Increased staffing and pay for Lynchburg police officers as well as improvements to the Lynchburg Community Market were among top priorities for residents at Tuesday’s Lynchburg City Council public hearing on the proposed $421.5 million budget.
The proposed fiscal year 2022 budget is an increase of $54 million, or 14.7%, during the adopted fiscal year 2021 budget and contains a $64.8 million fiscal year 2022 capital improvement program.
Rick Loving, president of the Lynchburg Police Foundation, encouraged council to consider funding additional staffing for the department and maintain competitive pay for officers to allow for quality recruitment and greater officer retention.
He cited a proposal given by Lynchburg Police Chief Ryan Zuidema in August that asked council to fund the hiring of 26 new officers and at least 16 new civilian employees during the next several years.
This request to council was echoed by other residents, such as Rebecca Melton, a member of the Community Policing Advisory Group, who said competitive salaries would incentivize experienced officers to stay in Lynchburg. She encouraged council to increase funding and staffing.
Carl Hutcherson, president of the Lynchburg branch of the NAACP, also pushed for the additional officers and professional staff and said the department should be sure to include minority officers in those positions, as well.
The current proposed budget includes $267,956 for the police department to add three administrative service associate positions to allow sworn personnel to move off the desk and resume law enforcement activities. This funding pool also includes the money for two patrol vehicles for those officers.
Hutcherson, Loving and Melton each expressed excitement about the new police department headquarters, a $35 million project included in the fiscal year 2023 capital improvement plan.
“The need is greater than ever. I’m proud of the fact that the police department is looking to build the new building in the neighborhood in which I live,” Hutcherson said, referring to the Kemper Street location proposed for the project.
Several city residents also wrote letters to be read at the public hearing advocating for more funding and improvements to the community market downtown.
Business owners located in the market, including Dee Tinsley, Dwayne and Jannett Spearman and Tom Hayman, each wrote about the “untapped potential” and essential service the market provides to the city.
A tourist hotspot and home to many local businesses, they said renovations to the building, as well as new signage and an improved storefront to alert people to the businesses inside, are sorely needed.
Currently, more than $4 million is contained the city capital improvement plan through fiscal year 2026 to support renovations to the community market.
The fiscal year 2022 capital improvement plan includes $82,500 for architectural and engineering design services for the market.
ontinue to be discussed by council during the next several weeks, with budget adoption slated for May 25.