Message from City Manager Dan Hoffman
For Winchester, like many cities, 2020 was a year like no other.
The impact of COVID-19 will continue to be felt for years to come, but I can confidently say that Winchester is well positioned to weather this storm. This can be attributed to a strong team of City Councilors, senior managers and staff, community partners, and volunteers working together through both good and difficult times. I was humbled to be selected as Winchester’s City Manager in the fall and I’m proud to now have a role in leading this beautiful city into the future. I’d like to acknowledge my predecessors, Interim City Manager Mary Beth Price and former City Manager Eden Freeman, for their hard work and leadership in 2020.
Despite the challenges and changes the previous year delivered, the City was able to continue providing a high level of service. We successfully implemented measures to help keep both our residents and employees safe while maintaining services and providing much-needed assistance. Whether it be wearing masks, offering grants to businesses and residents, adapting to virtual meetings, or finding new and innovative ways to deliver or enhance services, our team has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the community.
I am proud of how the City has managed the unprecedented year. We will take the lessons learned during 2020 and build not only a stronger government, but also a more resilient city. By continuing to focus on people, innovation, transparency, and services, I know the City of Winchester will thrive in 2021.
Economic Development, Arts & Vitality
In 2020, the Economic Development Department:
Released a business retention survey in order to find out how to best serve city businesses. The brief survey allowed staff to gather information about factors impacting businesses, their employees, and their ability to maintain and expand operations.
The Winchester Economic Development Authority partnered with Frederick and Clarke County, the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber, and the Lord Fairfax Community College Small Business Development Center to form the COVID-19 Economic Response Team, a collaborative campaign to unite and create solidarity amongst business owners in the region. Businesses were given access to a media tool kit and were able to sign the “Open and Safe NSV” safety pledge.
Created Old Town Vibe performance series, creating weekly paid opportunities for local artists and performers while prioritizing public health.
Partnered with Selah Theatre Project to host live outdoor theatre at Taylor Pavilion.
Launched Windependent! campaign to promote small independent businesses and educate shoppers on the economic impact of buying local.
Winchester-Frederick County Convention & Visitors Bureau
Zoning & Building Services
In 2020, Zoning & Building Services:
Updated the Planned Unit Development regulations to incentivize desirable amenities in new multifamily developments, such as:
- Installing solar panels
- Creating additions to the Green Circle Trail
- Making commercial space for a grocery store
Created a new zoning use type know as artisan manufacturing to allow for entrepreneurs to engage in non-intrusive manufacturing in our downtown central business district and highway commercial district.
Issued a total of 25 Zoning Determination letters.
Issued a total of 378 Zoning Use Permits.
In 2020, the Planning Division approved the following:
In 2020, the Public Services Department:
Worked with the Virginia Department of Transportation to propose improvements for the South Pleasant Valley corridor. See the video here.
Received the 2020 Water Quality Report and the City's water meets all state and federal standards.
Participated in the season three opener of the City's newshow publiCITY to discuss flood awareness.
Participated in a Go & See! with Barry Lee video to teach local students about what kinds of equipment they can find at City Yards and what our Public Works, Transit, Recycling & Refuse, and other teams use to keep Winchester moving.
Participated in a Parks & Recreation virtual course video to teach the community how to reduce food waste and grow their own vegetables.
Check out the Public Services Performance Measures for 2020 with a comparison to 2019 for context. See below and click the chart on the right to view larger.
Police Department & Emergency Communications
In 2020, the Police Department:
Started the Birthday Wishes Program to fill the gap in community outreach programs, which were brought to a hault by COVID-19. Officers were able to grant 56 wishes during the course of the program (April-May).
Produced the true crime podcast, DEFROST: Winchester's True Crime with Behan & Smith.
Partnered with Dakota's Dream to offer a reduced-price vaccination and nail trimming clinic at Jim Barnett Park for local pets.
Spent 22% of all man hours on mental health related calls. Click here for more stats.
Read the Story about our Department Diversity and check out the bodycam footage of officers assisting city residents out of a burning building.
Emergency Communications Center
In 2020, the Emergency Communications Center received 18,123 calls to 9-1-1. Of those, 70% were from wireless callers; 24 people utilized Text to 9-1-1.
In 2020, Emergency Management:
Refinement the Emergency Operations Plan and Emergency Support Functions: Continued disaster planning refinement with internal and external partners at all levels of government and the community for Council re-adoption in 2022.
Emergency Operations Center Upgrades: Design and procurement of equipment for the new full-time emergency operations center at the Public Services Administration Building currently under construction.
Local Emergency Declaration Activation and Response: Beginning in mid-March and extending throughout the year, the City was actively engaged in the global response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Goals of the response were the continuity of government, the health and welfare of the community; coordination and collaboration with Valley Health Systems, the Virginia Department of Health, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, internal stakeholders, and surrounding jurisdictions. Planning and execution of these efforts continue today with the brightest outlook as the vaccination process for critical infrastructure workers and the public are afforded to all people.
Participated in state-level emergency preparedness planning with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management regarding the national risk and capability assessment for Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA).
Participated in the COVID-19 state-level vaccination planning process with the Virginia Department of Health regarding vaccinating the public beginning in December.
Worked with the Department of Social Services on identification of mass sheltering community partners and the refinement of plans through a steering committee. Through various funding resources, critical sheltering supplies were procured to ensure mass sheltering during disasters can transition without delay.
Activated of the emergency operations center for planning and response to the civil rights protest.
Engaged and assisted with the Governor-led Health Equity Program where over 10,000 masks and bottles of hand sanitizer were distributed to families in the community identified as being part of the state social vulnerability index.
Parks & Recreation
In 2020, the Parks & Recreation Department:
Completed and occupied new Maintenance Facility, providing a safe environment for maintenance staff to perform duties associated with the division.
Completed Execution of Memorandum of Agreement with Shenandoah University relating to the renovation of Bodie Grimm and Henkel Harris Fields as well as the management, scheduling, maintenance and renovation of Bridgeforth and Rotary fields by Shenandoah University. Watch the signing video.
Initiated a plan to control aquatic vegetation in Wilkins’ Lake through the introduction of Grass Carp into the lake.
Applied for and received a matching grant from the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) to remove 14 dead and standing Ash Trees and replant 14 trees of varying species to replace the dead and standing trees. The overall cost of the project was $12,075 of which $4,960 was reimbursed by the VDOF. The balance of the project’s cost was derived from revenue received from Shentel related to the cell tower installation.
Initiated Holiday Lane drive-through holiday lights in Jim Barnett Park, with plans to continue it annually.
Created and implemented plans to provide services to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic while maintaining compliance with criteria presented in phases by Governor Northam with an emphasis on patron and staff safety. Services included, but were not limited to, Aquatics, Community Recreation, Child Care, Athletics, Special Events and Maintenance. Citizens of the community expressed great appreciation for the pro-active position of the department and the ability to provide services, although limited. Watch former Director Lynn Miller's video message to the community.
Created the Triple Q (Quarantine Quiz Quest) virtual contest that invited residents to test their knowledge of the Park and play for a chance to win prizes. These videos were posted to YouTube and Facebook, and the prize announcement video can be seen here.
Supported the Emergency Management Department by providing space for a Point of Distribution for critical resources that were distributed internally and to the community.
Designed and initiated a Virtual Community Holiday Tree Lighting through a collaborative effort with the City’s Communications and Public Services Departments.
Continued collaborating with the Emergency Management and Social Services concerning emergency/disaster sheltering.
Worked with Communications Department to create a virtual 9/11 Commemoration video.
Watch the Mayor's Kids to Parks Day Proclamation video.
Click the graphic on the right to view the Winchester Department of Social Services 2020 Annual Report.
In 2020, the Finance team:
Received reaffirmation of the AAA Bond Rating by S&P, which the City has earned consecutively since 2013.
Continued updating the City's open checkbook available here.
Check out the FY21 Budget in Brief or read the FY21 Adopted Budget for more details. See Your Tax Dollar at Work (right) and more on our Story.
Information & Innovation Services
In 2020, Information & Innovation Services (commonly referred to as Information Technology):
Improved City user cybersecurity awareness through a series of phishing exercises, from a high of 27% in 2019 to less than 10% in each of six tests in 2020.
Setup teleworking for a multitude of city employees in response to COVID-19 pandemic.
Created new Polling Place Locator web application that allows citizens to view polling place information and current representatives.
Updated all public-facing GIS web applications and improved the Tax Parcel Mapping application.
Completed GIS data QAQC/updated automated process for Next Generation 911.
Implemented internal GIS Portal and deployed various applications for City Departments, including:
• Fire and Rescue Call Dashboard
• Snow Plow Status Dashboard (pending)
• Public Services Road Condition Assessment
• ROW Permit Editor/Inspection
• Emergency Management Dashboards – COVID data monitoring, emergency shelter, weather, etc.
Created public survey for Economic Development Authority to distribute to local business to determine COVID-19 impacts (dashboard to view result/metrics).
Launched a citizen portal for Personal Property Tax with payments to be launched first quarter 2021. Improved Personal Property Tax transactions to reduce paper use and saved mailing costs by outsourcing Personal Property Tax delinquent notices.
Installed bill payment kiosks in the War Memorial Building at Jim Barnett Park and on the third floor of City Hall. Activated personal property bill payments and working to add more in 2021.
In 2020, the Communications Department:
Produced the second season of the Rouss Review Podcast (22 episodes).
Assisted the Police Department with the production of the podcast DEFROST: True Crime with Behan and Smith, which focused on an unsolved murder from 1975.
- 116 media inquiries (excludes requests handled by the Police Department)
- 601 City 311 service requests
- 358 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests
Produced and uploaded 106 videos spanning various departments and subjects to the City's YouTube channel.
Distributed the 2021 Informational Calendar and a Pandemic Newsletter (info about COVID-19 and City services) to all city residences.