Petersburg city council votes for numerous changes in final meeting of year

PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — It was a busy night at the Petersburg City Council meeting as several major issues came up—everything from the way the mayor is elected to crime in the city.

After a presentation from the Citizen Advisory Committee, councilwomen Treska Wilson-Smith made an immediate motion that could change the way officials are elected.

“I would like to make a motion for a referendum for the November 2017 ballot which asks the question of the citizens, do you wish to vote for your Mayor and Vice Mayor,” Wilson-Smith said.

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That motion was met with roaring applause. Currently, the mayor and vice mayor in Petersburg are chosen amongst the elected city council members. The motion passed from elections to crime.

“You all have allowed our neighborhood in the heights to be nicknamed the killing field,” said one person who spoke at the meeting.

A group of citizens all signed up to speak during the public comment period on what they called a spike in crime.

“It’s a reality, it’s not a good feeling to see the death of our youth daily having fear of coming out your front door,” said another meeting attendee.

The topic—they say they want former Police Chief John Dixon reinstated, despite stats showing crime so far this year is down.

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“Shootings are down from last year, homicides are down from last year aggravated assaults are down from last year. Are there too many? Certainly. Do we want to do better? Yes. But these people who are saying that it’s out of control, that it’s spiking don’t remember last year apparently,” Police Chief William Rohde.

This also in light of city workers, including police, seeing a 10% reduction in their salary. Plus a recent departure of officers in the city.

And to cap the night off, State Senator Rosalyn Dance made a rare address directed right at the council members.

“I’ll be brief and say that as a resident I am concerned about where my tax dollars are being spent and I am not happy with the leadership as I have seen thus far this year,” she said.

Also at the meeting, members voted to consider an option that would turn over the management of water and wastewater to an outside vendor. That vendor would also be responsible for billing and collections.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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