October 2009 Highlights

In October, our city lost an outstanding police officer, and dealt with tough economic news.  We also continued efforts to meet our public safety needs, and approved a key planning guide.  In November, voters will decide who will represent them on these and other challenges over the next four years.

City mourns loss of Sgt. Hutchens:     This month, Winston-Salem suffered the loss of a hero as veteran Police Sgt. Mickey Hutchens died from gunshot wounds suffered in the line of duty.  Together with Officer Daniel Clark, Sgt. Hutchens responded to a domestic situation call at a restaurant on Peters Creek Parkway.  In the process of apprehending the suspect, both officers were shot, and the suspect was killed.  Our community is grateful that Officer Clark is expected to fully recover, and we mourn the loss of Sgt. Hutchens.  Please keep both officers, their families, and all of the dedicated police who protect our community every day in your thoughts.  We also express our sympathy and concern for the family of the other man who died.

Public safety grants:     On October 16, the city council formally approved acceptance of over $875,000 in federal grants to improve programs in our police department.  These include funds to hire three additional crime analysts; a joint program with WSSU and the Center for Community Safety to focus on drugs and high crime areas; and additional equipment, supplies and training for the department's forensics division.  These funds were awarded through competitive grant programs, in which Winston-Salem showed our readiness to put these resources to effective use in deterring and responding to crime in our community.

Election this Tuesday, November 3:     This Tuesday, voters in the Southwest Ward will determine who will represent you on the City Council for the next four years.  I have appreciated the opportunity to represent you, and would be honored to continue to do so.  Whomever you choose, please let your voice be heard.  All our regular polling places will be open this Tuesday from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Weeks plant:      On October 29, Hanesbrands announced that it would close its Weeks hosiery plant in late 2010, effectively closing the era of textiles manufacturing in Forsyth County.  While the decision hardly comes as a surprise to we North Carolinians who have followed the decline of our once-dominant textiles manufacturing industry for decades, we all worry about the loss of 200 local jobs. 

Dell incentives to be repaid in full:     After the disappointing announcement in early October that Dell's local computer plant would close, there was widespread public concern over the fate of Winston-Salem taxpayers' investments in bringing Dell to our city.  The incentives agreement between the city, county, and Dell had been carefully crafted, but many people expressed fear that Dell would try to get out of its contractual obligations.  Fortunately, that has turned out not to be the case.  On October 22, the city received the formal written acknowledgement from Dell of the amount owed the city ($15.5 million), its obligation to repay, and its intention to do so on the time frame required (within 30 days after the plant closes and the city sends its formal request for repayment).  The letter is signed by Dell's vice president for Global Facilities and Strategic Growth, and closes any reasonable question about Dell's intention to honor its contract with the city. 

These two news items underscore the critical importance of Winston-Salem's continuing to work aggressively to attract and grow new jobs and economic opportunities here.  We see once again that standing still is not a viable option.  Effective strategies for new economic development are necessary for the health of our community.

Southwest Area Plan:     The new Southwest Area Plan was approved by the city council following a final public hearing on October 5.  I'd like to thank the dedicated residents who spent months volunteering on the citizen advisory committee which helped draft the plan and educate other citizens on its contents and importance; as well as our Planning staff who worked hard on the plan. 

     The Southwest Area Plan covers Ardmore, including Knollwood Manor and the Lockland Park area; Hanestown and other smaller neighborhoods bordered by Business 40, Stratford Road, and Silas Creek Parkway; the areas around our two medical centers, and the commercial area along Stratford Road between Business 40 and Silas Creek Parkway. 

     Small area plans are intended to give city/county planners guidance in reviewing rezoning requests in the affected areas.  They also serve as useful guidance for city investments in needed facilities, from parks to transportation.  The approved plan can be reviewed at http://www.cityofws.org/Home/Departments/Planning/AreaPlans/Articles/Southwest.

     The Southwest Suburban Area Plan, which covers much of the rest of the Southwest Ward, was finalized in August 2008.  It can be found at http://www.cityofws.org/Home/Departments/Planning/AreaPlans/Articles/SouthwestSuburban.

Non-residential building and structure code:     The North Carolina state legislature recently gave cities and towns the authority to address problem conditions and repair needs for non-residential structures.  After a careful review, including input from commercial realty managers, city staff have proposed a Nonresidential Building and Structure Code to address these issues.  In order to use limited staff time wisely, deal with the most severe problems first, and avoid disruption to ongoing businesses, the code is drafted to apply to vacant nonresidential structures.  The purpose is to help ensure repairs, or demolition of dilapidated vacant buildings.  In this form, the proposal is also supported by local business organizations.  The city council will hold a public hearing on this proposal at our November 16 meeting.  Comments are invited.

Neighborhood updates:     On October 7, I met with residents of the Hannaford (Stratford Manor) neighborhood and discussed a broad range of issues, including traffic and pedestrian safety.

     Residents of Ardmore participated in a well-attended annual meeting of the Ardmore Neighborhood Association on October 13, electing officers and holding a city council candidates forum.

     On October 21, I met with the Healy Towers residents council.  We reviewed sidewalk repair and extension, traffic safety concerns, and other issues.

     On October 22, I met with the Lockland/Brantley Neighborhood Watch and discussed neighborhood safety and streetlighting concerns.

     The Salem Woods neighborhood held another productive meeting on October 27, when it heard from Neighborhood Assistance Specialist Vernetta Devane.  Traffic issues, police patrols, and Little Creek Park management concerns were discussed.  Salem Woods will meet again on November 17.

     Thanks to all the neighbors of the Southwest Ward for working together to protect and improve our neighborhoods!

I hope that all of your Halloween hauntings were fun, and wrapped up before the evening's rains began.