Council hears plan for flood mitigation: Street renaming also considered during legislative meeting

Council hears plan for flood mitigation: Street renaming also considered during legislative meeting
File Photo

By Thompson Eskew

City Council received an updated review of the Department of Project Implementation’s flood mitigation efforts along Alexandria’s waterfront, as well as the status of efforts to rename streets bearing Confederate names, during a legislative meeting Tuesday night.

DPI Director Terry Suehr and Portfolio Manager Matthew Landes updated council on the procurement process for the Water- front Implementation Project. Suehr discussed the importance of the project and the need for transparency throughout the implementation process. He said the project is currently still in the proposal process.

Landes described how the WIP addresses the sources of flooding from an overflow in stormwater sewers due to increasingly severe rain events in the area.

“The goal of this project are to mitigate the stormwater and the most frequent tidal and riverine flooding events accordingly, but also to replace aging and failing shoreline infrastructure that is at the end of its useful lifespan,” Landes said.

Improving public accessibility to the waterfront in key locations within Old Town is another major concern of the project.

Of the five available and applicable project delivery models the DPI has reviewed for potential implementation, the Progressive Design-Build Model was selected for providing contractors flexibility to develop a project scope while continuously engaging with the public. Landes and Suehr emphasized this would allow the scope’s development to meet a fixed budget, reducing the risk of unforeseen costs. It would also allow for a collaborative partnership with the community and decision-makers within the city.

The completion of this model will be delivered in two phases. The first phase is the Interim Agreement, which includes site investigations, an additional analysis of alternatives, the development of the design, permitting and the development of the Guaranteed Maximum Price proposal. The authorization to review and execute this phase will occur on June 27, 2023.

The second phase is the Comprehensive Agreement, which includes the completion of the design, the completion of permitting and construction. This phase currently has no timeline available to the public.

Following this assessment of the WIP, Strategic Initiatives Officer Dana Wedeles was given the floor to address the scope of work for renaming Confederate streets and to discuss potential changes or concerns of City Councilors.

Wedeles discussed the background of the scope of work.

“The process of developiing this strategy began in January with the Mayor’s proposal to rename the streets named for confederate soldiers,” Wedeles said.

Wedeles also pointed out the outlined 41 streets that they have confirmed to be named after Confederate soldiers.

“Of the 41, we have identified that 20 of them were named in 1953 in one Ordinance,” Wedeles said. “This was following the annexation of the West End, and just preceding “Brown vs. Board of Education,’” allowing the ordinance to state that all streets running in a general north-south direction could be allowed to bear the names of Confederate military leaders.

Some concerns that have been previously raised by residents who live on streets slated for renaming were also addressed.

“The city’s responsibility would include changing everything listed on the website, postal service, property tax, land records, voter registration, schools, and emergency services, so residents are not responsible for any of those items,” Wedeles said.

Should their street name be changed, residents would still be responsible for IRS forms, Social Security forms, any financial and insurance forms, as well as subscriptions and business listings. Forms such as a driver’s license, passport and wills and trusts would not require any immediate change. The new name of a resident’s street would be included when driver’s licenses and passports would be automatically updated when they are up for renewal. This information is also located on the city’s website.

Between April and September, the Historic Alexandria Resource Commission will be continuing to develop a list of new names for Confederate streets with the support of the Office of Historic Alexandria. The HARC has already begun extensive research into historically marginalized groups and events that have been largely ignored throughout history. Street names that were retired as a result of the 1953 ordinance and those being submitted to the commission by the public are also being considered.

A Naming Committee will meet in September to select the three prioritized streets for renaming in 2023, as well as two or three alternative streets. HARC will provide their list of potential new names at this meeting so that three names will be selected for consideration. This meeting will also allow the public to comment.

Following this meeting, a media release will be made available with public feedback forms on the recommended names, inviting suggestions from the community. Any pro- posed name must include justification, documentation on a community-led meeting that discussed the name and potentially recommendations from community representatives or organizations such as the homeowners’ association.