Friday, January 30, 2015

neighborhood starlaMADISONVILLE, KY (12/10/12) – The Northaven Neighborhood Watch (NNW) has been declared by Madisonville Police Department as the best neighborhood watch program in the city. MPD Chief Wade Williams said there are eight or nine Neighborhood Watch Programs (NWP) in Madisonville, but only four or five are organized and active groups, with Northaven setting the standard for efficiency and success for the program. MPD Officer Jason Lutz agrees and is present for many of the NHW meetings himself.
 
The NNW meetings are held every first Thursday of the month, always at 6:00 PM, at Pennyrile Church of Christ, located on Hanson Road beside Northaven neighborhood. This past Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the NNW. SurfKY News was allowed to attend, as the group covered issues and concerns for the neighborhood and developed purchasing and design ideas for their current goal, buying and building a new neighborhood entrance sign. The group must receive approval from the city in every decision concerning the sign's design. They have yet to decide who is going to build the sign, but group members said there are three different local companies bidding. The group has raised approximately $840 to pay for the new sign through fundraising efforts such as garage sales.

The NNW was started by Northaven resident of over 20 years, Starla Knight. According to Knight, the group had to consist of at least ten members to get started, as determined by the US Department of Homeland Security. Homeland Security sets the guidelines for NHW programs in the US. She added that there are usually anywhere between 10 to 20 people present for the monthly meeting. The residents are primarily residents of or very close neighbors to the Northaven community. Along with at least one MPD officer, occasionally Madisonville city officials will visit to address issues, including Madisonville Mayor David Jackson. MPD Chief Wade Williams sat in on this past Thursday’s meeting.

Chief Williams expressed his appreciation for the NNW, stating, “It’s my goal to have every neighborhood doing something to develop a neighborhood watch like this. It helps me do my job to have a group like this doing such a big part in addressing issues.”
 
Chief Williams said there are about 120 homes in the Northaven neighborhood. It helps the MPD to have some additional government over that area, which had developed some notoriety for police activity in recent years prior to the development of the NNW. Knight explained that her initial incentive for starting the program was to try to eliminate some of the negative things going on in the neighborhood to which she didn’t want her grandchildren being exposed.

Knight had recently retired from Regional Medical Center after 35-years of employment there and found herself with more time at home but less relational involvement with her neighbors. She saw an opportunity to make a difference, and she has. Knight said she resolved to have the best NWP group in town and wanted consistency in their meeting times, dates, and location.
 
All of the members present at the Thursday meeting agreed that the neighborhood has seen significant improvements in the past year since the NNW has been in effect. “The program is bringing awareness to the community about what’s okay and what’s not,” said Knight. The group talked about the decrease in illegal activity that used to be “out in the open,” as one member stated. They discussed the speed limit enforcement and how traffic signs and limits are now being obeyed. They also discussed how the neighborhood's littering issue has been resolved. They are working on presenting some proposals to the city and the Transportation Department to obtain street lights in the neighborhood and to discuss the building of a new bridge built behind it.

The minutes also included the decision on who would be heading the NNW in the coming year because Knight decided she wanted to give someone else a chance to lead. The group unanimously agreed that they wanted Knight to remain as the group’s captain and elected Northaven resident, Les Fanning, to be co-captain. Fanning has lived at Northaven for over 15-years and has been an active participant in the NNW throughout.
 
At the close of the meeting, on behalf of the NNW, Knight presented Certificates of Appreciation to a number of people in the group. She presented certificates to Chief Williams and the MPD and one for Officer Jason Lutz individually, for his particular commitment in assisting the group. She presented two certificates to Elizabeth Webb, a member of the Pennyrile Church of Christ. One of the certificates presented to Webb was for the church opening its doors for the group to meet there regularly, and one was for Webb herself, for her participation and service to the group. Knight also recognized and gave her appreciation for other members of the group.
 
Knight said the group’s goal for the coming year is to get the word out and get more people from the Northaven community involved. They are planning to continue fundraising to build a recreational park for kids and to start programs and activities for the children to attend. She’s particularly interested in getting an anti-bullying program active for the neighborhood kids.
 
The group has developed a Facebook page and can be found as NORTHAVEN NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH in Madisonville.

Jessica Frodge
SurfKY News

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