Northwest News

Top city officials attend NWCA annual gathering

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Not long after Kimberley Jacobs moved to the Northwest Side three years ago, she happened to leave her car parked on the street one night.

It was broken into.

"That was not solved, of course," the Columbus chief of police ruefully admitted last week.

Jacobs, Recreation and Parks Director Alan D. McKnight and Chris Presutti, the chief zoning official, were all guests at last week's annual meeting of the Northwest Civic Association.

They participated in a panel discussion about the question posed to them by John Ehlers, president of the association's board of directors:

"How can the Northwest Civic Association help facilitate the delivery of city services?" Ehlers asked.

"Our services are fairly reactive," said Jacobs, who was named the division's first female chief about two years ago. "You call us and we'll come, almost always."

She urged residents to keep their eyes and ears open, and to report even suspicious activity, let alone actual crimes.

And, in spite of her own brush with crime, Jacobs assured NWCA members in attendance that they live in a relatively safe area of the city.

McKnight, who has been director of Columbus Recreation and Parks for the past seven years, and on the city's payroll since 1976, said his department has 240 parks scattered throughout the city and 29 recreation centers.

Carriage Place, which serves the Northwest Side, is one of the top three rec centers in terms of participation in programs, McKnight noted, adding that Antrim Park is also an especially popular one.

As far as assisting in the delivery of services, McKnight said Northwest Side residents can perhaps attend a public meeting, tentatively scheduled for May 21 in the Martin Janis Center, to offer input and suggestions on a new 10-year master plan being developed for Recreation and Parks.

The Northwest Civic Association already helps zoning officials by being "one of the more engaged groups" in the city, Presutti said during his presentation.

"We very much appreciate that," he said. "We encourage it.

We need to keep lines of communication," Presuitti said. "I would encourage you to continue to be engaged."

That doesn't mean, Presutti hastened to add, that the positions taken by the NWCA when it comes to development will always prevail.

"We have a much narrower set of considerations," he said.

By law, zoning officials are not permitted to consixder possible impact on surrounding property values when evaluating a development proposal, Presutti said.

Traffic concerns caused by a project are also not within his department's purview, Presutti said. These legal bars to looking at development as residents would sometimes lead to "unnecessary animosity."

Presutti has been in his current post for 12 years.

During the question-and-answer portion of the panel discussion, Chief Jacobs was asked about the local drug problem.

Right now, she said, it's mostly heroin abuse, because it's cheap and available, as well as highly addictive.

"Heroin is a terrible problem," Jacobs said. "It's not going to be something that the police can solve. I don't want to turn a whole population into criminals."

Greater access to treatment, not incarceration, is needed, the chief said.

Recreation and Parks personnel send out emails to hundreds of people who have signed up to be made aware of programs, McKnight said.

"We do work hard to try to get that information out," he said.

"Don't beat yourself up," Presutti advised civic association board members.

"You may not prevail on every application that goes to City Council.

"Certainly there are applications that we don't support that get approved, so I can sympathize with you on that," Presutti said.

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