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The Alexandria City Council unanimously approved a collective bargaining agreement with the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, ushering in a new era of collaboration with city employees.

If likely approved in the fiscal year 2024 budget this May, the agreement means substantial pay increases for new officers, sergeants and lieutenants. The current base salary of $54,698 for an officer would be increased by 11% to $61,503 at the beginning of the next fiscal year, July 1, 2023. After next year, salaries for officers would increase 2% annually.

Mayor Justin Wilson said that the collective bargaining agreement is historic, since it’s the first of its kind to be approved in Virginia.

“This is a really important step.,” Wilson said. “We came to a place that that was mutually agreeable one that I think moves the needle forward and recognizes our hard working police officers for the work that they do every day for our residents at work that is greatly valued by the community, but does so in a constructive way in partnership with the city, recognizing that we’re all in this together.”

Damon Minnix, president of Alexandria chapter of the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, said that the agreement creates a new pay scale based on years of service.

“We’ve spent countless hours working towards this agreement,” Minnix said. “Most importantly, this process and agreement opens the lines of communication between the interests of our officers and city management.”

Compensation issues have plagued the Alexandria Police Department for years.

The collective bargaining agreement includes:

  • A one-time payment to employees who will not get at least a 10% pay increase in the agreement
  • A $1,000 longevity bonus for well-seasoned officers in July 2024 and July 2025
  • A 5% pay boost for officers in specialized units, including academy instructors, motorcycle officers, field training officers and K9 handlers
  • Formation of union committee

The agreement also asks the city to conduct a “cost-neutral, 20-year retirement option with an immediate payout and no minimum age requirement” for officers.

City Manager Jim Parajon said that coming to an agreement was an exhausting process.

“This agreement is not without disagreements, and is a I think an excellent start,” he said. “It really does value our police officers at a very significant level.”

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Old Town just got a little brighter.

On Saturday (Nov. 19), Santa Claus made his way to City Hall on the King Street Trolley to help members of City Council light the holiday tree at Market Square in front of City Hall.

Town Crier Ben Fiore-Walker started things off with a proclamation, followed by speeches by Santa and Mayor Justin Wilson.

There are 40,000 lights on the 40-foot-tall tree at Market Square.

Coming up, the Del Ray holiday tree and Menorah lighting is on Sunday, December 4. Santa is also expected to make an appearance at the annual event.

Photos via Elijah Walter Griffin, Sr./Griffin Vision

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Santa Claus will ride into Old Town on the King Street Trolley this Saturday night (Nov. 19) for the annual holiday tree lighting ceremony in front of City Hall.

The party starts at 6 p.m. at Market Square (301 King Street), where Santa and Mayor Justin Wilson will do their part to reduce seasonal darkness by lighting the 40,000 lights on the city’s 40-foot-tall holiday tree.

Town Crier Ben Fiore-Walker will cap off the event, which will include a program of holiday carols.

Admission is free, and the event will occur rain or shine.

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Alexandria’s City Hall just got an F rating in a new facility report, and long-awaited renovations are still years away.

Redevelopment of the aging site got shelved when the pandemic struck in 2020. The design phase for the $70 million project will get underway next year, as will a public engagement process to renovate the landscaping, plaza and garage structure at Market Square.

“We’re currently reevaluating our program space and needs,” said Ebony Fleming, the City’s director of communications. “Next year we’ll begin the design phase.”

The aging home to Alexandria’s government was deemed “functionally obsolete” in a  new Joint Facilities Master Plan Roadmap, which City Manager Jim Parajon presented to City Council and the School Board last week. The roadmap acts as a guide for the bodies to plan for city projects that need redevelopment.

“City Hall had been in a bad shape for a while,” Mayor Justin Wilson told ALXnow. “We have deferred the project a bit to work to better define the scope after the pandemic and address more emergent capital needs, but we will have to address the building soon.”

In 2019, the City was on track to finish its public engagement process for the project, which includes roof repairs, reconfigured offices and window replacements.

The City’s 2023-2032 Capital Improvement Program budget has a timeline for renovation and HVAC repairs for fiscal years 2024, 2025 and 2026. Approximately $9.3 million is funded for FY 2024, $51.5 million is funded for FY 2025 and $9.3 million is funded in FY 2026.

City staff say that office spaces will be renovated in FY 2025 at the earliest, according to an October, 2021, CIP presentation to Council.

Read about Alexandria City Hall’s history below the jump. Read More

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World champion sprinters Noah and Josephus Lyles were born and raised in Alexandria, and now they’ve got the key to the city.

Last weekend, the brothers were inducted into the Alexandria City Public Schools Athletic Hall of Fame, and on Monday night (October 10) they got a little extra. At a ceremony at Market Square, the pair were presented with the key and a commendation by Mayor Justin Wilson.

Noah, who won the bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics, has been hailed for frankly discussing battles with mental health.

“The reason we’re here is not just your athletic pursuits, but what you have done using your platform that you have as an athlete to speak out on mental illness and make sure you raise awareness of that,” Wilson said. “We know that that advocacy that advocacy is not not just important, that advocacy saves lives.”

The 25-year-old is a 2016 graduate of T.C. Williams High School (now Alexandria City High School), and 24-year-old Josephus graduated in 2017. Following the Olympics, Noah ran the third-fastest 200m in history at the World Championships in July, clocking in at 19.31 seconds. Josephus also broke a personal record by running the 200m in less than 20 seconds on the U.S. National team. The brothers now live and train in Clermont, Florida.

After receiving the awards, Noah said he was surprised that talking about mental health would have an impact. Since he was a child, he and his brother have gone to family therapy, and have been open about their mental health challenges.

Noah said that he sees two therapists “quite often.”

“I truthfully did not realize how much of the impact I had on everybody when it came to mental health,” Noah said. “Until I came back from the Olympics, and everybody was talking about it. Even at the world championships this year, I had the honor to talking to the Second Gentleman of the United States, and we talked about mental health, and I was shocked, because my first thought is like, ‘Me? Why do you want to talk to me?’ I mean, I know I’m fast, but fast only gets you so far.”

Lyles continued, “And he’s said, ‘Well, you’re the only male that talks about mental health openly in a international level.’ And I thought to myself, ‘What? No, there’s, um, well, there’s… I never thought of that before. I never thought of my moment of, you know, being vulnerable as being so heroic.”

The brothers, who have a sports foundation, were also praised for giving ACPS more than $100,000 in Adidas sports attire to local high school athletic teams, including Alexandria City High School.

“It’s always a wonderful feeling when Alexandria City public school students work hard and realize success in their endeavors,” said School Board Chair Meagan Alderton. “One of their biggest achievements has been how they’ve developed as young men outside of sports. They have the character that will stand the test of time. We need more of that in this world.”

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Phillip Melville was just 19 years old when he escaped Nazi-occupied France in 1942. The retired civil engineer just turned 100, and on Tuesday (September 13) his longevity was recognized with a certificate on National Centenarian’s Day at City Hall.

Melville has lived in and around Alexandria for 50 years, and said he was blessed to escape France and become an American.

“The secret to my longevity is good looking women,” Melville said. “Being around them keep me young.”

Attendees at the event included members of City Council, and Anita Du Mars, a 101-year-old World War II bride, who said that the secret to long life is having “curiosity about the world and other people, as well as healthy eating habits and exercise.”

Mayor Justin Wilson said that the four centenarians in attendance have “squeezed 200 years worth of living in 100 years.”

“Think about the history that they’ve seen and how much change they’ve seen in our country during their lifetimes and in our community,” he said at the event. “The fact that they are here today and telling us those stories, teaching us is such a such a pleasure for all of us and it’s such a such a miracle to happen.”

Kate Garvey, the city’s director of the Department of Community and Human Services, said that advice from centenarians is valuable.

“We each forge our own path,” Garvey said. “But there are some constants that really are important for all of us — a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose, independence and an environment in a community that is nurturing. All those things are present for us today.”

Centenarians in Alexandria

  • Catherine Sevick — 105
  • Audrey Fenton — 100
  • Lowell E. Fisher — 100
  • Walter Hammersley — 100
  • Phillip L. Melville, 100
  • Marilyn McLean — 100
  • Frances Webb — 102
  • Miriam H. Wiener — 100
  • Virginia H. Sahaj — 102
  • Jane S. Sara — 102
  • Alice Schmidt — 102
  • Catherine Sevick — 105
  • Mildred F. Youso — 101
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City Manager Jim Parajon has announced that a former Norfolk reporter and fellow transplant from Texas will be coming to Alexandria to serve as the city’s director of communications and public information.

In a release, Parajon said Ebony Fleming will serve in the role effective today (Tuesday).

While Fleming is relocating from Texas, as Parajon did when he was hired in December 2021, Fleming’s career started in Virginia.

“Fleming’s early career started in broadcast news at WTKR NewsChannel 3 in Norfolk, VA while earning her bachelor’s of journalism from Norfolk State University,” the city release said. “She held several positions during her tenure, including producing the #1 midday newscast reaching approximately 1.7 million viewers.”

Fleming earned a master’s of public policy from the University of Houston and served as the public information officer with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

“Prior to joining the City, Fleming served as the Director of Communications for BakerRipley, the Houston region’s largest social services nonprofit which serves more than half a million residents annually,” the release said. “During her tenure, she led strategic communications for the nationally recognized organization, including its launch of the COVID-19 rental assistance program.”

The release said that Fleming will oversee the city’s strategic communications plan and the expansion of Alexandria’s Language Access Program.

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No arrests were made after a woman stole money from a business in the heart of Old Town on Friday, August 12.

The incident occurred at Dolce Gelati (107 N. Fairfax Street) at around 5:30 p.m. The business is located across the street from City Hall and just blocks from the waterfront.

Alexandria Police tweeted about a large police presence in the area to look for the suspect.

Via Google Maps

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The Alexandria Community Policing Review Board should be up and running by September — just in time to turn in a written report to City Council on its activities, according to Board members.

The seven-person Board was created by City Council last year to independently review allegations of police misconduct, and its effectiveness is based on Members receiving extensive training, as well as the hiring of an independent auditor/investigator to hire staff, conduct investigations and coordinate the Board’s administrative functions.

Board Member Rob Krupicka, a former City Councilman and Delegate, said that the training is taking longer than anticipated.

“There’s a lot of reasons why we’re not going to be able to fully function as a board yet, because of all the moving parts to get up and running,” Krupicka said at the most recent Board meeting at City Hall on July 6 (Wednesday). “I had a conversation and with the mayor and explained to him that the training requirements, due to a number of things, weren’t going to happen exactly on the six month timeline, but that we could get them done a few months after that. Essentially, we were compressing a year’s worth of training into six months and it was just too much to do that.”

Krupicka said that the Board will have also drafted its official bylaws by September.

The Board must do the following every six months:

  • At least eight hours of training, presented by the National Association for Criminal Oversight of Law Enforcement or a comparable professional organization
  • Training by the applicable city staff addressing legal and ethical obligations of members of a public board, and APD policies and training, including but not limited to defensive tactical training,
  • Crisis Intervention Training, and de-escalation training
  • Training on privacy rules and City policies and procedures involving liability and employee discipline
  • At least three ride-along sessions with APD patrol operations per calendar year

The Board interviewed one candidate for the auditor position on Wednesday night in a closed session.

Board Chair Todd Pilot said that the City is now looking at six auditor/investigator candidates.

“I also know that they’re (the City Manager’s office) still looking at other resumes,” Pilot said.

The City is using recruitment firm POLIHIRE to find auditor candidates. The job pays between $106,845 and $193,631.

The City and the auditor/investigator will also provide Board members with additional training on “mental health, trauma-informed policing, civil rights and constitutional law, race and systemic racism, community organizing and outreach, mediation, investigation, and policing practices, policies and administration,” according to the ordinance establishing the Board.

The date of next month’s meeting is not yet posted on the city’s website.

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Supreme Court (file photo)

The Alexandria City Council will vote on a resolution Tuesday night to protect access to abortions in the city.

The resolution, which was initially drafted by Councilman Kirk McPike, lays out several steps that the city will take.

“We call upon the General Assembly of Virginia and the United States Congress to take such actions as may be necessary to protect the right to abortion in Virginia,” the resolutions states. “We ask that the City Manager consider budgetary proposals for the FY 2024 budget to ensure accessibility of reproductive health services, safe abortion services, accessible maternal and child health services for low-income Alexandria residents.”

The resolution also calls on the City Attorney to join on-going or future lawsuits “to protect the availability of abortion services in Alexandria,” as well as land use protections for providers.

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wadebanning abortion in 14 states and setting the stage for future legal challenges countrywide. Here in Virginia, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that he wants to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The Alexandria Democratic Committee praised the resolution.

“The Alexandria Democratic Committee stands in solidarity with City Council as they present their resolution in response to the overturn of Roe v. Wade,” ADC said on Facebook. “Our public support of bold statements like these is crucial.”

Many of Alexandria’s elected officials expressed shock and dismay at the ruling.

Del. Charniele Herring, the Democratic Caucus Chair, tweeted that she was horrified and that she would continue to fight to keep abortion legal in Virginia.

The full resolution is below the jump. Read More

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