October 2015 Highlights

In October, we announced big positive news about chronic homelessness.

Ending homelessness among local veterans:     I’m very pleased to report great news about our ongoing efforts to reduce chronic homelessness.  As you may have already seen in the local media, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness has certified that Winston-Salem and Forsyth County have effectively ended chronic homelessness among local veterans.  Through the efforts of a coalition of hard-working groups and agencies, our community has housed 127 formerly homeless veterans so far this year, and put in place a coordinated system to rapidly re-house homeless vets as they are identified in the future.  That includes helping them to connect with services or opportunities they may need to stay in permanent housing. 

This doesn’t mean that we can stop working.  It does mean that we have gotten control of this part of our homelessness problem, and if we continue to work together effectively we can stay on top of it. 

There is still more progress to be made, and continuing community support is essential to keep from backsliding.  I want to add my thanks again to all of the helping organizations (private and public), and city, state, and federal agencies involved in making this progress.  More information is available on the ongoing work here from our city/county Commission on Ending Homelessness (director Andrea Kurtz, andrea.kurtz@uwforsyth.org).

Leaf collection season begins November 2:     Some of you may have seen some leaf-collection equipment in testing already circulating, but the first full round of loose piled leaf collection for the city is scheduled to start the week of November 2.  Collection will start in the eastern quadrant this year (quadrant 1), and quickly move to quadrant 2 which includes most of the Southwest Ward.  See details here:  http://cityofws.org/LeafRoutes  From that page you can access the function which lets you enter your address and get an estimate of the next collection date for you.  (Please remember that those are only estimates, and if pickup is critical for you, keep checking back and put out your leaves a few days before the most recently estimated arrival date.)  As in previous years, there will be three rounds of leaf collection in all residential neighborhoods before the end of January.  

Please remember also the basics of loose leaf collection:

--Piles should be brought to the edge of the curb, but don’t block the sidewalk or drift out into the travel lane.

--Don’t include branches or other debris in the leaf piles, or they won’t be collected.  (Those damage the collection equipment.)

--Don’t park vehicles on or in front of the leaf piles at any time when a collection truck may come by.

Thanks for your patience!

Business 40 improvements plan approved:     The city council on October 26 approved a package of locally-sponsored additions to the plan for renovating Business 40 and its interchanges through central Winston-Salem.  These additions (known as “betterments”) will include enhanced pedestrian and bicycle safety (such as wider sidewalks and the initial connections for a multi-use path paralleling the highway), and landscaping and bridge design enhancements intended to make key overpass bridges into “iconic” artistic designs.  The funding for these additions will come from voter-approved bond money earmarked for the Business 40 design improvements ($2,576,400); federal CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality) funds for the multi-use path elements ($2,939,082); local transportation capital reserve funds ($734,771); and private donations raised by the Creative Corridors Coalition ($3,122,400).  The total package cost is $9,372,653.  A video visualization of what the result will look like on completion is linked on the Winston-Salem Department of Transportation home page:  http://www.cityofws.org/Departments/Transportation

These locally-sponsored improvements are in addition to the state-sponsored redesign and reconstruction of Business 40 and its interchanges from west of Peters Creek Parkway to east of Church Street, budgeted at $74,200,000 from state and federal transportation funds.  The project is to be contracted out by mid-2016, and construction should begin on the first phase by late 2016 or early 2017.  The closure of Business 40 itself between Peters Creek Parkway and Church Street for up to two years is not expected to begin before 2018.


Southwest Area Plan Update process beginning:    The current Southwest small area plan was approved by the city council back in October 2009, so it’s time to start on a public review and update process (just as we recently completed with the Southwest Suburban Area Plan).  That public input process begins in November, with a review and comment meeting on Thursday, November 19, starting at 6 p.m. at the Miller Park Recreation Center (400 Leisure Lane).  City/County Planning Department staff will roll out the first draft and key issues for beginning discussion at that time.  In the meantime, those interested can go back and take a look at the current plan and related information here:  http://www.cityofws.org/Departments/Planning/Area-Plans/Southwest

Community oriented policing grant:     The city has accepted a federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant of $1,250,000 to hire ten additional police officers for a minimum of four years.  (A local match of $549,059 is required and was approved as well.)  The additional officers will be assigned to targeted higher-crime areas for mobile crime deterrence and proactive visible policing.  The goals are to reduce crime, enhance public safety, and improve quality of community life.

Traffic fatalities:     The Police Department reported in October on the disturbing rise this year in traffic fatalities among pedestrians.  So far in 2015, there have been eight pedestrian fatalities in vehicle collisions.  That’s twice the 2014 total (four).  In 2013 and 2012, there were three each year, and five in 2011.  The department has begun to work on public education strategies to attempt to reduce this problem.  In addition, I requested a case-by-case report on the locations and circumstances of the fatalities so that we can study the causes and consider appropriate improvements in pedestrian safety facilities (such as marked crosswalks) at the most dangerous locations. 

Miller Park renovations input process:     The Recreation and Parks Department held a well-attended public information and input session on the Miller Park renovation project on October 13 at the Miller Park Recreation Center.  Topics included streambank restoration, the trails, the shelters, and lighting.  While a wide variety of comments were heard, one recurring theme seemed to be protecting the existing character of the park—its natural habitat (especially for migrating birds), historic structures, and green feel—while repairing the many problems with the trails and carefully fixing the extensive stream bank erosion issues.  Public involvement in the planning process will continue, and further sessions will be announced. 

Run Against Hunger (RAH):     This year’s Ardmore Run Against Hunger (RAH!) 5k and 10k races were a great success, with more than 600 runners participating and over $20,000 raised for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina.  Many thanks go to everyone who sponsored or participated. 

NLC conference in November:     I will be away for a few days in early November, helping to represent Winston-Salem at the National League of Cities annual conference.  As usual, I will report on items of interest from NLC in my November report.  Any time I am away, Southwest Ward residents can leave me a message or contact our city Community Assistance Liaison, Vernetta DeVane, at vernettad@cityofws.org

Cloverdale Apartments/Ardmore Terrace update:     Since my September report, I have had further discussions with the owners’ representatives regarding possible alternatives.  I anticipate that will continue in November.  I will report further in my November update.

That’s my report for October.  As always, you are welcome to email me at danbesse@danbesse.org with comments or questions.  Thanks!