City of Topeka to conduct annual count of homeless population

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 to retire from the City of Topeka, announces new community role

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.

 

City of Topeka hires Chief Financial Officer

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.

 

Topeka Landmarks Commission and partners to survey city’s historical African American places

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 of Topeka names first Chief DEI Officer, develops DEI office

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.

 

Face mask requirement returning to Topeka Municipal Court

Beginning Monday, December 5, Topeka’s Municipal Court will be implementing a face mask requirement for all employees and visitors of the court.

The policy is being implemented to ensure the court can remain open, and serve its function of carrying out the administration of justice.

Influenza, RSV, and other viruses are currently being monitored by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Earlier this month, Stormont Vail Health reported community transmission of COVID-19 was steadily increasing, and considered to be at the “high” level.

Mask-wearing is currently optional for all other City of Topeka buildings. The city encourages social distancing, regular handwashing, and other practices.

 

KDOT announces I-70 closures in Topeka this weekend

The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) will alternate closure of westbound and eastbound lanes on I-70 through downtown Topeka on Dec. 3 and 4, weather permitting. Each direction of I-70 will close for a single day – primarily during daylight hours – beginning at 5 a.m. until work is complete.

During the closures, pavement patching will be completed in the driving lanes. Permanent striping and signage will also be installed that will serve until the new Polk-Quincy Viaduct is constructed.

Motorists should plan for the following:

  • Saturday, Dec. 3 – Eastbound I-70 from Topeka Boulevard to S.E. 8th Street will close to all traffic at approximately 5 a.m. The 1st Street exit will be the last open ramp for eastbound motorists. Eastbound I-70 through traffic will follow signed detours and be routed south to I-470, or north to U.S. 75 to U.S. 24 to K-4. Or, drivers can use the local street detour – 1st Street to Topeka Boulevard to 6th Street to Monroe Street to the 8th Street I-70 on-ramp. Westbound I-70 will remain open, but still reduced to one lane. Temporary changes to the local detour will occur in the morning. Please follow the marked routes.
  • Sunday, Dec. 4 – Westbound I-70 from S.E. 8th Street to Topeka Boulevard will close to all traffic at approximately 5 a.m. The 8th Street exit will be the last open ramp for westbound motorists. Westbound I-70 through traffic will follow signed detours and be routed south to I-470, or north to K-4 to U.S. 24 to U.S. 75. Or, drivers can use the local street detour – Madison Avenue to 6th Street to Topeka Boulevard to the 1st Street I-70 on-ramp. Eastbound I-70 will remain open, but still reduced to one lane.

The westbound 4th Street exit and eastbound 3rd Street exit from I-70 are also scheduled to reopen on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Both directions of I-70 will stay reduced to one lane until construction of the new Polk-Quincy Viaduct is complete. Westbound I-70 will be reduced from S.E. Adams Street to Topeka Boulevard, and eastbound from the 1st Street exit to S.E. 8th Street. The Polk-Quincy Viaduct project is scheduled to begin in early 2025.

Work on the current multi-bridge repair project will continue until late December, weather permitting. Eastbound I-70’s current lane reduction through S.E. Adams Street will remain until the project stops for the winter.

KDOT urges all motorists to be alert and obey the warning signs when approaching and driving through a highway work zone. For information about road construction projects across Kansas, go to www.kandrive.org or call 5-1-1.

 

Nuevo programa tiene como objetivo simplificar la asistencia de vivienda en Topeka con Único punto de contacto

La ciudad de Topeka y los socios comunitarios lanzaron el martes un nuevo programa que tiene como objetivo crear un enfoque comunitario más colaborativo para garantizar la equidad y el acceso a la vivienda y el refugio en Topeka.

El programa, conocido como Equity Access Shelter (E.A.S.), mejorará los servicios para personas sin hogar para garantizar que todas las personas reciban asistencia para el alquiler con un único punto de acceso. EAS está ubicado dentro de la División de Servicios de Vivienda de la Ciudad.

“Una persona que necesita asistencia para el alquiler ya no tiene que llamar a varias agencias para tratar de obtener ayuda. Un número de teléfono significa que las personas pueden acceder a la ayuda rápidamente y sin más traumas,” dijo Carrie Higgins, administradora sénior del programa de la ciudad de Topeka. “E.A.S. utiliza una evaluación para calificar el nivel de necesidad de cada individuo, así como la entrada coordinada para ayudar a esos individuos en función de la priorización.”

Los socios de E.A.S. incluyen Catholic Charities, Community Action, Doorstep, Let’s Help, Salvation Army, Topeka Housing Authority, Topeka Rescue Mission y Valeo.

El programa fue iniciado por la concejala de la ciudad de Topeka, Christina Valdivia-Alcala, e inspirado por el primer modelo de vivienda y el movimiento nacional Construido para Cero.

“El programa E.A.S. es necesario en Topeka ahora. El personal ha estado trabajando arduamente en la iniciativa durante un año. Los habitantes de Topeka están listos para obtener más información para que puedan tener fe en que la ciudad está haciendo todo lo posible para abordar la crisis crónica de personas sin hogar y, sobre todo, sin hogar que estamos experimentando. Equidad. Acceso. Refugio., se basa en un modelo similar a Built for Zero, y es crucial que todas las organizaciones que se asocian con la ciudad entiendan que es posible una reducción real y duradera de la falta de vivienda trabajando en conjunto con el punto único de entrada y la importancia vital de datos consistentes, seguimiento y compartir información para ayudar a que este programa sea un éxito,” dijo la concejal Valdivia-Alcala.

E.A.S. tiene un miembro del personal dedicado con años de experiencia en trabajo sociales en Topeka. El objetivo es que el programa se amplíe en el futuro para incluir ropa, alimentos y otros servicios.

Para comunicarse con E.A.S. y solicitar asistencia con el alquiler, llame al 785-368-9533 o envíe un correo electrónico eas@topeka.org. Los visitantes sin cita previa también son bienvenidos en el edificio Holliday de la ciudad, que está ubicado en 620 SE Madison Ave.

 

New program aims to simplify housing assistance in Topeka with single point of contact

The City of Topeka and community partners on Tuesday launched a new program that aims to create a more collaborative community approach to ensuring equity and access to housing and shelter in Topeka.

The program, known as Equity Access Shelter (E.A.S.), will enhance homeless services to ensure all people receive rent assistance with a single point of access. E.A.S. is located within the City’s Housing Services Division.

“No longer does a person needing rent assistance have to call multiple agencies to try to get help. One phone number means individuals are able to access help quickly, and without further trauma,” said Carrie Higgins, Senior Program Administrator for the City of Topeka. “E.A.S. uses an assessment to score each individual’s level of need, as well as coordinated entry to assist those individuals based on prioritization.”

E.A.S. partners include Catholic Charities, Community Action, Community Resources Council, Doorstep, Let’s Help, Salvation Army, Topeka Housing Authority, Topeka Rescue Mission, and Valeo.

The program was initiated by Topeka City Councilwoman Christina Valdivia-Alcala, and inspired by the housing first model and the national Built for Zero movement.

“The E.A.S. program is needed in Topeka now. Staff has been working hard on the initiative for a year. Topekans are ready to learn more so they can have faith the city is doing all possible to address the chronic unsheltered and over all homeless crisis we are experiencing.  Equity. Access. Shelter., is based on a model similar to Built for Zero, and it’s crucial all organizations that partner with the city understand real and lasting reduction in homelessness is possible working together with the single point of entry and the vital importance of consistent data, tracking and sharing information to help make this program a success,” said Councilwoman Valdivia-Alcala.

E.A.S. has a dedicated staff member with years of social work experience in Topeka. The goal is for the program to expand in the future to include clothing, food, and other services.

To contact E.A.S. to request rental assistance, please call 785-368-9533, or email EAS@topeka.org. Walk-ins are also welcome at the City’s Holliday Building, which is located at 620 SE Madison Ave.

Bill Cochran announces his retirement from the City of Topeka

The City of Topeka’s Chief of Staff, Bill Cochran, announced Thursday that he’s retiring from the City early December.

“After a combined 35 years of service to the City of Topeka, I will be retiring from the city come December 2nd,” said Cochran. “With a new City Manager on board, I’m excited to be able to close my chapter with the city, and to be able to spend more time with my grandkids and family.”

“Bill is a dedicated public servant who served the Topeka community well for the last 35 years,” said Topeka City Manager Stephen Wade. “Bill stepped up and led our City in times of need, and he deserves this retirement and to be able to spend more time with family. I wish him well in all his future endeavors.”

Cochran’s retirement date is Friday, December 2, 2022. He had been serving as Topeka’s Chief of Staff since February 2021.

Wade does not plan to hire a new Chief of Staff.