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 has 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.”
Facing inflation, a $17 million budget shortfall and fewer federal economic recovery funds, the Alexandria City Council will consider a tax increase in its upcoming fiscal year 2024 budget.
City Manager Jim Parajon has been tasked with presenting Council with two budget alternatives — one with a tax increase and another without.
“This year’s budget is going to be tight,” Parajon said at a recent Del Ray Business Association meeting. “We’re also predicting a much slower growth rate than we’ve done in the past. As you can imagine, property tax and the growth in our real estate is what drives a lot of our revenue. And we projected that’s going to be a little slower this year.”
Parajon said that city staff is expecting a shallow recession to impact the city this spring, and is eyeing expenditure reductions. So far, the $17 million shortfall is mostly attributed to an increase in city operations, the annual transfer to Alexandria City Public Schools and city debt service.
Mayor Justin Wilson hopes to not increase taxes, and said that inflation pressures impact city government, just like everyone else.
“We have not increased the tax rate in six years and I am hopeful we can avoid any increase this year,” Wilson told ALXnow.
The city is also contending with collective bargaining agreements with the police and fire department unions. Additionally, ACPS faces a $12 million budget shortfall, and wants to give employees raises.
The current FY 2023 budget saw a $445 (6.5%) increase to residential real estate taxes, although the tax rate of $1.11 per $100 of assessed value did not change.
City staff are also working on re-timing projects in the city’s 10-year $2.7 billion Capital Improvement Program to “better align with ability of operating budget to absorb costs increases and City’s ability to execute projects,” according to a presentation to Council on Tuesday night (Nov. 22).
Parajon will present his proposed budget on Tuesday, Feb. 28 — a week-and-a-half after the School Board approves its budget request. The budget will be approved in May and go into effect on July 1.
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
A local nonprofit will leave a locked white “ghost scooter” at the corner of Sanger Avenue and North Beauregard Street this Sunday in memory of a 16-year-old killed at the intersection in August.
Miguel Ángel Rivera was riding an electric scooter when he was struck on August 27. He died four days later.
On Sunday (Nov. 20), the Alexandria chapter of Northern Virginia Families For Safe Streets will plant the white scooter and release its transportation improvement recommendations for the city and neighboring jurisdictions.
“The recommendations encourage drivers to slow down and go the posted speed limit,” said Mike Doyle, a founding member of the Northern Virginia Families For Safe Streets. “Doing simple things can save lives. There’s engineering changes, like traffic light changes, to slow drivers down.”
Doyle said that an electric scooter company deactivated the ghost scooter, and allowed for it to be used for this purpose providing that the company brand be removed. The scooter will be locked near the intersection and will stay up for an undetermined period of time.
Mayor Justin Wilson and representatives from the Alexandria Police Department and Alexandria City Public Schools will speak at the event, which will be held in the William Ramsay Elementary School (5700 Sanger Avenue) at 11:30 a.m. The event is part of series recognizing the annual World Day Of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. NoVAFSS will also conduct similar events in Arlington and Fairfax Counties.
Doyle came up with the idea for the nonprofit after recovering from being hit by a car in Old Town in 2016. He was walking home from work and a turning driver didn’t see him crossing.
“He turned left sharply and crashed into me, and he hit me with such force that my forehead put a dent in the hood of his car, which caused a fracture in my forehead and all sorts of issues,” Doyle said. “We have members of our group who are permanently crippled, but what gets me emotional is when I think about how it impacted my wife and the rest of my family and friends.”
In September, Old Town was deemed the most dangerous area for pedestrians in Virginia. There were 68 crashes and 75 injuries, throughout Old Town between 2015 and mid-2022, according to a a study.
There were also two pedestrian crashes last month in the West End.
“Speed kills and speed maims,” Doyle said. “So, if drivers slow down at a turn, there’s a greater chance that they can avoid crashing into somebody.”
Alexandria has a Vision Zero Action Plan to eliminate pedestrian fatalities by 2028. Part of the action plan went into effect last month with numerous speed limit reductions in the West End.
Those reductions include:
- North Beauregard Street (Entire Length) — Reducing the posted speed limit from 35 to 25 miles per hour (MPH), and the school zone speed limits from 25 to 15 MPH
- West Braddock Road (North Beauregard Street to Quaker Lane) — Reducing the posted speed limit from 35 to 25 MPH, and the school zone speed limits from 25 to 15 MPH
- North Howard Street (Lynn House Driveway to Braddock Road) — Reducing the school zone speed limit on North Howard Street from 25 to 15 MPH
- Seminary Road (Kenmore Avenue to North Pickett Street) — Reducing the school zone speed limit from 25 to 15 MPH
- King Street (Radford Street to Quincy Street) — Installing a new 15 MPH school zone speed limit
The City also recently approved the installation of speed cameras at five school zones. The cameras were approved after a child was struck and seriously injured at an intersection just outside of Jefferson Houston Elementary School (200 block of North West Street).
After a back-and-forth with city leadership on school safety, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares got a quick tour of Alexandria City High School from the city’s leaders on Monday (Nov. 7).
Miyares toured the school, met with students and city leaders, ate lunch and discussed school safety.
In a joint statement released Monday night, Mayor Justin Wilson and School Board Vice Chair Jacinta Greene said that the health of the school system depends on its relationship with the police department.
“We agree on the importance of students being able to grow and thrive in a safe learning environment and assured him of the close partnership between our school division, Alexandria Police Department and other agencies that promote the well-being of children,” Wilson and Greene wrote.
The meeting was also attended by City Manager Jim Parajon, Police Chief Don Hayes, ACPS Interim Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt and ACHS Executive Principal Peter Balas.
Wilson added, “We thank Attorney General Miyares and his team for their visit and for his offer of any help or support from his office for the City of Alexandria and Alexandria City Public Schools.”
Miyares, in August, wrote a letter to Mayor Justin Wilson and School Board Chair Meagan Aldterton saying that he was alarmed by reports of violence within the school system last year. In his letter, he urged Alexandria to work closely with law enforcement to strengthen the city’s School Resource Officer (SRO) program.
There were 46 students arrested and 68 injured last school year, and 194 incidents that provoked a police response, according to a new safety report detailing arrest and security incidents.
After the meeting, Miyares released the following statement:
As the proud product of public schools, I’m particularly passionate about making sure that every public school student not only has access to a quality education, but a safe environment to learn. I’d like to thank Alexandria Mayor Wilson, School Board Chair Alderton and the ACPS officials who invited and welcomed me today.
Today’s meeting was productive and I was able to share some concerns, as well as offer the resources of the Office of Attorney General to support them. Alexandria City High School has amazing students, and I was honored to meet some of them today. I look forward to working together with the Alexandria City officials to make sure parents feel confident that their children will be safe at school. As Attorney General, every Virginia family’s safety is my number one priority.
This Thursday, the School Board will vote on a recommendation extending the ACPS agreement with the Alexandria Police Department to provide SROs until the end of this school year. In December, the School Board will also receive the interim Superintendent’s recommendation on the partnership between ACPS and the police department.
Last week, Mayor Justin Wilson said he sands the city to take another pass at renaming streets throughout Alexandria named for Confederate leaders.
The announcement comes around two years after the city’s last major push to de-Confederate Alexandria, an effort that saw the Appomattox statue on S. Washington Street removed. The city renamed Jefferson Davis Highway through Alexandria to Richmond Highway a year before that.
There’s a fairly extensive list of around 31 streets that are confirmed to be named after Confederate leaders. Another 30 are listed as possibly named after Confederates.
Confederate statues and other honors were widely used throughout the south as a method of furthering the Lost Cause mythology and intimidating Black residents. In Alexandria, some of that history of Confederate street naming goes back to an addition to the city code in 1951 that all north-facing streets be named after Confederates.
Metro’s Blue Line track running through Alexandria will reopen on Sunday (Nov. 6) after being shut down for nearly two months.
That’s the good news, sort of.
Metro was two weeks late reopening the Blue Line, which was supposed to reopen on October 22, but additional track work was needed.
“The work to restore Metro back to the level required to support this region continues,” Mayor Justin Wilson said in his monthly newsletter. “In the short-term, additional sacrifice will be required. As a regular Metro rider myself, I know the service challenges first-hand.”
The definite bad news, as reported last month, is that the opening of the Potomac Yard Metro station was pushed back from this month to sometime next year.
Alexandria Metro riders on the Blue and Yellow Lines have been cut off since September 10, as the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has worked to connect the new Potomac Yard Metro station to the rest of the system.
“To say that the City is disappointed in WMATA’s management of this project would be an understatement,” said Wilson. “We have made specific requests of new oversight, new accountability and transparency from WMATA and will push the agency to complete this project as soon as possible, while addressing the significant financial impacts the City has borne as a result of WMATA’s failures.”
The Holmes Run Trail has been incomplete and partially inaccessible since floods in 2018 and 2019 badly damaged it, and in a recent update Mayor Justin Wilson said some of the final pieces of that recovery might not be finished until the summer or fall of 2024.
That’s not to say there isn’t progress being made on trail recovery, with other phases completed earlier this year and a bridge replacement planned for later this winter.
In a community newsletter released this morning, Wilson said the next big improvement will be the restoration of the Holmes Run Trail Bridge at 4600 Duke Street.
With pandemic delays behind us and budget available, the City is now working to bring this trail back to our residents. The work has been divided into a few phases. The first phase of work is the restoration of the Holmes Run Trail Bridge at 4600 Duke Street. The demolition of the current bridge was completed a year ago, and the stabilization of the bank completed earlier this year. The full replacement is now anticipated to occur this fall into winter.
Other, more extensive recovery work, however, is still in the design phase.
“The more extensive phase of work involves the trail restoration at Dora Kelly Park, the trail restoration at the Morgan Street cul-de-sac and the trail restoration at North Ripley Street,” Wilson wrote. “The design work is under way and is expected to be complete early next year.”
If the design is completed in early 2023, Wilson said construction would start in summer/fall 2023 and is expected to take a year; completed in summer/fall of 2024.
“It has been frustrating to have the trail unavailable for so long,” Wilson wrote, “but we’re working to build a more resilient trail to benefit our community for generations to come!”
It was crisp, clear on Sunday in Del Ray — perfect for the annual Del Ray Halloween Parade.
Thousands of kids and adults marched in costumes for the event, including members of the Alexandria City Council and the Alexandria City High School ‘Zombie Band’.
It’s Visit Del Ray’s 26th year hosting the fun event, which it started at Mount Vernon Avenue and E. Bellefonte Avenue and ended with live music and prizes at the Mount Vernon Recreation Center athletic fields.
A beautiful day for the Del Ray Halloween Parade!
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) October 30, 2022
ASO joined the Halloween festivities over the weekend at the annual Del Ray Halloween Parade! The fun continues this evening with trick-or-treating so please be extra careful driving and watch for little ones https://t.co/v1AIW2SMY1 pic.twitter.com/j36a0gTGp4
— Alexandria Sheriff (@AlexVASheriff) October 31, 2022
Happy Halloween! BPAC led our third annual Halloween ride through the spectacularly spooky streets of Del Ray this past Saturday. Read more at https://t.co/JGiEJZGcbe
— Alexandria Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee (@AlexandriaBPAC) October 30, 2022
What do zombie bands do before they perform? They re-hearse!!! The ACHS Marching Titan Zombies came out to play! Thanks for including ACHS Marching Band in the Del Ray Halloween Parade today.
What streets do zombies live on? Dead ends. Tell us your favorite Zombie joke!!! 🤣 pic.twitter.com/2XAye3Kh8G
— ACHS Band (@AchsBand) October 31, 2022
It’s been a busy week of meetings in Alexandria.
First, parents met with Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) leadership in a forum addressing safety in schools, a major talking point in schools after the murder of a student this summer and issues involving violent “crews” in ACPS.
In an Agenda Alexandria meeting, City Manager James Parajon said adding density to the city is vital to meeting affordable housing needs, though some in the audience expressed concerns that added density could harm the “historic nature” of Alexandria.
Lastly, the Chamber ALX held its Best in Business awards last night. Land use attorney Cathy Puskar was named the 2022 Business Leader of the Year and restaurant Chadwicks (203 Strand Street) was named Overall Business of the Year.
- New Duke Street development replacing car dealership with affordable housing
- Tenant arrested for allegedly pointing handgun at landlord in West End apartment
- City Manager: Trading height for affordable housing means ‘unlikely’ impact on historic districts
- Alexandria mayor to present multi-year plan to rename streets named after Confederate soldiers
- Potomac Yard Metro station hits major milestone after earlier plans derailed by delays
- Alexandria lowers speed limits on major West End streets
- Falafel Inc. opening on Halloween on King Street in Old Town
- Nine more COVID deaths in Alexandria within the last month
- Public comment period closing on three Duke Street Transitway options
- Alexandria City Council hires auditor to review allegations of police misconduct