Meeting Thursday to address 'grave concerns' about activities near Douglas school

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor

Mar. 7, 2007 - A local minister has scheduled a community meeting Thursday after fieldinig complaints about "undesirable activity" near Douglas Intermediate School.

Valanderous Bell, minister at MLK Church of Christ, said the gathering will be an organizational meeting to seek solutions to what many see as problems along Calvert Street next to the school that all fifth graders in Sulphur Springs Independent School District attend.

School safety is the number one issue, Bell said.

"We serve a great God, and I believe He has given gifts, talents and abilities to all men, especially to those who hold office or positions of responsibility," he said. "But it's not just our responsibility — it is our awesome duty, and this ought to be enough stimulant for us to concern ourselves with the needs of our fellow man, regardless of what their plight might be."

The meeting, which is open to the public, is expected to be attended by other religious congregation leaders as well as City Manager Marc Maxwell, Police Chief Jim Bayuk and the city's community development director.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Thursday at MLK Church of Christ, 154 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive (next to the Senior Citizens Activity Center).

"We don't want the school to close, we don't want the apartments to be demolished, and we know the police are trying to address the problem," Bell added. "The purpose is to sit down and find some workable solutions."

Bell said the issue is not the efforts of police, the city or the school district, but a persistent "social atmosphere," specifically involving some residents at apartments located near the school.

"It's a problem that has been going on for some period of time and has gotten worse," he said. "With spring and summer coming, it has the potential to get even worse.

Bell said he and other other church leaders have heard "grave concerns" about the atmosphere around the apartment complex.

"There are no problems within Douglas School itself," he said. "But we're also aware that if these things continue to happen, there is the prospect of something tragic to happen. You don't wait for something to happen. You try to get it rectified before a tragedy strikes.

"There are concerns residents have, that parents of students at the school should have," he added. "If one segment of our community is having a problem, it affects all of us — and especially a school, in this case."

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