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City contracts with firm

Sticking to a campaign pledge to do whatever it takes to reduce crime in Durham, Mayor Bill Bell announced a contract Monday night that will bring in full-time security personnel for the Durham Area Transit Authority. This contract comes on the heels of three gunfire incidents, all thought by the police to be gang-related, that have damaged city buses in recent weeks.

Officials circulated a memo at Monday night's city council meeting that detailed the arrangement with the Wackenhut Corporation at an annual cost of $228,264.

The new security includes a marked patrol car and three company police officers with 162 hours of coverage per week. For security reasons, the memo did not offer any operational details of the deployment.

Bell said that after the shootings, he sat down with officials from DATA, the police department and residents from several neighborhood associations to discuss what steps he should take to solve the problem. Although the new "company police" will increase vigilance, Bell said, groups other than the police department and security officials will have to contribute to the effort - a point he has emphasized before.

"Someone knows who's doing the shooting," Bell said. "This really is going to have to be a community effort."

The council also heard public comment from many groups looking to receive funding from the 2003-2004 Consolidated Action Plan at a time when city and state budgets have been unusually tight. Through this plan, the city is eligible for Community Development Block Grant funds through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, thereby shifting some of the fiscal burden to the federal government.

The Durham Community Land Trustees asked the council to be included in the CDBG plan and cited its solid performance at buying, renovating and selling houses to low-income residents.

Leah McAdoo from the Genesis Home, which provides shelter for homeless families and a daycare center for homeless children, said the shelter and its daycare program have both suffered from lack of funding and asked to be included in the plan as well.

Charlene Montford, Director of Housing and Community Development for the city, gave an update on the Barnes Avenue redevelopment project.

The project involves replacing dilapidated housing in northeast central Durham with 41 affordable residential units. As of April 10, three families had been relocated into new housing on Barnes Avenue.

The staff is currently working with five Hispanic families to assist them with relocation and anticipates half a year to finalize the relocations.

The council also adopted a resolution memorializing Marine Lance Cpl. Brian Anderson, the first Durham native and the second North Carolinian to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Anderson died on April 2 outside of An Nasiriyah, after being electrocuted by a live wire in a non-hostile situation.

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