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Westhampton Theater project approved by city council

The plans were approved by city officials Monday evening.

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Back in January the last curtain call for Westhampton Theater was announced. Concerns were raised and alternative plans proposed. On Monday the City Council approved plans on the project. During the meeting 11 spoke against the project and 8 in favor.

Richmond BizSense has the summation of the changes and in the full article quotes from those opposed.

The plans approved Monday are a scaled-back version of what Guillot and Cametas initially proposed after buying the theater building in 2014. They tweaked the design from four stories to three; dropped the height from 60 feet to below 40 feet; decreased the total size from 85,000 square feet to 49,800 square feet; and switched from nine condos to 12 apartments. Restaurant chains Taste Unlimited and Tazza Kitchen will be tenants, as well as Mango Salon and Long & Foster.

Image: RichmondBizSense.com

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.

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Government

Henrico revising budgets to reflect uncertainties from coronavirus

Anticipating sharp drops in revenues from sales, meals and occupancy taxes, officials are preparing adjustments to the current year’s budget and are revising the proposed budget for fiscal 2020-21.

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Henrico County officials have begun to brace for significant financial impacts caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Anticipating sharp drops in revenues from sales, meals and occupancy taxes, officials are preparing adjustments to the current year’s budget and are revising the proposed budget for fiscal 2020-21.

Officials have imposed an immediate hiring freeze and instructed all agencies to suspend all discretionary spending. The county also has put on hold all unfunded capital projects.

The Department of Finance plans to update revenue and expenditure projections on a monthly basis and request fund appropriations quarterly in fiscal 2020-21 until the financial picture becomes clearer.

“Recent announcements from Gov. Ralph Northam’s team regarding billion-dollar state budget shortfalls in the current year and next fiscal year reinforce the need to realign our plans and expectations,” said Meghan Coates, deputy director of Finance. “These important, cost-saving measures are going to be the backbone of our plan to endure the financial impact of this event.”

The Board of Supervisors had begun its review of the county’s $1.4 billion proposed budget last week, when the coronavirus outbreak triggered a global economic shutdown, with business closures, mass layoffs and stock market selloffs.

“The world has changed,” County Manager John A. Vithoulkas told the board at its March 24 meeting. “The budget that we worked on, that was presented to you, is no longer sustainable based on the revenue assumptions that were put forward – in one week.”

Finance officials are now looking at a revised proposed budget that would be significantly less than the current year’s plan. The proposed budget would likely not support additional positions or new initiatives and would allow limited cost increases, for example, for health care premiums and contributions to the Virginia Retirement System.

A revised proposed budget is expected to be presented to the Board of Supervisors in mid-April based on updated forecasts for state aid to localities and public feedback. The board will hold a public hearing on the plan at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 14 in the Board Room at the Henrico Government Center, 4301 E. Parham Road. Information will be forthcoming on how members of the public can participate and provide their input.

A vote to adopt the budget is scheduled for Tuesday, April 28. Once approved, the budget will guide operating and capital spending for the year beginning July 1.

The board on March 24 approved several emergency ordinances to help residents and businesses navigate the economic downturn by having the county extend the payment deadlines, without penalty, for various taxes.

Board Chairman Tommy Branin, of the Three Chopt District, noted that the relief efforts would be managed within the current year’s budget.

“This county didn’t leap forward with these measures and reductions without analyzing the budget and recognizing that the county will be fine.”

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Government

Henrico makes changes at disposal areas, parks to accommodate statewide stay-at-home order

Henrico County has adjusted the services available at its parks and public-use areas in accordance with Gov. Ralph Northam’s temporary executive order for residents to “stay at home” to help stem the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

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Henrico County has adjusted the services available at its parks and public-use areas in accordance with Gov. Ralph Northam’s temporary executive order for residents to “stay at home” to help stem the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Executive Order 55, issued March 30, directs Virginians to remain at their place of residence except for purposes deemed essential, such as obtaining medical care or governmental services, purchasing groceries and supplies, traveling to work or getting out for exercise. The order further directs the state’s residents using shared or outdoor spaces to maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet “at all times.”

The governor’s order is in effect until June 10.

The order has prompted adjustments at the county’s Springfield Road and Charles City Road public-use areas, located at 10600 Fords Country Lane and 2075 Charles City Road, respectively.

Beginning Friday, April 3, the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) will limit access to 10 vehicles at a time. Henrico Police and DPU staff will direct vehicles into the public-use areas.

DPU urges residents only to dispose of household garbage and household recyclables while the governor’s order is in effect. Vegetative yard waste and household hazardous waste, such as used oil, tires, and paints, cannot be accepted at this time. Disposal areas will be arranged to allow at least 6 feet between vehicles.

Solid Waste Division Director Jon Clary noted that residents should anticipate traffic backups and lengthy waits to access the public-use areas, which currently are open on a reduced schedule of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

“We want to accommodate as many customers as we can while recognizing the requirement to limit our services at this time,” Clary said. “We ask our residents to bear with us and follow these new guidelines while the governor’s order is in effect.”

The order also has prompted adjustments at Henrico’s parks. The Division of Recreation and Parks has restricted access to certain outdoor amenities, closing playgrounds, restrooms, shelters, dog parks, tennis courts and pickleball courts at county parks. The affected areas are locked or have signs posted regarding their closure.

The county’s recreation centers were closed March 16.

Recreation and Parks Director Neil Luther noted that some park features remain open, such as trails, fishing ponds, and open spaces.

“Henrico’s parks are a valuable outlet and resource for our residents, especially at this time,” Luther said. “We urge everyone who visits our parks to be mindful of the need for social distancing. Please enjoy getting outside while being safe and respectful of others.”

Henrico County Public Schools has closed the playgrounds, ball fields, basketball courts and tennis courts at the district’s facilities in accordance with the governor’s order. Tracks and open spaces on school grounds are still available for public use.

Additional information about the impacts of COVID-19 on Henrico’s facilities and services is available on the county’s coronavirus webpage and from the facilities and services hotline, 501-5655 (voice) and 376-9780 (text). Both lines are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Friday.

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Education

University of Richmond donates thousands of safety gloves from science labs to local healthcare workers

Faculty gathered up nearly 7,000 pairs of gloves to donate to local healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic where supplies are running low.

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As classes moved to remote learning at the University of Richmond, science laboratories across campus are vacant and the safety gear in them is not being used. This prompted UR chemistry and biology professors, in collaboration with administrators, to donate boxes of safety gloves to the Central Virginia Incident Management Team to be delivered to healthcare providers across the state most in need of supplies.

Faculty gathered up nearly 7,000 pairs of gloves to donate to local healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic where supplies are running low.

The idea began with, and is spearheaded by, chemistry professor Mike Leopold, who recognized that healthcare workers were in need of additional personal protective equipment, including gloves.

“I realized that in the transition to remote learning, we would have a number of boxes of gloves sitting around in our labs for months,” said Leopold. “I thought why not make great use of them now and help keep those on the front lines fighting this pandemic safe.”

Leopold initially took the supply from his own research lab to an ER nurse he knows because she had indicated to him they were running low. Leopold realized the broader opportunity and after consulting with the administration at UR about donating more of this specific item, reached out to others.

The gesture spurred additional UR faculty to investigate their own supplies and has prompted healthcare workers to talk with other universities about this possible option.

“As I expected, the response from my colleagues was amazing and we are delighted to help assist in this small way. We hope it encourages others,” Leopold said.

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