Mayor outlines priorities, progress in Petersburg

Published: Jan. 30, 2020 at 11:12 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Petersburg leaders are outlining their priorities to improve city operations, as well as the quality of life. Among those priorities are attracting new businesses into town and clearing blighted properties.

Beginning next week, city officials will begin interviewing to bring on a new Economic Development Director. That's a position Petersburg hasn't had filled in years.

"Feeling very optimistic about the year,” Mayor Sam Parham said.

He’s being frank about the past because he feels the city is now in much better shape.

"We had a point where we were on the verge of bankruptcy here in the city,” Parham said.

But now Petersburg can hire someone to lead economic development. A few years ago, leaders stopped looking due to finances.

"We weren’t doing a lot of hiring at the time to make sure we were headed in the right direction,” he added.

The city is also going after the owner of the old Ramada building, a run-down property you can see right off of the interstate. The owner promised to bring new apartments and businesses into the space.

"Here it is five years later and still no motion…At this point and time, we’ve issued criminal and civil summons for those violations on the hotel,” Parham said.

They're also going after homeowners who have abandoned their properties.

"It’s a cancer in our neighborhoods,” Parham said.

Right now, a bill at the General Assembly proposes giving Petersburg the power to charge higher taxes on property owners who aren’t taking care of home.

“We have homes that get boarded up. People buy them and hope to invest in them. It’s a lot of people that’s out of state and trying to get in contact with them has been very difficult,” Parham said.

This as they work to improve the internal flow of the city, this month Petersburg made it easier for neighbors to pay their utility bills and get answers about taxes they owe by moving all departments that involve money into one building.

"We found out in our financial crisis one of the biggest issues we had…was the fact that our financial functions of the city were not talking to each other…Our citizens can experience a one-stop-shop instead of running from department to department,” Parham added.

Petersburg also saw an increase in its bond rating, the highest it’s been in years. That makes it easier for Petersburg to borrow money for lenders for emergency needs. It also makes it more attractive for developers who may be eyeing the city.

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