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Mayor: Social Services would still have City Hall office if headquarters moved

Jeremy Lazarus | 11/29/2018, 6 a.m.
The Richmond Department of Social Services would continue to have a presence at City Hall even if its headquarters building ...

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Mayor Stoney

The Richmond Department of Social Services would continue to have a presence at City Hall even if its headquarters building is moved to a distant location to make way for development of an apartment and retail complex as part of the Richmond Coliseum replacement plan.

So said Mayor Levar M. Stoney in response to concerns from City Council members that moving the department from Downtown would make it harder for the city’s poorest residents to meet with social workers or apply for food stamps, Medicaid and other services.

Two council members told the Free Press that they have been speaking in opposition to a move because the mayor and his staff never told them about plans to keep a Social Services office in Downtown.

The mayor said the city would never deliberately seek to create a hardship for Social Services clients.

“It would make no sense to build a new GRTC transfer center as part of the coliseum development and not have residents able to have access to Social Services” nearby, Mayor Stoney said on Nov. 16.

Space is being set aside for GRTC to develop a modern, indoor transfer space as part of the proposal to replace the 47-year-old Richmond Coliseum and bring new apartments, a hotel and other private developments to an adjacent 10-block section of Downtown.

Mayor Stoney did not offer any specifics as to what such a City Hall space for Social Services would offer and whether it would relieve the need for people to travel to the department’s proposed new offices that might be located 6 miles away in a hard-to-reach commercial district in South Side.

The mayor’s response came after several members of City Council raised concerns about his proposal to move the department’s offices that now sit across from City Hall to a commercial area on Walmsley Boulevard near the Philip Morris cigarette factory, an area that has limited GRTC bus service.

Mayor Stoney previously said that the city intends to increase its subsidy to GRTC to cover the cost of beefing up service to the area.

If the proposal advances, it could lead to closure of the Southside Community Service Center the city operates at Southside Plaza, a major concern for 8th District Councilwoman Reva M. Trammell, as the Free Press reported.

Both Ms. Trammell and 2nd District Councilwoman Kim B. Gray said the mayor and his administration never suggested that Social Services would have an office at City Hall when they were briefed on the prospect that the department would be relocated.

“This is something we should have been told,” Ms. Gray said.