Arlington, VA

The Arlington County Board will soon vote on whether to spend over $700,000 upgrading the County Manager’s Office.

Member are scheduled to vote on the proposed renovation to the third floor office suite in the Bozman building (2100 Clarendon Blvd) during their meeting this Saturday, November 16.

If members vote to approve the project, the county will award $631,535 to Manassas-based Juniper Construction Company, Inc, plus an additional $126,307 for unanticipated costs.

A staff report to the Board indicates that the contract would fund upgrades to:

  • Create a “joint reception area” for the County Manager and County Board offices as well as a new “huddle room”
  • Several “open office concept work spaces” for staffers
  • Renovated conference rooms on the 3rd floor
  • “New finishes” in the offices and hallway

As of today (Thursday), the item is listed on the Board’s consent agenda, a place usually reserved for issues members expect to pass without debate.

The work is funded by a tenant improvement allowance negotiated as part of the county’s lease renewal and is part of a larger project to renovate the local government headquarters.

“The total project budget for the Bozman Government Center Renovation Project is $23.5M with the 3rd Floor CMO Suite renovation at $757,842.17,” the report notes.

Recently, the Board approved a multimillion dollar contract to replace the heating system at the county’s jail and courthouse building.

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Morning Notes

It’s Veterans Day — “Arlington County Government offices, courts, libraries & facilities will be closed Mon., Nov. 11, 2019, on Veterans Day.” Also, ARLnow will be on a limited publishing schedule. [Arlington County]

Fracture in Ranks of Arlington Dems — “Longtime Democratic volunteer John Richardson removed his name from the roster of ‘poll greeters,’ bemoaning party ‘orthodoxy.’ After last May’s divisive primary for commonwealth’s attorney, Richardson went public with criticisms of the successful outside-funded Parisa Deghani-Tafti campaign against incumbent Theo Stamos. That led party officials, he said, to ‘disinvite’ him from being a greeter.” [Falls Church News-Press]

County Releases Flood History Map — “Working toward a more Flood Resilient Arlington, the County continues to add to its array of stormwater management resources for the public. Challenges and the Path Forward, a just-published, visually rich Story Map, illustrates how Arlington’s peak 20th century development took place amid few standards for stormwater — and the ramifications for today’s more frequent, intense rain storms lasting very short periods of time.” [Arlington County]

Nearby: Skyline Complex Acquired — “A New York-based commercial real estate firm has acquired the aging Skyline office complex in Baileys Crossroads for about $215 million with plans to revitalize the 1970s-era property Vornado Realty Trust (NYSE: VNO) relinquished ownership of nearly three years ago.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Just a few months into the county’s “Housing Arlington” initiative, Arlington’s Housing Director is retiring.

David Cristeal is stepping down after 15 years with the county, including six as Housing Director. Cristeal was elevated to the position in 2013 after a nationwide search.

At the time, he won plaudits from then-County Manager Barbara Donnellan for “working successfully with Arlington community members and non-profit partners to plan and preserve affordable housing.”

On Thursday, a county spokeswoman said Cristeal was retiring, after an inquiry from ARLnow about a job ad on the Washington Post website. His last day will be next Friday, the spokeswoman said.

From the job listing:

Arlington County’s Community Planning, Housing and Development is seeking a dynamic, energetic, and innovative Housing Director. This is a unique opportunity to work on a variety of housing solutions for one of the country’s most densely populated and well-educated communities. Recently, Arlington County has attracted new and expanding companies that have or will be bringing tens of thousands of new, high paying jobs to the County over the coming decade. This significant influx of workers will further stress the region’s already competitive housing market.

Duties include:

  • Implementing a new Housing Arlington initiative through a multi-department effort, while remaining responsible for other housing programs and initiatives that serve a diverse community;
  • Providing regional solutions to solve the complex challenge of serving the growing needs of the low and moderate-income residents in the County;
  • Developing strategies to increase supply for low income residents and moderate-income residents who are also impacted by increasing housing prices; and
  • Providing comprehensive approach to meeting housing needs, which is vital for economic sustainability, diversity, and quality of life.

The ad was posted on Thursday and lists an annual salary range of $101,150.40-$197,163.20.

The Housing Arlington initiative aims to create more housing — particularly for low- and middle-income residents — to help accommodate anticipated population growth. Earlier this year Arlington County reported that it had lost 17,000 market-rate affordable housing units since 2005 and was expecting 58,000 more residents by 2045.

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Arlington County has closed the 2019 fiscal year within its $1.27 billion budget, and thanks in part to cost savings and higher-than-expected tax revenue the county has $23.2 million left over.

During the Arlington County Board meeting on Tuesday, County Manager Mark Schwartz recommended allocating the leftover funds across three categories:

Reserving $14.4 million for unallocated funds would give “the county some flexibility when weighing its future budget choices for FY 2021,” according to county budget director Richard Stephenson.

Staff said $6.8 million Schwartz recommended for the county’s reserve fund is important for maintaining Arlington’s high bond ratings. If approved, these funds would increase the county’s contributions to its reserve from 0.5% to 1% of the total operating budget.

“Bond ratings serve as an indicator of the county’s resiliency and ability to weather economic downturn and unusual catastrophic events,” said Maria Meredith, director of Arlington’s Department of Management and Finance, during Tuesday’s meeting.

The remaining $2 million for the County Manager Operating Contingent would be for addressing “unforeseen needs that arise during the fiscal year, such as contractual increases, repairs, or special projects,” said Stephenson.

“We’ve had this contingent set aside for awhile,” said Stephenson after the meeting. “For example, when Katie Cristol came on as Board Chair and wanted to start the Child Care Initiative, the money was there to do those things — without needing the redistribute the county budget.”

The $23.2 million carryover represents 2.7% of the county’s total FY 2019 budget, a slight increase from last year’s 2.6% carryover.

Until recent budget years, the Board would usually allocate its close-out surplus funds to a variety of initiatives, a practice that prompted some bipartisan criticism. Last year the Board mostly rolled over its leftover funds to the next year’s budget, while also adding to its reserves.

In January, the county introduced its first financial transparency tool, dubbed “Arlington Wallet,” which aims to help Arlingtonians get a clearer look at how officials are spending money each year.

“We’ve done a much better job explaining the sources of these funds, and we’re getting much more responsible in [their] proposed uses,” said Dorsey.

County Board members added they welcome public comment on the issue throughout the month before they are scheduled to take action during their next meeting on Saturday, November 16.

A $1.4 billion FY 2020 budget was approved earlier this year. The Board will present forecasts for the next budget, FY 2021, during the November meeting.

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Some referees who worked for Arlington’s youth basketball games have still not been paid for the winter season.

The lack of pay continues five months after officials said they were “looking into” the issue caused by the company Mid-Atlantic Coast Referees, which Arlington contracted with to manage referees.

“Arlington County does not know the number of officials who haven’t been paid, as the officials are not employees of the County and Mid-Atlantic is responsible for payment,” county spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said Tuesday, when asked how many referees are still awaiting wages.

During Saturday’s County Board meeting, one 16-year-old girl asked the County Board to help her get paid.

“Like a lot of the other teenage referees, this was supposed to be my first paying job,” she said. “Yet I was never paid.”

“I believe Arlington County owes me the $255 in wages and it is not the responsibility of teenage workers to chase down this county contractor,” she said.

“I’m really sorry that you had this incredibly negative experience with what I presume is one of your first jobs,” replied Board Chair Christian Dorsey.

Dorsey said that officials found out that the head of Mid-Atlantic suffered “a catastrophic health issue” that caused a backlog of payment requests, among other record-keeping issues. The county is in contact with relatives of the company’s founder, who have helped with the business and paid all of the unpaid referees they were aware of, Dorsey said.

“What is challenging for us… is that we paid the vendor,” said Dorsey, adding that Board has a duty to prevent taxpayers from “paying twice” for the service.

In total, the Department of Parks and Recreation paid Mid-Atlantic $163,269 for the season through April, according to records ARLnow obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. County spokeswoman Erika Moore said Arlington did not seek any money back from the company, explaining that the county’s “payment obligation was to Mid-Atlantic for services rendered to Arlington County.”

Arlington’s Resident Ombudsman and Director of Constituent Services Ben Aiken told ARLnow that he also recently contacted the company.

“As a courtesy in my role as Ombudsman, I emailed on behalf of two constituents, including the former referee who spoke at the September public comment,” Aiken said. “Those messages were sent yesterday (Monday, Sept. 23), and I have not yet received a response.”

Mid-Atlantic could not be reached for comment.

Smith said the county terminated its contract with the company in May and put out a bid for a new contractor this fall. In the meantime, the county tapped NOVA Refs (which also provides youth football flag referees in Arlington) for the job.

“The County procured interim services using a Quick Quote contract method to ensure the summer and fall season were not impacted,” she said.

“We’ve learned some lessons on how we contract outside vendors,” Dorsey noted Saturday. “We do learn our lessons when things go wrong.”

The youth basketball leagues are offered to students in grades 1-12 and are run by volunteer coaches, according to the county’s website. For the 1st and 2nd grade level league, the volunteer coaches also act as referees, per the website.

“Don’t be afraid to be a ref again, please, we need refs,” said Board member Erik Gutshall to the teenager who took to the podium on Saturday. “I hope you enjoyed the experience, although not the aftermath.”

Image via Flickr/Karl Baron

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Arlington will soon be studying how to factor racial equity in policymaking thanks to a new resolution passed this weekend.

The Arlington County Board unanimously adopted a resolution its meeting this past Saturday, September 21, committing the county to gathering data on racial inequality in Arlington, creating a “scorecard” to track progress made, and designing a tool to help officials consider race during policy and budget decisions, among other actions.

The three-page resolution is part of the county’s participation in a training program with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) and the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), a national racial justice organization from University of California Berkeley’s racial justice institute and activist organization Race Forward.

As part of the the nine-month program, county officials will design the racial equity tool for policymaking, aimed at improving currently unequal policy outcomes based on race.

“Arlington County has achieved great success in attaining ‘secure, attractive, residential and commercial neighborhoods’ with engaged citizenry and resilient, sustainable communities, but recognizes this is not the experience of all Arlingtonians,” reads the Saturday resolution.

County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said that many “grassroots” efforts have existed in Arlington to address racism and unequal access to resources, but that’s an imperfect system.

“We weren’t hitting everything,” he said. “It was not comprehensive.”

“The pervasiveness and the systemic nature of inequity in our society means you can’t pick and choose where you want to make a difference,” added Dorsey. “You have to actually make that difference enterprise-wide, community-wide.”

Board member Katie Cristol praised county staff for their work on the project, and said staff buy-in was essential because everything local government does from “filling pop-holes to renewing library books” touches themes of racial equity.

Officials noted during the weekend discussion that the commitment to equity is designed to build on the county’s existing equality initiatives dedicated to housing, health, childcare, and internet access. Research previously found a 10-year life expectancy gap between some Arlington residents depending on where they live and that students of color faced higher rates of obesity, teen pregnancy, and lower rates of care for mental health.

“Simply put, it’s about meeting people where they are,” Assistant County Manager Samia Byrd said of the new initiative. “And beginning to open doors to provide access to pathways that have been traditionally or systematically blocked.”

Byrd said Arlington will assemble an interdepartmental task force to address racial inequities that will include Arlington Public Schools, which has faced accusations of racial bias in student discipline, and settled a lawsuit with the Department of Justice over inadequate support for English-language learning students.

“The vast majority of our history is one where government has played a role in creating and maintaining racial inequities,” said GARE Director Julie Nelson. “And so for us it’s really important for us to recognize what our vision is, and what our values are, and to act accordingly.”

GARE currently works with local governments in around 40 states, including Virginia and Maryland, according to its website.

“The current paradigm is challenging the premise of equality and instead considering equity,” Byrd noted.

“Frankly this is a step forward for the families that [the Arlington Food Assistance Center] serves,” said AFAC’s Executive Director and CEO Charles Meng.

“This isn’t about feeling good,” said Board member Libby Garvey. “It’s about making it better for everybody.”

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Morning Notes

Water Main Break Near CourthouseUpdated at 8:10 a.m. — “Emergency Water Main Repairs: Crews working on a 3-inch main at 2000 N. Adams St. The area includes high-rise buildings and some 100 customers could be affected. Traffic is detoured around the work site.” [Twitter]

Gun, Drug Arrest at Pentagon City Metro — A man is facing a litany of gun and drug-related charges after being arrested by Metro Transit Police officers for alleged fare evasion at the Pentagon City station this past Thursday. [Twitter]

APS Hits Full Bus Driver Staffing — “The school year began with full staffing of drivers and bus attendants, who serve 18,000 eligible students over 154 routes, using 200 buses.” [InsideNova]

DCA Starbucks Closing Permanently — “Beginning on or about Monday, September 9, Starbucks on the Ticketing level of Terminal B/C will close to make way for construction of a steel-framed glass divider.” [Reagan National Airport]

New Permitting System Launches Today — “Arlington County is launching the first phase of Permit Arlington, a new online permitting system, on Sept. 9, 2019.” [Arlington County]

Nearby: Alexandria Metro Stations Reopening — “Alexandria Metrorail stations will reopen at 5 a.m. on September 9, with full service following Metro’s summer Platform Improvement Project. Metro closed all four Metrorail stations in Alexandria (as well as two in Fairfax County) for safety repairs on May 25.” [City of Alexandria]

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Morning Notes

Woman Arrested for Burning Flag Near W-L High — “A woman was arrested for burning an American flag on an overpass over I-66 in Arlington, police say. Kayla Caniff, 22, was charged with property destruction after police say she burned a flag attached to a chain link fence on the N. Stafford Street overpass, north of the Ballston area, at about 11:55 p.m. Thursday.” [NBC Washington]

County Website Goes Down — The Arlington County website was down for an extended period of time over Labor Day weekend. [Twitter]

Lucky Dog Takes in Pups from Hurricane’s Path — “While Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamas — thousands of miles away in Arlington, Lucky Dog Animal Rescue plotted a rescue mission… The Carolinas are projected to be in the storm’s path and Lucky Dog Animal Rescue is partnered with a shelter in South Carolina. So the organization’s volunteers met an animal control officer part of the way there to take 19 of the shelter’s dogs.” [WJLA]

APS to Review Westover Tree Plan — “Facing community unrest in Westover, Arlington Public Schools plans to take another look at the potential of saving more trees during construction of a new elementary school on North McKinley Road near Washington Boulevard. Following an Aug. 29 meeting with residents, the school system has directed that ‘before the trees are removed, we have the contractor stake out the site and renumber the trees.'” [InsideNova]

Energy Plan Concerns: Feds and Trees — Arlington County’s impending update to its Community Energy Plan, which sets a net zero carbon emissions goal, is an important step in fighting climate change, some advocates say, though additional action is still needed on the state and federal level. Others, despite supporting the goal, are concerned that achieving it may come at the cost of the area’s tree canopy. [Washington Post, Arlington County]

Arlington’s Many Advocacy Orgs — “My viewing [of the Netflix documentary ‘The Family’] got me thinking of the many newsmaking organizations — of all political stripes — that have long populated our suburb so close to the action of the nation’s capital. Wilson Blvd. and Crystal City alone are home to enough colorful groups to generate a slew of political and public policy contretemps.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Reminder: Be Careful on the Roads Today — It’s the first day of school, kids will be walking to school and there are new traffic patterns around some schools. Arlington County Police are conducting “a high-visibility traffic enforcement campaign in and around school zones and bus stops” today. [ARLnow, Arlington County]

Photo courtesy David Johnson

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Arlington is training hundreds of people to use the opioid overdose-reversing drug naloxone in hopes of saving lives amid the opioid crisis.

The free trainings last a little over an hour and teach participants how to recognize an opioid overdose and to administer naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan. As of Tuesday night, officials said Arlington has trained 644 people and given away 518 boxes of the drug.

Studying to Save Lives

Emily Siqveland is the county’s coordinator for the state-funded Revive program, which provides the training materials for the classes.

“I often remind people that addiction is similar to diabetes,” said Siqveland, in front of the half a dozen people who showed up to the Arlington Mill Community Center Tuesday night to take one of the classes.

“You can make lifestyle adjustments to manage your diabetes,” she said. “Addiction is the same. You can make lifestyle changes to manage the addiction, and you still need treatment. It’s still a chronic and relapsing disease.”

In addition to talking about how addiction works, Siqveland showed attendees how to administer the little white nasal spray as part of the county’s “multi-disciplinary approach” to tackling the opioid crisis.

Arlington began marshaling representatives from county agencies, local non-profits, and APS in 2017 to form an Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative (AARI) to find solutions and hold several town halls.

One of the group’s more recent tasks was choosing how to spend $258,000 in state grants for treatment and prevention services.

One way AARI allocated the funds is a new ad on the side of local Metrobuses, featuring the county’s opioid resources page, plus “remembrance trees” currently on display in the Shirlington, Columbia Pike, and Central libraries until September 3. People can add a leaf to the trees in memory of someone they know who died from opioid addiction.

Addiction by the Numbers

In Arlington, police reported 53 overdoses in 2018, 11 of which were fatal.

The data indicated that seven fewer people died overdosing on opioids in 2018 compared to 2017 (19). However, the overall number of opioid-involved incidents (153) in 2018 remained steady after jumping to 157 incidents in 2017. In all, 50 opioid overdose deaths have been reported in Arlington since 2014.

Read More

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Morning Notes

Arlington Companies in Inc. 5000 — “Inc. Magazine named 34 Arlington companies to its annual list of the nation’s 5,000 fastest-growing companies, the Inc. 5000, while five were part of the exclusive Inc. 500.” [Arlington Economic Development, InsideNova]

Predator or Victim of Injustice? — “On Monday, the Circuit Court in liberal Arlington County will be the scene of a heavy-handed morality play, with prosecutors seeking lifelong incarceration for a young gay man who has already paid an extraordinary price for youthful, nonviolent sexual indiscretions.” [Washington Post]

DCA Construction Update — “Floor framing is underway on a new concourse to replace #Gate35X that will offer new shopping and dining choices and 14 gates with direct jetbridge access to your flight.” [Twitter]

Focus on County’s Vehicle Maintenance Shop — “At 2700 S Taylor St., you’ll find Arlington’s Recycling Drop-Off Center, Earth Products Yard, Inert Materials and Scrap Metal Drop-Off Facility (get your free paper shredding!), Fire Training Academy, and more. It’s also home to the Equipment Division, a full-service vehicle maintenance and repair facility that operates 17 hours a day.” [Arlington County]

Profile: HQ2’s People Person — “Despite being head of workforce development for Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters, Ardine Williams has yet to sit in on an interview with any potential HQ2 employees. While Amazon plans to have 400 workers in its Arlington offices by the end of this year, Williams appears much more focused on the 25,000 it looks to hire in the next decade.” [Washington Business Journal]

Photo courtesy @artsytatiana

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(Updated at 10:15 p.m.) If you are someone whose home or business was damaged in the July 8 flooding, Arlington has launched a temporary Local Recovery Center (LRC) to help get your life back together.

The center helps connect residents with a variety of resources — like senior services or a table detailing what to do if you find mold in your home — but the main feature of the LRC is the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which is offering flexible, low-interest loans for those impacted by the floods.

The LRC is located on the second floor of the Arlington County Trades Center (2700 S. Taylor Street). The Center is scheduled to operate for the next week:

  • Today-Thursday: 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
  • Friday: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Saturday: 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Monday: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (SBA loan center only)

A similar center will operate in the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library (7584 Leesburg Pike) in Fairfax County.

Locals who experienced flood damage in Arlington, Alexandria or Fairfax County may be eligible for SBA loans.

“Our qualifications are not as stringent [as a bank loan],” said Julie Garrett, a public affairs specialist for the SBA. “You must demonstrate that you can pay back the loan, but it’s very flexible.”

There are three categories of loans available:

  • Business Physical Disaster Loans — These loans are for businesses to repair or replace disaster-damaged property, like merchandise and machinery, though the loans are also available for non-profit organizations. Businesses of any size can apply.
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loans — These loans are aimed at helping small businesses or agricultural cooperatives make up for lost revenue from days that they were closed. Garrett said these can be especially important for mom-and-pop businesses that operate on monthly or quarterly cycles that may have difficulty paying their bills.
  • Home Disaster Loans — These loans are for homeowners or renters to repair or replace flood-damaged homes or property, which can range from clothing to cars.

All applicants are required to have a credit history and must be able to show that they can repay all their loans. Garrett said there is no collateral required for loans under $25,000. If the loan is approved, Garrett said the applicants have 60 days to decide whether they want to accept it.

Many of those whose homes or businesses were impacted by flooding have already started work on repairing their property, and Garrett said loans can also be applied to damages paid for out-of-pocket. Those who have already paid to fix their damages are required to have receipts of their purchases and photos of the damage.

“We loan based on the amount of damage,” Garrett said. “Most insurance offers a depreciated value [for property], but we look at replacement value.”

The loans may also cover damages to fences, decks, garages, tree removal and property considered in the “immediate vicinity” of a house.

Aaron Miller, director of emergency management for Arlington County, said the County has received just over 1,000 reports of damages from people and businesses across Arlington. Garrett said only 26 individuals had applied for home disaster loans so far, but more are expected as people learn of and visit the LRC.

Applicants requesting a loan for physical damage are required to file by Oct. 7, while filings for economic injury have a deadline of May 7, 2020.

Meanwhile, Miller said the County is working through financing its own flood recovery — a process that could take months.

“We are continuing to go through assessments for public assistance,” Miller said. “That’s everything from emergency repairs to the longer recovery process.”

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