As promised, I would like to delve into the new plans for the amphitheater in Roanoke City. I was reminded today by a reader and I appreciate the phone call.

Roanoke was applauded when they decided to remove the amphitheater plans from the budget this year. However, in an action that further perpetuated the displeasure with Roanoke City Council, they decided to add it back in. WTF? Exactly.

Two things I am sick and tired of is hearing about is that damn amphitheater


how out of money Roanoke City is!

The Amphitheater

Let me talk directly about why we don’t need an amphitheater. Because no one has shown the need for it. I have always said, going back to the Victory Stadium saga,  that if we needed one Victory Stadium would have been booked all year long. But it wasn’t.

What kind of leadership are we being run by? “If you build it, they will come”. Sure, that worked great in the movie, but in real life what guarantees to we have?

I think that a lot of the progressive things happening in Roanoke are great. Unfortunately, most are being done for the wrong reasons. Roanoke needs to stop funding private initiatives. Remember the apartment building at 1st and Campbell? Remember the tax breaks given to them? What about Ukrops? Remember the tax breaks given to them?

Get a hold of yourselves. We cannot prosper under a plan of increased tax revenue if every new tax revenue possibility is given tax breaks.

What about the City funded initiatives? Remember how much Roanoke City gave to the Art Museum? Can anyone count how many other museums we already have that are fighting for funding? Remember that huge green space where the amphitheater was supposed to go…before anyone said it was ok to put it there? Remember how much we spent on that?

What about studies and consultants? Why in the hell is Roanoke City paying salaries for some positions when every time we need data we have to outsource it? The people who should be doing it get to skate. Maybe we should be hiring more qualified individuals who can put together a report when needed.

Is Roanoke really broke?

You tell me. If you are living paycheck to paycheck and can’t hardly afford to put food on the table are you going to go out and purchase a luxury yacht?

Here are the ways Roanoke City has asked us to help out:

  • Turn trucks off on scene
  • Don’t let them idle too long before going somewhere
  • Keep the lights off as much as possible at the station
  • Don’t run the A/C too cold
  • Don’t run the heat to high
  • Don’t go out and train or ride territory too much

Here are the ways Roanoke City has forced us to help out:

  • No raise last year
  • No merit raise last year (maximum was less then 1%)
  • No more ICMA match (the maximum City paid was $25 a paycheck)
  • No more training other than on duty mandatory training
  • No more travel
  • No more college tuition assistance
  • No more pagers to find out about overtime
  • No more overtime, now we simply mark trucks out of service
  • No more vacation after signups because we have too many vacancies

I might have left something out, but that is a pretty pitiful look at what we have given up already.

Now lets go back to the $14,000,000, that’s million with an M, they are proposing to spend on the amphitheater. Do you think we have that kind of money laying around.

Bowers also praised Trinkle as a major behind-the-scenes driver in adding the City Market Building renovation and Elmwood Park amphitheater to the city’s five-year capital spending plan. Bowers said that those projects, combined with the Jefferson Center, Roanoke Civic Center and Valley View Mall, will make Roanoke a “tourism magnet that should have regional appeal throughout the mid-Atlantic states.” (source

What about us Bowers? The Roanoke City EMPLOYEES who make Roanoke City what it is. What about the ones who work day in and day out for a City who spends money so frivolously yet cannot afford to give their employees a COST OF LIVING RAISE?

If we don’t have the money then WE DON’T HAVE THE MONEY! Don’t tell us we don’t have the money and then spend $14 million like it is going out of style.

Ethics people…..Ethics….ethics…..groan…

I couldn’t help but notice about a minute into the video below the mention of increased money for public safety. I fail to see how that is an accomplishment of anyone’s. I find it hard for anyone to claim that accomplishment due to the fact that our budget has been cut year after year after year. We have lost many positions, seen others moved, and witnessed the administration side of the Fire/EMS Department get bloated, yet it has all been done while the budget gets cut.

And then there is the audacity for the Roanoke School Administrators to give themselves a raise after teachers lost their jobs. Watch below. If these people can’t see what is wrong with their actions they have no business running the school system!!! Only one was given a 4% raise which is according to a WSLS reporter to be approximate to the Cost of Living raise. If 4% is the cost of living raise then I have only had one cost of living raise in 10 years, all the others didn’t measure up! Some of those school administrators got up to 32%. Ha ha ha. I bet they are laughing all the way to the bank. Aren’t we a bunch of suckers!

The Budget is on the forefront of news this week. City Council is trying to hone in on what will be the cuts for the future year. I am sure many of you remember we lost 6 or 9 positions last year (still unclear on the number). This year we already stand to lose 6 according to the Roanoke Times. Those 6 were once told they were going to take from Clearbrook and move to Station 8 to put Medic 8 in service. It will be interesting to see what happens. You can read the Roanoke Times article here.

Nine firefighters will retire this year from the Roanoke Fire EMS Department. The retirements stem from an incentive to leave before December 1st after giving notice by March 16th. The incentive comes just in time to beat the increase in health care next year which ranges from $100 to $200 per month depending on the health care plan. Forty-Six Roanoke City employees took advantage of the retirement incentive. Read more abou the retirements here. Congratulations to those who will be retiring. Estimates are that the guys leaving have around 230-250 years of service. I look forward to attending some of the retirement parties!

The City Council voted to suspend the 457 contribution paid by the City effective April 1st. The contribution was a match up to $25 per paycheck. I am not sure how many employees Roanoke City has, but based on 1200 if everyone took advantage of the match, Roanoke City will save 780k each year or 30k per period the match is suspended. The suspension was put in place to help Roanoke City cover a budget deficit this fiscal year. Hopefully, they will add it into the budget for next year. The news of the suspension was emailed out via City email.

Read below for a great idea by the Alexandria Fire and EMS Department. The Department is trying to cut costs and energy consumption in its fire stations. The plan is below. This is an excellent example of coming up with a winning combination; Department/City referendum with reward to the employees. After all, the savings is totally up to the firefighters.

On Monday December 1, 2008, the Alexandria Fire and EMS Department will launch an energy saving competition among its eight fire stations in an effort to reduce energy consumption and make a positive impact on the environment, while saving City funds. Every month utility bills for each station will be compared to the previous month’s bills to determine the levels of energy used. The levels of energy saved and the percentage change used will be compared among all stations. The station that demonstrates the highest levels of saved energy will be recognized and rewarded.

Department Fire and EMS employees from the winning station will be rewarded with a dessert of the month. At the end of eleven months, the station with the greatest number of winning months will be rewarded with a dinner. The goals of the competition are to reduce energy usage in a competitive manner, to demonstrate the Department’s commitment to conserve energy, and to reduce utility costs in these tough fiscal times.

Ongoing research of creative ways for reducing energy waste will be shared with all Department personnel through “Tips of The Month.” Short-term measures for reducing energy consumption include adjusting thermostats, closing outside doors, shutting off electric appliances while not in use and cutting down on water usage. Longer-term measures may include sensored lighting and more efficient heat systems. The Department’s competition complements the City of Alexandria’s “Eco-City” initiative. The Department has set as its goal an annual reduction of five percent in utility usage.

Excerpt taken from Alexandria Fire EMS Department website.

I think that most firefighters are breathing a sigh of relief after the announcements of the budget reductions for the Fiscal Year 2009. The impacts of the reductions will fortunately be a lot less than the rumors had them. However, we are not out of the woods yet. The announcement is for the year ending on June 30th. More than likely, we will see more changes for the next fiscal year in the form of budget cuts.

For now, the reductions will mean less fuel usage, less training expenditures, less overtime, and a reduction in part-time medic 101 staffing. The reductions also have a hiring “freeze” and promotional “freeze”. Right now, we might only have one or two open positions. With the incentive for retirements between July 1 and December 1 and increased insurance for those who retire after December 31st, we might foresee up to a dozen openings by the end of the year.

Luckily the rumors of a furlough, loss of the ICMA match, and other reductions are not founded at this time.

The reductions are listed below.

  1. Training and travel requiring city funding will be suspended unless already approved. Additionally, Rescue Challenge held in May has been canceled for this year at the recommendation of all three area Fire Chiefs.
  2. In order to manage overtime liability, the Battalion Chiefs of Training, Airport and EMS Health and Safety will back fill as necessary if daily staffing levels drop below 63.
  3. Part-time medic unit 101 staffing has been scaled back to 10 hour days effective March 2, 2009.
  4. Reduction of code enforcement and inspection activities out of the fire marshal’s office
  5. Pre-Fire Planning suspended until July 1, 2009
  6. Hydrant Maintenance suspended until Fall 2009
  7. Hiring Process suspended until Fall or Winter of 2009/2010
  8. Promotional process suspended until Fall 2009. Fall testing dates will be posted by April 1, 2009.
  9. Company Officers are to police all unnecessary trips out of the station and consolidate necessary trips when possible.
  10. Company Officers are to conserve energy usage by keeping doors closed, thermostats set at a reasonable temperature, turning off unnecessary lighting, etc.

These are the department specific reductions, there may be more handed down from the City. One City reduction that has already occurred is the Tuition Assistance Program, it has been suspended as of February 23rd.

Hopefully, things don’t get too bad for the next budget year. Trust me, things could be a lot worse. With the economy the way it is, things will more than likely get much worse before they get better. Hopefully it doesn’t get too bad though.