigators to inspect the interior of multi-unit rental properties after a certain number of violations outside.

CONA members briefly recounted activities their neighborhoods have used to improve morale and increase their treasuries, including cleanups, guided tours of homes or, in the case of Greater Woodlawn, a program that sold engraved bricks for a traffic circle.

Greater Woodlawn president Cathy Wilson reported that the association easily sold 200 bricks _ at $20 a brick _ for the 26th Avenue N traffic roundabout.

The topical roulette ball also landed on panhandling, sanitation, curbside recycling and power lines buried underground to eliminate "utility blight." Nurse alluded to a city survey in recent years that indicated 88 percent of residents favored curbside recycling, but only if it were free.

"I think there is something wrong with saying, "We will only do the right thing for the environment if it's free.' And there are a lot of things between curbside and what we're doing."

Much of the meeting focused on CONA itself and whether it represents neighborhood associations or residents. When Nurse asked leaders how many of their associations had 20 percent of their residents as members, only four _ Bayway Isles, Mangrove Bayou, Snell Isle and Tropical Shores _ raised their hands.

Dick Oliver, representing Shore Acres, said CONA should reach out to associations populated by African-Americans and other minorities, notably the Federation for Inner City Organizations.

Rodney Bennett, appearing for Campbell Park, urged CONA leaders to make the group more visible, perhaps by holding public workshops. As for FICO, he said, "They will come when they see that this is the most viable leadership organization."

Neighborhood might not

accept treated water

Pressure for the city's southernmost neighborhoods to accept treated water from the defunct Piney Point phosphate plant may be lessening.

Several hurdles remain before truckloads of water would start rolling into the Southwest Water Reclamation Facility by Eckerd College, City Council member James Bennett said.

First, permits must be secured for the trucks to transport potentially hazardous materials. Second, the task of emptying millions of gallons of acidic water from Piney Point's gypsum stacks is going better than expected, Bennett said.

"As long as they're doing well with that, it makes for a lesser possibility that they are coming here."