The Board discussed the matter in a closed session before unanimously approving it. According to County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac, it is standard procedure for the Board to discuss a grant behind closed doors. The grant agreement will be made public once the county attorney finalizes it.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan said the grant will help bring the theater current with real estate taxes owed to the county. Funding for the grant was provided from budget savings identified at the end of Fiscal Year 2012.
The Arlington County Department of Management and Finance indicates the grant includes around $85,000 for past due real estate and business tangible taxes, $99,000 for the next two payments of real estate taxes and around $30,000 for the next business tangible tax payment. The remaining $35,000 will either help fund a financial consultant study or go to future tax payments.
Signature Theatre has sole access rights and branding capability in its current space within a county owned building. It is responsible for the full costs of operating that facility, including real estate and business tangible taxes. Other county supported arts groups performing in county subsidized spaces are not required to pay taxes.
“Signature is thriving, and has a great future ahead of it,” Donnellan said. “This grant addresses an immediate, short-term need by providing temporary relief from a tax burden that is not shared by other supported arts groups.”
The county emphasizes that the theater is a cultural anchor for Shirlington and provides financial benefits to the community. It estimates that more than $150,000 in annual sales and meals taxes can be directly attributed to Signature’s presence in Shirlington.
Signature faced several debt-related lawsuits in Arlington General District Court last year, including claims from Waste Management, Conde Nast Publications and the Delancey at Shirlington Village apartment building. The Waste Management and Conde Nast claims were eventually dismissed. The court ruled in favor of Delancey at Shirlington Village.
County Treasurer Frank O’Leary told the Sun Gazette that Signature was delinquent on its real estate and business taxes.
Arlington County officials are pressing forward with plans for a Columbia Pike streetcar system, despite the federal government’s initial rejection of the county’s funding request due to projected cost overruns.
Officials explained last night, at a County Board meeting, that the Federal Transit Administration rejected its request for $75 million in grant funding because the total project cost was estimated to exceed the $250 million — the cap for projects to receive funding under the FTA’s Small Starts program.
Though pegged by the county at $245.9 million, a contractor hired by the FTA estimated the project cost to instead be between $255.9 and $402.4 million, including contingencies, and thus ineligible for a Small Starts grant. The contractor said $310.1 million was “a most likely cost.”
County officials said the contractor’s report and a subsequent in-person meeting with senior FTA staff lead them to believe the project is still likely to receive federal funding.
“They made it very clear that their action wasn’t based on the merits of the project,” Arlington County Transportation Director Dennis Leach told the Board. “It was really that technical factor that they felt our cost estimate was likely to be somewhat higher.”
Arlington will actually be eligible to receive more than the initially-requested $75 million in federal funding if it applies under the FTA’s New Starts program. Unlike Small Starts, New Starts doesn’t have a cap on total project cost.
“If the county were to choose to reapply as a New Start, the project could qualify for more federal funding,” said Stephen Del Giudice, Arlington County Transit Bureau Chief. ”We have a high likelihood of success in addressing the goals of the project.”
“What’s clear at this point is that changes to the evaluation criteria will most likely have a positive impact on FTA’s future rating of our project,” echoed Brian Stout, the county’s federal liaison. ”We’ll continue… to work with our partners at FTA to identify federal opportunities for them to support the Columbia Pike streetcar project.”
Even before the report on the FTA’s rationale for its decision, County Board Chair Walter Tejada said the county was not abandoning plans for the streetcar.
“Moving forward with a modern streetcar is our stated policy, and that’s what we’re committed to doing,” Tejada said. “We can repeat it many times, but nothing’s going to change.”
Tejada’s vote of confidence for the project came after Libby Garvey, the lone streetcar critic on the five-member County Board, gave a PowerPoint highlighting problems with other streetcar systems around the country. News reports cited by Garvey include:
- Walking is often faster than riding streetcar in Portland (The Oregonian)
- Portland streetcar fare revenue nearly 50 percent below projections (The Oregonian)
- Tampa streetcars could require city subsidy (Tampa Tribune)
- Cincinnati streetcar facing $26 million cost overrun (Cincinnati Herald)
- Tucson streetcar operating costs 4 times initial estimate (Arizona Daily Star)
“I have not made up the articles, I have not made up the facts,” Garvey said. “These facts are facts. They’re inconvenient, but true.”
The recommendation, one of numerous spending cuts in County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s proposed budget, was met with controversy. Hundreds of parents and residents signed a petition against the elimination of Arlington Child Care Office, which would have turned inspections over to the state and resulted in more lax oversight.
The county issued the following press release about the Board’s decision tonight.
Arlington County Board Chairman J. Walter Tejada today said that the County will continue its inspections of childcare centers and family childcare homes and will continue to train providers. County Manager Barbara Donnellan had recommended in her Proposed Fiscal Year 2014 Budget that the County eliminate childcare inspections and provider training.
“The Board is committed to maintaining Arlington’s inspections of childcare facilities and training for providers,” Tejada said. “Although most localities in Virginia rely on the State alone to conduct inspections of childcare facilities, Arlington has, for more than 40 years, provided an extra layer of inspections and training for providers – and the Board is committed to continuing both of those elements.”
Tejada made his statement at the start of a Board public work session on the Department of Human Services’ proposed FY 2014 Budget. In her Proposed FY 2014 Budget, had recommended that the County rely on the state to inspect childcare centers and family childcare homes, and cut provider training, as part of her effort to cut costs across departments. The proposed cuts to inspection services had raised concerns within the community about the safety of Arlington’s childcare facilities.
The measure would have saved about $250,000 per year. The County Board will approve a final Fiscal Year 2014 budget on April 20.
The announcement comes following a public outcry about the cost of the first Super Stop, at the corner of Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive. As first reported by ARLnow.com, the prototype bus stop — which offers amenities like lighting, heating and an electronic display that shows when the next buses are coming — cost more than $1 million to build.
While county officials blamed the high cost and construction delays on various factors — it was the first of its kind, its construction was managed by WMATA, etc. — the amount budgeted for the remaining 23 stops in the planned Columbia Pike Super Stop network suggests a still-high per-stop cost of around $900,000.
Other criticism of the stops, which will eventually serve the Columbia Pike streetcar system, includes the lack of shelter from wind and rain.
In a press release, Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan calls the Super Stops a “key long-term transit investment.” But the county says it has cancelled bidding for the next planned Super Stop, in front of Penrose Square, pending a review of the design, timing and cost of the stops.
Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan said today that the County is reassessing the design and timing of the roll out of its planned Columbia Pike Super Stops in the wake of public concern about the recently opened Walter Reed Super Stop.
“Super Stops are a key long-term transit investment for our County,” Donnellan said. “They are integral to our efforts to transform Columbia Pike to a more transit-oriented Main Street. We have to get them right. Although our Walter Reed Super Stop is a prototype, and has only been operating for about a week, I’ve heard the community’s concerns about its design and cost. I have asked staff to pause the program while we look for ways to improve the design and reduce costs of future Super Stops.”
“This project took longer and cost more than it should have,” Donnellan said. “We have an obligation to the taxpayers of Arlington, the Commonwealth and the nation to ensure that our infrastructure projects are delivered in a timely, cost-effective manner. We will do better.”
Arlington built the Walter Reed prototype Super Stop under a project agreement with the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) that put Metro in charge of the stop’s construction. More than six months ago, the County deleted two other planned stops from its agreement with WMATA and will build all future Super Stops on its own. This week, the County rescinded an invitation to bid on the planned Penrose Square Super Stop pending the Super Stop design and cost reassessment.
“I ask riders to keep in touch with us about their experiences with the Walter Reed Super Stop,” Donnellan said. “Our goal is to build stops that are safe, comfortable and encourage more people to use transit.” Comments and suggestions should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, with “Super Stop” in the subject line.
Long-term transit investment
Arlington plans to build 24 Super Stops along Columbia Pike, one of the most heavily travelled corridors in Northern Virginia. Each stop is meant to last for 30 years or more. Much more than a traditional bus stop, the Super Stops will shelter up to 15 riders and will serve both buses and the planned streetcar. Arlington’s Super Stops were designed with extensive input from riders and other community members during a multi-year public design process.
In her proposed FY 2014 budget, which calls for a 3.2 cent tax hike and 9.2 million in spending cuts, County Manager Barbara Donnellan also identified — for discussion purposes — ways the county could cut enough spending to negate the need for tax hikes.
The county would need to cut an additional $13 million to balance the budget without the property tax increase. Among Donnellan’s theoretical options for cuts are: reducing library hours, closing Artisphere, delaying major capital projects, eliminating employee pay raises and cutting maintenance funds.
From the manager’s budget:
- Changing operating hours of facilities and / or evaluate repurposing or closure of facilities
- Reducing library hours to 2011 levels – $0.5 million
- Closing the Artisphere would result in $0.9 million in ongoing savings in FY 2014 (assuming one-time closure costs are covered with other funds)
- Delay opening of new facilities which could result in operating cost and possibly debt service savings
- Evaluate employee compensation, including both pay and benefit levels
- Eliminate merit step increase for FY 2014 – $3.4 million
- Shift health care increase to employees and retirees – $1.8 million
- Evaluate service levels in each operating department for possible reduction or elimination
- A 1% across the board reduction in County departments would yield $4 – $4.5 million
- Reduce maintenance capital — a 10% reduction would equal over $1 million
- Redirection of dedicated revenue streams, e.g., reduce allocation to Crystal City Tax Increment Financing Area from 33 to 20% would yield $0.9 million; redirect dedicated bike-pedestrian fee to any General Fund use – $1.2 million
On top of the county’s $13 million in cuts, in a no-tax-hike scenario, Arlington Public Schools would need to find an additional $6.8 million to cut from its budget.
Even if tax rates remained the same, however, local homeowners would still pay higher taxes this year. The average single family home property tax bill would increase $52, thanks to an increase in property assessments. Under Donnellan’s budget, the average homeowner will pay an additional $262.
If the county were to decide to do away with all of Donnellan’s proposed cuts — including cuts to public safety, human services and other departments — Arlington would have to raise the real estate tax rate 5.7 cents to $1.028 per $100 in assessed value. That would result in a $351 increase in the average real estate tax bill.
Such a tax hike is not legally possible in FY 2014. Last month the Arlington County Board voted to advertise a $1.021 tax rate, meaning the Board cannot ultimately set the rate higher than that.
The Board will adopt its final budget on April 20. Public budget hearings are scheduled for March 26 and 28. The Board’s next budget work session is set for March 12, and will address the police, fire, sheriff and emergency management budgets.
The Arlington County Board voted over the weekend to advertise a higher property tax rate than that proposed by County Manager Barbara Donnellan in her proposed FY 2014 budget.
By advertising the $1.021 rate, the Board will have the flexibility of raising the tax rate up to 102.1 cents per $100 in assessed real estate value. The Board can still, as it usually does, select a lower rate than advertised when it adopts its final budget in April.
Donnellan proposed a $1.003 rate – a 3.2 cent rate increase that would cost the average Arlington homeowner an additional $262 per year. The advertised $1.021 rate — a 5 cent increase from the current 97.1 cent rate — would cost the average homeowner an extra $356 per year (nearly $30 per month, a 5.3 percent increase) over the current tax rate.
The four Board members present for Saturday’s meeting — Chris Zimmerman was home sick with the flu — split the difference between two different rate proposals.
Jay Fisette and Mary Hynes proposed to advertise a $1.011 rate, an increase of 4 cents, citing concerns about taxpayers who might be impacted by the upcoming federal budget sequester.
“I want to send a message… that if others are being called to tighten their belts, that we will exert the same discipline,” Fisette said. He called Donnellan’s proposed 3.2 cent tax rate increase and spending cuts “a really reasonable balance.”
Libby Garvey and Board Chairman Walter Tejada argued for a 6 cent increase, citing uncertainty about how the sequester might affect county finances and the finances of those served by the social safety net.
“I don’t think 4 cents will be enough,” Tejada said. “Sequestration is hanging over our heads. We have to make decisions now and anticipate and prepare. I want to be as responsible as we can for all taxpayers… including the most vulnerable in our community.”
In the end, the Board voted for a compromise 5 cent advertised rate.
“In this climate of economic uncertainty, it is important that the Board maintain some flexibility in setting the tax rate for Fiscal Year 2014,” Tejada said in a statement. “In the coming weeks, we will engage intensively with our community on how best to balance necessary service cuts with a reasonable tax rate increase. “
The Board also voted to decrease solid waste rates and fees and certain permitting and park fees. After being adopted in April, the final rates and fees set by the Board will go into effect on July 1, 2013, the start of the county’s 2014 fiscal year.
Among those expected to be evaluated are the money-losing Artisphere, two community centers and two Department of Human Services facilities.
In her budget message to the County Board, Donnellan said “potential facilities to be evaluated” include the Madison and Woodmont community centers in north Arlington, the Edison Complex near Virginia Hospital Center, and the Fenwick Center on S. Walter Reed Drive.
“As our population changes and as technology changes the way we deliver services, I believe we have many opportunities to do things differently, particularly in the area of buildings and facilities,” Donnellan said. “I have asked staff to begin evaluation of some of our facilities that require significant capital investment or are underutilized — with one of our initial tasks being how we engage the community and stakeholders in these discussions.”
Possible recommendations for the facilities could include changes in use or closure, said Arlington County spokeswoman Mary Curtius.
“The evaluations will look at a full range of options, including no change in use, repurposing these facilities for a new use (County or otherwise), or potentially closure — but it’s preliminary to speculate until the process is complete,” she said. “As the Manager’s message noted, one of the initial starting points will be to get public input — and other evaluation factors will include utilization rates and building condition and age, among others.”
Also on the chopping block is Artisphere, the Rosslyn-based cultural center that opened with high expectations in 2010. As previously reported, Donnellan is including $1.8 million in taxpayer funding for Artisphere in her proposed FY 2014 budget, but warning that she’s “assessing its performance and programming model” for next year.
“We’re going to evaluate the fiscal sustainability,” she told County Board members on Wednesday. “I’m forcing them to reevaluate how they operate. It’s an expensive operation to continue and I need to evaluate it to make sure it’s sustainable.”
Photos (top, middle) via Google Maps
Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s proposed FY 2014 budget will raise property taxes while cutting county jobs, including positions in the police and fire departments.
Facing a $35 million budget gap, Donnellan said she did her best to strike a balance between cuts and tax hikes, given the budget guidance given to her by the County Board.
“It is not an easy thing to recommend an increase in the property tax rate,” she said in a statement. “We have tried to maintain services that Arlingtonians hold dear and to respect the values of our community. To do that, we are forced to ask our community and our staff to contribute to closing this budget gap.”
Donnellan’s budget proposes a 3.2 cent tax hike, bringing the overall residential property tax rate to $1.003 for every $100 in assessed value. That represents an annual tax increase of about $262 for the average homeowner. That and other modest fee increases are expected to bring in an additional $13 million in revenue for the county.
As we previously reported, Donnellan’s budget would cut about 46 county government jobs.
Those will include 7 jobs in the police department and 3 jobs in the fire department, all of which will be cut by attrition. The police department would also see its district policing effort consolidated from 3 districts to 2. The fire department’s reserve “rover” staffing — extra personnel who fill in when a firefighter is not able to make it to work — will be reduced from 3 to 2 rovers per shift. One job will also be eliminated from the county’s 911 dispatch center.
While all county departments are taking cuts, one of the hardest hit county departments under Donnellan’s budget is the Department of Human Services, with 15 proposed job cuts. Those cuts will reduce the number of school nurses in the county, reduce home aides for seniors and the disabled, reduce employment services for the mentally ill, and reduce inmate medical services at the county jail.
Donnellan said cuts were proposed where efficiencies could be found or where services were underutilized. She said the county is working to find new positions for employees whose jobs are set to be eliminated.
All told, the cuts are expected to save about $9.3 million per year. But with remaining employees working harder as a result of the various cuts, Donnellan is proposing $3.4 million in merit-based salary increases in FY 2014. The proposed budget also keeps existing county services largely in tact.
A library administrative aide will be eliminated, but library hours — previously a hot budget topic — will remain the same.
Artisphere will still be funded largely by county tax dollars. At the same time, however, the facility is being placed on notice, with half of its $1.8 million budget coming from one-time rather than on-going funding. Donnellan suggested that the money-losing cultural center could be on the chopping block next year.
“I am assessing its performance and programming model,” she wrote in a note to the County Board. “The combination of one-time and ongoing funds will allow us to pursue a variety of options as we consider the future of the Artisphere.”
Local taxpayer funding for housing programs will remain a significant portion of the county budget — $32.3 million, or about 5 percent of the $661.5 million county operating budget. (Arlington Public Schools accounts for $411 million of the $1.073 billion overall proposed budget, up from $405.1 million of the $1.052 billion budget last year.)
Housing expenditures include $9.5 million for the Affordable Housing Investment Fund, $8 million for rental assistance, $5.2 million for real estate tax relief for the elderly and disabled, and $3.75 million for facilities and programs for the homeless.
(Updated at 4:00 p.m.) Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan will propose a 3.2 cent real estate tax rate hike when she outlines her proposed budget to the County Board Wednesday afternoon, ARLnow.com has confirmed.
Donnellan’s recommendation, if approved by the County Board, would raise the overall tax rate to 100.3 cents per $100 in assessed value for residential property. It would be the first time since 2001 that Arlington’s residential tax rate has crossed the $1 mark.
Donnellan is expected to tell the Board tomorrow that the county is facing increased expenses as a result of more public school students and more county facilities — like the Arlington Mill Community Center — that must be staffed and programmed. At the same time, county tax revenue is flat as commercial property assessments feel the effects of BRAC, which has resulted in numerous Department of Defense offices moving out of Arlington.
On Friday, Donnellan announced 46 job cuts as part of her effort to close a $25-50 million gap in the upcoming county budget. She has said that her recommended budget will include both spending cuts and tax hikes.
While a rate of 100.3 cents may seem high compared to Arlington’s 81.8 cent rate just six years ago, for tax year 2007, it is not the highest rate county taxpayers have paid in recent memory. In 2000 and 2001, the rate was 102.3 cents.
It’s also lower than some neighboring jurisdictions. This past year, Arlington’s rate was $0.971 per $100 in assessed value, compared to:
- Fairfax County: $1.075
- Loudoun County: $1.235
- Prince William County: $1.209
- City of Alexandria: $0.998
- City of Falls Church: $1.270
- District of Columbia: $0.850
- Montgomery County: $0.838
- Prince George’s County: $1.072
The County Board may, as it has done in the past, set a different rate than the manager’s recommendation. Last year, the Board approved a 1.3 cent tax rate increase, to the current 97.1 cents, after Donnellan recommended a 0.5 cent increase. In 2011, however, the Board agreed with Donnellan’s recommendation and held the tax rate steady from the year prior, at 95.8 cents.
Arlington’s overall real estate tax rate includes a 1.3 cent tax for stormwater management. For commercial properties, the county imposes a 12.5 cent Transportation Capital Fund tax on top of the residential rate.
Hat tip to Wayne Kubicki
The cuts are being made to help plug a $25-50 million budget gap for the upcoming fiscal year. Donnellan will outline her proposed FY 2014 budget to members of the media on Wednesday afternoon. The budget is expected to include a mix of cuts and tax hikes.
On Friday, in a memo to county employees (below) obtained by ARLnow.com, Donnellan announced that the county is cutting 46 staff positions, including 20 that are currently filled. She also said that the county has instituted a hiring slowdown and that 20 employees have taken an early retirement package.
The county is working to place the 20 employees whose positions were cut in other open positions within county government, Donnellan said.
To: All County Employees
Re: Balancing the FY 2014 Budget
Date: February 15, 2013
I’m sure you are aware that we are grappling with a $25 million gap for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 budget.
As a County we have taken many steps to help close that gap, and I am proud of the way departments have embraced this challenge. To close the gap, we will need to use a combination of tax rate increases and spending cuts.
As a part of the spending cuts, we instituted a hiring slow down a few months ago, which limits the pace at which departments may fill openings. Another piece of the strategy was to offer an Early Retirement Window for eligible employees, and 20 employees participated in that program.
After much thoughtful discussion, we have made the difficult decision to cut 46 County staff positions. Unfortunately, of these, 20 are currently filled, and we are working to move these employees into other open positions. The department directors and I do not take this decision lightly; these are among the toughest decisions that we have to make. We are making every attempt to place those employees into other positions within the County. If we are, for some reason, unable to match an employee with an open position, the employee will receive a severance package.
These are difficult fiscal times. We are aware that over the last few years, we have asked you to do more with less – taking up more work when a colleague retires and isn’t replaced; addressing new and increasing service demands due to our growing population; performing administrative work in addition to normal job duties.
We are successful only because of the strength of our staff, and I am grateful for your continued dedication and service to our community.
Barbara M. Donnellan
Arlington County’s Transportation Commission says an all-electric cab fleet is a good idea whose time hasn’t come quite yet. On Thursday the advisory body voted against County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s recommendation that the County Board grant operating licenses to a fleet of 40 electric taxicabs.
While the commission was supportive of the idea of more environmentally-friendly cabs in Arlington, it expressed doubts that the proposal — from Arlington-based startup EV Taxicabs — was feasible.
The company is proposing a taxi fleet of Nissan Leaf electric vehicles, each equipped with 4G WiFi hotspots and iPads for passenger use, plus a network of publicly-accessible electric vehicle chargers around Arlington. A commission member said it’s a good idea in theory, but in practice electric cabs — which would have a range of 60 to 105 miles on a single charge — could present a problem for passengers and drivers.
“The range offered by the Nissan Leaf simply doesn’t seem to be enough to effectively use it as a taxi… especially when you factor in runs to Dulles Airport, etc.” commission member Chris Slatt told ARLnow.com. “It’s one thing if your drivers has to stop for 3 minutes to put gas in their cab because you asked to be taken on a very long trip — it is quite another if your driver has to drive 5 miles across town and charge for 30 minutes for that same reason.”
Slatt said the commission was also “unconvinced” that EV Taxicabs could install electric vehicle chargers at apartment buildings, where many cab drivers live. Such chargers would allow drivers to charge their cabs overnight. The company also proposed installing fast “Level 3″ chargers, but Nissan warns that fast charging could reduce the life of the car batteries to just a year or two — an expensive proposition for cab drivers, who would likely have to foot the bill for the replacement battery.
“EVs simply can’t match hybrids or standard cabs at this point when it comes to ‘getting people to their destination’ which is the whole point of a taxi,” Slatt said. “Hopefully by the next time taxi certificates come around EVs will have matured to the point where our existing companies will be moving to them without us even needing to bring in a new company.”
In place of the electric cabs, Slatt said the commission recommended awarding additional operating licenses to EnviroCab, an all-hybrid cab company which currently has 50 licenses in Arlington, and to Friendly Cab, which has 27 traditional cabs and 7 hybrid cabs. The additional licenses would allow Friendly to begin dispatch service and would allow EnviroCab to reduce wait times during peak taxi demand period, Slatt said.
(EnviroCab recently announced plans to add one all-electric cab to its existing hybrid fleet.)
The County Board is set to consider the recommendations of Donnellan and the Transportation Commission at its Nov. 17 meeting.
Arlington is facing an estimated $50 million budget gap next fiscal year as the county’s prodigious rise in property values stalls and as federal and state cutbacks impact the county’s bottom line.
As reported by the Arlington County Taxpayers Association and confirmed to ARLnow.com by a senior county official, a $50 million budget gap — about $25 million for the county government and $25 million for Arlington Public Schools — is projected for Fiscal Year 2014.
In a “budget outlook” presentation to the County Board and School Board on Wednesday, Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan said the economy is weak, local office vacancies are a concern and overall property values and county tax revenues are only expected to grow by 1 percent.
Arlington Public Schools, meanwhile, is anticipating nearly $4 million of its shortfall to come from federal and state school funding cuts.
Donnellan has asked department heads to identify possible budget cuts in anticipation of a difficult budget process.
The budget concerns come as the county pushes forward with two major capital projects that have drawn scrutiny from local budget hawks: the planned Columbia Pike streetcar and the Long Bridge Park Aquatics and Fitness Center (part of the parks bond on the Nov. 6 ballot). Arlington Public Schools, meanwhile, is in the midst of an extended period of school building and expansion expected to cost more than $250 million over the next ten years.
If the Arlington County Board goes along with a new set of recommendations from County Manager Barbara Donnellan, Arlington could soon be served by a fleet of 40 all-electric cabs equipped with 4G WiFi hotspots and iPads for passenger use.
As part of this year’s taxicab certificate allocation process, Donnellan is recommending that a total of 65 additional taxis be added to the county’s existing licensed fleet of 765 cabs. Among the companies receiving a recommended allocation from Donnellan is an Arlington-based upstart, EV Taxicabs.
The company is set to get permits to operate 40 cabs in Arlington under Donnellan’s recommendation. According to EV Taxicabs’ website and Facebook page, the cabs will be all-electric Nissan Leafs, a five-door hatchback that gets the equivalent of 99 miles per gallon.
In addition to being all-electric, the cabs will be equipped with a high-speed 4G WiFi hotspot and an Apple iPad, both for passenger use. The cabs will be dispatched using what’s described as a “state-of-the-art cloud-based dispatch solution… running on Samsung Galaxy 7 tablet.” Passengers will be able to book the cabs via smart phone or the company’s website.
In addition to the cabs, the company has pledged to install more than 50 electric vehicle chargers around Arlington.
Donnellan writes that based on a scale that considers various factors — including environmental impact, customer service, business feasibility and employee treatment — EV Taxicabs received the highest rating of any cab applicant. (Ten companies applied this year.)
Based on the rating system, EV Taxicab was rated the highest of all applicants. It will be installing a number of quick charge stations throughout the County that will be available to the general public as well as their drivers. This will encourage additional usage of zero emission vehicles, helping Arlington County to be a pioneer in this new technology.
The EV Taxicab applicant is a current Arlington County taxi driver. He is bringing his experience and wants to address and cooperate with County staff to improve the drivers’ profession. He proposes to provide training, two week annual vacation, health and fitness club membership, financial management training, customer service training, assistance with legal representation and is looking into providing life insurance for drivers. The EV Taxicab application impressed County staff through its use of technology and its apparent commitment to fair treatment for its drivers.
EV Taxicabs is not the only non-traditional cab company set to benefit from Donnellan’s recommendation. The “carbon-negative” EnviroCab company is set to receive 10 additional cab allocations. Separately, the company recently announced plans to add one all-electric Nissan Leaf to its current fleet of 49 hybrids.
Under the County Manager’s recommendations, Friendly Cab, Blue Top Cab and Red Top Cab will each be allowed to add five additional taxis to their fleet. The recommendations specify that Blue Top and Red Top are to add only wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
Donnellan’s recommendations will be considered by the County Board at its Nov. 17 meeting.
County Manager Proposes $2.4 Billion CIP — Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan has proposed a $2.4 billion Capital Improvement Plan for FY 2013-2022. The CIP includes big ticket items like a new Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center and streetcars for the Columbia Pike and Route 1 corridors. It also includes maintenance-related item, like increased funding for street paving, parks and facility renovations, and replacement of aged fire stations. [Arlington County]
Arlington Eateries in Dining Guide — Two Arlington restaurants — Eventide and Ray’s The Steaks — have made Tom Sietsema’s spring 2012 dining guide. [Washington Post]
Shuttleworth Keeping Race Close? — The campaign of Democratic congressional challenger Bruce Shuttleworth is touting new polling numbers that it says show Shuttleworth has a chance against incumbent Rep. Jim Moran. The poll reportedly shows a thin margin between Shuttleworth and Moran among likely voters — 16 percent to 19 percent — with 65 percent of likely voters undecided. A Moran spokesman said the claim of a close race was based on “laughably inaccurate numbers.” [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by ddimick
Arlington Ranked Second Healthiest County in Va. — Arlington has been named the second-healthiest county in Virginia, second only to Fairfax County. The rankings were released yesterday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Arlington County works hard to promote a healthy way of living, and to provide residents with options that make it easier to stay healthy and fit,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said, citing biking, walking and recreational activities as examples of healthy options encouraged by the county. [Arlington County]
Donnellan: Theater Builds Communities — A robust arts program is vital to quality of life in Arlington, according to County Manager Barbara Donnellan. A theater buff in high school, Donnellan says theater helps build a sense of community, which is one of the key roles of local government. [Theatre Washington]
ACT College Closes in Arlington — ACT College, a D.C. area health training school, has suddenly shut down its Arlington, Alexandria and Manassas campuses. The school’s Arlington campus was located at 1100 Wilson Boulevard in Rosslyn. [WJLA]
Ballston Company Recruits Nerds — In its effort to recruit top software engineers, Ballston-based Applied Predictive Technologies (APT) is billing itself as a paradise for nerds. The company, which analyzes sales data for big retailers and restaurants, has been sponsoring hackathons, computer competitions and even StarCraft tournaments for students at top universities. The nerd recruitment seems to be working: the average SAT score of APT employees is 1560. [Washington Post]
Photo courtesy Andrew Clegg