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Roundtable addressing community concerns in Weirton

City officials met with members of the local African-American community Monday as part of continuing efforts to create a dialogue on concerns on social issues and more in Weirton. -- Craig Howell

WEIRTON — After several months of delays, city officials and local African-American community members met Monday as part of a continuing effort to create a dialogue and address concerns.

Pastors from a group of Weirton’s African-American churches, along with other community members, met in the Millsop Community Center with the mayor, city manager, assistant city manager, city attorney and city council.

“We greatly appreciate this meeting and we hope to continue meeting in good faith,” Rickey Thompson, who had been among those organizing plans for regular meetings between the groups last year.

Thompson said they had no particular issue with city council or any city officials, but want to build a relationship in the hopes of preventing some of the issues which have occurred in other communities. He emphasized their concerns were not just about the local Black community, and they don’t represent all of the city’s African-American residents.

One of the issues of focus Monday was an interest in improved relations with the city’s police department, something pointed out more when it was noted Police Chief Charlie Kush was not in attendance.

“It is important to us to have a relationship with the police department,” the Rev. Darrell Cummings, of Shiloh Apostolic Faith Assembly, said.

City Manager Joe DiBartolomeo said he can take their concerns to the police department. Mayor Harold Miller and members of council, though, said they feel it is important for the chief to be part of the conversation.

Earleen Jones, director of the Dunbar Recreation Center, raised some of her concerns for the welfare of youth, in particular on Weir Avenue, saying she feels as though some of them are falling through the cracks.

“We feel as though their public health and public safety are not being taken care of,” Jones said, explaining while services are available to provide various types of assistance, not everyone has the ability to access those services. “I don’t know if they have someplace to stay; something to eat.”

Miller said there have been numerous organizations in Weirton, such as Table of Hope, the Weirton Christian Center, the Community Bread Basket and the Salvation Army, which are able to lend assistance. He noted the municipal government can help to point residents toward those organizations, but can’t offer the same services.

“You need to know who’s providing what in the community,” Miller said.

Resident Kyle Wilson, who also is a member of the city’s Human Rights Commission, agreed there is help available. Cummings recommended the possibility of the city setting up an informational “help-line” for those who might not know where to go for assistance.

Other topics of discussion included notification of municipal job listings, the availability of emergency shelters and emergency preparation within the city.

The groups agreed to continue meeting quarterly, with the next meeting to take place in July.

Ward 7 Councilman Terry Weigel said he understands their concerns, and wants to work with the residents to help them find solutions.

“I look across the room and I see five concerned citizens of Weirton,” Weigel said. “It’s a bunch of people who care about their community.”

It also was noted, residents are able to attend the regular city council meetings to express their thoughts.

(Howell can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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