Alexandria, VA

Alexandria’s DASH bus network could soon be completely free for all passengers.

In a recent newsletter, Mayor Justin Wilson said he is proposing to make DASH free for all riders to go along with a planned overhaul of the bus network going into effect in September.

“To coincide with the implementation of this new route structure, I will be proposing that we use this opportunity to make DASH free for all riders,” said Wilson. “Free transit will expand ridership by an estimated 23%, bring riders back to transit following the pandemic, help achieve the City’s environmental goals and disproportionately benefit our lower-income residents. With ridership depressed due to the pandemic, the initial cost to implement this change is dramatically reduced.”

The move comes after a brief window when DASH stopped collecting fares during the pandemic, a practice it resumed last month.

In answer to a budget question from Mayor Justin Wilson, staff included full fare elimination as one of four possible scenarios, which also included off-peak fare elimination and free or reduced fare for low-income residents.

While Wilson said in the newsletter that the initial amount of revenue lost in the change would be relatively low at first, staff noted in the response that over the next few years the amount of money not-collected in fares would go up as ridership returns.

According to staff, the levels of funding left off-the-table by eliminating fare collection is project to look something like this:

FY23 Full DASH Fare Elimination: $3,912,107
FY24 Full DASH Fare Elimination: $4,961,078
FY25 Full DASH Fare Elimination: $5,512,309

Staff said the change would require the city to increase it’s funding to DASH over time.

“It should be noted that due to one time use of $2.9 million in one time federal relief funding in FY 2022, the City support of the DASH budget will need to increase by approximately $0.9 million in FY 2023, assuming the projected return of passenger revenue,” staff said. “This increase does not include current services adjustments or any supplementals that may be approved. Therefore, any fare reduction initiative will add to that subsidy increase.”

The change would come in the middle of DASH shifting from a coverage-based system, that prioritizes bus access geographically, to a service-based system, which would realign bus routes to prioritize areas of greater density to increase service quality for more Alexandrians while leaving some in less-dense parts of the city with limited or no access to the bus.

There has been some haggling over how much service would be cut to less dense areas, with DASH agreeing to restore some bus lines through the Seminary Hill area. But staff has noted that the level of coverage could depend on the upcoming budget with City Manager Mark Jinks saying fully funding both a geographic coverage and greater service in areas of higher density are incompatible with his suggestion to decrease the real estate tax rate.

While the City Council has ruled out increasing the tax rate, it’s not clear yet whether the Council will go along with the proposed tax rate reduction.

“The City Council will ultimately determine the future of this proposal as we work to finalize our budget this month,” Wilson said.

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The Duke Streeet transitway, the Potomac Yard Metro station, and several other city projects have made some substantial headway recently with some big new developments scheduled for the next few months.

A quarterly report headed to the City Council tonight details the latest on several of the city’s major infrastructure projects.

One of the projects recently completed was the construction of Fire Station 203. The report noted that earlier this year, the fire department moved out of the temporary station and into the new one in the Cameron Mills neighborhood.

“New station construction complete and AFD move-in,” the report said. “Temporary station disassembled and relocated. Site work to proceed.”

The project is estimated to be fully completed in the first quarter of fiscal year 2022.

At the Potomac Yard Metro station, the report said that work is currently ongoing for the pedestrian bridge, and the next steps are beginning work on the south pavilion that will provide additional pedestrian access to the station. Pile driving at the project also began in March.

The report also noted progress on a plan to build a new Bus Rapid Transit system on Duke Street between the King Street Metro station and Landmark Mall — which could become more of a destination with new redevelopment plans.

This project will include planning/environmental design and construction of a Bus Rapid Transitway along Duke Street between the King Street Metro Station and Landmark Mall. The project is anticipated to be implemented in phases, which will be determined through the Civic Engagement and conceptual design phases of the project.

The project had a kickoff meeting last month, and is scheduled to be completed at the end of FY 2028 with an estimated cost of $116 million.

On the smaller side, the report noted that the overhaul of Armistead L. Boothe Park (520 Cameron Station Boulevard) is in the midst of its design process and is currently in the middle of public outreach. According to the city, the project will convert the natural turf baseball diamond into a synthetic turf field with more baseball and other sporting amenities:

The Field Replacement project will convert the existing natural turf field from a natural grass diamond field with a natural grass overlay rectangular field to a full synthetic turf diamond field with synthetic turf overlay rectangular field. In addition, the project will include upgrades to the field lighting, dugouts, warm up areas, batting cages, spectator seating, scoreboard, and scorers’ table. The project will be ADA compliant and it will address environmental site constraints.

Construction is scheduled to start later this year.

While much of the community discussion about stream restoration has been focused around Taylor Run, the city is also ramping up efforts to start undergoing similar restoration work at Strawberry Run.

Urban stream restoration project to address the state and federal mandates of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) to clean up the Bay as enforced through the City’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) General Permit. The project also stabilizes a degraded (and continually degrading) urban stream corridor along with critical sewer infrastructure within the stream corridor and stream bed.

Through March, the report noted that staff were continuing to:

Develop comment responses and organize additional public engagement meetings and on-site meetings with homeowners and community representatives. Consultant to perform downstream site inspection and assessment. Continue to engage with homeowners for right of entry agreements. Public engagement period anticipated to be extended beyond the meeting with City Council on 4/27.

The Strawberry Run restoration is scheduled for completion in FY 2023 with a total cost of $2.53 million, a notable increase over the $1.60 million listed in 2020. The report said the increased costs were the result of the expanding scope of the project.

“Total Estimated project budget is $2.53M; however, $0.80M is anticipated to be reimbursed with Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF) funding from Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) per a grant award,” the report said. “The estimated project cost increased due to additional critical areas identified during design which resulted in scope expansion. Additionally, higher CMI costs are anticipated per cost data from recent projects with similar scope.”

The report also noted that improvements to Windmill Hill Park are also running a bit over budget, increasing from $5.5 million in last year’s estimates to $6.6 million this year.

“Phase II project cost estimated to be $730,000 for professional services. Cost estimate may change based on cost escalation associated with any delay due to funding timeline.”

Estimated completion was also pushed back to later in FY 2025.

Holmes Run has been left in a state of disrepair following intense flooding two years ago, but the city is currently in the process of repairs that will reopen portions of the trail to pedestrian access and add measures to help prevent future flooding.

Design proposals for the project were due last week and the city is currently working through the necessary budget documents for a pedestrian bridge along the trail.

The repairs are estimated to cost a total of $6 million to be completed in FY 2024.

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Alexandria City Councilman John Taylor Chapman wants to be mayor someday. Not now, but he says that the seat is in his longterm plan.

In the meantime, Chapman’s got a few ideas on improving government access in the West End, which is also where he lives. Additionally, he says that the Eisenhower Valley is ripe for affordable housing development and that it’s the duty of local politicians to directly address resident concerns on social media platforms.

He’s also got a toddler and a wife at home, a full-time job with Fairfax County Public Schools and a touring company, in addition to a strapped city budget and a never-ending list of docketed items to be voted on or discussed.

“The last 36 months have been very interesting,” Chapman said. “I got married, had a child, and like everybody else am going through a pandemic. A lot of heavy, heavy stuff has happened over the last year.”

Chapman says it’s acceptable for the public to engage with local elected officials on social media — a contentious topic that was recently raised at a joint meeting with the City Council and School Board. Mayor Justin Wilson is an admitted social media addict who routinely talks with residents on multiple platforms, and retiring Councilwoman Del Pepper does not engage on social media at all. Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker and Councilman Canek Aguirre have staffers to manage their accounts, and Chapman, Councilwoman Amy Jackson and Councilman Mo Seifeldein directly discuss issues with the public on social media.

“As an elected official, if you want to try to reach out to folks outside of normal communication channels, yes, it’s definitely acceptable,” Chapman said.

A lifelong city resident, Chapman graduated from St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School and has a degree in social studies education from St. Olaf College. By day, he works as a community use specialist for Fairfax County Public Schools, and coordinates with more than 1,000 community and government partners that want to rent out about 100 school spaces. He initially harbored hopes of being a teacher — a goal he says that was realized by founding his Alexandria-centric African American history Manumission Tour Company in 2016.

Chapman wants to renew conversation about opening a West End Service Center to connect residents to city resources and save them a trip to City Hall.

“I think we’re coming up on 75 years that the West End has been a part of the city, and I’m going to be calling for a study on how to better connect residents to the services that we have here in the city,” he said. “We need to solve that issue of connectivity.”

Chapman said Alexandria needs to capitalize from its Black historical roots, much as it has from being a favorite destinations for America’s founding fathers, like George Washington.

“I really believe there could be a whole industry around local African American history in Alexandria and throughout the nation,” he said. “Telling the stories of enslaved and free people and how they elevated themselves, their community and their city is a story that needs to be told. I want Samuel L. Tucker to be a household name across the country for the work that he did in the library sit-in in 1939, before the modern Civil Rights Movement. Most folks don’t know that across the country. That’s news to them when they get to Alexandria.”

Chapman will occasionally go against his colleagues, like when he voted against the Seminary Road road diet. He also, along with Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, recently called for Council to review the Taylor Run and Strawberry Run Stream Restoration projects in light of concerns over habitat destruction.

“I think my latest pet peeve has been around the idea that the truth is flexible, that there are alternative facts,” he said. “I’ve had people tell me flat out to my face, ‘John, you never voted against Seminary Road.’ This is on the record, and, honestly, there’s a video of it.”

Affordable housing is a continual issue that the city is working on, and Chapman says that the Eisenhower Valley will need to be grown out.

“That’s a huge industrial area with Covanta there, and Virginia Paving, Co,” he said. “I think you have an opportunity to look at mixed use and additional residential development, but also looking at the infrastructure there to support it. Then, moving down east on Eisenhower Avenue you get past Cameron Run Regional Park and some of the additional developments and where you get into the heart of Carlyle there are a number of parking lots or places where things are just sitting there without development — plots of land that have not been built out or planned for. That means growing out the area around our Van Dorn Metro and our Eisenhower Metro stations.”

Chapman said he eventually wants to be mayor.

“It’s something that I want to build toward,” he said. “I mean that politically but I also mean that in terms of relationships with more people in the community not only know my name, but also know what I stand for. I think the folks that I’ve seen run for mayor have been very firm in that and people gravitate to them because of what they stand for.”

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Prompted by a question from City Council member Canek Aguirre, the city is reviewing alternative uses of funding that could be freed up if the city moves forward with plans to do away with the school resource officer position.

School resources officers (SROs) are police officers stationed inside T.C. Williams High School, Francis Hammond Middle School and George Washington Middle School and specialize in handling kids with emotional and education issues, search and seizure on school grounds, and school shooting situations.

The program started in 1997 but has gotten some pushback from students who claim the police officers contribute to an unsafe feeling for minority students at the schools. The issue has resurfaced with nationwide protests against police brutality last year, but there have been issues surrounding SROs in Alexandria schools in the past — namely when one shot his gun inside George Washington Middle School.

The city said the SRO program costs $823,907 — this doesn’t include roughly $27,000 in one-time costs for equipment and uniforms.

According to the report, the program costs:

1. Salary = $482,432
2. Benefits = $307,477
3. Vehicles = $31,798 per year (cost of 6 vehicles depreciation each year)
4. Travel / Training = $1,000
5. Office Supplies = $1,000
6. Membership / Subscriptions / Books = $200

Staff have four options for the funding, the first being to leave the program intact as-is. In our own super-unscientific poll, the majority of ALXnow readers said they were against taking funding away from the SRO program.

Another alternative option is investing that funding in a new behavioral health program. The program would pair two officers with two behavioral health specialists. One of the benefits of this option, staff noted in the report, would be expanded options to help provide not just in school, but by interfacing with other city programs that help address underlying problems like food insecurity, homelessness, and mental health issues.

The third option is investing the SRO funding into programs outlined in the Community Recovery Plan, which includes support for local nonprofits, eviction protection, and targeted financial support for some businesses (page 2.13 of the budget).

The last option would be allocating the funding cut from the SRO program into other city projects sidelined under the proposed budget, including a one-time bonus to city employees, expansion of the DASH bus network, affordable housing or cash capital investments (options are laid out on page 2.11 of the proposed FY 2022 budget).

Staff noted in the report that if the SRO program is eliminated, officers in those positions would be reassigned to other duties.

“If all or less than all of the 6 positions are not funded in the FY22 proposed budget, then any person in a position not funded would be retained and APD would use currently vacant positions or future vacant positions to absorb the personnel (i.e., attrition),” the city said in its report.

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Several largely-intact ship hulls found underground in Old Town a few years ago could see new life in a proposed “Waterfront Museum” in the early stages of consideration in the upcoming budget.

The possible museum could house and display the timbers of at least one of the four-total ships found under new developments in 2018.

To be clear: the idea of the museum is still in its nascent stage. A feasibility study to “assess the viability” of the potential museum.

In addition, in FY 2022 $125,000 is requested to conduct a Waterfront Museum Feasibility Study to assess the viability of a history center as recommended in the Waterfront History Plan and the Waterfront Area Plan. If supported, the museum would house items such as the conserved ship timbers of an 18th century merchant ship and associated artifacts excavated as part of the Robinson Terminal South and Hotel Indigo construction projects.

Derelict ships were often used part of the foundation when the city was expanding its waterfront at the end of the 18th century. One of the most intact ships was once a cargo freighter, with holes showing where certain Caribbean worms had eaten away at the wood and dendrochronology indicating that the ship’s timbers were originally from Boston and had been cut down in 1741.

The discovery of the ships made national headlines, with the relatively intact state giving archeologists a chance to analyze artifacts from the city’s heyday as a port.

The timbers from the ships were shipped to Texas A&M for further study and preservation — mainly involving the slow extraction of water from the long-buried timbers and careful treatment to ensure the frames don’t lose integrity in the process.

A scale model of the ship is available in the Alexandria Archaeology Museum on the top floor of the Torpedo Factory Art Center, but the museum would be too small to house timbers from the ship, which is around 25 feet wide and 46 feet long.

The feasibility study comes in addition to $102 million also being considered for infrastructure improvements along the waterfront. The budget item notes that prices have increased dramatically since many of the infrastructure improvements were first proposed.

According to the budget memo:

$102 million over the ten-year CIP to support the design and construction of the Plan-recommended infrastructure, including flood mitigation, prioritized through community engagement processes. Projected construction costs have increased due to further scope refinement, further design development, and market drivers. Cost estimates have been escalated to anticipated mid-construction date. The most significant changes were due to more detailed design for stormwater and pumping system, structural bulkhead, and electrical infrastructure. The current CIP budget is funded at approximately 50% of the current cost estimate. Alternative strategies and value engineering studies are currently underway. The design-build process will likely include further alternatives analysis and cost development to facilitate a firm budget. It is anticipated that the CIP budget request will be further refined after the project alternatives and value engineering process is complete.

The waterfront items are part of a larger FY 2022 budget discussion scheduled for the April 8 Planning Commission meeting.

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In the latest adaptation of Brewster’s Millions, Alexandria is sorting through how to make the most of $59.4 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding coming to the city over the next two years with an emphasis on not leaving a penny unspent.

The challenge for Alexandria is sorting through some ill-defined language. According to the city, funding can be allocated in the following ways:

(A) To respond to the public health emergency with respect to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality; or

(B) For the provision of government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue of such metropolitan city, non-entitlement unit of government or county due to such emergency; or

(C) To make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.

Members of the City Council noted in a meeting last night (Tuesday) that the first and third items are fairly clear, but what is considered making up for a reduction in revenue is more vague.

“It does seem like the second item on the list, revenue lost item… how that gets defined by the federal government is going to be really decisive to what we can and can’t spend money on,” said Mayor Justin Wilson. “That second point could be defined very broadly or very narrowly. And how they define that will determine how expansive that will be.”

Staff are currently planning to present options to the City Council at the July 6 meeting so the city can get more defined answers on funding requirements and restrictions.

But even with just the more well defined points, the funding comes as a welcome relief for a city still grappling with the economic impact of COVID-19. The region also combatted severe flooding over the last few years, and the city has been working to prioritize stormwater improvements in the aftermath.

“I don’t know how far along we are with our flooding stuff, but want us to focus on that,” said Council member Del Pepper. “Everyone is tired of the flooded basement and raw sewage.”

Council member John Chapman said the city should also use some of that funding to leverage public-private partnerships, with the new assistant city manager tasked with managing those partnerships mentioned now at least twice in a public meeting this past week.

“I think this is a great opportunity, if not too early, to engage our P3 coordinator to see how we can leverage these one time funds to get something popping in his portfolio,” Chapman said.

One of the important points reiterated multiple times is that the city should scrape the bottom of the barrel on this funding and ensure nothing is left to waste.

“Let us be mindful at all times that this community will be unforgiving if we do not spend all of that money,” Pepper said. “Now we just can’t go out and throw it in the streets, but there has to be — maybe not the best plan — but some plan, and God only knows we have plenty of things we can spend it on.”

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Like a lot of Americans, Alexandria is working on figuring out how to put its upcoming stimulus checks to good use.

The City of Alexandria is preparing to receive around $59.4 million from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and the city is currently working through how and where to put that money to use.

The funding is scheduled to arrive in two parts: first in May of this year, then again in May 2022. Unlike the CARES Act funding, this funding will go directly to the city rather than passing through the state.

In a presentation prepared for the City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 23, staff laid out the timeline for how and when the city will allocated the funding.

According to the city, the plan is to:

  • Develop a plan this spring for spending part or all of the first $29.7 million tranche and present the plan for City Council’s consideration on July 6. The exact amount will depend upon further guidance on use of funds for revenue loss.
  • Designate $450,000 now for use towards continuing food distribution and housing eviction programs between now and July.
  • The second $29.7 million (plus any amounts of the first tranche not allocated) could be considered as part of the FY 2023 budget process plan for the spending of during FY 2023 and beyond.
  • Focus primarily on programs that have a finite end as well as long term capital investments that meet the ARP spending purposes, and not initiate programs where there would be an expectation of continuation when the ARP funding ends.
  • When considering CIP projects, determine what can be realistically completed by 2024.
  • Consider what may already be covered through other sections of the legislation and other potential federal resources. (Targeted Appropriations, Infrastructure Funding, etc.)

As the city works to put together its plan, the presentation noted that staff will conduct community engagement to help establish priorities throughout April, along with coordinating with departments like Department of Community and Human Services, the Housing Office, the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership and Visit Alexandria.

Over the course of April and May, staff will work on proposal development for presentation to the City Council on July 6.

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In the middle of the ongoing budget season, the City Council is looking back at the dramatic drop-off in tax revenue over the last year, yet another reflection of the dramatic toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

A financial report to the City Council includes a summary of the $17.4 million consumptive tax revenue — taxable revenue from the sale of goods or services, like sales taxes — lost since March 2020.

The chart shows a 25% decline in consumer spending in 2020 compared to 2019, with taxes on admissions being particularly hard hit with an 84.3% decline, from $562,660 collected in taxes on admissions in 2019 and only $88,548 in 2020. Last April, tax revenue showed that only four people in the entire city purchased movie theater tickets.

Transient lodging (hotels) took a similar hit, down 69.5% from 2019 to 2020. Some of the city’s hotels may not survive the pandemic, and the city and the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) are currently looking into converting closing hotels into affordable housing units.

The decline in consumer spending accounted for part of the budget’s initial $41 million budget gap that was eventually resolved into the proposed FY 2022 budget. City Manager Mark Jinks proposed a 2 cent real estate tax rate reduction, though some in the city have noted that taxes are still likely to go up for local residents as they shoulder the burden of the decline in commercial revenue.

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In the latest Agenda Alexandria conversation, local business and civic leaders came together to discuss the highs and lows of the recently proposed City Manager’s budget.

The budget included a proposed tax rate reduction, but City Council candidate Bill Rosssello challenged the overly sunny narrative about the reduction.

“I look at the budget the way it’s been presented and something that always seems to concern me is when we lead with a narrative around the tax rate,” Rossello said. “The tax rate is only one part of the equation for the actual taxes that people pay… While we’re looking at a proposed 2 cent tax rate decrease, when you do the math, for the average household it comes out to be almost a 6% tax increase in real dollars and that’s what really matters to residents: how much more or how much less am I going to pay?”

Rossello was joined on the panel by Rob Krupicka, former City Council member and Delegate and owner of Elizabeth’s Counter, and Janet Blair Fleetwood, Secretary of the Budget & Fiscal Affairs Advisory Committee and the Mayor’s representative on Budget and Fiscal Affairs Advisory Committee (BFAAC).

The group discussed the current imbalance between the residential and commercial tax bases, which has only gotten worse during the pandemic.

“Back in 2009, we used to get 30.5% of revenue from commercial, said Fleetwood. “It is now 21.3%. We have a good situation here, with Virginia Tech’s Innovation area coming in, Amazon, the Patent office, the National Science Foundation, and Landmark. We should start looking to grow businesses that will come in and bring good jobs and use commercial real estate.”

Fleetwood said there has been talk that post-pandemic, companies may not want to use commercial real estate as they did before, but Fleetwood said she has also heard from companies that they will still need physical footprints for team projects.

“I don’t think commercial footprint is going away,” Fleetwood said.

Krupicka noted that questions about the balance between residential revenue and commercial revenue may fundamentally change post-pandemic.

“The balance between residential revenues and commercial revenue… there are fundamental shifts happening right now that make that an old debate,” Krupicka said. “People are working from home now, and you’re going to see a lot of businesses that don’t go back to commercial office when COVID ends.”

Krupicka said one of the larger concerns is that small business have to compete against larger companies like Amazon and pay taxes those companies don’t.

“Small businesses are competing against Amazon and large internet companies,” Krupicka said. “There is big international competition that pays a lot less taxes than small mom and pop. Small mom and pop has to pay BPOL tax… small businesses like mine are writing checks to government, but doing it in the hole. If you broke even on COVID, you’re paying on gross receipts, not profits.”

Krupicka said Amazon pays retail taxes, which benefits the city, but in general pays less on taxes per transaction than small restaurants or retailers.

“We need to have conversation about if we want small businesses to be at a disadvantage tax wise,” Krupicka said.

On the other side, Rossello said the burden on residential taxpayers has grown considerably and is pushing people out of Alexandria.

“We’ve taxed out so many middle class folks, who can afford to pay decent mortgage or rent, but find it more affordable to leave,” Rossello said. “We’ve seen whole neighborhoods turn over from diverse middle class neighborhoods to gentrified neighborhoods where houses on very small lots are $1.5 million dollars.”

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For all the earlier talk of doom and gloom early in the coronavirus financial forecasts, City Manager Mark Jinks’ proposed FY 2021 budget seems relatively painless.

As laid out by Jinks, the operating budget is a 1.9% proposed increase over last year’s, with a 2 cent real estate tax rate reduction, no major service reductions, and fully funds the proposed school CIP and operating budget.

The budget was reviewed at a City Council meeting last night (Tuesday) with a public hearing planned tomorrow (Thursday).

Jinks said the budget was made possible by $11.8 million in expenditure savings, driven in part by leaving 38 currently vacant positions unfilled. These positions, Jinks said, weren’t concentrated in any one particular department but were spread out across the city. No police department, fire department or emergency medical personnel were among the unfilled positions, he said.

The main budget proposed by Jinks includes a real estate tax rate reduction from $1.13 to $1.11, though Jinks also included other options to leave the tax rate as-is and fully finance some programs like a planned overhaul of DASH services.

In the existing budget, DASH will have to reallocate funding away from routes in less dense parts of the city if it wants to achieve its high density transit corridor goals — meaning some residents in areas like Seminary Hill could lose their local bus routes.

On the topic of transit: the budget also included a note that the King Street Trolley is planned to return in September, hopefully at the start of a fall tourist season.

Some of the budget’s goals include a renewed focus on what Jinks called “aggressively increased stormwater utility work,” including increasing maintenance on the stormwater system and new hires from additional engineers to sanitation workers.

A $5 million Holmes Run Trail restoration is also included in capital funding, with the goal of building a stronger dam on the creek that can withstand a harder beating after 2019’s devastating floods.

One of the other anticipated projects moving forward in next year’s budget is municipal fiber.

“We’ve been talking about replacing our rental from Comcast with our own network, which will give us and the school system greater capacity,” Jinks said. “In this project, we’re building two tubes, digging one for ourselves and a vacant tube next to it that we will be working to get a private sector entity to provide broadband service of some kind.”

Jinks said the multi-year construction project to connect 100 city and school facilities will start next year.

One of the biggest expenditures pushed back is a planned City Hall renovation. The city’s facilities are badly outdated, with some infrastructure dating back to just after World War II. Jinks said that renovation was pushed back in part because, with teleworking coming into the fore during the pandemic, “we don’t know what the future workforce will look like yet.”

The budget added 26.5 new positions, 18 of which are in the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services. In large part, these new jobs were part of a process to bring the city’s sanitation work in-house. Jinks said most of those 18 jobs are staffing for vehicles to pick up yard waste.

Jinks said departments scrubbing their budget and Federal aid through the worst of the pandemic played a big role in putting the budget together.

“This was probably the most uncertain budget process we’ve ever had,” Jinks said.

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