January 2020

The Hampton Roads Messenger 13

burden on our citizens.

In 2019, we continued to invest in our employees and fully funded the requested budget for Suffolk Public Schools. In fact, local operating funds for public education has increased by more than $10 million dollars in the last six years, including an additional $4 million dollars for Fiscal Year 2019.

We’ve also recently invested more than $60 million dollars to building two new schools which opened this fall: the Colonel Fred Cherry Middle School and the Florence Bowser Elementary School.

In recent years I’ve shared with you how the healthcare options in our City have continued to blossom and flourish, and this year is no different. Sentara Belleharbour’s growing campus in North Suffolk includes the completion of their $33.5 million dollar expansion. Bon Secours will be building a new $77 million dollar hospital on the campus of Bon Secours Health Center at Harbour View, making it Virginia’s first inpatient facility with a surgical focus. Sentara Obici Hospital’s expanded campus continues a legacy of providing residents of Western Tidewater with high- quality, patient-centered care. It’s evident that excellent medical care has been brought closer to people in the neighborhoods where they live.

A city can only move forward when it has a strong foundation to build upon, and we know that public safety is our fundamental building block. We can proudly state that we are not only fortunate to have the very best public safety professionals in the region, but they are also prepared with the latest equipment and technologies – all designed to keep our citizens safe.

Public safety is more than just response times and crime stats – it’s also about engagement. Nowhere is the commitment to the community of our public safety professionals more evident than in our National Night Out celebrations, or what we refer to as our “going away parties for crime”! While we realize we can’t place first in the nation every year, Suffolk continues to be one of the highest ranking cities in Virginia, and in 2019 was again ranked in the Top 5 in the nation in our population category, making this the 14th straight year we’ve achieved this honor due to the overwhelming participation of our citizens and businesses. Involved, active neighborhoods are essential to the quality of life that we enjoy.

Here, hometown charm isn’t a cliché – it’s our way of life and something experienced and exhibited in Suffolk every day! That is especially true as it relates to our Historic Downtown and the ongoing renaissance of our commercial core. We continue moving ahead with our Downtown Initiatives Plan to support new business growth and to provide entertainment

options including concerts and community gatherings

to draw even more events and people Downtown. Projects currently underway include the review and update of Historic District design guidelines, Downtown branding to include wayfinding and parking signage, and the expansion of the parking lot on Commerce Street. Enhanced lighting and landscaping upgrades will also certainly add to the ambiance and atmosphere.

We’re also continuing to make great strides in the design process for the Festival Events Venue and our new Central Library, to be known as Library Square, as the anchor of a new active public space on West Washington Street. This much anticipated public facility will allow citizens to access the tools and ideas they need to dream big and lead Suffolk into the future. Also included is a mixed-use residential historic rehabilitation which will stimulate new activity in the eastern half of Downtown to include the Phoenix Bank block.

The energy of entrepreneurs is palpable Downtown, and if you haven’t joined us lately, come experience, see, and taste what so many are talking about. The focus is a fusion of cultures, and here you can find it all!

I proudly serve as the Chair of the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission, and while the needs of the entire region are a top concern, I’m also extremely vocal about the needs of our City. I can’t remember when I’ve seen more orange cones and construction going on, as we know that in order to keep our economy moving, we’ve got to keep our people and our goods moving.

City staff also continue to seek out opportunities to fund infrastructure needs.

As a result, the City has been successful in leveraging local dollars

to obtain significant state and federal funding. We were also awarded $16.1 million in funding from VDOT for the Nansemond Parkway/Wilroy Road Overpass from the Commonwealth Railway project to provide a long term permanent solution to the ongoing traffic and train conflict at this intersection.

More and more people are choosing to call Suffolk “home”, and we’ve seen the largest percentage increase in home sales in the region, growing by 8.6 percent over the previous year. We’re also ranked in the Top Ten when it comes to affordable housing in Virginia according to information recently shared by the media.

Our recreational opportunities are also continuing to expand and develop thanks to our nationally accredited Parks & Recreation Department. In the not too distant future is the highly anticipated Bennett’s Creek Recreation Center.

Plans have that already been completed for the

renovation of the former U. S. Army Reserve Center the City obtained via a land exchange at

location which will serve the densely

populated northern urban/suburban growth area. Our Lone Star Lakes Park, a true jewel in our City, will be enhanced with

more trails, road improvements, and the incorporation of an interpretive meeting space. A water access study as part of the Parks & Rec Master Plan is currently underway to explore ways we can provide our citizens with even more opportunities to enjoy our waterways, including multiple sites on the Nansemond as well as the Blackwater River.

We opened our first Inclusive Playground this fall at Lake Meade Park near Downtown which offers an inclusive experience for people with disabilities, their families, and friends. northern end of our City

Another such playground is in the works for the

In Suffolk, when it comes to Economic Development, we’ve cultivated an environment that is ideal for growing a thriving business!


continued success is rooted in carefully planned strategic growth and investment that helps us maintain a strong financial standard and sound foundation on behalf of our citizens. More exciting announcements are on the horizon!

Realizing opportunity is the name of the game in Economic Development, I’m pleased to see an opportunity realized at Obici Place. The site that sat vacant for a decade is now two-thirds complete in four short years. This development presented an opportunity to bring new to market residential and retail options to Central Suffolk.

Additionally, it has

presented an opportunity to bring a use that has been of interest in the area for as long as I can remember. Our Economic Development Department and the Economic Development Authority are finalizing negotiations with Cinema Café for one of their amazing “dinner and a movie” concept theaters at Obici Place.

The exciting work also continues at The Point at Harbour View. We first shared with you last year preliminary news about this 55-acre mixed-use development off of Interstate 664 that the Suffolk Economic Development Authority is working on together with Gee’s Partners. This site also serves as the gateway to the amazing 300-acre former Tidewater Community College site that sits on the James River. Foundation

is making great strides as they to prepare

this extraordinary, one-of-a-kind opportunity for development, and we are a partner in this initiative. The Suffolk City Council previously approved funding for the engineering of the 1.3 miles of shoreline in order to protect this irreplaceable asset from erosion as we plan for a future public space that will span the length of the entire waterfront.

As the Mayor of Suffolk, I have the humbling opportunity to see and experience the many facets and interworking of my community and the people that make it all possible. I see the challenges, the struggles, the opportunities and the celebrations.

And no matter the high or the low, I’m

always left with the impression of the incredible human spirit that exists in our City. We all get the same 365 days every year. The only difference is what we do with them.

In closing, my fellow Council members and I hope that this New Year brings many opportunities your way to explore every joy of life and turn all your dreams into reality, and all your efforts into great achievements. Happy New Year 2020! - Mayor Linda T. Johnson; Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett, Cypress Borough; Council Member Curtis R. Milteer, Sr., Whaleyville Borough; Council Member Donald Goldberg, Suffolk Borough; Council Member Tim Johnson, Holy Neck Borough; Council Member Michael D. Duman, Chuckatuck Borough; Council Member Roger W. Fawcett, Sleepy Hole Borough; Council Member Lue R. Ward, Jr., Nansemond Borough

HB 658 Would Establish Commission to Investigate VA

The TCC Real Estate continue

Beach Mass Shooting Introduced by Delegate Kelly K. Convirs-Fowler, (D) - House District 21, the HB 658's summary states: "Establishes an independent commission to investigate the May 31, 2019, Virginia Beach mass shooting (the Commission). Under the bill, the Commission will consist of 21 members appointed as follows: five members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Delegates, five members appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules, and 10 members appointed by the Governor. The Superintendent of State Police will serve ex officio as a nonvoting member. The Commission is charged with investigating the underlying motive for the May 31, 2019, Virginia Beach mass shooting, investigating the gunman's entire prior employment history with the City of Virginia Beach and his interactions with coworkers and supervisors, determining how the gunman was able to carry out his actions, identifying any obstacles confronted by first responders, identifying and examining the security procedures and protocols in place immediately prior to the shootings, examining the post-shooting communications between law enforcement and families of the victims, and developing recommendations regarding improvements that can be made in the Commonwealth’s laws, policies, procedures, systems, and institutions, as well as those of other governmental agencies and private providers.

The Office of the State Inspector General or such other person or entity under the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security will staff the Commission, as designated by the Governor. The expenses of the Commission will be paid from existing appropriations to the Office of the State Inspector General or any agency under the Secretary, as determined by the Governor. The Commission has a sunset date of November 1, 2022.

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