In the wake of the brutal murder of one of its students, the Helena-West Helena School Board has passed a resolution requesting the Helena-West Helena City Council to take the building permit for the new facility at Central High School and apply those funds to the removal of blighted properties to improve public safety.

The resolution, which passed the Board unanimously and was signed by President Andrew Bagley and Superintendent John Hoy, states:

WHEREAS, there has been a significant increase in crime for the past few years that has now escalated to reflect an increase in homicides, most recently of a student in the Helena-West Helena School District;

RECOGNIZING, there is a correlation between increased crime and the presence of blighted and or deteriorating properties in neighborhoods and that the removal of blight and stricter code enforcement are necessary components of any significant crime reduction efforts;

REALIZING, the Helena-West Helena School District is greatly affected by these societal problems due to the adverse effects that they have on the students within our district and the Helena-West Helena School District will soon be infusing the City of Helena-West Helena with a significant one-time sum of money for the building permit fee to construct badly needed new high school facilities due to the gracious support of our patrons in a recent tax election;

BE IT RESOLVED, the Helena-West Helena School District Board of Directors respectfully urges the City of Helena-West Helena to consider allocating the funds generated by the aforementioned permit fee from the Helena-West Helena School District to the one-time expenses associated with the removal of blighted properties in the neighborhoods most affected by violent crime.”

Bagley said the Board felt a need to enter the public debate concerning public safety since the district’s students are adversely affected by the spike of violent crime in the city’s neighborhoods.  He said, “A large number of our students live in the neighborhoods most greatly impacted by the violent crime in our city.  Our Board recognizes that the school district does not exist in a vacuum and that we are an important part of the community.  There is a symbiotic relationship and we recognize that in order to have a great school we must have a great community.  We felt this was a productive way for the district to be a positive participant in the discussion.”

Bagley continued, “The permit fee on our new high school facility will be substantial.  It is also one-time money.  We wanted to offer a suggestion that helped to improve public safety in our neighborhoods and did not place ongoing expenses on the city. Blight removal is a one-time expense that has an immediate positive effect on neighborhoods and has been shown to correlate with a reduction in crime and improved quality of life.  It is my hope that the Mayor and City Council will give serious consideration to our suggestion.”

Bagley concluded, “We recognize that the ultimate decision on appropriating the funds from this permit feel falls with the City government.  However, we hope that this resolution’s suggestion provides a proposal that sparks a positive debate about improving public safety and using these one-time funds most effectively.  Finally, I want to thank this community again for making this possible, which also provides the opportunity to have this impact on public safety as well.”

This post also appeared in The Helena Arkansas Daily World.