Officials with the city of Bartow assured residents on the east side of town they are doing everything in their power to help their standard of living but they need their input to know what problems are and in a Town Hall meeting on Tuesday night and handful of residents let them know what some of the problems are.
While a lot of money from the yearly community development block grants having gone into fixing up deficiencies in the Carver Recreation Center many things that still need to be done including some items that were planned to be done.
“In all this talking (about the Carver Recreation Center) nothing has been said about the roof,” said Carver Young. “Last week it was raining inside the building. I should have taken a picture of it. We need to talk about the roof before we talk about the floor … it was raining in several places.”
Elmer Dixon added: “Eight or nine years ago it was raining inside the building.”
Dixon additionally told Leo Longworth, who holds Town Hall meetings regularly at the Carver Rec Center, and directed his complaint to City Manager George Long and several Bartow Police Officers who were present of the problems on the east side of town with drug houses.
“I live in the midst of drug joints,” he said. We need some patrolling and it needs to come down on 9th Avenue and 8th Avenue,” he said. “And it goes on all night long.”
Cpl. Bryan Dorman told Dixon the police department is aware of this problem but part of the reason they exist for so long is so the police department can build a solid case against the offenders so they can permanently close the drug houses.
To that Dixon agreed to some extent. “These houses are raided four, five, six times and they never close down,” he said.
Dorman said the problem in closing them down for good are laws that hamper law enforcement’s efforts. In some cases the homes are not owned by the offenders, too. They are the renters and getting the homeowner’s attention to them is hard. In some cases the home’s are not well-kept and code enforcement can cite them for overgrown grass or messy lawns. He said officers are trying different approaches to get the offenders out of the neighborhoods.
“Our intent is to put them out of business for good,” Dorman said. “Putting them in jail temporarily is no good. It takes time to build a case. We’ll fight the war but we have every intention of winning.”
Dixon added he feels like the complaints are not being attended to.
Dorman said that isn’t really the problem. Complaints are heard and responded to but the perception may be the problem that overrides that.
“I’ve been here for 15 years and I know know a lot of people in this room,” he said. “That’s my fault. I want you to know me by Bryan.” And with that he asked Dixon to meet with him after the meeting and detail some of the problems he has in his neighborhood.
But Dixon didn’t wait until after the meeting to address another concern in his neighborhood and that is houses that don’t seem to be taken care of.
“I can’t sit in front of my house anymore because I’m afraid I might get bit by snake,” he said.
To that Long said this is not a problem that exists only on the east side of town and because overgrown lots are many, code enforcement has some trouble keeping up with them all to warn and ask the them living there to take care of it.
“We have a lot of them and we’ve also had a lot of rain over the last few months,” Long said. “If we know about we can get to them, but we do have fewer workers than we’ve had in the past.”
Another problem cited was what one woman called drag racing.
“Mr. Leo, I don’t know how you sleep at night on Friday and Saturday night but, with the drag racing that goes on, my windows shake at night,” Drucilla Roberts said.
She said when the drag racers see an officer coming or someone else and they stop what they are doing but as soon it’s clear it starts up again.
“And they’re as fast as a cat can run,” she said. “A cat couldn’t get out of the way.”
There were other concerns that came up and to this end, Longworth said appreciated the input and this is the kind of information he needs. But, he emphasized the input is not only needed at Town Hall meetings but at anytime.
“We’re all public servants (city commissioners) but if you want to have a conversation with us, call us,” he said. “Alcee Hastings, a representative from south Florida, once said list everything you have on your mind and sign my name to it. I’m telling you to do the same.”
He said he will do what he can though he didn’t say he could accomplish everything.
“When I’m on the city commission I have a fiduciary responsibility to everyone. But I know where I’m from and I won’t forget that.”