That’s nearly $4 million more than was spent the previous winter, when the county almost ran out of salt due to a succession of snow storms.
The total roadway snow removal expenditure — the figures quoted here do not include removing snow from bus shelters or sidewalks — for Fiscal Year 2015 was only $2.7 million, according to Arlington County. As of April 25, the FY 2016 bill was $6.5 million, about $5 million of which was associated with the cleanup from January’s Snowzilla blizzard, as the county revealed last month.
Why was this year’s bill so much higher? It’s mostly attributable to equipment rental costs, we’re told.
“The majority of this cost increase was associated with heavy contract equipment used during the January 22-29, 2016 blizzard,” explained Mike Moon, Chief Operating Officer of Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services.
“The amount of contract equipment deployed for this event far exceeded the requirements for the previous year and cost more than $4.0 million,” Moon continued. “With more than two feet of snow, heavy contract equipment was needed for the effort, which included hauling snow in our commercial corridors (Rosslyn, Ballston, Crystal City).”
Last month Arlington said that it can potentially recoup $2 million from federal disaster assistance funds, though the reimbursement process is a lengthy one.
Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz said in March that the county is considering changes to its snow removal efforts in the wake of January’s blizzard. Among the changes being considered is the purchase of additional heavy equipment and a new snow melter.
Flickr pool photo (top) by Starbuck77
Community Garden Fundraiser Fizzles — Arlington County’s attempt to crowdfund a community garden accessible to those with disabilities has not gone so well. As of Sunday the county has only raised $465 out of the $10,000 it sought, with only five days to go in the fundraiser. The failure raises questions about local government use of crowdfunding, the Post suggests. [Washington Post]
Meeting on Career Center Changes — Some major changes could be coming to the Arlington Career Center. Arlington Public Schools will be discussing that and other South Arlington school projects at a meeting Tuesday. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Career Center, at 816 S. Walter Reed Drive. [Taylor PTA]
More on Notable Tree Planted at Fire House — A Southern Magnolia tree planted outside Fire Station No. 4 in Clarendon was recognized as a “Notable Tree” last week. The tree was planted in 1965 in memory of ACFD Capt. Archie Hughes, who died while responding to a house fire at the age of 33. [NBC Washington]
New Movie’s Arlington Connection — A new indie flick, “Green Room,” follows the travails of a fictional Arlington-based punk band. The film was written and directed by Alexandria-born filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier. [DCist]
Spotluck Launches in Crystal City — Restaurant discovery and discount app Spotluck has launched in Crystal City. Participating restaurants include Crystal City Sports Pub, Kora and Kabob Palace. [Spotluck]
Arlington’s Diversity Highlighted — The world is learning about Arlington’s diversity. The Voice of America notes that Arlington is home to more than 130 ethnic groups, particularly around Columbia Pike. [VOA]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
County Announces ‘Energy Lending Library’ — Today, on Earth Day, Arlington County is formally announcing what it says is the nation’s first “energy lending library.” Via Arlington Public Library, residents will be able to borrow thermal imaging cameras, energy meters and books that will help residents identify areas of energy waste in their homes. [Arlington County]
Woman Arrested After Foot Chase in Pentagon City — A shoplifting suspect was taken into custody in Pentagon City after leading police on a foot chase yesterday, just before 6 p.m. Police were still searching for the woman’s shoplifting accomplice. [Twitter]
New Lubber Run Community Center Planned — Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz has proposed a new, $45 million Lubber Run Community Center. The four-story structure would also include a parking garage, so that the existing surface lot can be converted to parkland. [InsideNova]
Arlington Hires Full-Time Ombudsman — Arlington County has a new ombudsman. Former Dept. of Human Services assistant director Robert Sharpe has been named to the county’s newly-created position of Director of Constituent Services. Sharpe’s job will be “troubleshooting issues on behalf of his fellow Arlington residents while working directly with departments, County leadership and the County Board.” [Arlington County]
Free ‘Pop Up Yoga’ Session on the Pike — On Sunday, from 11 a.m. to noon, a free “pop up” yoga class will be held at Penrose Square (2503 Columbia Pike). “Lisa Marie, local artist and certified yoga instructor, will lead the participants through postures, intentions and breath” that are specifically inspired by the pair of sculptures in the park. [With Love DC]
Medics on Motorcycles? — The citizen task force coming up with recommendations for Arlington’s Fire Station 8 has struck upon a novel idea: using motorcycle-based paramedics to get to patients faster in traffic than would a big, lumbering ambulance. Not every member of the task force, however, thought that was a good idea, citing potential issues with staffing. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Valor Awards Recount Harrowing Moments — Saving a suicidal woman who was about to jump from the seventh floor of a parking garage. Saving the life of a man who had just been run over by an SUV twice. Smashing a car window in order to resuscitate the victim of a major crash on I-395. Those are a few of the acts of valor recognized at the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s Valor Awards this week. [InsideNova, Arlington Chamber]
WaPo Questions Crystal City-Brooklyn Comparison — The Washington Post isn’t letting the New York Times get away with a quote that compared Crystal City to Brooklyn. The area’s hometown paper instead quoted a number of Twitter critics, one of whom called Crystal City a “Ballardian hellscape.” The Times story suggests that Crystal City — with its new restaurants, emerging tech scene, transportation improvements and community events — is experiencing something of a mini renaissance. [Washington Post]
Nauck Town Square Designs — Arlington County is seeking feedback on the draft design of the forthcoming Nauck Town Square park. The design includes a large sculpture of the word “FREED.” [Arlington County]
County Gets Adorable Letters — Arlington County gets adorable letters from children, who ask about things like raising backyard chickens and saving worms that might have gotten swept up as yard waste. [Arlington County]
The Board voted Tuesday afternoon to create the six-member panel, with each Board member and the County Manager appointing one member apiece. The panel will mull “recommendations for how the Board should develop strategic priorities” to supplement the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
The panel was advanced by County Board Chair Libby Garvey, with the support of Board members John Vihstadt, Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey. Jay Fisette, the longest-serving member of the Board, questioned the need for such a panel and the manner in which it was proposed.
“What is the problem we’re trying to solve?” Fisette asked, calling the proposal “a lot of foam and not a lot of beer.”
Fisette, the last of the former old guard Democratic establishment on the Board, worried that the panel could be used to reduce environmental or human services priorities in favor of “core services.”
Cristol and Dorsey, the newest Board members, disagreed with that assessment, with the latter saying he wouldn’t support the creation of the panel if he thought that was the goal.
Fisette also pointed out that while the idea of the panel had been discussed internally by the Board for several months, it had not been made public and was not part of the day’s County Board agenda online. That, he said, ran counter to the stated desire of other Board members that County Board agenda items be posted online at least 48 hours in advance.
“Nobody in the community has seen this quote blue ribbon panel charge to actually weigh in or give us feedback on whether this is a good idea,” he said.
Garvey said the panel would not be setting policy — it would be advising the Board. She also suggested that applying the “Arlington Way” to too many county functions may be a hinderance to good governance.
“This is not the traditional Arlington Way where we get input from as many people as possible and we have a huge process,” Garvey said. “This is really getting us a small group of smart, experienced people who are going to bring different things to the table that we value, and they will advise us. I’m looking for ways to be more adaptable and quick on our feet on things.”
Garvey said an overabundance of priorities in the Comprehensive Plan results in pressure to fund the many groups that come to the Board around budget time saying, in her words, “well this is a priority, you have to fund it.”
“They’re right, it is a priority, it’s one of many priorities,” she said. “I have been feeling for some time that we need to look through our priorities and set them in some sort of priority order.”
“Our own Facilities Study working group recommended that we do a better job of planning and setting priorities,” Garvey added.
Members of the panel will be announced “in the coming weeks,” according to a press release (below, after the jump).
That’s according to figures released today by Arlington County, which conducted a count of homeless individuals on the streets and in shelters in January. The county credited two of its initiatives — 100 Homes and Zero: 2016 — with playing “key roles” in reducing homelessness by helping the homeless to secure stable housing.
“This is great news and further confirmation that our strategies are working,” County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in a statement. “By not only sheltering people from the elements, but helping them get back on their feet, we are saving lives and strengthening our community. It is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do.”
(The opening of Arlington’s new Homeless Services Center last year likely also helped.)
By Arlington’s count, there are 174 homeless people in Arlington — including 124 singles and 50 people in families.
“No families counted were without shelter,” the county noted.
Earlier this year the county announced that it had achieved its goal of “functional zero” veteran homelessness in 2015.
Arlington is launching two new initiatives intended to curb homelessness. One is the establishment of a Youth Task Force “to examine the nature and scope of youth homelessness.” The other is a “Risk Reduction Fund” that will allow landlords to loosen their rental eligibility requirements and thus take in formerly homeless tenants. The fund will reimburse landlords for “vacancy and damage costs” associated with such tenants.
The full county press release, after the jump.
GMU to Tweak Name of Scalia Law School — A week ago, after receiving $30 million in donations, George Mason University announced that it was naming its Arlington-based law school the “Antonin Scalia School of Law,” in honor of the late Supreme Court justice. The internet promptly went wild for the school’s would-be acronym: ASS Law or ASSoL. GMU noticed, and is now adjusting the name to the “Antonin Scalia Law School.” [Above the Law]
Porch Fire in High View Park — A small fire broke out yesterday on the porch of a house in the High View Park neighborhood, on the 2300 block of N. Dinwiddie Street, about two blocks from Fire Station No. 8. The fire marshal is investigating the incident. [Twitter]
County Live Streams First Commission Meeting — Arlington County live streamed a Planning Commission meeting for the first time Tuesday night. To re-live those 102 minutes of excitement, you can now view the meeting online, on-demand. [Arlington County]
Clarendon Farmers Market Returns Today — The Clarendon Farmers Market is back for the season today. The farmers market typically takes place next to the Metro station from 3-7 p.m. [Clarendon Alliance]
APS Open to Selling Naming Rights — There’s no indication that anyone has inquired about it, but the naming rights to Arlington’s high school football stadiums, gyms and theaters could be for sale for the right price. Arlington Public Schools says it would consider naming facilities after large donors. [InsideNova]
Rosslyn Startup Gets Big Investment — Rosslyn-based LiveSafe has received a $5.25 million investment from FedEx founder Fred Smith. LiveSafe describes itself as an “enterprise-class mobile safety communications platform.” [Commercial Appeal, PE Hub]
Flickr pool photo by Airamangel
To date, perhaps surprisingly, Arlington has not had one. But that’s about to change.
Arlington County is seeking applicants from individuals seeking to become the county’s first-ever poet laureate. The position only pays $1,500 per year — partially from donated funds — but it does come with the lofty title. The poet laureate’s two year term is set to begin July 1.
“The poet selected Arlington’s inaugural laureate will be an advocate for the literary arts, create works of special civic significance, hold public readings, officiate at special events, carry out community engagement programs and help judge Arlington’s annual Moving Words Poetry competition,” the county’s Cultural Affairs division said in a press release.
Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and must reside in Arlington. Information on how to apply — the deadline is May 12 — is available on the Arlington Arts website.
The full county press release, after the jump.
Deputy County Manager Carol Mitten discussed the change during last week’s Arlington County Board meeting. She said the problem isn’t county policy — which was updated in 2011 — it’s the application of that policy.
The county’s Master Transportation Plan calls for 4-5 foot wide sidewalks in residential neighborhoods, with the narrower sidewalk in areas where it would preserve mature trees, parking, slopes or structures.
County staff’s approach, however, has been to design and “start the conversation” with a five-foot-wide sidewalk, even in areas that would otherwise call for the four-foot-wide sidewalk. That led to conflicts and neighborhood consternation.
“There are important accommodations to preserve neighborhood character,” Mitten said. “We think that the policy the Board passed strikes the right balance, whereas our application of the policy perhaps has not.”
While “it is desirable to have a five foot minimum width where possible in order to comply with ADA regulations and for general ease and safe accessibility,” Mitten said, the new approach — of starting the conversation with a four-foot-wide sidewalk where appropriate — “maximizes the opportunity to provide sidewalks along streets where now there are none without compromising the integrity of the overall policy.”
County Board member Jay Fisette said the issue was first raised more than a year ago, after a five-foot-wide sidewalk plan led to the cancellation of some potential Neighborhood Conservation projects.
Libby Garvey, County Board chair, said the county shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of good, especially in areas where there currently are no sidewalks.
“There are too many streets where to get the perfect sidewalk they’re getting no sidewalk, and that’s not safe for anybody,” she said.
It’s been a decade since its last public performance, but Arlington’s official song has now been recorded — and released on YouTube — for future generations.
The song is, well, a bit boring and dated, to be honest. But it is Arlington’s only official song and no one seems to eager to replace it.
The revival of the song has been spearheaded by county communications manager Peter Golkin. In December Golkin uploaded a scan of the sheet music — the first time the song has appeared on Arlington County’s website — and penned a press release recounting the County Board’s adoption of the song 45 years ago.
But back on the first Saturday morning of October 1970, a unanimous County Board deemed Ernest K. Emurian’s words and melody worthy of a place in Arlington’s official identity. Reasoning for such approval sits right there in the lyrics of the first verse: “[T]he songs of home are ones we really cherish/For home is the place we love the best.”
It was love in E flat and 4/4 time, consummated with a 10,000-copy print run funded by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, prime sponsor for the song’s adoption.
The composer, the Reverend Ernest Emurian, was already a local institution, a beloved and prolific man. Pastor of Cherrydale United Methodist Church, he had lived in the County for seven years before attempting his anthem for Arlington. The inspiration was his long-held belief that “if a place is worth living in, it is worth singing about.”
Golkin’s research suggests the last time the song was performed was at the opening of an Arlington Historical Society exhibit on county constitutional offices, in 2006. “VIPs listened politely but made no attempt to emulate the singing Board of ’70,” Golkin quipped.
Before that the song had been performed off and on at the Arlington County Fair, but was otherwise fading out of the public consciousness. That is, until now.
Among those performing the song in the video above are three members of the original teen chorus that serenaded the County Board before the song’s adoption in 1970. Also performing: three generations of Arlington’s Dodge-Strehle family, County Board aide Liza Hodskins and “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark, who also wrote about the song in December.
The full list of performers, in order from left to right, after the jump.
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.
(Updated at 12:25 p.m.) Members of the media were denied access to a Lyon Park community meeting about the controversial plan to open a gun shop in the neighborhood Sunday night.
The meeting was attended by County Board Chair Libby Garvey, Vice Chair Jay Fisette, County Manager Mark Schwartz, Police Chief Jay Farr and Del. Patrick Hope. The owner of the planned gun store at 2300 N. Pershing Drive, Nova Armory, was reportedly out of town and unable to attend.
An ARLnow.com reporter who tried to attend the event, at the privately-owned Lyon Park Community Center, was not allowed in the building. A community member shut the door when the reporter tried to ask about the prohibition on media. Those working the door at the event checked IDs and only allowed Lyon Park and Ashton Heights residents inside.
A short time after seeking access, the reporter and almost a dozen other non-community members — an Arlington resident who runs an anti-gun-store Facebook page and several members of the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League — were removed from the Lyon Park property by police upon a neighborhood representative’s request.
Initially, on Friday, the meeting was advertised as a public County Board meeting, as required by law when a majority of the County Board is planning to attend. On Saturday, that public notice was rescinded.
“Notice is hearby given that the County Board of Arlington County, Virginia, will NOT meet on Sunday, February 28, 2016 in the Lyon Park Community Center, 414 North Fillmore Street., at 7:00 P.M. or as soon thereafter for the purpose of attending a Lyon Park Community meeting to discuss NOVA Armory’s plans to open a firearms store at 2300 Pershing Dr,” the public notice read.
ARLnow.com reached out to the elected officials who attended the meeting, asking about what was discussed, but thus far none has responded on the record. On Friday, Arlington County issued a statement saying that due to state law, the county “does not have the authority to prohibit these sales or businesses.”
(Also in attendance at the meeting: Lyon Park resident, Planning Commission member and Democratic County Board challenger Erik Gutshall, who has said he’s “deeply concerned” with plans for the store.)
John Goldener, president of the Lyon Park Citizens Association, spoke to ARLnow.com after the meeting, which ran from 7-9 p.m. and was attended by about 140 residents, he said.
Goldener declined to provide details about the discussion, saying that the civic association purposely excluded outsiders because the meeting was intended to be a safe space for community members to discuss the gun store.
“All I can tell you is what the meeting was about,” Goldener said. “This was an opportunity for people in the community to have a safe, civil discussion.”
“The civic association’s role here is to be a facilitator,” Goldener added. “We don’t take a stance on this particular issue.”
(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) Arlington County has taken a proposed update to its child care regulations off its website after County Board members called the inclusion of certain controversial provisions “troubling.”
As ARLnow.com first reported Monday, the most recent draft of the child care regulations would have required child care centers to encourage mothers to breastfeed and would have dictated what type of milk, juice and birthday treats could be fed to children, among other provisions.
That’s in addition to new staffing and employee education requirements that panicked the operators of small and part-time child care centers, who said such rules would put them out of business or at least drive up the cost of daycare and preschool programs.
“This situation, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it’s really the most troubled roll-out of a county initiative since the ill-conceived and ill-fated Public Land for Public Good,” said County Board member John Vihstadt. “I really think that this is close to an unmitigated disaster. If our goal is to increase the supply and the affordability of child care throughout Arlington County, this in my view seems to do exactly the opposite.”
Anita Friedman, Director of Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services, said the creation of the new regulations is an “iterative” process that has been underway since 2014, with input from directors of child care centers and consultation from a Kentucky-based nonprofit association.
Despite what she described as a positive public outreach process, Friedman acknowledged that there has been “a lot” of negative feedback, particularly from owners of smaller child care centers and the parents who use them.
“There are some issues with the current version,” she told the Board. “In some places, I think, because some of the enthusiasm of the child care centers and our Arlington Way of striving for the best, we may have probably overreached in terms of the best practices that we want to incorporate in there, that don’t belong in the code.”
That didn’t satisfy new County Board member Katie Cristol, who included affordable child care as part of her policy platform. She called the inclusion of some of the provisions “silly season business.”
“At a time when we have young families leaving this county because it costs as much if not more to have your child in daycare as it does to pay rent… I think we have broader concerns than making sure kids have the absolute best environment,” Cristol said.
“This is really troubling to see this level of best practice conflated with code and with regulation,” she continued. “I am not comfortable inserting unbidden county government in encouraging anybody to tell a mother how to feed her child, whether that’s best practice or regulation.”
“Distraction is not a strong enough word for the real issue at play here. We have been hearing loud and clear from members of our community that this undermines trust in government. It exacerbates a sentiment that Arlington is hostile to child care centers and small businesses.”
“The goal of the new program is to engage more residents in the civic process who are not able or choose not to attend meetings,” the county said in a press release. “The goal is to increase awareness of County issues and ease participation for a more broad and diverse audience.
Meetings held in the County Board room will be broadcast using existing audio-visual equipment that’s used to air Board meetings. If the pilot program is successful, the county may expand the scope to include meetings held in other locations around Arlington.
A start date for the webcasts is expected to be announced soon.
In a second initiative announced Tuesday, the county has launched a new “Open Data Portal” that includes various spreadsheets, charts and maps of government data.
Among the info currently offered by the portal is a map of pothole and other service requests (pictured), restaurant health inspection records, real estate sale records, a map of car share locations, and a police incident log.
Some of the data is a bit dated — the real estate sale records, for instance, are only for 2015, and as of this writing the most recent crime records are from Feb. 17. On the plus side, there are also new tools for filtering, sorting and exporting data, along with an open API that may prove useful for analysis and for web and mobile application developers.
“New datasets from the County’s departments will be made available in the months ahead based on popular user requests and available resources,” the press release notes.
“Technology continues to improve our ability to share data and streamline processes for a more interactive and inclusive government,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement. “We will continue to seek out and implement tools like the data portal and web streaming that help us improve access to government and create a better overall user experience for our residents.”
“Our residents are busy people who cannot always make it to the County Board Room to sit through hours of discussion,” said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey. “We want to make sure that they have another option – they can watch both Board work sessions and commission meetings on their computers, in the comfort of their homes, so that they can stay informed about important decisions that may affect their families and our community.”
“The County’s Open Government Program strives to achieve an open, accessible, efficient and transparent government,” said the press release. “The Open Data Portal and pilot webcast program are the latest efforts in serving and engaging the public more effectively.”
Want to see for how much your neighbor just sold her house? That’s one of the streams of information in Arlington County’s new mobile app.
My Arlington, the recently-released app for iPhone and Android devices, “puts popular County information about events, real estate, permits and more in the palm of your hand,” says a county press release.
Among the noted features are:
- “County Board and commission meetings, searchable by geographic location, date and other criteria”
- “County sponsored events, searchable by geographic location, date, age group and other criteria”
- “Permits information (status, permit type, description of work, contractor, location owner, etc.), searchable by geographic location and permit type”
- “Real estate sales and assessment information, searchable by geographic location, price and property type”
- “Newsfeeds for County Government and Arlington Public Schools”
- “Alerts, including Arlington Alerts and transit-related alerts and updates for WMATA and ART”
- “County contact information including links to the County’s Service Directory and a feedback form for the app”
“My Arlington is a terrific new tool that will help us better engage and communicate with our community,” Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement. “We are already working on making the app even more robust – we think this, and other technologies we are looking into, will help us better serve residents and make County government more accessible and transparent.”
The county is “already working on adding more functions to the app, including: traffic disruptions, crime statistics and other useful information.”
My Arlington will supplement other county apps like the ArlingtonVA Service Requests app, which launched in 2014 and allows residents to report potholes, trash collection issues and other non-emergency problems.