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City Manager's Blog

Learn about the City of Roanoke from the City Manager's point of view.

Aug 03

Federal Equity Policies

Posted on August 3, 2020 at 9:37 AM by Tiffany Bradbury

In this week's blog, Bob talks about Federal Equity Policies and how we as a community can ensure equity and empowerment for all of our residents. 

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Jul 28

Financial Empowerment

Posted on July 28, 2020 at 10:42 AM by Melinda Mayo

More than a year ago, I had the opportunity to travel to New York to learn more about a program for which we had just received a grant and that I knew little about.  The Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund) hosted a convening of nine communities, each recipients of grant funding and each interested in improving the financial health of their residents.

Grand Opening

This Tuesday we host the virtual ribbon-cutting for the Roanoke Financial Empowerment Center (FEC).  At this center, area residents will be able to avail themselves of one-on-one professional financial counseling at no cost.  Participants will find ways to improve their credit scores, reduce their debt, increase their savings, or take the first steps at establishing a safe and affordable account at a local bank or credit union.  These services are open to all area residents, regardless of income or of current financial situation.  In short, by visiting the FEC, area residents will regain control over the finances and empower themselves toward a path of greater wealth building—something that the entire community will benefit from.

Built Upon a Sound Foundation and Collaboration

The FEC is built upon work started with the local BankOn Roanoke Valley initiative, a partnership between the City and United Way of the Roanoke Valley, in collaboration with a number of local financial institutions and area service providers.  In just a few years, BankOn Roanoke Valley has assisted more than 1,500 individuals and families in establishing accounts with local banks and credit unions,  enabling them to join the mainstream financial system often for the first time and, in turn, saving them hundreds of dollars in annual fees and charges.  

The FEC is a City of Roanoke service supported by grant funding from the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, local tax dollars, and with further financial support from Carilion Clinic.  The FEC initiative is overseen by Brandon Meginley and Aisha Johnson as a part of our ongoing Economic Inclusion efforts in our Economic Development Department.  Financial Counseling is provided by three certified professional counselors and a manager through a contract with Freedom First Enterprises.  The effort is further supported by a large network of community partners who helped plan the structure of the FEC and will serve to raise awareness of its offerings, as well as refer clients and, in some instances, house office space for the counselors.

A Part of Ensuring a Healthy Community

When the idea of the FEC originated, its need was identified as a part of the community’s ongoing efforts at addressing poverty and health disparities.  With the arrival of COVID-19 and its associated economic and financial impacts, the need is even greater.  Additional information about the FEC and instructions on how to set up a counseling appointment may be found at the FEC’s website at RoanokeFEC.org or by calling 540-427-6811.  

I am grateful for the leadership exhibited by the Mayor and City Council around this initiative, the partnership with and support of the CFE Fund and Freedom First Enterprises, and the collaboration with so many area partners.  I look forward to the FEC welcoming its first clients and taking these first steps at making the Star City a financially empowered City!

— Bob Cowell

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Jul 20

Other Work is Still Underway

Posted on July 20, 2020 at 1:52 PM by Melinda Mayo

Understandably, much of our attention has been on COVID-19 and its impact on our community.  Yet still, just as we have continued to provide essential services 24/7, we continue to progress on a number of projects and initiatives.  This week, I want to highlight a few of these.

E911/811 Center

Roughly two years ago, ground was broken for an innovative partnership, combining the communication centers for Roanoke E911 and Virginia 811.  This 31,000-square-foot facility with a cost of $16 million (a little over $9 million being the City’s share), provides a state-of-the-art facility for the City personnel that handle the more than 250,000 emergency calls annually, and the more than 1 million calls handled by Miss Utility addressing utility locations.  The building has been finished for several weeks, the public art has been installed near its entrance, and a ribbon-cutting is scheduled for early next month.

Fire Station #7

Work on Fire Station #7 in Grandin Village began with the salvaging and demolition of the station that had served the community for nearly 100 years.  With the help of Black Dog Salvage, a number of components of the old station were salvaged to be incorporated into the new building.  Hundreds of area residents were able to claim commemorative bricks from the station as demolition progressed.  The new station, designed to integrate into the Village provides Fire and EMS personnel modern conveniences and a safe location, which will serve the surrounding neighborhoods for the next 100 years.  It is anticipated the new station will be ready to welcome back personnel, neighbors, and the Trojan Dog statue and be back in service at the end of this year or early next year. A photo of the construction is featured on the Facebook and Twitter posts for this blog, as well as at the end of this blog entry..

South Roanoke e-library Branch

A new electronic library kiosk, the first of its kind in Virginia, is nearing completion in the South Roanoke village center.  This e-library will hold an ever-changing inventory of 500 items, which may be checked out electronically by patrons arriving on foot, bike, scooter, or by automobile.  The design of the project is intended to fit within the center’s architectural aesthetic, and its location is to minimize intrusion onto the central green, which is also home to the oldest active fire station in the City.  It is anticipated the project will be complete and ready to welcome patrons this fall.

River’s Edge Sports Complex

On July 1, the River’s Edge Sports Complex officially reopened after undergoing a year-long upgrade and expansion.  The new offerings include lighted athletic fields, lighted walkway, paved parking areas, vendor space, a fountain, and a connector between the Roanoke River Greenway and Reserve Avenue.  It is anticipated that these improvements are the first of one to two additional phases that will continue to add features and amenities at this recreation facility, located in the Innovation Corridor, and which plays host to Go Fest and the 2021 Carilion Clinic Ironman 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

Sidewalk and Street Repairs

Throughout the City, crews are engaged in replacing broken or missing sidewalks, repairing adjacent curb and gutter systems, and installing accessible ramps to enhance mobility.  In addition to these projects, miles of City streets are being repaved and restriped, all part of the City’s ongoing efforts at ensuring streets remain safe and continue to last for years to come.  

Financial Empowerment Center and Plan Roanoke

In addition to these physical projects, the City has a couple of notable programs that are ready for completion.  The Roanoke Financial Empowerment Center, a collaboration between the City of Roanoke, Freedom First Enterprises, and the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund offers no-cost professional one-on-one financial counseling, beginning later this month.  More than a year has gone into meetings with numerous community partners to make this vital offering available.

The City’s Comprehensive Plan update, Plan Roanoke is nearing adoption, which is anticipated early this fall.  This plan will, for the first time, emphasize health and equity alongside the traditional elements of land use, housing, transportation, etc.  The recently created Equity and Empowerment Advisory Board is a direct result of this nearly two-year long effort, which included hundreds of community members in its drafting.  

These are but a few of the projects and initiatives that continue to progress while we respond to the challenges brought on by COVID-19.  Each of these aid in ensuring our health and safety and maintaining a high quality of life here in our Star City!

— Bob Cowell

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