With a unanimous vote backed up with expressions of gratitude, the Redding City Council accepted Bethel Church’s $500,000 gift—and the church’s promise to raise $740,000 more—to fund the highly effective Neighborhood Police Unit (NPU) for two more years.
Councilwoman Julie Winter, a Bethel Church elder, recused herself from the discussion and vote.
The success of the 2-year-old NPU has been well documented: it’s been credited with building cases against two of downtown Redding’s most crime-plagued hotels; on the streets it has seized 3.3 pounds of meth, 1.3 pounds of heroin, 61 grams of cocaine, 61 opioid painkillers, 115 pounds of pot and 74 weapons.
Of the team’s 903 arrests, some 321 were for felonies. In its first year, the NPU contacted 697 people on probation, 100 on parole, 133 who were on an AB 109 release and 24 who had gang affiliations.
The NPU was formed after the council listed public safety as a top priority, City Manager Kurt Starman said. Four temporary police officer positions were created and they have been paid with one-time resources from the General Fund reserve.
Although the NPU remains a top-priority program, the city cannot continue dipping into its reserves for the $620,000 a year to fund it, Starman said.
With its current funding set to expire June 30, directors of Bethel Church stepped forward earlier this month and offered an immediate $250,000 contribution to fund the NPU in the 2017-18 fiscal year and another $250,000 for the 2018-19 fiscal year. Church leaders also committed $50,000 to fund a marketing campaign to raise the remaining $740,000 from other churches, businesses and the community at large.
“At Bethel, we have a passion for our city and we want it to be a noble city,” said Kris Vallotton, a senior associate leader at the Redding-based church. Referring to objections, questions and criticism that have recently surfaced in social media outlets, Vallotton added with a smile: “We’ve never had this much problem giving money away.”
Vallotton acknowledged that some are questioning the church’s motives, given that it has submitted plans for a massive 171,000-square-foot complex on 39 acres just north of Highway 299 on Collyer Drive. Those plans have been with the city for 18 months, Vallotton said, and there “are no strings attached” to the church’s NPU funding offer.
Instead, Bethel wants to be “the catalyst—the Good Samaritan” and help Redding during these challenging times, Vallotton said.
Cory McCandliss, the general manger of the Civic Auditorium (which the city leases to Bethel’s Advance Redding), said he views the church’s offer “as an invitation to the community to support public safety.” Following the defeat of Measure D, a half-cent sales tax hike intended to generate $11 million a year to fund public safety measures, the offer to fund the NPU is a “Plan C, and ‘C’ stands for community.”
Bob Belgeri, the only speaker out of four to oppose the offer, questioned the wisdom of basing a financial agreement around a single letter from the church and he urged the council to reject the offer to avoid the suggestion that Bethel was buying support for its proposed church project.
Councilwoman Francie Sullivan scoffed at that suggestion and noted that all five council members have accepted donations. Speaking for herself, Sullivan said she tells her donors that their contributions ensure they’ll receive extra scrutiny if they appear before the council. “No one will ever say they bought my vote, and if you have documentation that that happened, it needs to be reported.”
Sullivan said she was grateful for Bethel’s offer and said it merely served to deepen her appreciation of the generous nature of the Redding community.
“We’re lucky to have a dedicated community partner,” Councilwoman Kristen Schreder said, noting that Bethel deserves credit and thanks for stepping in and keeping the Civic Auditorium open. She cautioned against “passing judgment on a simple act of generosity.”
Mayor Brent Weaver said the NPU has been a key player supporting a series of “base hits” including the closure of the Americana Lodge, the shuttering of three illicit massage parlors and the recently approved plan to lease Carnegie Park to a food court operator.
In other action Tuesday, the council:
Chopper Junior winner honored
–Presented a Mayor’s Certificate of Recognition to 12-year-old Joshy Altamura of Redding for winning the Food Network’s “Chopped Junior” cooking game show. The Bethel Christian School student bested three other young cooks in the reality TV-style show by wowing the judges with a duck stew with sun-dried tomatoes and an apple strudel dessert.
He had 30 minutes to prepare his meal and did not know what ingredients he’d have available until the moment the contest began. Joshy’s parents are Fabiano and Claire Altamura.
High-speed internet in downtown Redding
–Voted 4-0, with Weaver recusing himself, to allow Councilman Adam McElvain to make a 10-minute presentation at the May 2 council meeting. McElvain wants to discuss his ideas on facilitating the delivery of high-speed internet service to the downtown area. Weaver recused himself since he owns property in downtown Redding.