The City of Topeka announced Tuesday that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will award the city a grant to help spread awareness and increase participation in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
The ACP provides qualifying households with a discount on broadband, and a one-time discount on connected devices. Qualifying households are eligible for a discount of up to $30 per month on internet service and up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer or tablet from participating providers. To learn more about the ACP and to apply, visit https://www.fcc.gov/acp.
The city will use its grant funding to advertise the ACP over the next two years through a robust marketing and advertising campaign that includes the use of social media, traditional media, flyers, infographics, standing banners, mailers, a video, and community education events in partnership with the FCC.
Of the $66 million total funds allocated by the FCC, the city will receive just over $90,000. The city is one of two organizations in Kansas to receive the grant. To learn more about the grant awardees, read the FCC announcement at https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-announces-66m-affordable-broadband-outreach-grants.
The ACP is funded under the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Infrastructure Act). The city’s grant period begins on March 30, 2023 and ends in March of 2025.
The city is dedicated to spreading awareness of digital equity, and currently administers the Topeka and Shawnee County Get Digital program (TSC – Get Digital), alongside various community partners. TSC – Get Digital provides affordable and equitable access to computer and internet equipment and services, along with technical support, training opportunities, and digital literacy services for low and moderate-income individuals and families. To date, TSC – Get Digital has distributed more than 600 desktop computers to qualifying 60+ Topekans. You can learn more about TSC – Get Digital by visiting https://www.topeka.org/tscgetdigital/.
The City of Topeka announced Monday that it hired Alicia Guerrero-Chavez to serve as its Internal Investigator. The Internal Investigator position is a new position to the city, and is an expansion of what was the Independent Police Auditor position.
The Internal Investigator’s role is to investigate internal and external complaints related to all city departments, employees and services, including police-related matters.
“With this position, we will be able to more broadly enhance city investigations as a whole, allowing us to ensure we are serving our community and our employees at the level they deserve,” said Topeka City Manager Stephen Wade. “Alicia comes to the City of Topeka with a wealth of knowledge and experience in this area, and we are delighted to have her on board.”
Guerrero-Chavez comes to the city with 10 years of investigation work, including experience in risk management. She has a Juris Doctor from Washburn University’s School of Law and a bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University. Guerrero-Chavez is a past Topeka “Top 20 Under 40” Honoree and is active with the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.
To contact the office of the Internal Investigator, email email@example.com or call 785-368-3763. The office is housed in City Hall.
Guerrero-Chavez’s first day is Monday, February 20.
Topeka and Shawnee County’s homeless population is at a four-year high, according to numbers released Thursday from the City of Topeka’s annual Point in Time Homeless Count.
The count took place on January 25. The one-day event provides a snapshot of the individuals in the community who are experiencing homelessness, as defined by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). More than 40 people helped with this year’s count.
According to the count, 412 people and 322 households are experiencing homelessness in Topeka and Shawnee County. 59% of those who are homeless are male, while 40% are female. 157 people are unsheltered, meaning they are not living in an emergency shelter or in transitional housing.
“The increase in the number of unsheltered homeless is no surprise to the Topeka/Shawnee County Homeless Task Force,” said Corrie Wright, Division Director of Housing Services for the City of Topeka. “It is imperative that the community works collaboratively to help address these growing numbers. Under City Manager Stephen Wade’s leadership, and with support from the Topeka Governing Body, we look forward to working collaboratively with the city’s consultant and community partners to reach long-term solutions.”
Below is a chart that breaks down the numbers from the previous four counts. For a more detailed look at the 2023 numbers, visit https://cot-wp-uploads.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2023/02/16173423/City-of-Topeka-Point-in-Time-Homeless-Count-2023.pdf.
|# of Veteran Households||40||16||37||25|
|# of Individuals in an Emergency Shelter||254||155||163||194|
|# of Individuals in Transitional Housing||51||38||54||61|
|# of Individuals Unsheltered||68||105||148||157|
To receive funding for programs, HUD requires communities complete a count each year. The count ensures the city can obtain the appropriate level of funding to be able to provide needed services to those experiencing homelessness and those at risk for homelessness.
The City of Topeka announced Tuesday that it hired Randi Stahl to serve as its next Chief Information Officer (CIO).
Stahl has served in a variety of leadership roles in the community including technology-based experience, risk management, project management, and more. She obtained both her MBA and bachelor’s degree from Baker University. Stahl serves on the Technology Advisory Committee for the Seaman School District, and is a volunteer for Shawnee County 4-H and the Shawnee County Fair Board.
“Randi is an experienced leader, having served in diverse roles throughout her career. I’m thrilled to bring Randi on board, so we at the city can take our IT services to the next level, including the implementation of a new city website, better integrating systems, and much more,” said City Manager Stephen Wade.
The CIO, formerly known as the Information Technology (IT) Director, leads a 21-member team responsible for all telecommunications, computing and business system functions for the city.
“I am humbled at the opportunity to become the CIO for the city I have called home for my entire life. As a lifelong Topekan, I look forward to leading the city government’s Information Technology Department as we modernize systems to support our great citizens and staff,” said Stahl.
Stahl’s first day is February 13.
The City of Topeka is preparing to kick off the 2023 “Fix Our Streets” season, as part of the city’s continued efforts to improve our infrastructure.
Construction season typically starts in March or April, and runs through November, depending on weather. The city’s Public Works and Utilities departments work collaboratively on these projects, when applicable.
The following highlighted “Fix Our Streets” projects are slated for 2023:
- NW Tyler St. – Paramore St. to Beverly St. – Reconstruction
- SE Carnahan Ave. – I-70 to 21st St. – Reconstruction
- SW Wenger Rd. north of 57th St. – Reconstruction
- Alley between N Kansas Ave. and NE Quincy St., from St. John St. to Paramore St. – Reconstruction
- SW 6th Ave. and Jackson St. intersection – Pavement repair
- SW Topeka Blvd. – 17th St. to 18th St. – Pavement repair
- SW 17th St. – Tyler St. to Topeka Blvd. – Pavement repair
- SW 6th Ave. – Oakley Ave. to MacVicar Ave. – Pavement repair
- SE California Ave. – I-70 to north end of bridge – Pavement repair
- SE Golden Ave. – I-70 to SE 21st St. – Pavement repair
- SW Gage Blvd. – Huntoon St. to 12th St. – Pavement repair
- NW Goodyear Rd. at US-24 Interchange – Pavement repair
- SW 10th Ave. – Urish Rd. to Wanamaker Rd. – Mill and overlay
- SW Knollwood Dr. – MacVicar Ave. to Burlingame Rd. – Mill and overlay
- SW 29th St. – Wanamaker Rd. to Arrowhead Rd. – Mill and overlay
Funding for the city’s “Fix Our Streets” projects are primarily supported through the citywide half-cent sales tax.
For more information about these projects, please visit https://www.topeka.org/publicworks/.
The City of Topeka is preparing to host the annual Point in Time Homeless Count.
The count will take place on Wednesday, January 25, 2023 from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Approximately 25 employees and volunteers will work that day to count those who are experiencing homelessness in Topeka.
To receive funding for programs, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires communities complete a count each year. The count ensures the city can obtain the appropriate level of funding to be able to provide needed services to those experiencing homelessness and those at risk for homelessness.
“Topeka is committed to helping the homeless in our community. The Point in Time Homeless Count is the first important step to see where the most need is in our community,” said Corrie Wright, Division Director of Housing Services for the City of Topeka.
The information gathered will help Topeka to understand the face of homelessness within the community, make sure services are meeting the needs of homeless population, raise public awareness about the issues surrounding homelessness, and measure community progress towards preventing and ending homelessness.
In order to ensure everyone is counted, the city asks anyone who is homeless – or knows someone who is – to call 785-368-0168 between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on January 25. Interviewers will also be available that day at the city’s Holliday Building, which is located at 620 SE Madison St.
In addition to the count, city staff and partners will be offering resources to individuals, including assistance available through the Equity.Access.Shelter. (E.A.S.) program.
Bill Fiander, the City of Topeka’s Director of Planning and Development, announced Friday that he’s retiring from the City of Topeka and pursuing a new opportunity in the community. Fiander will join the staff at Washburn University as a faculty lecturer in the Political Science Department developing the public administration program and next generation of public sector leaders.
Fiander came to Topeka as the city’s first neighborhood planner, hired by former Topeka Mayor Joan Wagnon. He’s served in various leadership roles during his more than 25-year tenure, including the last 10 years as director of what is now the Planning and Development Department. Fiander oversaw growth of a department from 12 to 44 employees, which now encompass the city’s planning, zoning, building, and affordable housing functions.
“We are indebted to Bill for his incredible service to Topeka over the last two decades. Bill was a trailblazer who brought Topeka things such as our neighborhood health map, smart growth planning for infill and downtown development, greater citizen participation in new development projects, ‘complete streets’ for pedestrians and bicyclists, a new online permitting process, and community-wide design standards for commercial areas and signs. Bill is leaving big shoes to fill and while we will miss him at the city, I couldn’t be happier for him and our community with his new role,” said Topeka City Manager Stephen Wade.
“What a privilege it’s been answering the call to serve Topeka. It gave me everything a young planner dreamed of who wanted to make a difference in the plight of our central cities. There’s great peace not only looking back at how far we’ve come, but also looking ahead at where we can go with our next generation of planning, development, and housing professionals under the City Manager’s leadership. I’m honored to pass that torch while still answering a new, but similar call to serve,” said Fiander.
Fiander’s last date at the city will be January 13. Rhiannon Friedman, the city’s Director of Development and Economic Growth, will serve as the Interim Director of Planning and Development.
The City of Topeka announced Thursday that it hired Freddy Mawyin to serve as its next Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Mawyin currently serves as the Senior Economic Advisor at the Greater Topeka Partnership (GTP).
Prior to his role at GTP, Mawyin served in the United States Army as an Intelligence Officer. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Washburn University, and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Spanish from the University of Missouri–St. Louis. Mawyin sits on various community boards and committees, including the United Way of Kaw Valley’s Board of Directors and the Topeka Community Foundation Asset Management Committee.
“Freddy comes to the city with an impressive resume and a wealth of knowledge of finance and economics. He also has a great understanding of the Topeka community, which will serve him well in this role,” said City Manager Stephen Wade. “This hire is another example of the wonderful partnership between the city and GTP. I’m grateful that Matt Pivarnik and leaders at GTP see this as a collective win for our organizations and Topeka as a whole.”
“I’m so proud of Freddy and all that he’s accomplished here at The Partnership,” said Matt Pivarnik, Greater Topeka Partnership CEO. “Serving as economic advisor to GO Topeka was actually Freddy’s first civilian job after leaving the military, and he’s been with us since our partnership model was just an idea waiting to be explored. Freddy has taken our economic analysis and data-driven development to a new level, and I know he’ll bring that same tenacity to the City of Topeka as CFO. I can’t think of a better next step for him in his career and am proud to still have him on Team Topeka!”
The CFO, formerly known as the Director of Finance and Administrative Services, leads a 24-member team responsible for overseeing the city’s budgeting, financial reporting, payroll, accounts payable, accounts receivable, debt management, grant management, and procurement.
“I am honored and grateful City Manager Wade selected me to serve the City of Topeka and all its community members in this capacity,” said Mawyin. “The Finance Department provides critical support to the entire city, and the staff is filled with talented individuals. I am excited to be joining such a talented and dedicated team.”
Mawyin’s first day is January 23.
The Topeka Landmarks Commission in partnership with the City of Topeka’s Planning Division will begin a process in January to survey the city’s historical African American places.
This project will focus on documenting buildings, districts, sites and structures that are significant to the development and history of African American life and culture within the City of Topeka.
While previous city surveys focused on neighborhoods such as Old Town and Tennessee Town, this survey aims to take a holistic approach, covering all city locations and time periods significant to Topeka’s African American history.
Additionally, a goal of the survey is to identify and designate at least two locations to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“What defines a community is its history and the people who live there,” said Dan Warner, the city’s Planning Division Director. “Through this survey, we hope to increase community awareness and appreciation for the places in our community that have made an impact on Topeka’s African American history.”
The city, commission and project partners are hosting a public meeting where community members can learn about the survey process and provide input. The meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 11 at 5:30 p.m. at the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library in room 114. The library is located at 1515 SW 10th Ave.
Additional partners for the project include the city’s consultant Impact7G, the Kansas Historical Society and the National Park Service.
The survey and cataloging process is expected to continue through most of 2023.
City Manager Stephen Wade announced Monday that Ernestor De La Rosa was selected to serve as the City of Topeka’s very first Chief Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Officer. De La Rosa will start in January 2023 and will lead the city’s newly created DEI office.
“I’m thrilled that Ernestor will be our first Chief DEI Officer. This role will truly impact lives in our community, and affect local government policies,” said Wade. “It’s extremely important that we ensure a work environment and community where all have an opportunity to succeed. Ernestor is up to the task, and I look forward to welcoming him to Topeka, and supporting his work for years to come.”
“The idea of DEI has been talked about, and in many ways initiated in America, but for Topeka, this is the first official step by our local government to place DEI at the forefront of all we do. This speaks volumes about the Governing Body and its willingness to embrace the many possibilities active DEI can bring to the City of Topeka,” said Topeka Mayor Michael Padilla. “Ernestor has a strong background in practicing DEI as a government official. I’m excited that he will bring those experiences to Topeka, and help us grow as a community.”
De La Rosa comes to Topeka from the City of Dodge City, KS, where he’s served a variety of roles over the last eight years, including Assistant City Manager, Human Resources Director, Assistant Finance Director, Mobility Manager, and more. He holds a Masters in Public Administration from Wichita State University, and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Fort Hays State University.
De La Rosa, who’s first language is Spanish, was born and raised in Mexico, and immigrated to the United States at 12. He’s a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, and is passionate about working in the immigration realm. He’s served on various community boards.
“I am honored and excited to join the City of Topeka. I look forward to working with the Governing Body, city staff and Topeka residents to develop, adopt and implement proactive diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging strategies in all aspects of the city,” said De La Rosa. “I commend city leadership’s commitment to building a robust diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce and community. Topeka is stronger together.”
De La Rosa will also serve as the city’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator, where he will work alongside the ADA Advisory Council to make Topeka a safer, more accessible community.
Additionally, Wade announced that Topeka Police Lieutenant Manuel Munoz is serving a special assignment as the city’s Deputy Director of DEI. Munoz, who also immigrated from Mexico, has served the Topeka community as a police officer for more than 30 years. Munoz will continue serving as TPD’s Public Information Officer.
Both De La Rosa and Munoz will be housed out of City Hall. Additional information on how to connect with the city’s DEI office will come out early 2023.