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Police investigating a shooting in the Andrew Adkins development (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria is pursuing a Federal grant to help hire more police officers for patrol and investigations units left understaffed by higher-priority investigations.

At a meeting tomorrow, the City Council is scheduled to vote on a grant application to the FY 2023 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program. The vote is largely ceremonial: retroactively approving a submission filed in August for up to $43,152 and allowing Alexandria’s City Manager to file all necessary documents.

Alexandria has been experiencing an uptick in violent crime in recent years with some areas, like the area near the Braddock Road Metro station, experiencing multiple shootings. The staff report said the hope is to use the funding to help hire police for other units, like patrol, for areas of the city where Part I crimes — murders, burglaries, etc. — are being committed.

According to the staff report:

Staff proposes to use the FY 2023 JAG funds to hire back officers to replace those temporarily assigned to investigate Part I crimes, including, but not limited to: robberies, larcenies, burglaries, weapon violations, and homicide response/investigations. The City most recently applied for and received JAG funding for this purpose in September 2021.

When needed, officers will be able to sign up to work on specific details targeting a specific area of the city where Part I crimes are occurring. Officers can also be selected from various units (i.e., patrol and investigations) that may work a task force or special detail and JAG funds are used to hire back officers with overtime pay to fill their normal assignments in patrol.

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DASH buses (photo via DASHbus/Facebook)

Alexandria is hoping a federal grant could help push Alexandria’s DASH bus network a little closer to full electrification.

A memo from Deputy Director of Transportation Hillary Orr to the Transportation Commission said the city is hoping federal funding can help cover a sizable budget gap looming for electric bus replacement plans.

The DASH bus network has been crawling toward electrification for years despite challenges, from difficulties with hilly terrain to a lack of charging stations. The city’s goal is a fully electric fleet by 2037.

Currently, DASH has 14 electric buses in circulation and 87 “clean diesel” and hybrid buses. The bus network’s plans include replacing ten additional buses and five trolleys that have reached the end of their useful life — but replacing these buses and trolleys with electric alternatives is costly.

“To replace these assets with battery electric buses and trolleys will cost an estimated $19.3 million,” Orr wrote in the memo. “The City currently has budgeted $4,798,900 for the replacement of these buses, leaving a gap of $14.5 million.”

Beyond just the electric bus costs, Orr wrote there is an additional smaller budget gap for new clean diesel buses.

“Additionally, the City was previously awarded $4.4 million in Smart Scale funds for six clean diesel buses,” Orr wrote. “To upgrade these buses to battery electric would cost an additional $3.1 million.”

Orr wrote that DASH and City staff are submitting multiple applications to the Federal Transit Administration’s  (FTA) Low or No Emission Grant Program:

The following projects could be submitted within these applications.

  • Trolley Replacement (up to $6.8 million): Retire and replace five (5) trolleys with electric trolleys.
  • Bus Replacement (up to $12.5 million): Retire and replace ten (10) buses with electric buses.
  • Smart Scale Expansion Buses (up to $7.5 million): Upgrade six (6) Smart Scale clean diesel buses to electric buses.
  • Electric upgrades at DASH Facility (up to $9 million): Build new electrical service, including on-site equipment and infrastructure to support charging need of fleet wide conversion to battery electric buses.
  • Workforce Development (up to $1.6 million): Required 5% of federal request.

In total, Orr wrote that the city is seeking $38 million in grant funding.

“While it is unlikely the full grant request will be awarded, staff determined the best path forward is to propose all needs in a scalable manner by which the FTA can assess and award funds as available,” Orr wrote.

The grants are headed to the Transportation Commission for review at a meeting on Wednesday, March 15.

Photo via DASHbus/Facebook

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King Street and 28th Street (image via Google Maps)

The City of Alexandria has been picked for a Safe Streets grant that will help the city take another look at seven high-crash intersections around Alexandria’s West End.

The grant approval comes as Alexandria is going through a sweep of safety audits looking at some of the city’s most crash-prone intersections. The projects involve examining the causes of the crashes at the intersection and providing analysis, as well as a community engagement and design process.

The total cost of the audits is $1 million, with the federal grant covering $800,000, the city’s media relations manager Jacqueline Woodbridge told ALXnow.

The full press release from the City of Alexandria is below:

The U.S. Department of Transportation has selected the City of Alexandria as a grant recipient of the Safe Streets & Roads for All program. This grant will fund safety audits for seven high-crash intersections on Alexandria’s West End. The intersections include:

  • South Van Dorn Street and South Pickett Street
  • South Van Dorn Street and Edsall Road
  • Seminary Road and Mark Center Avenue
  • Seminary Road and Kenmore Avenue/Library Lane
  • King Street and Dawes Avenue
  • King Street and 28th Street
  • King Street and Park Center Drive

The project will begin in Fiscal Year 2024 and will include safety audits, analysis, community engagement, and conceptual design for each of the seven intersections.

This project supports the City’s adopted goal of zero traffic deaths and severe injuries in Alexandria by targeting safety improvements at locations with a history of fatal or severe crashes. The Safe Streets & Roads for All Program is a new funding program created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law intended to prevent roadway deaths and severe injuries.

Visit alexandriava.gov/VisionZero for more information about the City’s efforts to improve traffic safety.

For inquiries from the news media only, contact the Office of Communications & Public Information at [email protected] or 703.746.3969.

This release is available at alexandriava.gov/go/4309

Image via Google Maps

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(Updated 5:45 p.m.) At an upcoming meeting, the City Council is scheduled to consider a grant application asking for $50 million for waterfront flood mitigation projects.

Last year, city staff put forward a variety of potential projects to add more flood resiliency to the waterfront, which has seen increasingly frequent flooding in recent years, but with cost estimates ranging from $170 to $215 million, some city leaders faced some sticker shock and have asked to scale down the projects.

That $50 million is the maximum amount that can be awarded through FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Grant Program.

The city’s flooding prevention projects have, in the past, gotten some boosts from state and national resources.

In addition to the national funding, the docket item for the application notes at a later date the Council will consider funding the local share of any related waterfront flood projects.

The application is scheduled for review at the City Council meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 9.

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Rebuilding Together DC Alexandria has been chosen to receive a $1.6 million grant to reduce housing related hazards to 120 homes in the city.

RTA is one of  three nonprofits in Virginia to get the multi-year funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s $104.7 million package. There were 60 similar organizations that were awarded revitalization funds.

“By providing these grants, HUD makes it clear that ensuring healthy and safe homes for communities across our nation is a priority,” HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge said in a release. “HUD is working every day to keep families safe from home health hazards like lead paint because for many Americans, their home is a primary determinate of their health, and that is why HUD is committed to protecting families from these hazards and to providing healthy and sustainable housing for all Americans.”

RTA was founded in 1986, and is among the 130+ Rebuilding Together affiliates. The nonprofit has dedicated more than $8.8 million toward local revitalization efforts to homeowners in need, and 28,000 volunteers have donated their time and energy on more than 2,200 projects.

Via RTA/Facebook

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A new report from the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership showed that the 22314 zip code — Old Town and Carlyle — received more funding in business grants than the rest of Alexandria combined.

A breakdown of grant dollars by zip code showed that Old Town and Carlyle businesses received $3.5 million in grant funding. The next closest was the 22304 zip code in the West End, totaling $1.1 million.

That funding would be centered in Old Town isn’t too surprising, considering that’s where roughly 50% of the city’s businesses are located. AEDP President and CEO Stephanie Landrum told ALXnow last year that’s also where around 60% of the grant applications come from, despite an effort by the organization specifically to reach out to non-Old Town businesses and encourage them to apply.

The rest of Alexandria, combined, received $2.4 million in grants.

In total, AEDP distributed $6.4 million in federal and local grant funding to 648 Alexandria businesses.

The grants were fairly evenly split between male and female-owned businesses — 46% and 44% respectively — with 9% not identifying their gender and 1% identifying as trans or non-binary.

Roughly 74% of the funding went to businesses with less than 25 employees, which were a focus of AEDP’s grand campaign.

The report also showed that 47% of businesses that received grants were white-owned, followed by 21% as Asian-owned businesses. Black-owned businesses in Alexandria comprised 11% of grant funding, and Hispanic or Latino-owned only 8%.

Overall, the report also took stock of the pandemic’s devastating impact on local businesses:

  • 81% of small businesses reporting very-to-extreme disruptions to business operations
  • 77% of small businesses reporting year-over-year revenue declines
  • 9.9% Alexandria unemployment rate in April 2020 (an increase of 7.9% from April 2019)
  • $30.2M projected loss of business and consumer-based tax revenue in the City

Photos via AEDP

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Updated at 2:30 p.m. — Vice President Kamala Harris managed to stitch a visit to Old Town knitting store fibre space (1319 Prince Street) into the day’s agenda.

It was the vice president’s first official visit to a small business since she took office in January. Harris spoke for more than a half hour with owner Danielle Romanetti and her staff about the impact of the pandemic and the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill that’s working its way through the U.S. Senate.

“We have to understand… who are the folks who have been sacrificing on the front lines, and really are part of not only the economic engine, but to your point, the vitality of the community,” Harris said. “We have, for example, as part of the American Rescue Plan $15 billion that goes just into to small businesses. We have been paying a lot of attention to the fact that during COVID, two-and-a-half million women have left the workforce.”

Alexandria City Councilman John Taylor Chapman arranged the visit after being contacted last week by the vice president’s office.

“The vice president’s office was looking to chat with small, locally women- owned businesses and reached out to me and I connected them with fibre space,” Chapman told ALXnow. “It’s definitely an honor that she chose Alexandria for her first visit out of the White House. It was great to have her come across the river and spend time with us.”

Romanetti got a call from the White House on Friday, and opened her store after the visit at 2 p.m. She said that Harris likes to crochet, bought a hoodie for her daughter with the printed message “Come the apocalypse I will have clothing” on it, and talked about the relief that small businesses will experience in the event of the bill’s passage.

Communications officials on Harris’ staff said the vice president was discussing what women in the workforce are going through and how to get them the support needed.

“She’s actually really easy to talk to, and, and it was very comfortable,” Romanetti said. “Her daughter, Ella, is a knitwear designer who just was in Vogue. She just signed a contract with a with a designer to do a line of knitwear.”

Fibre space was one of several stores that took a severe hit last year from the pandemic. The store has been able to weather the last year with a PPP loan, a COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan and two small federally funded business grants from the City.

“I am hopeful that this bill will pass, and that it’s going to put a lot of money into small businesses,” Romanetti said. “A lot of business owners are wondering if there is gonna be more loan money available. We also need vaccines, and we need schools to safely reopen because those are also huge issues for business owners. That’s also a huge part of the relief bill.”

Shop employee Maiya Davis talked with her about her pandemic experience. She’s worked there for two-and-a-half years, and was forced to completely shift her life last March.

“We basically had to learn new jobs overnight,” Davis said. “It was a job that just kept changing depending on which struggles we were facing that day. We had to deal with stressed out customers, we had to deal with running a web store all of a sudden, which is something we hadn’t done before. And then we also had to deal with the loss of our community space.”

Alexandria marketing strategist Maurisa Potts was also in attendance, and told Harris about the experiences that dozens of her small business clients have experienced.

“From where I sit in having to service these clients and getting their message out and communicating the hardships and the innovation that’s been happening during this time, a relief package like this will greatly help them,” Potts said.

Vernon Miles and James Cullum contributed to this article.

Photos via Peter Velz/Twitter and fibre space

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Alexandria is getting just over $2.6 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for upgrades to the city’s fire department.

Of the FEMA grants, one will provide $1.5 million over three years to add nine full-time firefighter/medics to the staff, allowing for the recommended four-person staffing on fire trucks and engines. Nine new fire cadets have already been hired, the city says.

Another $1.15 million will provide the Alexandria Fire Department with new exercise equipment, cancer and other health screenings, and additional annual physicals.

More from a city press release:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently awarded the City of Alexandria more than $2.6 million in funding over a three-year period to improve Fire Department staffing, health and safety. This funding ensures that each Alexandria fire truck and engine will now carry a four-person crew.

The Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) grant, which provides $1.5 million over three years, will allow the Fire Department to add nine additional full-time Firefighter/Emergency Medical Technicians. These additional roles will complete the goal of having four-person staffing on each fire truck and engine in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 1710 guidelines. Nine new cadets have recently been hired to fill these positions, and are expected to complete training and other requirements by mid-2020. Local funding to continue these positions after the term of the grant will be included in future budget proposals to City Council. This will increase the number of fire trucks and engines with four-person staffing on all three shifts from 9 to 12.

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant of $1,154,261.81 will fund various improvements to the Fire Department’s Health, Safety & Risk Management Division, including exercise equipment; additional firefighter/medic cancer screenings; early detection testing for heart disease, stroke and diabetes; behavioral health resources; firefighter/medic fitness and health resources; and increased annual physicals.

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