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City Manager's Blog

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Jun 28

New Year’s Day

Posted on June 28, 2021 at 10:11 AM by Melinda Mayo

July 1 is the City’s New Year’s Day—Fiscal Year 2021-2022 begins on that date.  What a year FY2020-2021 turned out to be!  COVID-19 upended just about everything we did. Certain services were delivered virtually, Council meetings were virtual or hybrid, and access to public facilities were limited for much of the year.  Still, most services were provided just as always—trash collection and disposal, law enforcement, fire suppression, emergency medical services, street maintenance and snow plowing, and so on.  All this was possible through the ongoing dedicated service of City employees who themselves had to be wary of COVID-19.  Even with the craziness that the year represented, a great deal was accomplished and great challenges remain ahead of us in the New Year.  This post will highlight a few of those.

2020-2021 Accomplishments

The greatest accomplishments in 2020-2021 were associated with the uninterrupted delivery of essential services in the midst of the pandemic, maintenance of a balanced budget, and doing our part to keep our workforce and the public safe from the impacts of COVID-19.  A great many other actions were achieved in addition to these basic functions. 

  • Formation of the Equity and Empowerment Advisory Board
  • Formation of the Gun Violence Prevention Commission
  • Creation of a COVID-19 Spanish-speaking Outreach position
  • Selection as one of two communities in the Nation to participate in the National League of Cities “Cities and Health Systems Community of Practice” collaboration with the Center to Advance Community Health and Equity (CACHE), to address equity and health outcomes
  • Completion of the implementation of Star City Strong Recovery Fund and CARES Act funding, delivering more than $16 million in aid to our community residents, households, and businesses
  • Development of largest public safety compensation package in years—first of three years—a fully revamped compensation approach
  • Security of a grant for three electric transit buses and charging equipment
  • Affirmation of credit rating with top three rating agencies and sold $64.165 million in General Obligation and Refunding Bonds, of which $22.05 million was for new capital projects, $33.24 million was to take out an existing bond anticipation note, and $8.875 million was to refund existing debt to realize savings associated with lower interest rates. The cost of borrowing the funds was approximately 1.6%, which is a historically low interest rate.  By refunding existing debt, the City will reduce its annual debt service thereby saving $539,000 over the life of the debt.
  • Roanoke Police Department’s re-alignment to increase efforts in addressing gun violence and gang-related activities
  • Adoption of the Comprehensive Plan Update
  • Completion of Fire Station #7
  • Completion of Crystal Springs Library E-branch
  • Funding of the Financial Empowerment Center Coordinator (previously grant-funded)
  • Funding of the RESET Volunteer Coordinator (previously grant-funded)
  • Security of all Federal and State approvals and funding for a new Transit Transfer Station

Not too bad a list of achievements for a year dominated by response to and recovery from COVID-19 and its impacts.

2021-2022 Challenges

As we enter the New Year, challenges remain.  Front and center is continued support of the community as we recover from COVID-19 and its impacts.  Key to this recovery will be the successful implementation of the $64.5 million the City received from the Federal government through the American Rescue Plan Act.  Additionally, the community (like so many other urban centers throughout the country) continues to struggle with gun violence. We must continue to come together and address this through prevention, intervention, and justice.  The City will undertake many capital projects ranging from schools to park amenities and streets, sidewalks and drainage projects in 2021 and 2022.  Though the year will no doubt present its own challenges, those hopefully will pale in comparison to what we faced in 2020 and early 2021.  Regardless, I know we as a community can face whatever may come our way—we have just proven that.  Similarly, I know this organization can face whatever may come our way—we too have just proven that!

So, here’s to 2020-2021—what a year! And to 2021-2022—what a great opportunity!

-- Bob Cowell


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