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City Council approves assistance fund for former employees

More than 200 former Charlottesville employees soon will receive relief funds.

During its meeting Monday, the City Council approved a $100,000 assistance fund for temporary employees who have been removed from payroll amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Non-essential personnel were told to stay home starting March 17, at the onset of the pandemic.

While some employees were working from home, those who couldn’t were still being compensated at their normal salary rate based on how many hours they typically worked over the past year.

The city has removed 228 temporary employees from payroll.

City officials characterized the layoffs as necessary as revenue projections remain bleak due to the pandemic.

According to a staff report, employees with a household income below 50% of the area median income may receive up to $750. Employees with a household income below 30% area median income may receive up to $1,000.

The money comes from the $155,000 left in a contingency reserve set aside from the city’s allocation through the federal coronavirus stimulus package.

Human Services Director Kaki Dimock said the city will provide one round of funding, unless there is enough left over near Dec. 31, which is when the money must be spent under federal requirements.

Dimock noted the payments would help former employees, but not address all their needs.

“It is symbolic,” she said. “It is not addressing someone’s poverty concern. It is not a sufficient amount of money to address anyone’s ongoing poverty issues.”

City staff also provided a preliminary report on remaining CARES Act funding, ahead of a more detailed report next month.

The city has $1.35 million unallocated from the total $8.25 million it received in two rounds of stimulus funding.

The biggest chunk of unallocated money, $452,854, was set aside for technology. Other unallocated money is $401,876 for employee support, $187,200 for business support, $186,420 in a contingency reserve and $117,112 in operational modifications. The remaining contingency did not include the employee assistance fund approved Monday.

Traffic concerns

On Monday, the council also received recommendations for traffic safety measures on Cherry Avenue, Willard Drive and Fifth Street.

The majority of the discussion was around Fifth Street, with several speakers supporting enhanced safety measures during public comment.

There have been five fatal crashes on Fifth Street between Harris Road and Cherry/Elliott Avenue since November 2016. Three of those have occurred since July. Many residents have expressed concern with speed in the corridor.

According to the Charlottesville Police Department, the crashes were caused by driver action, not roadway design.

City Traffic Engineer Brennen Duncan said a CPD study found the average speed was 42 to 44 mph, with a majority of people driving 48 to 49 mph.

“Based on those numbers, it’s my assumption there’s really not a speed problem over 45 mph,” he said.

Duncan did point out that although speed isn’t an issue, the roadway is designed to allow for higher speeds for those who do not follow the speed limit.

Duncan said the corridor sees 3.5 times more crashes than the statewide average, but most are not serious and are rear-end collisions. He said most crashes occur at intersections, not between intersections.

Possible short-term steps include reducing the speed limit from 45 mph to 40 mph and installing intersection warning signs. Staff also recommended removing the crosswalk at Fifth Street and Old Ridge Street near Tonsler Park.

Mayor Nikuyah Walker was concerned removing the crosswalk wouldn’t stop people going to the park from crossing at the intersection.

Some people have recommended a stoplight at the intersection with Bailey Road, but Duncan said the intersection didn’t meet federal standards for a signal.

The city has been using state funding to apply for projects along the Fifth Street/Ridge/McIntire corridor. However, because of the nature of the funding, it would be 10 to 15 years before projects are completed.

City staff also is recommending a roundabout on Fifth Street near Bailey Road to break up a one-mile corridor of uninterrupted traffic flow. It’s estimated to cost between $3 million and $4 million.

Lighting also could be placed along the corridor to increase visibility. City staff plans to review how much of the CARES Act funding could be used for enhanced lighting throughout the corridor.

In the long-term, staff wants to encourage more biking, pedestrian and public transportation in the corridor.

On Cherry Avenue, the city had planned a traffic study in the area, but it was postponed because of the pandemic’s effect on traffic. Officials conducted a vehicle count in early November and plan to provide a report in January.

Duncan said preliminary findings of the report show traffic is not following the posted 35 mph speed limit. He said the report could recommend lowering the speed limit.

On Willard Drive, the issues are noise generated by speed bumps, truck traffic and vegetation blocking signs.

Staff has addressed the vegetation problems and added signs prohibiting trucks in the area.

Day care changes

In other business, the council approved zoning changes to ease regulations on day care facilities, making it easier to operate amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the revisions, a family day home serving up to four children is allowed in all zoning districts that permit residential uses. Facilities serving five to 12 children require a provisional-use permit.

Provisional-use permits are less onerous than special-use permits and can be approved administratively. Applicants for the provisional-use permit must provide a valid city business license and a state occupational license.

The permit will limit hours of operation to 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., but only 12 hours within each 24-hour period.

Applicants also must provide a traffic safety plan addressing drop-off and pick-up procedures. Only one person who does not live at the residence can assist in the business.

One exterior sign is allowed, but it cannot be lighted and must be no larger than two square feet.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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