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Bus ride calls attention to accessibility issues
Roanoke city officials got a firsthand look last week at how difficult it can be for people with disabilities to ride Valley Metro buses.
Bus Riders of Roanoke Advocacy Group invited city leaders on Friday to use wheelchairs or walkers on a one-hour bus trip. They also noted whether stops on the route had benches, shelters or curb cuts that could accommodate wheelchairs. Most did not.
“It was very eye-opening,” said Dwayne D’Ardenne, who manages the city’s transportation division and sits on the Greater Roanoke Transit Company board of directors.
D’Ardenne said the trip “highlights the need for continued progress on ADA improvements.” He gave the example of a spot on 10th Street — which recently underwent an extensive renovation from the Virginia Department of Transportation — where an empty concrete pad begged for a bench or shelter.
Valley Metro is in the process of inventorying its 800-odd bus stops to see which need improvements.
Steve Grammer, a disability advocate who uses a motorized wheelchair, came up with the idea for city officials and elected leaders to use mobility devices on the buses. The event commemorated the anniversary of the 1990 signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
One member of Roanoke City Council attended, Vice Mayor Joe Cobb, who also chairs the GRTC board. Cobb rode along with Grammer and took notes. He opted not to use a wheelchair, saying he wanted to lean on Grammer’s lived experience.
One of the more popular stops on Grammer and Cobb’s route was the Valley View Mall stop at Walmart. City Manager Bob Cowell said at a recent Council meeting that the city has tried for decades to get interest from the private property owner to erect a shelter without success. He noted that Walmart itself is in support of such infrastructure.
Keith Holland, who oversees federal housing funds for the city, took part in Friday’s event and said he was impressed with the new Third Street Station and his driver.
“He was very knowledgeable of the needs of disabled riders and pointed out where improvements could be made with crosswalks and [accessibility] and safety improvements,” Holland said in an email. “He was very attentive to securing my chair safely and making sure I was comfortable. … All in all, a very informative and educational experience for me.”
Roanoke eyes new police chief in next month
Roanoke hopes to hire a new police chief by late August or early September, city officials say.
Twenty-two people have applied for the position, according to the city, which declined to release applications citing the personnel record exemption in the state’s public records law.
The city is paying executive search firm GovHR $24,705 to recruit the new chief.
Roanoke used GovHR in its hiring of former chief Sam Roman — who became an assistant city manager July 1 — as well as deputy chiefs Jerry Stokes and David Morris.
City leaders are in the process of forming a citizen interview panel, as it has in the past, as well as an administrative interview panel represented by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office and other agencies.
White-Boyd trails Suetterlein in money race
State Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke County, is trouncing Democratic opponent Trish White-Boyd in fundraising, campaign finance reports show.
Both are competing in a newly redistricted Senate seat that includes Roanoke City, Salem and parts of Roanoke County and Montgomery County. The district leans Republican.
Suetterlein received $83,566 worth of contributions between June 9 and June 30, with $412,618.27 remaining on hand, reports show. That included a $35,000 donation from Clean Virginia Fund, which aims to counteract Dominion Energy’s lobbying.
White-Boyd, a member of Roanoke City Council, received $6,620 over the same time frame, with $9,671.97 on hand.
But White-Body also reported several large donations more recently, including $10,000 in July from the campaign coffers of Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, who is retiring.
White-Boyd defeated Democratic challengers Luke Priddy and DeAnthony “D.A.” Pierce in a June 20 primary. Suetterlein did not have a Republican challenger.
The general election is Nov. 7.
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