‘We engage our community … and establish a trust that strengthens over time.’
Henrico voters’ resounding approval of a $511 million bond referendum last week is evidence of a “strong feedback loop” that keeps the county in sync with the community’s needs, County Manager John A. Vithoulkas said in his annual State of the County address.
The four questions’ average approval rate of 87% represents the highest level of support ever recorded in Henrico referendums dating to 1953, he said. It also exceeds what other localities received on similar ballot initiatives as part of the Nov. 8 general election.
“I want to thank you all that voted and thank you for helping us bring forward projects that meet our community’s needs,” Vithoulkas said. “This is an example of what President Lincoln referred to in his Gettysburg Address of a ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people.’”
Henrico will soon start work on more than 20 capital projects that will be funded over the next six to eight years “depending on the economy,” he said. The projects will improve schools, parks, fire stations and other public safety facilities and drainage.
The speech Wednesday to about 150 business leaders, officials and others at the Hilton Richmond Hotel & Spa in Short Pump highlighted scores of accomplishments and updates across service areas, including:
- In public safety, the addition of 88 positions for the Police and Fire divisions and Sheriff’s Office and the start of construction next spring on a 30-bed, privately operated detoxification center at the Eastern Government Center campus;
- In education, continued investments in new and renovated school buildings plus expanded efforts in career and technical education, including the new Center for Environmental Studies and Sustainability at Varina High School and Center for Allied Health and Human Services at Hermitage High School;
- In fiscal management, $51 million in tax relief provided to residents through the county’s 2+2 plan and the county’s largest ever year-end fund balance of nearly $430 million;
- In workforce housing, work by the county and with a consortium of partners to improve the living conditions at the Glenwood Farms apartment complex;
- In sports tourism, the establishment of the Henrico Sports & Entertainment Authority, construction of the Henrico Sports & Events Center at Virginia Center Commons and agreements to purchase and develop more athletic fields;
- In economic development, corporate relocations and project announcements exceeding $250 million as well as major investments in and planning efforts for the Innsbrook, Westwood, Regency, Virginia Center Commons and Williamsburg Road areas; and
- In transportation, 120 active projects totaling $530 million to improve mobility, accessibility and safety.
Vithoulkas said the county’s feedback loop with the community – the constant listening and engagement with residents, business leaders and others – is essential to Henrico’s sustained success.
“We engage our community – our customers – and ask what they want. Then, we plan and ultimately deliver,” he said. “In doing so, we establish a trust that strengthens over time.”