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Barely a year old, Short Pump dog park closed for upgrades necessitated by high use

More than $200,000 in upgrades are coming to the 13-month-old dog park inside Short Pump Park, including astro turf, new seating, and more.

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A dog park that opened inside the newly-expanded Short Pump Park just a year ago has been temporarily closed for upgrades due to overwhelming demand. This according to officials with Henrico County Recreation & Parks Department, who shared the news on their Facebook page.

While the rest of the park remains open, the dog park will be receiving more than $200,000 in upgrades including new astro turf, shade trees, and other upgrades that should make the park both easier to manage–the high traffic in the park made maintaining grass next to impossible–and more comfortable for patrons, as the department’s marketing person Pam Kempf explained to WTVR:

“With the amount of use the dog park was getting, we could not maintain the grass. It was becoming mostly dirt that turned to mud when it rained,” Henrico Recreation and Parks marketing specialist Pam Kempf said.

While unable to provide specific numbers, Kempf said dog park usage exceeded what was initially anticipated and prompted the $200,000 project — just 13 months after the park opened to the public.

The dog park is expected to reopen in early September if construction goes according to plan.

Read more about the project and where the funds are coming from here.

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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.

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Henrico launches rental assistance program for residents impacted by the COVID economy

Funding is available for qualifying, income-eligible households that have been impacted by job loss, furlough, reduction in hours of pay or other factors resulting from the economic downturn precipitated by the pandemic.

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Henrico residents who are experiencing financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic and are at risk of losing their rental house or apartment can apply for emergency support through the Henrico COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance program.

Funding is available for qualifying, income-eligible households that have been impacted by job loss, furlough, reduction in hours of pay or other factors resulting from the economic downturn precipitated by the pandemic. The emergency program is designed to prevent homelessness; assistance is intended for Henrico renters facing the imminent loss of their residence.

Henrico County has received $360,000 from the federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act to fund the effort.

Since the pandemic surfaced in central Virginia in mid-March, more than 33,900 Henrico residents have filed initial unemployment claims through July 4, according to data from the Virginia Employment Commission. More than 15,200 residents have filed continuing unemployment claims.

Applications in English and Spanish are available from Henrico’s Department of Social Services. Residents can download and print the application or request that one is mailed to them. Beginning Monday, July 13, residents can pick up an application at Social Services’ offices at 8600 Dixon Powers Drive and 3820 Nine Mile Road.

Emergency rental payments of up to $1,500 per month will be made on behalf of Henrico residents who qualify for the program. The payments, which can cover overdue rent, delinquency fees, and court filing fees, will be made for up to four months. Applicants will need to provide documentation regarding the economic impact of the pandemic on their finances and household income as well as additional verification.

The Henrico COVID-19 Rental Assistance program will continue while funding is available.

Additional information is available from Social Services and by calling (804) 501-5294.

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Crime

Mayor Stoney names members of “Task Force to Reimagine Public Safety”

“There is a lot of work ahead of us, but this group’s diversity of expertise and lived experiences is a key asset on our path forward,” said the mayor. “I am thrilled to have this team help our city heal.”

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Today Mayor Levar Stoney announced the members of the Task Force to Reimagine Public Safety and outlined his primary requests of the diverse group of professionals. The majority of task force members stood with the mayor for the announcement.

“There is a lot of work ahead of us, but this group’s diversity of expertise and lived experiences is a key asset on our path forward,” said the mayor. “I am thrilled to have this team help our city heal.”

The members of the task force bring an array of perspectives from activist, legal, academic, law enforcement, emergency services, artistic, healthcare, and other fields. At the close of a 45-day period, the task force will bring the mayor a set of actionable steps forward to build a safer city for all.

“After additional conversations and review of actions taken in other cities, I do not believe we can wait to begin acting on reform recommendations,” said Mayor Stoney. “I have asked this task force to report back with initial recommendations within 45 days of their first meeting.”

The mayor established three foundational requests of the task force: reviewing the police department’s use of force policies, exploring an approach to public safety that uses a human services lens, and prioritizing community healing and engagement.

“We need a new process for noncriminal and nonviolent calls for service, and that will be a top priority for this task force,” noted the mayor. “We must center compassion instead of consequences.”

Regarding community healing and engagement, the mayor said that the task force will allow the city to explore methods of engagement that will enable meaningful change, using his support for the Virginia Black Legislative Caucus’ legislative package as an example.

“Last month I expressed my support for the VBLC’s package for the summer session,” said Mayor Stoney. “This task force can determine where the city can explore complementary legislation and where we need to focus community advocacy to make statewide change a reality.”

Members of the Task Force

Carol Adams, Richmond Police Department
Ram Bhagat,
 Manager of School Culture and Climate Strategy for RPS

Glenwood Burley, retired RPD officer

Keisha Cummings, community engagement specialist, founder of 2LOVE LLC, member of the Richmond Transparency and Accountability Project and the Richmond Peace Team

Torey Edmonds, Community Outreach Coordinator at VCU Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development

Professor Daryl Fraser, VCU School of Social Work professor and licensed clinical social worker

Triston Harris, Black Lives Matters organizer and organizer of the 5,000 Man March Against Racism

Birdie Hairston Jamison, former district court judge for the 13th Judicial District in Virginia

Councilman Mike Jones

Shanel Lewis, Youth Violence Prevention Specialist at the Richmond City Health District

Brandon Lovee, Richmond artist and advocate, member of the Richmond Peace Team

Colette McEachin, Richmond Commonwealth Attorney

Reverend Dontae McCutchen, Love Cathedral Community Church

Dr. Lisa Moon, Associate Provost at VCU and former Director of the Center for the Study of the Urban Child

Sergeant Brad Nixon, RPD

Tracy Paner, Public Defender for the City of Richmond

Bill Pantele, Richmond attorney and former City Council Member

Professor William Pelfrey, VCU professor with expertise in emergency preparedness and policing

Councilwoman Ellen Robertson

Rodney Robinson, National Teacher of the Year and teacher at the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center

Patrice Shelton, Community Health Worker in Hillside Court and director of the Hillside Court Partnership

Lashawnda Singleton, President of the Richmond Association of Black Social Workers

Sheba Williams, Executive Director of NoLef Turns

Courtney Winston, Richmond trial attorney

The Mayor’s Office is specifically working with the Office of Community Wealth Building’s Community Ambassadors to identify additional community members, including youth, to be part of the task force’s important work and to assist with community engagement.

The task force is committed to a transparent process and will make meeting minutes available to the public.

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Government

United Way offering free virtual tax preparation service ahead of July 15th federal tax filing deadline

Virginia households earning under $66,000 are eligible for United Way’s free virtual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

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With the federal tax-filing deadline extended to July 15, and Virginians receiving an extension for state returns, United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg is offering free virtual tax preparation services to households with incomes below $66,000.

Traditionally, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is held at 16 tax sites across the region, but as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit has shifted its focus to assisting taxpayers virtually until the tax sites can safely be reopened.

United Way partnered with Code for America to bring GetYourRefund to the region, allowing its local team of IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers to virtually assist taxpayers with completing and electronically filing both federal and state returns. To utilize the program, participants need just a smartphone with a camera or a computer with access to a scanner.

The program also encourages people to think about ways to save, implement financial best practices, and make plans for achieving financial independence. And for those with low to moderate-income, the service helps eligible taxpayers take advantage of potential tax savings through the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

“For many around the region, the last few months have been difficult to navigate, but we’re pleased to be able to ease some of the anxiety and stress that those who haven’t filed yet might be feeling,” said James Taylor, president & CEO of United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg. “We knew a shift to virtual preparation was important because this service has made a tangible difference for local families over the past 10 years, particularly for those who have taken advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit.”

In 2019, local United Way volunteers helped secure more than $3 million in tax refunds for 3,667 households in our area. Families who took advantage of the service received a total of $838,300 in EITC funds from the IRS. The average household income for customers was $22,900.

Find more information here.

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