Cherokee Heights Residents Express Concerns At Neighborhood Cook - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Cherokee Heights Residents Express Concerns At Neighborhood Cookout

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It's an issue that's been on the minds of residents of one Bay county neighborhood for weeks. Ever since the Panama City commission voted to buy land for a community resource center to serve the homeless, residents of the Cherokee Heights neighborhood have had many questions and concerns. 

Saturday, residents got together at a neighborhood cookout, where there was more than food on the menu. Setting up shop in the Tommy Smith Elementary School parking lot, dozens of neighbors sounded off questions to one another about the proposed location of the community resource center.

"We're not opposed to the rescue mission, or the resource center," says Jeff Payne, one who helped organize Saturday's cookout. However, the proposed location of the resource center is another story.

Last month, Panama City Commissioners announced plans to buy this land off Star Avenue and use it for the community resource center. It's an issue Cherokee Heights residents say hits too close to home.

"My main concern is the safety for the residents and more specifically for the children in the neighborhood," says Wendi Ringenberg. "It's a very densely populated residential area, with two large schools."

As long as the weather is good, Ringenberg chooses to walk her 9 year old son to Tommy Smith Elementary everyday.

"I do not feel like it is an appropriate location and really to me, the only question is what are the other sites you've considered?"

Payne says it's not the homeless that worry him. "Not necessarily for the people who are trying to get a hand up, it's the people who are may be getting turned away from the center," says Payne. They need a place to go, and this is the closest place they coiuld make it to."

Payne and other residents say building a site so close to a residential neighborhood just doesnt' make sense...for them, or the homeless.

"It's bad for the people it will service," says Payne. "The people who need help need to be closer to  town, closer to jobs, closer to stores, closer to resources. The resources aren't out here."

"Safety and security is number one," says Freddie Kinard, a father of two teenage girls. "I hate to see it ruined because of a resource center that should be in the city, not out here in the county."

One of the newest to the neighborhood, Michelle Spencer says, "We would love to throw our support behind a better more appropriate location."

Payne pushed for another meeting this week with the Panama City commission in search for answers to the many questions they have. About twenty Cherokee Heights residents will meet with City commissioner John Kady on Wednesday in hopes of getting some answers.