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by ARLnow.com April 24, 2018 at 9:00 am 0

Arlington Among Top Cities for Recent Grads — According to rankings from the website Livability, Arlington is the No. 2 best place for recent college graduates. Champaign, Ill. was ranked No. 1 and Jersey City, N.J. ranked No. 3. [Livability]

Major Water Main Replacement Approved — “The Arlington County Board [on Saturday] approved a $1.9 million contract (including contingency) to Sagres Construction Corporation to replace a nearly century-old water main along South Arlington Ridge Road, between 23rd Street South and South Nash Street. The existing 8-inch water main was built in 1927 and has experienced frequent breaks in recent years.” [Arlington County]

Cemetery Investigates Suspicious Package — On Saturday Arlington National Cemetery’s main entrance was briefly closed to vehicles and pedestrians while a security team investigated a suspicious package in the Welcome Center. The package was determined to “pose no threat” and normal operations resumed at 4:50 p.m. [Twitter]

Yorktown Grad in NFL Draft — M.J. Stewart may be the first Yorktown High School grad selected in the NFL Draft: “The 6-foot, 205-pound defensive back, who played at the University of North Carolina the last four seasons and was a three-time all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection, has been projected to be chosen in the second or third round. The draft begins the night April 26 with first-round selections and last through April 28.” [InsideNova]

Heated Dispute Over Amazon Fire Stick — “Overheard on the scanner: Police responding to a man and a woman arguing over which person owns an Amazon Fire stick.” [Twitter]

Yarn Bomb Featured in Video — A new video shows the creation of the “yarn bomb” in Clarendon. In captions, it explains that a yarn bomb “is a type of graffiti or street art of knitted or crocheted yarn rather than paint or chalk.” [YouTube]

Flickr pool photo by Dave Bentley

by ARLnow.com April 23, 2018 at 6:35 pm 0

The Arlington County Board on Saturday unanimously passed a $1.276 billion balanced budget that includes a number of fee increases but no real estate tax rate hike.

The FY 2019 budget notably restores $70,000 in funding for Arlington Independent Media — County Manager Mark Schwartz proposed cutting about $90,000 in county funds for the community TV and radio broadcaster — after AIM collected more than 1,300 online petition signatures against the cut. The Board also boosted first responder pay, particularly starting pay which police and firefighter associations say is low and hurting recruitment, by $1.6 million above the manager’s recommendation, which already included a pay boost.

Funding the increased spending is the reallocation of $2.5 million from proposed renovations to the county government headquarters in Courthouse and the freezing of 16 vacant public safety positions.

Per the manager’s recommendations, the budget also increases parking meter rates and extends metered hours until 8 p.m., while increasing utility taxes, household waste fees and various departmental fees.

“The Board largely accepted the $8.4 million in spending reductions, $6.6 million in fee and tax increases and $5.5 million in funding realignments recommended by the County Manager in his proposed budget,” notes a county press release, below. County Board Chair Katie Cristol called the adopted budget “sustainably progressive.”

County funding for Arlington Public Schools will top the $500 million mark, as the school system continues to face pressures from enrollment growth and the opening of new schools. Metro, meanwhile, will receive a 3 percent increase in funding, receiving $73.1 million from the county’s coffers and state transit aid earmarked for Arlington.

In addition to AIM and first responders, the Board nixed the following cuts proposed by Schwartz, according to the markup record:

  • $620,000 for the Affordable Housing Investment Fund
  • $365,000 for Lee Highway planning and $25,000 for the Lee Highway Alliance
  • $40,000 for the Legal Aid Justice Center, which serves immigrants
  • $200,000 for a body scanner at the county jail
  • $50,000 for the Arlington County Fair
  • $20,000 for community shredding events
  • $40,000 for the Arlington Neighborhood College program
  • $184,000 for a youth mental health therapist

Among the proposed cuts not restored: the elimination of the printed Citizen newsletter, the elimination of two ART bus routes, the elimination of Arlington’s poet laureate and a $555,000 cut to the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy residential rebate program.

The latter drew some pushback from Board members.

“The cuts that we’re doing this year to AIRE — nobody’s going to die, there’s nothing fundamentally that any of us are going to lose sleep over or should be ashamed of,” said Erik Gutshall. “But while people don’t die, our planet is dying, its ability to sustain our life at least.”

“In future budgets, while we’re going to continue to make tough choices, we’re not going to let our commitment to the environment fall behind,” he added.

Despite the disagreements, the Board was unanimous in its vote on the budget, which Board members praised for prioritizing key areas while avoiding a tax rate increase. (The tax burden on the average homeowner will still increase by $296.)

“Despite the reductions, there are investments our community can be proud of in this budget,” Cristol said in a statement. “We prioritized funding our public schools, especially teachers, and investing in our workforce, especially public safety personnel. We preserved our social safety net and sustained funding for affordable housing and core services.”

“I see this budget really as a transition from the way we’ve been doing things to the way we’ll need to do things going forward,” said Libby Garvey. “This community has pretty much gotten used to having as much money as we need to do what we want to do. This year it’s starting to change. It’s likely to be even harder in the future with the stresses we have moving forward. I think it’s a good transition to what we’ll be doing moving forward.”

“What I think we’ve done is really weatherize our fiscal house for the inclement weather ahead,” echoed John Vihstadt. “It’s only going to get tougher as we move forward, but we took some important steps here that, while not greeted uniformly favorably, were necessary to be done.”

Arlington Independent Media and public safety associations, meanwhile, expressed gratitude for the additional funding.

Arlington County’s press release about the budget, after the jump.

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by Bridget Reed Morawski April 23, 2018 at 3:45 pm 0

The Arlington County Board has approved a site plan that would bring 97 affordable housing units and two rows of townhouses to Buckingham.

The “100 percent affordable” multi-family building and townhouses will replace the former local Red Cross headquarters.

The approved development comes despite complaints from nearby residents about the proposal. The new development’s density, potentially increased traffic, and “the desecration of the tree canopy” were all cited as dealbreakers for some locals, though supporters asserted that the building was vacant, the affordable housing is “badly needed” and complaints were overblown.

A partial rezoning of the site was approved alongside the site plan at Saturday’s County Board meeting (April 21). There are currently two single family homes on the site, in addition to the former headquarters and an existing playground.

The townhouses will be built in the first phase of the project, with construction on the multi-family building, which is required to “achieve Earthcraft Gold or LEED v4 Homes and Multifamily Midrise Gold certification,” following in a second phase.

The developer, Wesley Housing Development Corporation, agreed to preserve the on-site apartments, known historically as the Windsor Apartments but now called the Whitefield Commons, which the county says were built in 1943. Unit incomes will average 80 percent of the average median income, and the building will average 60 percent of that figure.

Whitefield Commons’ interior will be reconfigured to add five units, bringing the total units inside that complex to 68. The multi-family building will have 97 units, and the townhouses will have 19.

There will be 187 parking spaces between the developments — 45 at Whitefield Commons, 88 at the multi-family building, and 42 for the townhouses. The townhouses have the highest parking ratio per unit, at 2.26 spots per unit plus four visitor spots.

Wesley Housing Development Corporation will be required to “encourage transportation alternatives.”

That will be done via a transportation management plan, which includes a provision to give “each new tenant in the multi-family building… a choice of a SmartTrip card preloaded with a $65 balance or a bikeshare or car share membership,” according to a county project website.

A Google Maps estimate shows that the site is approximately a 22 minute walk to the Ballston Metro station. The 3.95 acre parcel is bordered by N. Thomas and N. Trenton streets, 2nd Road N., and Arlington Boulevard.

Plans estimate that 60 trees will be removed, three of which are dead or dying and another 17 of which are located on top of or near an existing storm pipe.

An estimated 132 tree credits will be granted, according to the site plan. One credit is given for each planted shade tree or large evergreen tree, or for every three deciduous, ornamental, or small evergreen trees.

Map via Google Maps

by Bridget Reed Morawski April 23, 2018 at 1:30 pm 0

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.

(more…)

by Bridget Reed Morawski April 20, 2018 at 10:55 am 0

A Virginia Square lounge and restaurant may have a permit renewed at tomorrow’s Arlington County Board meeting despite outstanding code violations.

Darna Lounge was closed in February due to “numerous violations of the Building, Fire, Zoning and Environmental Health codes, affecting the health, safety and welfare of the public.” The structure was deemed unfit for habitation but has since reopened.

According to a county report, most of the violations have been corrected and the applicant is “diligently pursuing resolution of the outstanding issues.” But some still remain, per a county staff report.

The establishment was allowed to reopen after correcting the major violations that were identified during the coordinated inspection. The applicant was granted an extension to April 1, 2018 to come into full compliance. A building permit to correct the outstanding violations was submitted on March 12, 2018, for the purpose of addressing unapproved alterations to the building. However, the applicant was not able to meet the April 1, 2018 deadline. The Inspection Services Division (ISD) has provided comments to the applicant that require revisions to the drawings associated with the building permit. The applicant is in the process of addressing the comments and resubmitting the revised drawings.

Despite the building concerns, the County Manager’s office is recommending that the Board approve a renewal of Darna’s live entertainment and dancing permit, with an administrative review in three months.

“Staff finds that at this time the applicant is reasonably working to resolve the outstanding violations, which are not deemed to be of a life, health or safety concern,” the report said, “Therefore, staff recommends renewal of the subject use permit with a three (3) month County Board review (July 2018).”

Staff also notes that police reported no recent issues with the business and that Darna reps “attended the Arlington Restaurant Initiative training on April 7, 2018 conducted by ACPD officers.”

The lounge recently gained some national notoriety as the location where Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson was caught on camera cheating on his pregnant, reality TV star girlfriend, Khloe Kardashian.

Darna, at 946 N. Jackson Street, opened back in 2012.

File photo

by Bridget Reed Morawski April 19, 2018 at 4:45 pm 0

The two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the Arlington County Board debated issues like predatory towing and county spending at last night’s debate.

Hosted by the Arlington Young Democrats and moderated by Virginia Public Radio’s Michael Lee Pope, the debate between candidates Chanda Choun and Matthew de Ferranti was held at the Walter Reed Community Center.

While there was agreement on the impending vote on the county’s budget and other financial issues, Choun and de Ferranti held different opinions on renovating county government headquarters.

Choun was in favor of renovating the building, saying that it has been years since it was renovated and adding environmental efficiencies and handicap accessibility were necessary.

For de Ferranti, he “would rather spend the money on schools,” or other programs, citing cuts to school mental health professionals in the budget. The candidate added that there were higher priority investments that could be made for the sake of county employees, and that wage raises were a start.

Both candidates were in favor of a stronger stance against predatory parking, with de Ferranti saying that he has been towed himself and that he was sure others at the debate had been towed as well.

Choun specifically stated his support of a secondary signature requirement for towing, which was passed by the County Board but shot down by the state legislature. He later mentioned his support for extended parking meter hours.

The issue of the minimum wage was raised, with both candidates in favor of a higher local minimum, which is not currently an option — despite attempts by local legislators — given the Dillon Rule.

“If you work 40 hours a week in Arlington, you should be able to afford a place to live that is not more than 40 percent of your income,” said De Ferranti. He believed that the minimum wage should be raised to $10.

Choun saind that Arlington “should match if not exceed the District of Columbia’s minimum wage,” which will reach $15 per work hour in 2020.

Though he was against several proposed budget cuts, such as those relating to Lee Highway planning, Choun favored cuts that he found to be duplicative or irrelevant. He cited the cutting of the county’s cable administrator position as a step in the right direction to eliminate unnecessary spending.

De Ferranti said that the county needs “to be fiscally smart” and that he was concerned with the amount spent on facilities.

Though professing a deep devotion to the county, Choun only moved to Arlington in 2015.

“I always wanted to be here,” he said following a question regarding his motivation to run from Pope. “It just took time personally and professionally to get here.”

“That doesn’t mean that I don’t have anything to offer,” Choun added, mentioning his background as a Cambodian refugee, a tech professional, and a military veteran.

Originally from McLean, de Ferranti was not asked about his reason for running for a County Board seat but was asked about an endorsement from Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Va.).

Lopez has been criticized for his financial links to a privately run Immigration Centers of America detention facility in Farmville, Va. De Ferranti said that “if you look at [Lopez’s] work in Richmond, he’s been a strong leader for us in Richmond on affordable housing and immigration.”

“I’m grateful for his support, but I’m also focused on what I can do and I hope that you’ll judge me on my actions on immigration with respect to Arlington,” de Ferranti added.

The Democratic primary is scheduled for June 12 and the nominee will face incumbent County Board member John Vihstadt in the November election. Vihstadt, an independent, was elected in 2014 and received the endorsement of the Arlington GOP. He became the first non-Democrat to sit on the Arlington County Board in 15 years.

Reporting contributions from Anna Merod

by Bridget Reed Morawski April 19, 2018 at 10:55 am 0

A proposed child care center in Courthouse is likely to be approved by the County Board at this weekend’s meeting, but it is not without some controversy.

Residents of the Woodbury Heights Condominiums have raised concerns about the proximity of the proposed Bright Horizons child care center to Arlington’s Homeless Services Center, according to the county staff report.

Several tenants of the Courthouse condominium building publicly opposed the homeless shelter prior to its construction due to safety and property value concerns.

The 24-hour homeless shelter is at 2020 14th Street N., and the child care facility would be at 2000 14th Street N. That’s a distance of less than 330 feet, according to a Google Maps estimate.

Pending approval, the child care center would also be near Ragtime restaurant, as well as Arlington County Police headquarters, the county jail and the county courthouse.

The center is slated to have a maximum permitted enrollment of 136 children, but the number could be set lower by Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services if deemed necessary.

County staff concluded that “the proposed location of the Bright Horizons child care center is not anticipated to cause an undue adverse impact on the surrounding community and will provide a valuable service at the proposed location.”

The report added that the site has adequate parking spaces and public transportation access. The child care center would convert 10,868 square feet of office space into child care use. An outdoor plaza would be converted into a 4,645 square foot outdoor play space enclosed by a five foot fence.

The Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights Civic Association did not object to the child care center and several nearby apartment buildings did not respond to county staff’s notification, according to county documents.

The child care center would help with the county’s lack of available child care services. The shortage of child care options — particularly affordable options — relative to demand prompted the launch of the county’s Child Care Initiative in December.

Bright Horizons has agreed to operate from Monday-Friday from 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m. The child care chain has three locations in Arlington already — in Rosslyn, Ballston, and Crystal City — and has dozens across the country.

Attempts to reach a current representative of the Woodbury Heights Condominium Association were unsuccessful.

Photo via Arlington County

by Bridget Reed Morawski April 18, 2018 at 4:45 pm 0

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.

by Bridget Reed Morawski April 18, 2018 at 2:55 pm 0

A black box theater is expected to be formally removed from the plans for a development in Virginia Square at this weekend’s Arlington County Board meeting.

The County Manager’s office has recommended that a new site plan amendment be approved that would remove the theater from the development’s required community amenities.

Mark Schwartz, the County Manager, moved to absolve the developer of the black box theater requirement last year. Though the theater was in line with the Virginia Square sector plan, its initial operational and financial costs, as well as ongoing operational costs that would rely on tax support, were deemed too high.

Considering those costs, the project didn’t align with “a shift in strategy which talks about delivering cultural programming with low-cost, high-impact investments,” said Schwartz.

The new site plan will convert a previously approved 3,180 square feet of ground floor retail space into office space, 2,725 square feet of retail space to office space, and add 2,725 square feet of office space at the penthouse level.

The proposed plan would also lower the building’s height by eight feet, eliminate a mezzanine level, and add an outdoor terrace at the penthouse level.

The mezzanine level is no longer necessary, as it was intended to support the black box theater. County staff found that “the proposed site plan amendments are reasonable adjustments in the approved site plan and respond to the removal of the black box theater.”

The site was previously home of the Arlington Funeral Home, which closed in 2011 after 55 years in business.

by Bridget Reed Morawski April 18, 2018 at 10:55 am 0

Arlington may get two new Capital Bikeshare stations, at Roosevelt Island and Gravelly Point.

The County Board is set to approve a “memorandum of understanding” with the National Park Service, which has to approve the bikeshare stations since they would be located on NPS land.

The approval would further the goal of an expansion of the bikeshare network along the Mt. Vernon Trail.

Responsibility for the installation and maintenance of the bikeshare facilities on NPS land would fall on the county, according to the memorandum. It also restricts any advertisements on the stations, and sets requirements for site preservation and, should the stations be removed in the future, restoration.

The office of the County Manager has recommended that the memorandum be approved at Saturday’s County Board meeting (April 21).

Currently there are about 440 stations and 3,700 Capital Bikeshare bikes in the region. As of 2017, 85 Bikeshare stations were in Arlington.

by Bridget Reed Morawski April 17, 2018 at 4:45 pm 0

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.”

by Bridget Reed Morawski April 17, 2018 at 3:45 pm 0

A new rooftop bar in Clarendon is on the verge of regulatory approval.

The County Manager’s office has recommended that the County Board approve amendments and modifications to an incoming Clarendon restaurant at the former La Tasca site.

The proposed site plan amendment calls for “the addition of approximately 1,760 square feet of new gross floor area and approximately 12 feet of new building height to accommodate a roof structure for the incoming Buena Vida restaurant, with modification of zoning standards for parking.”

Approximately 129 new seats will be added to the space’s capacity with the amendment.

The County Board is set to approve those modifications, allowing the applicant to maintain the current level of parking spaces. This would reduce the project’s parking ratio from one spot per 580 retail square feet to one space per 606 retail square feet, according to a County Board agenda item.

With the Clarendon Metro station two blocks away from the restaurant site and a slew of Clarendon-area parking garages and street parking options, staff noted that “there will be no undue adverse impacts as a result of the request.”

The new rooftop area, “minimally visible to pedestrians at the ground level,” would include both an enclosed and an outdoor section, elevator access, and a lounge area. “Sound attenuating glass” has been proposed by the applicant for the wall adjacent to Wilson Boulevard, and dark sky lighting standards have been agreed to, per the agenda item.

Both the Clarendon-Courthouse Civic Association and the Clarendon Alliance have indicated support, according to county documents, for the site plan amendment. The Lyon Village Civic Association, per the document, “had not communicated a position on the applicant’s request” to the county.

The rooftop dining and bar area would be the top floor of a three floor dining concept, a Mexican beer garden called Up. The first floor will be a Mexican eatery called Tacos, Tortas & Tequila that would serve the aforementioned foods, while the second floor would be Buena Vida, an all-you-can-eat tapas style restaurant.

by Bridget Reed Morawski April 17, 2018 at 2:45 pm 0

The County Board is set to consider formally changing Oakgrove Park’s name to Oak Grove Park, after Cherrydale residents fought to resurrect the park’s older spelling.

Arlington’s Park and Recreation Commission and the County Manager’s office is recommending the naming clarification, which Harry Specter, a Cherrydale resident who argued in favor of the change, called “a typographical error that was never corrected.”

Per a County Board agenda item, the park was created at the same time that I-66 was in the 1970s. At the time, the park was known by the two word “Oak Grove” Park.

At some point in the 1990s, signage was installed that seems to have mischaracterized the park’s name, omitting the space and calling it “Oakgrove Park.”

The agenda item stated that staff had “not found an official record of a formal park naming process for either the two-word spelling or the one-word spelling” of the park.

However, there has been some inconsistency in how the park was referred to in planning documents, according to the agenda item:

The current Public Spaces Master Plan (PSMP) from 2005 details this park as “Oakgrove” Park. The current General Land Use Plan (GLUP) (2011) and previous versions have identified this park as “Oak Grove” Park. Other County Board adopted documents which characterize this park as “Oak Grove” Park include the Cherrydale Neighborhood Conservation Plan (originally adopted in 1987 with updates in 2005 and 2014) and the Lee Highway-Cherrydale Revitalization Plan (1994).

The Oakgrove Park playground improvements project, slated to wrap up this May, already included “two new metal panels (custom entrance sign)” that would “be installed and will cost about $550 each (approximately $1,100 total)” in the plan.

The “new” name will be on the new signs, so no dedicated costs will be incurred regarding the park’s formal renaming.

by Bridget Reed Morawski April 5, 2018 at 1:45 pm 0

(Updated: 4:05 p.m.) The Arlington County Board needs a new clerk “to serve as its principal staff officer,” according to a government job posting.

The current clerk, Hope Halleck, has been with the county since 1987. She has served as clerk to the County Board since 2008, according to her LinkedIn page, having served from 2006-2008 as a constituent services manager.

Her last day with the county will be April 27. Halleck told ARLnow that she’s getting married in June, and, along with other pleasant life events, both she and her partner are retiring and “ready for new adventures.”

The listed salary is between $88,025.60-$145,184, in line with the county’s 2018 county employee pay scale.

According to the job listing, the clerk will be expected to provide “leadership and supervision to a team of experienced and service oriented staff including the Deputy Clerk, Senior Management Analyst, and Receptionist and, in coordination with the County Board, the Board Members’ Aides.”

Key responsibilities will include “serving as the official record-keeper for the Board,” “providing management, staff supervision and administration of the County Board Office,” and “acting as the Board’s liaison to the public.”

File photo

by Bridget Reed Morawski April 4, 2018 at 9:45 am 0

Police and fire officials flooded last night’s (April 3) budget hearing to speak out against stagnant wages.

Public safety personnel say that police and fire wages are too low to allow them to live in Arlington long-term. Many are joining up, but soon realizing that their pay is insufficient to live in the county and raise a family.

The starting salary for a firefighter in Arlington is $48,000, while an entry-level police officer makes just under $53,000, according to organizers of last night’s demonstration.

A recent study found that single Arlingtonians can live comfortably on just over $56,000 a year; a couple with two children can live comfortably with just under $114,000 per year.

The proposed 2019 budget includes a four percent raise for ACFD but only a two-and-a-half percent raise for ACPD.

A “strategic restructuring” is in the works at the Arlington County Police Department, as its functional strength falls well below its authorized force. Recruiting has been a challenge, officials say.

Matthew Martin, the Arlington Police Beneficiary Association president, said that the department currently operating with 44 officers below full strength. That’s about two full patrol squads, according to the association.

‘Your police department is in trouble,” said Martin. “We can’t recruit and retain the high-quality officers that we need.”

The high turnover itself is a financial problem, as the department must then pay for recruiting and training the short-time officers, forcing the county to advertise job opportunities on billboards as far away as suburban Pittsburgh.

Ashley Savage, the police department spokeswoman, told the Tribune-Review that the billboard campaign “eventually will cover territory from Youngstown, Ohio, to Cleveland and from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg.”

Matt Quinn, a financial crimes unit detective who has been on the force for 12 years, said that since there are not enough officers for core services it’s hard even for those who don’t leave the department to move up.

“We have to focus on our core services, which is patrol, which means we have to make sure that that’s taken care of before people start looking at the detective bureau or other assignments within the bureau,” Quinn said.

Arlington County will not raise property tax rates this year, but fees are set to rise for several county services and amenities while other programs are seeing their budgets cut.

IAFF Local 2800, which represents Arlington’s professional firefighters and paramedics, noted that ACFD is paid as much as 20 percent less than their nearby counterparts.

So even if the demands are met, and a four percent increase is achieved, it’s just a start in the eyes of several fire and police officials.

“I think it’s a start for the department as a whole… but definitely over the next couple years we have to work at compressing the pay scale and increasing the starting pay to attract more good candidates,” Quinn explained, saying it would be a good start in a multi-year process.

The County Board room, at capacity, was closed off shortly after opening as dozens of people — many in support of other causes, like nixing a proposed cut for Arlington Independent Media — poured in. The overflow crowd was allowed to watch and listen from the hall.

“We brought the fire department here, I think we’ll be fine,” one officer joked after the room was instructed to squeeze in to fit more people in the seats.

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