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County Board Approves $1.5 Million Dawson Terrace Park Renovation

Changes are coming soon to Dawson Terrace Park near Rosslyn now that the Arlington County Board has approved a $1.5 million construction contract.

Currently, there are two small courts at the park. These will be replaced by one larger, multi-use court the size of a high school basketball court.

Project illustrations show eight to 10 foot decorative fences installed on either side of the court, behind the basketball nets. Also included: new lighting and landscaping.

Design for the project began in the second quarter of 2016. Project construction is anticipated to begin in the second quarter of 2018 and wrap up by the end of the year.

A small field along 21st Road N. is not scheduled for any renovations in this plan, but stormwater management and ADA improvements are in the works.

The County Board voted unanimously to grant the park contract to D.C.’s Bennett Group at Saturday’s County Board meeting (April 21), according to a county press release. County staff had recommended that the contract be approved.

“Arlington continues to upgrade and improve its parks, to make them both more accessible and more engaging,” County Board Chair Katie Cristol said in a statement. “These renovations will help ensure that Dawson Terrace will be a great park for everyone to use, for years to come.”

The three and a half acre park in the North Highland neighborhood is home to the Dawson-Bailey House, the second oldest home in the county, and site renderings include a decorative screen and plants that would form a buffer on the building’s eastern facade. In 2016, an archaeological dig at Dawson Terrace Park uncovered approximately 2,000 glass, ceramic, and glass objects from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Also at its Saturday meeting, the County Board approved the planting of over 1,000 trees in parks along Four Mile Run. The plantings are partially funded by a federal grant.

More from a county press release, after the jump.

A federal grant will help pay for the purchase and planting of more than 1,000 seedlings along Four Mile Run stream in Bluemont and Benjamin Banneker parks.

The trees and shrubs will be planted in areas where invasive plants have been removed, to help restore Four Mile Run’s riparian buffer zone. The County plans to host community planting events in fall 2018 to get the seedlings in the ground, and will install deer protection around the plants.

“This project is part of a much larger effort to restore Four Mile Run’s water quality and preserve this natural resource treasure,” Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said. “Stay tuned for opportunities to help us get these seedlings in the ground.”

The County Board voted unanimously to accept the grant, awarded by the Virginia Department of Forestry.

The $9,657 grant required a one-to-one match from the County. The Department of Parks and Recreation will meet that within its existing budget, contributing $5,864 in local dollars along with a $7,512 in-kind match value for volunteer and staff hours and related supplies.

To read the staff report, visit the County website. Scroll to Item No. 36 on the agenda for the Saturday, April 19, 2018 Regular County Board Meeting.

Renderings via Arlington County

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Deteriorated Traffic Calming Fixtures to Get TLC

Aging speed bumps throughout the county are set to be replaced or repaired under a new contract.

The County Board is expected to approve a $246,275 contract for the maintenance work, which will focus on traffic calming fixtures from the 1990s and early 2000s that are badly deteriorated “due to weather and vehicular traffic.”

Speed humps and speed cushions are two of the ways by which the county calms traffic, and typically they are repaired when the street is repaved. However, according to county staff, “some devices’ conditions require substantial repair or replacement outside of the normal timeframe of the street repaving.”

The contract will go to Alexandria’s Kathmar Construction, Inc., which bid less than half that of the only other bidder for the project.

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Dawson Terrace Park Renovation Contract Set For Approval

The contract for renovations at Dawson Terrace Park in North Highlands, northwest of Rosslyn, is set for approval, per a county staff report.

The work will renovate areas of extensive use, including a multi-use court, playground, walkways, and picnic areas. D.C.’s Bennett Group, beating out five other bidders, is expected to be awarded the $1,507,500.45 contract.

Landscaping, stormwater management, and ADA improvements will also be part of the project, but a small field along 21st Road N. will not be within the project’s scope.

The County Manager’s office has recommended awarding the contract and approving a $150,750.05 contingency for change orders.

The Dawson-Bailey House, believed to be the county’s second oldest house, is located at the park, at 2133 N. Taft Street.

The Dept. of Parks and Recreation has submitted documentation to the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board “to ensure the project respected and complimented the historic nature of the site.”

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Long Bridge Park to Get New Synthetic Turf

After nearly seven years of heavy use, Long Bridge Park is getting new synthetic turf.

County Manager Mark Schwartz has recommended awarding a $425,329 synthetic turf contract to GTR Turf Inc., a Canadian commercial and residential synthetic turf and artificial grass installation company.

The contract will cover the synthetic turf replacement at Long Bridge Park’s field three. Construction is expected to begin March 2018, continuing through “the second quarter of this year,” according to a County Board agenda item, scheduled to be considered at the Board’s Saturday meeting.

Arlington intends to replace two to three turf fields per year across the county as part of its capital improvement program for 2017-2026. Long Bridge Park’s two other fields are slotted for replacement in 2019.

The synthetic turf fields were installed seven years ago, when the park opened in 2011, but are “now worn and beyond reasonable repair,” according to the recommendation to the County Board.

Seven companies were listed as contract bidders, six of which were American companies bidding between $437,645 and $663,650 for the project. There is a $42,532.90 contingency for change orders built into the proposed contract.

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School Board To Consider New APS Superintendent Contract

The Arlington School Board will consider a new contract for Superintendent Patrick Murphy, one year before his current deal expires.

According to a memo sent to her colleagues on the School Board by chair Nancy Van Doren, Murphy has requested a new four-year contract, effective July 1.

At tonight’s meeting, the Board will vote on whether to advance a notice of intent to renew Murphy’s contract as part of its consent items. If it passes, the contract would then likely be debated at the Board’s June 29 meeting.

Van Doren’s May 18 memo reads:

The Superintendent has requested that his contract be replaced with a new four-year term, with some modifications, effective as of July 1, 2017. This memorandum provides notice to the Board, pursuant to Va. Code 22.1-60(C), that the Board may act upon this request at its June 29, 2017 meeting or thereafter, and a vote is tentatively planned for that purpose.

An Arlington Public Schools spokeswoman declined to comment further on the new contract and those modifications, except to say that the Board is “considering the renewal.”

“I know that the procedures for contracts of any type (personnel, construction, equipment, contractors, etc.) are private until the contract has been finalized and approved, so terms of this (or any other) contract would not be public until it is finalized and approved by the Board at some point in the future,” the spokeswoman said.

Murphy’s current contract, which expires at the end of the 2018 school year, provides an annual salary of $223,242.50. He has been superintendent since 2009.

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County Board Approves Two Multi-Million Dollar Contracts

N. Nash Street is closed to traffic due to pavingUpdated on 3/16/16 — The Trades Center parking garage addition was approved unanimously by the County Board at its Tuesday meeting after a brief discussion.

Earlier: The Arlington County Board approved a trio of two multi-million dollar contracts at its meeting on Saturday.

First, the Board was to consider a $4.85 million contract, with a $0.73 million contingency, to add a third level to the existing two-level parking garage at the Arlington Trades Center near Shirlington.

The Trades Center houses much of Arlington’s maintenance and vehicle fleet operations. According to a staff report, employment at the center has increased to 288 from 174 in 2010. The new garage level would add 155 parking spaces and will follow the increasingly in-vogue “build up, not out” philosophy.

Correction from earlier report: This contract was pulled from the Board’s consent agenda and will be considered at its Tuesday meeting.

Also on Saturday, however, the Board did approve two road paving contracts, together worth nearly $12 million. From a county press release:

“Road maintenance may not be exciting, but it affects everyone in the County,” said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey. “The County is committed to investing in our roads — so that all drivers, walkers and cyclists can travel safely and comfortably.”

The Board voted 5-0 (part of Consent Agenda) to approve the asphalt contracts totaling just under $11.6 million to Finley Asphalt & Sealing and Fort Myer Construction Corporation.

It takes constant effort to maintain Arlington’s 974 lane miles of streets. Each year, the County identifies streets for paving based on pavement conditions, traffic volumes and planned construction by either the County or private developer. Since 2013, the County has averaged the paving of 75 lane miles per year.

Funding for the contracts comes from bonds approved by voters in 2014 and current year Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG), and was included in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 – FY 2024 Capital Improvement Plan.

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Morning Notes

Flowers blooming at the Navy-Merchant Marine Memorial on Columbia Island (Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman)

County Board to Consider Concrete Contract — The Arlington County Board is set to consider an on-call concrete maintenance contract this weekend. The contract is intended to reduce the cost of repeatedly bidding out small contracts for road, sidewalk and curb work. The low bidder, Arthur Construction Company, is expected to bill about $3.8 million annually under the contract, according to county staff estimates. [Arlington County]

Arlington Author’s Book Makes Amazon List — “Seven Days” by Arlington author Ariel Atwell (a pen name) has Amazon.com’s “Hot New Releases in Historical Fiction” list. [Amazon]

Bistro 360 Profiled — Bistro 360, the Rosslyn eatery opened last year by the owner of Cassatt’s Kiwi Café, is winning plaudits for its unique food offerings, which feature Asian, Central European and French influences. [Arlington Magazine]

Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman

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APS Superintendent’s Contract Renewed in Surprise Move

Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy presenting his proposed FY 2013 budget in February 2012(Updated at 2:00 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy is set to spend the next four years at the helm of the growing school system.

The Arlington School Board, in a surprise move not included in the board’s scheduled agenda, approved a new four year contract for Murphy this morning by a vote of 4-1.

All five School Board members praised Murphy’s job performance, in spite of criticism of his tenure from some parents who view his efforts to keep the APS budget in line — while dealing with an expanding student population — as arbitrary and poorly-communicated. There were no public speakers to weigh in on the contract renewal at the morning meeting.

“The trajectory is very much in the direction it should be going,” retiring Board member Sally Baird said of Murphy’s impact on the school system.  She called Murphy and his leadership team the “core of the success of the system.”

Baird and other Board members said stability in leadership is a key component to the success of school systems.

Newly-elected School Board Chair James Lander cast the dissenting vote. He said the off-cycle contract renewal (Murphy’s current contract is not up until 2016) could set a bad precedent.

“My objection on this isn’t based on merit or performance, it’s based on process,” he said. “I would gladly consider a contract extension in the future. We are stewards of the taxpayer dollar… the expectation is that this would be done a year from now. I believe that granting an extension in an off year, without prior discussion… doesn’t align to our commitment to transparency.”

Board member Abby Raphael, however, argued that the Board typically does not hear public comment on personnel decisions.

“This is the most important obligation of the School Board,” she said. “This is a decision that the School Board is elected to make. It’s the right thing to do.”

Murphy’s previous contract was approved in 2012. His annual salary for the 2013-2014 school year was $218,375.

The new contract will expire at the end of the 2018 school year. It provides Murphy an annual salary of $223,242.50.

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Morning Notes

Skipping in the snow (Flickr pool photo by Robpc)

Board to Consider $6.6 Million Homeless Shelter Contract — County staff is recommending that the Arlington County Board approve a $6.6 million contract for construction of the new year-round homeless shelter in Courthouse. The contract includes a $1.1 million construction contingency to cover overages. The contract is “within budget,” a county spokeswoman said. The new Homeless Services Center will include 50 year-round beds, 5 medical respite beds and an additional 25 beds for winter months. [Arlington County]

Hike in ART, STAR Fees Proposed — Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan has proposed a hike in fees for the county’s ART and STAR transportation systems. The base fare for ART buses would increase from $1.50 to $1.75 under Donnellan’s proposal. [Sun Gazette]

Ebbin Reflects on Va. Marriage Ruling — State Sen. Adam Ebbin, the first and only openly gay member of the Virginia General Assembly, had mixed emotions after last week’s ruling that the Commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. “I always thought if you were gay, you could never get married, you’d never be able to have children,” he told the Washington Post. “I didn’t know you could be gay and be happy.” [Washington Post]

Belly Dancing in Shirlington — Aladdin’s Eatery (4044 Campbell Avenue) in Shirlington will be hosting regular belly dancing shows, starting on Thursday. The shows will be performed by faculty from Saffron Dance, which is based in Virginia Square. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]

Noise Complaint Targets Church — Even God is not safe from noise complaints in Arlington. Police were called to the 2400 block of Shirlington Road in Nauck on Monday night for “a loud church service in the area.” No word on whether officers found an actual violation of the county’s noise ordinance.

Flickr pool photo by Robpc

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County Requests Temporary Extension of Comcast Contract

Comcast logoArlington County is in the process of negotiating with Comcast for a new long term franchise agreement, but they’ve run out of time. That’s why they’re requesting a one year extension, which will be examined at Saturday’s Arlington County Board meeting.

Franchise agreements, which allow cable and video service providers to operate in a locality, typically are negotiated once every 10-15 years. Comcast took over an existing franchise agreement in 2000 and that expired in June of this year. In June, the County Board approved a six month temporary contract extension, which ends this month. Because both parties are still hashing out details of a long term agreement, they submitted the request currently before the Board for another temporary extension, to expire in December of 2014.

“The purpose of the extension is to give us time to negotiate the best deal we can with Comcast,” said the county’s Cable Administrator Rob Billingsley. “Rather than put the agreement in any kind of peril, the idea is that the Board passes, hopefully, that extension so we do have that time. All parties agree to do this, it’s not at all controversial.”

Both parties are required by law to keep the negotiations confidential. Billingsley did say, however, that the meetings have been successful and productive thus far.

“Because these agreements last as long as do, there’s some complexity to it,” Billingsley explained. “You’re not rushing it and you’re getting the best deal possible.”

The long term contracts allow Comcast to use the county’s “rights of way” such as streets and sidewalks. In exchange, Comcast provides free public education and government TV channels, in addition to grants and equipment for producing shows on those channels. The county also receives approximately five percent of Comcast’s gross revenue in Arlington, which is first routed through the state due to tax requirements and then heads back into the county’s general fund.

Part of the cable franchise renewal process involves examining Comcast’s past performance and determining future services to be included in the new agreement. There was a public meeting to discuss such desired services back in September of 2011.

County staff is recommending the County Board approve the temporary contract extension on Saturday.

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Arlington Launches Review of $1 Million Bus Stop

New Super Stop at Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive(Updated at 2:20 p.m.) Arlington County is launching a planned independent review of the $1 million Walter Reed “Super Stop” on Columbia Pike this week.

In a press release, the county says contractors will be conducting a “comprehensive review of the performance, cost, design and construction” of the bus stop. The review will include three primary components: interviews with bus stop users, a design review, and a financial and performance assessment.

Clarendon-based NeoNiche Strategies has been tapped to survey Super Stop users, per a $7,500 contract, while Arlington is still in negotiations with firms for the other two contracts, according to county spokeswoman Laura G. Smith. She declined to estimate the cost of the remaining two contracts, citing the ongoing negotiations.

“The goal of the review… is to facilitate the construction of the remaining planned stops faster, at lower cost and with improved functionality where necessary,” said the press release.

Completed in March, the bus stop features shelter for some 15 passengers, lighting, heating, and an electronic display that shows when the next buses are coming, but at a construction cost of more than $1 million.

Super Stop bus stop at Columbia Pike and Walter Reed DriveThe cost of the stop, and some of its perceived shortfalls — like lack of shelter from the elements — sparked a controversy that became national news and prompted the county to announce a “reassessment” of its design and cost within just two weeks of its opening. Twenty-three other planned Super Stops on the Pike, expected to cost around $900,000 apiece, were put on hold.

County Manager Barbara Donnellan says the project will proceed once the review is complete and an acceptable, lower-cost alternative is found.

“Arlington is committed to investing in the Columbia Pike corridor and providing quality transportation options to meet the community’s current and future transit needs,” Donnellan said in a statement. “We look forward to the findings of these reviews and will take steps necessary to ensure the construction of future stops at a significantly lower cost while maintaining functionality and the amenities needed for a high-capacity station.”

The review process is expected to wrap up in late fall 2013.

“The County Manager, after consulting with Arlington County Board Members and WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority), will announce her decision later this year,” according to the press release, which blamed the high cost of the first stop on a number of factors.

The Walter Reed Super Stop was a first-of-its-kind, high capacity transit stop. The Super Stop was designed to serve the growing number of riders along this heavily utilized transit corridor and to handle the projected increase in future riders expected with Columbia Pike streetcar. The completed prototype features a design to attract new riders, and includes expanded shelter and seating, lights, real-time electronic arrival displays, level boarding for bus passengers, transit maps, signage and more.

Over the course of the construction of Walter Reed Drive prototype stop, set-up costs, construction challenges and delays, and design refinements increased the total cost of the project. Due to the higher-than-expected cost and functionality concerns, the County Manager placed construction of the future 23 Super Stops on hold pending completion of the review.

Earlier this year, county officials directed blame for the extra costs and delays on WMATA, which managed the construction of the first stop.

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