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by Katie Pyzyk — April 17, 2017 at 9:30 am 0

Candidates Largely Favor Land Swap — During a debate, Democratic County Board candidates generally indicated they want the county to move forward with a land swap agreement with Virginia Hospital Center. VHC has offered the county various pieces of land in exchange for a 5-acre parcel of county-owned land on N. Edison Street, just north of the VHC property. [InsideNova]

Impact of Pike Streetcar Cancellation — There’s speculation that the county’s 2014 cancellation of the Columbia Pike streetcar plan may have contributed to stalling revitalization efforts in the Bailey’s Crossroads area of Fairfax County. [Washington Post]

New Assistant County Manager — Arlington County has named Samia Byrd as a new assistant county manager. Byrd has more than 20 years of planning experience and will serve as a senior adviser to County Manager Mark Schwartz. [Arlington County]

Historic District Proposal — Next month the County Board will consider a proposal to designate “The Hermitage,” a home at 4025 N. Randolph Street, as a local historic district. [InsideNova]

by ARLnow.com — February 24, 2017 at 9:45 am 0

Spring in bloom along Four Mile Run on 2/23/17

Superintendent Presents Proposed Budget — Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy presented his proposed, $617 million budget to the School Board last night. The budget includes $9.2 million for student enrollment growth and $8.7 million for teacher and staff pay increases. [Arlington Public Schools]

Wakefield Girls Advance to Regional Finals — With a semifinal win in Leesburg, the Wakefield High School girls basketball team has advanced to a regional championship game for the first time in the program’s history. They will play defending champs Edison tomorrow (Saturday) at Edison. The boys team, meanwhile, lost in the regional semifinals; both teams will also advance to the state tournament. [InsideNova, Facebook]

More on the County Budget — County Manager Mark Schwartz presented his proposed FY 2018 budget to the County Board Thursday afternoon. His budget presentation suggested that Arlington will make service delivery and customer service a priority in the upcoming fiscal year. Among the initiatives that may be coming soon: building a one-stop county permitting system and providing “virtual access to public meetings.” [PDF]

‘Blarney Blowout’ Coming to Arlington — The Shamrock Crawl bar crawl may not be coming back to Clarendon this year, but its organizers are planning a new event dubbed the Blarney Blowout. Four Clarendon and Courthouse bars are participating in the event, on the day after St. Patrick’s Day, featuring a “free all-you-can-eat breakfast Buffet, St. Paddy’s Day shenanigans, entertainment, party favors and more.” The event is “not your traditionally tame “kegs and eggs,” its website says. [Blarney Blowout]

by ARLnow.com — February 23, 2017 at 4:30 pm 0

County Manager Mark Schwartz at County Board budget work session in 2016

(Updated at 5:30 p.m.) A new $1.2 billion budget proposed by Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz would boost core services — road paving, streetlight maintenance, public safety, schools and Metro — while raising property taxes to the highest rate since 2001.

The proposed FY 2018 budget is being presented to the County Board this afternoon (Thursday).

Spending under Schwartz’s proposal — drafted with guidance from the County Board — would increase 4.3 percent, while the tax rate would increase by two cents, from $0.991 to $1.011 for every $100 in assessed. That would be Arlington’s highest property tax rate since 2001, when it was $1.023.

The rate increase would come on top of rising property assessments — up 2.9 percent this year. The total tax and fee burden on the average Arlington homeowner would rise by $308 to $8,613 under Schwartz’s proposal, which will now be considered by the County Board after a series of work sessions and public hearings. That’s up from $7,745 three years ago, in 2014.

Final adoption of the new budget is scheduled for April 22, while the Arlington Public Schools budget — Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy is presenting his proposed budget tonight — is scheduled to be adopted on May 4.

Last year, Schwartz proposed a half-cent property tax rate decrease, which was then adopted by the Board. This year, Schwartz says more revenue is necessary to fund the “clearly extraordinary needs of Metro and APS.”

The two-cent rate increase itself is expected to bring in an additional $14.8 million in on-going revenue. Much of that is earmarked by Schwartz for an overall $21.2 million increase in funding for Arlington Public Schools, which is experiencing a prolonged period of enrollment growth, and additional funding for Metro, which is also set to receive $22 million in bond funds from Arlington for capital projects.

“It is never easy to recommend an increase in property tax rates, but Metro and our public schools are both vitally important to our County’s continued prosperity, and both are in urgent need of additional funding,” Schwartz said in a press release.

Other areas of spending increases, as outlined in the press release and in a press briefing Thursday morning, include streetlight maintenance, road paving, facilities maintenance, land acquisition, public safety and economic development.

Schwartz said streetlight maintenance and road maintenance, in particular, were identified as top priorities in resident satisfaction surveys.

The number of county-owned streetlights has increased 40 percent over the past five years, contributing to an average repair time of 30 days for minor outages and up to 120 days for major outages. Under the proposed budget, there would be an $910,000 increase in streetlight and trail light funding, adding five new full-time positions, two vehicles, a consultant, equipment and supplies, with the goal of reducing the length of minor repairs to 3 days and major repairs to 1-2 months.

“It’s a safety issue,” Schwartz said of dark streetlights. “People want their government to do the basics before other things.”

Road paving, meanwhile, would receive a $3.3 million boost in funding, with $15.2 million budgeted by Schwartz in FY 2018. Arlington has accelerated its paving program over the past few years, with the goal of raising the county’s Pavement Condition Index to the “high 70s” on a 1-100 scale, according an official at the briefing.

Schwartz’s budget includes $3.5 million for maintenance of synthetic turf fields and other county facilities, $2 million for land acquisition, $250,000 in grants to connect businesses to the county’s ConnectArlington fiber network, a new economic development employee focused on assisting child care businesses, and a 3.25 percent merit salary increase for county employees.

Also included are seven additional sheriff’s deputies, three additional 911 call-takers three additional police officers, all funded “through reallocation of existing resources,” plus two large fire department recruit classes to make up for projected retirements and other attrition.

“[The budget] continued the multi-year-focus on the three priorities I have laid out: economic development, service delivery and transparency, and strategic budget planning and fiscal sustainability, while addressing the core service demands of the County mainly through budget reallocations,” said Schwartz.

Schwartz proposes raising a number of county fees, to “bear a reasonable relationship to the service for which the fee is imposed,” including:

  • Raising the household solid waste rate by $6.88 to $314.16 annually
  • Raising the water/sewer rate by 35 cents to $13.62 per thousand gallons, an estimated annual increase of $24.50 per household
  • New “accessory homestay” (Airbnb, etc.) permit fee of $60
  • An unspecified increase in aquatics and gymnastics program fees “to meet the increased capacity in the programs.”

The public budget and tax/fee hearings are scheduled for March 28 and 30.

by ARLnow.com — December 6, 2016 at 10:00 am 0

As Arlington County continues to grow in population and in services provided by the county government, the need for more land to support those services is increasing, says County Manager Mark Schwartz.

Schwartz spoke about the land needs in a county-produced video, above, which was released late last week.

He pointed out that only 12 percent of county- and school-owned land is designated for support services — maintenance yards, storage facilities, etc.

“This is not enough space,” Schwartz said.

Putting the need in perspective, Schwartz pointed out that the county last year filled 12,000 potholes over its 975 lane miles of roadway, repaired 271 water main breaks over its 525 miles of water mains, and facilitated 3.1 million rides on its 65 (soon to be 90, by 2020) ART buses.

All of that work and maintenance requires support facilities, and the county’s current facilities are getting too crowded.

Schwartz said that supporting the “needs and wants of this community” is “a real challenge with limited space,” which will require “smart and tough decisions about addressing these needs.”

Arlington County is currently considering a $30 million land acquisition near Washington-Lee High School and subsequent, proposed land swap, which would provide additional property near Shirlington in exchange for a portion of the acquired land.

Together, the two actions would add a net 7.3 acres of industrial-zoned land to county ownership.

In the video, Schwartz said the land swap proposal is “attractive,” but noted that no decisions have been made yet.

“We wanted to be transparent and release the proposal as soon as possible,” he said. At its Dec. 13 meeting, the County Board is expected to direct Schwartz to move forward with negotiations on the proposal.

by ARLnow.com — November 10, 2016 at 10:45 am 0

Revised Bluemont Park baseball field planThe Arlington County Board on Wednesday approved a compromise plan for a baseball field renovation at Bluemont Park.

The $720,000 plan to renovate Athletic Field No. 3 at the park, which would have converted a run-down baseball diamond to a fenced-in field with new dugouts, bleachers and other furnishings, was met with opposition from some local residents.

To balance the desires of the opponents, who mostly objected to the fence, and the supporters, who say that the county needs more fields for youth sports, the new plan removed about 20 percent of the fencing from around the field.

“When games aren’t in play, you’ll be able to walk through the area,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz. “There’s still space for Frisbee, picnicking and walking your dog. But when a game is in play, you’ll get a good baseball experience.. and a safe one.”

Schwartz also noted in a press release that the controversy — opponents insisted that they were blindsided by the plan even though a public meeting about it had been held and it was approved by the County Board months before opponents organized — pointed to a need to reconsider Arlington’s public outreach on such projects.

Schwartz acknowledged that the County’s engagement process in planning for the renovations, which included a community meeting and digital communications, was not successful. The concerns of those opposed to the fence became known to staff and elected officials only after the County Board approved the construction contract in July 2016.

“We are working to improve the County’s processes for engaging the community across County government,” Schwartz said. “I’ve asked our new Assistant County Manager for Communications and Public Engagement, Bryna Helfer, to report back to me in early 2017 with recommendations.”

Construction of the new field is currently underway.

The full press release about the County Board’s action, after the jump.

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by ARLnow.com — October 28, 2016 at 9:25 am 0

Food trucks near Ballston Mall

County Manager on Buck Property — County staff have “made no recommendations for any specific function” at the to-be-acquired Buck property near Washington-Lee High School, the county said in a press release this morning. Nearby residents have launched a petition against a proposal to use the property for school bus operations. Said Arlington County Manager Mark Schwarz: “Our ability to provide essential services is only as good as the facilities we have to support them. As our population continues to grow, our services will either deteriorate or cost the taxpayer more without adequate support facilities.” [Arlington County]

Fundraiser for Employee Struck By SUV — A fundraiser for a Mad Rose Tavern employee run over by an SUV raised more than $5,000 last night, the restaurant’s manager said on Facebook. Victoria Gonzalez, 34, is still in the hospital, preparing to begin rehabilitation. The next court appearance for the DUI suspect in the case is scheduled for Nov. 17. [WJLA]

Bowl’d to Introduce Breakfast — Healthy fast casual eatery Bowl’d (1028 N. Garfield Street) in Clarendon is introducing weekend breakfast service from 9 a.m. to noon, starting this Saturday. Bowl’d founder Allen Reed says the restaurant will be “giving away breakfast tacos, greek yogurt bowls and hot breakfast bowls to the first 150 people who come through our doors this weekend.”

Talento to Bring New Perspective to School Board — Democrat Tannia Talento, who’s running unopposed for Arlington School Board, says she wants to bring “the perspective of the working parent” to the Board. Another unique perspective: Talento said economic and family issues prevented her from getting a college degree. Talento says her priorities on the Board will be dealing with the growing student population, improving access to mental health services and narrowing the achievement gap. [InsideNova]

Arlington Lauded for LGBTQ Protections — “Arlington has been named one of 37 American ‘All-Star Cities‘ acclaimed for their high standard of inclusiveness toward their Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer communities.” [Arlington County]

Innovative Companies in Crystal City — Business publication Bisnow says the following are “five disruptive companies establishing Crystal City as [a] nexus of innovation:” Lyft, TMSOFT, OrcaVue, Polynox Solutions and FourStay. [Bisnow]

by ARLnow.com — August 31, 2016 at 8:45 am 0

Traffic on I-395 near Shirlington

Northern Virginia Transit Ridership Down — Amid Metro’s woes, transit ridership across Northern Virginia has dropped significantly. Metrorail ridership was down 6.7 percent for the one year period ending June 30, while Metrobus ridership is down 4.6 percent. Arlington Transit bus ridership, however, was up 13.8 percent. [InsideNova]

Arlington Family Gets Lost Cat Back — A new Arlington family whose cat jumped out of their moving van and ran away at a Michigan Welcome Center has been reunited with their wayward feline. The welcome center’s employees managed to safely trap the cat five days after it escaped. [NBC Washington]

Free Chips and Queso Today — California Tortilla restaurants are offering free chips and queso today, to commemorate the impending end of summer. Customers must say the password “easy cheesy” and make another purchase to get the free stuff. [Facebook]

CIA’s Local VC Firm Profiled — Courthouse-based In-Q-Tel, which functions as the Central Intelligence Agency’s venture capital arm, “operates in the shadows.” The firm is run as a taxpayer-funded nonprofit, investing in companies whose technology could benefit the CIA or the military. [Wall Street Journal]

Carlee Takes University Job — Former Arlington County Manager Ron Carlee, who most recently served as Charlotte, N.C.’s city manager, has taken an assistant professor position at Old Dominion University’s Strome College of Business in Norfolk. [Charlotte Observer]

by ARLnow.com — July 20, 2016 at 9:45 am 0

For sale signIn 2015, 940 Arlington households took advantage of a tax relief program for seniors, thus avoiding $4.2 million in real estate taxes.

A new working group appointed by the County Manager will be conducting a “comprehensive review” of that program.

The program is currently offered to homeowners age 65 or older, with an annual income of up to $99,472 and household assets (excluding the home itself) up to $340,000. Depending on the income level and assets, the homeowners may qualify for a full or partial exemption. A deferral of taxes until the home changes ownership is available for any portion that’s not exempt.

The County Board included funds in the latest county budget for a review of the program.

“In conducting research for the [Affordable Housing Master Plan], the County found that many low-income senior households on fixed incomes face financial stress related to increasing condominium fee and real estate tax burdens,” said the new Real Estate Tax Relief Working Group charge. “The AHMP’s accompanying Implementation Framework included a recommendation to review the goals and guidelines of the RETR Program, and to consider redefinition of income levels, asset levels, and criteria for exemptions and deferrals.”

In the recent Arlington County Board primary, Board Chair Libby Garvey was criticized by Democratic challenger Erik Gutshall for supposedly “threatening the ability of our most vulnerable seniors to live in Arlington.”

Garvey explained that she wants to lower the eligibility barriers for the tax deferral program. She hinted, however, that the full tax exemption might be under additional scrutiny, as it can “provide quite a windfall” to a homeowner’s heirs once the home is sold.

The working group is tasked with presenting its final recommendations this winter, ahead of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget process.

The full county press release, after the jump.

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by ARLnow.com — February 18, 2016 at 11:45 am 0

County Manager Mark Schwartz at County Board budget work session(Updated at 2:00 p.m.) More money for cops and firefighters, for economic development and for county employees — that’s the message from Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz, who presented his proposed budget to the County Board this morning.

The $1.19 billion budget benefits from a 3 percent increase in overall projected revenues, allowing Schwartz to boost funding to a number of priorities and propose a slight tax rate decrease.

The budget adds $1.6 million for the addition of 19 public safety employees. Among them: eight firefighters/EMTs, six police patrol officers, and four uniformed Sheriff’s positions.

The new firefighters will covert existing three-person fire units to the nationally-recommended staffing level of four per unit. The extra police officers will help reduce overtime and officer fatigue. The extra Sheriff’s positions will address staffing levels at the county jail.

Schwartz allocates $1.5 million in additional one-time funding for Arlington Economic Development’s efforts to bring down the county’s office vacancy rate. Another $400,000 will be used on infrastructure maintenance like streetlight repair and residential concrete maintenance.

One of the biggest proposals in terms of cost is $6.3 million to increase merit-based pay for county employees, boost the minimum wage for permanent employees to $14.50 per hour, boost the county’s Live-Where-You-Work program and replace grade and step plans with an “open range” salary plan.

Arlington Public Schools, which is dealing with a quickly-growing student population, will see an extra $13.2 million — for a total of $464.9 million — in Schwartz’s budget.

The budget includes separate proposals for an extra $6.2 million in projected revenue than originally expected. Among them is a proposal to decrease the county property tax rate by half a cent, to $0.991 per $100 in assessed value, saving taxpayers about $3.5 million — though many will face higher overall taxes thanks to rising assessments and a rising solid waste rate. Other proposals include adding an extra medic unit for the fire department, to address peak demand, and $100,000 to expand the online streaming of public meetings.

While Schwartz did not highlight any specific cuts in the budget, he did propose a “systematic evaluation of programs and services, with the goal of reducing or eliminating programs and staffing, and proposals to eliminate duplication and inefficiencies.”

Schwartz also expects to find hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings via a new early retirement package for county employees. In addition to saving money, the retirement incentives will serve to “renew the county workforce.”

(About 20 percent of county employees are currently of the Millennial generation, but the county workforce is expected to be majority Millennial by 2020, officials say.)

Despite a so-so macroeconomic environment, Arlington County isn’t being forced to make tough budgetary decisions this year, unlike our neighbors in Fairfax County. Schwartz credited Arlington’s business community — which makes up about half of the tax base — for helping to smooth out economic bumps.

“We’re benefitting from our 50-50 split between commercial and residential,” he said.

Schwartz will formally present his budget at the County Board’s upcoming February meeting. The Board will adopt a final Fiscal Year 2017 budget on April 17.

County Board Chair Libby Garvey said there’s still work to be done on the budget, but overall she’s pleased with the county’s direction under Schwartz, who last month was selected to be the county’s permanent County Manager.

“We’re in a good place,” Garvey said this morning. “We’re changing how we do things a bit. It’s exciting.”

by ARLnow.com — February 2, 2016 at 9:20 am 0

Arlington and the National Mall, as seen from space (photo via Twitter/Scott Kelly)

Expect Early Spring, Says GroundhogsUpdated at 9:40 a.m. — Punxsutawney Phil and Potomac Phil both did not see their shadow this morning and thus have predicted an early spring. Unfortunately, the former Phil is wrong more often than he is right. [CNN, Borderstan]

New County Manager Inks Contract — The Arlington County Board last week ratified a contract with Mark Schwartz, the county’s newly-appointed county manager. (Schwartz served as interim county manager for six months before his appointment.) Under the contract, Schwartz will earn $245,000 in his first year, which is less than the $270,000 annual salary of his predecessor and former boss, Barbara Donnellan. [InsideNova]

WeWork Now Open in Crystal City — The WeWork co-working space in Crystal City officially opened yesterday. The office space is decorated with plush couches, hardwood floors and oversized light fixtures, among other design elements. [Twitter]

Online Plan Review System Up and Running — Arlington County launched its Electronic Plan Review system yesterday, allowing plans for building permits and land use to be submitted, reviewed and approved online. The system is expected to save time and money compared to the previous, in-person submissions, though those submitting plans still have to go to the county offices to pay the permit fees in person. [Arlington County]

Praise for Texas Jack’s — A food critic finds a lot to like at Texas Jack’s, the new barbecue restaurant in the former EatBar space in Lyon Park. Writes Tim Carman: “[Chef Matt Lang’s] moist brisket is A-lister stuff, thick, succulent slices with a pink smoke ring lingering just below a dark outer bark of salt, pepper, smoke and fat, all fused together in a Southern Pride smoker set low and slow.” [Washington Post]

Photo via Twitter/Scott Kelly

by ARLnow.com — January 8, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

County Manager Mark SchwartzMark Schwartz, who has served as interim County Manager since July 1, 2015, has been named Arlington’s permanent County Manager.

Schwartz was elevated to the temporary post after the retirement of former County Manager Barbara Donnellan. An Arlington resident since 1985, Schwartz previously was Arlington’s Director of Management and Finance and Chief Financial Officer before serving as Deputy County Manager under Donnellan.

The County Manager serves as the top executive in Arlington County government, managing the day-to-day operations of county government and its $943 million budget. The manager is appointed by the County Board.

The Board is slated to formally vote to approve Schwartz’s contract at its meeting on Saturday, Jan. 23.

County Board Chair Libby Garvey announced the selection of Schwartz in a memo to county employees shortly after 12:30 p.m. today.

County Employees –

I am pleased to announce that the Arlington County Board has selected Mark Schwartz as County Manager.

Mark is our unanimous choice, and we are very pleased to have him at the helm. He offers deep experience and knowledge of Arlington, but has demonstrated in the past six months an ability to look at things differently and a willingness to make changes. With Mark, we will have a tried-and-true Manager and a consummate professional able to work with this new Board to shape Arlington’s future.

We will be announcing this news to the public very shortly with a press release.

Our organization is filled with talent. Each and every one of you is critical to our success. As you know, Mark has been, and will be, a thoughtful and creative leader. Together, we will do great things and I’m excited!

Libby Garvey
Chair, Arlington County Board

The press release, after the jump.

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by Heather Mongilio — October 12, 2015 at 4:05 pm 2,085 0

(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) A new six-story residential building may be coming to Ballston.

The County Board is scheduled to vote Saturday on a proposal by developer Penrose Group to turn a parking lot, used car lot and Exxon  gas station into a six-story mixed-use building. County staff is recommending that the Board approve the request.

If approved the new building, located at 670 N. Glebe Road — across from Ballston Common Mall and a few blocks from the Ballston Metro station — will have 173 apartments, 177 parking spaces in an underground garage and two separate retail spaces on the ground floor. The first retail area with 1,799 square feet will be located at the corner of N. Glebe Road and 7th Street N. The second area, which is 2,527 square feet, will be at the corner of N. Carlin Springs Road and N. Glebe Road.

The new mixed-use development — originally dubbed 672 Flats — will also have bike storage, two lobbies, a leasing office, mail room, gym and amenity room on its ground floor. There will be 175 parking spots for residents and two for retail uses. Typically, the county calls for at least eight retail parking spots for mixed-use buildings.

“Staff supports the applicant’s request for modification because of the small amount of retail space and the likelihood of its serving users in the immediate vicinity of the site, and the availability of parking in the Ballston area. The applicant’s proposal implements the ‘High-Medium Residential Mixed-Use’ General Land Use Plan (GLUP) designation in that it provides a transition from the high-density commercial core of Ballston to medium-density residential uses to the west,” county staff said.

Of the 173 apartments, at least seven of them will be committed affordable units (CAFs), according to Penrose Group’s proposal. The building falls under the Bluemont Civic Association.

“The applicant is proposing bonus density in exchange for achieving LEED Silver certification consistent with the County’s Green Building Density Incentive program, and is proposing an affordable housing plan including a cash contribution and seven (7) on-site committed affordable units (CAFs) consistent with Arlington County Zoning Ordinance (ACZO) requirements,” county staff said.

According to county staff, Penrose Group’s proposal for the mixed-use building fits in with the 1980 Ballston Sector Plan and the 1981 West Ballston Land Use Study.

“The proposed site plan implements a successful transition through use of architecture to the existing townhouses abutting the site to the west, including façade design, plantings, and a special paving treatment in the alley,” county staff said.

by Heather Mongilio — September 29, 2015 at 12:00 pm 1,018 0

Former County Manager Barbara Donnellan (via Arlington County)

County decisions on large projects like the Columbia Pike Streetcar, aquatics center and Artisphere have reflected a certain level of distrust in government, said former County Manager Barbara Donnellan.

“I think people’s trust of government at all levels has changed,” Donnellan said, in a video interview produced by the county.

Donnellan, who served more than 30 years in the Arlington County government, including five as county manager, said she watched the county move from being more short-term focused in approaching renovations and other projects to taking on larger projects and making longer-term capital improvement plans, a shift she credits to County Board Chair Mary Hynes, who’s retiring after this year.

The Kettler Capitals Iceplex above the Ballston mall garage, which Donnellan advocated for, was one of the first large projects in a long time, she said. Since then, the county has pushed large projects like the Artisphere, the Columbia Pike streetcar and the Long Bridge Park aquatics center — but struggled in its execution and in selling the big projects to an increasingly skeptical community.

“I think the ability to spend money on high profile projects became an issue,” Donnellan said.

The streetcar debate was the first time the county had seen a large community effort against a county project, she said, adding that she had to hire a communications team to fight against misinformation being spread by streetcar opponents.

“So by giving that project up, we lost a lot of money that was going to support that project, but I believe the politicians at the time felt that it would calm the community down and build trust back by saying we’re smart enough to change course when needed,” Donnellan said.

Artisphere, which closed down over the summer, was another area where the community and government didn’t see eye to eye, she said.

“In all fairness, the Artisphere had done some great things. It really did have acclaim it was getting in the region,” Donnellan said. “But it had lost the trust and support of our elected officials and some in the community to the point where as the manager I had to make a lot of decisions.”

Donnellan said she had floated Artisphere for a couple of years but eventually had to pull the plug, a decision that upset some in the community.

“I look at it as great communities try things,” she said. “And if they don’t work, great communities pull way from things or they rethink them.”

The aquatics center in Long Bridge Park is one of the projects that the community might need to rethink, she said. Currently, the county is looking a partnership with the City of Alexandria in order to secure the funding needed to build the “state-of-the-art” facility.

“And just to clear that up, the only reason the aquatics center was not built is because the bids came in way too high,” Donnellan said.

She attributes the high bids to the inclusion of a specialized heating and air conditioning system not generally used at pools. The system is more efficient, she said, but added that ambiguity in its specifications may have made contractors increase their bids.

“So that could be tightened up and that could be something that happens in the future, as well,” she said.

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by Heather Mongilio — September 25, 2015 at 10:30 am 0

Fire Station 8 (Courtesy of Arlington County Fire Department)

Residents against the relocation of Fire Station 8 have won a small victory.

The County Board on Thursday accepted the county manager’s recommendation to create a community task force to examine possible locations for the new Fire Station 8, which includes the site it currently sits on.

“This issue has been contentious, because the parameters for the discussion to date have not accommodated the desires of the community,” said Acting County Manager Mark Schwartz in his recommendation. “The choice will be a difficult one for the Board to make, because it may mean spending more on the fire station than was anticipated at the expense of other important projects.”

The County Board originally tasked county staff with finding a site for a new Fire Station 8 that would meet size, budgetary and response time restrictions. By relocating the fire station, the county hopes to reduce response times in North Arlington to four to six minutes.

Neighbors have repeatedly argued against capping the budget for the fire station at $12 million, as it limits the possible locations to one — the salt dome at 26th Street N. and Old Dominion Drive. Many of the residents attending community meetings on the fire station’s relocation have asked for it to stay on its current site — which county staff say would require pricy upgrades.

The County Board will hold a work session to discuss all the current data on the possible fire station locations and create a focused charge for a task force, including what should and should not be discussed.

Schwartz has recommend that a broad group of community members be appointed, including members of civic associations and other groups that represent the entire community.

In his recommendation to the Board, Schwartz asked that the task force report back in March, allowing additional funding to be included in the Capital Improvement Plan proposal.

Neighbors had repeatedly asked for a task force on Fire Station 8’s location, but their request was met with opposition from Deputy County Manager Carol Mitten, who said she could not see the purpose of a task force, she said at a Sept. 17 meeting.

“If I’m going to be honest, I don’t see what the task force would do, but I am open if someone can articulate with some specificity what a task force would do,” Mitten said earlier this month.

Many members of the community have also sent in letters to Schwartz and the County Board requesting a task force, including the presidents of the Langston and Old Dominion Civic Associations, Schwartz said.

“We must strike out on a new process that rebuilds the community’s trust while respecting the need to provide fire/EMS service at the most equitable levels possible throughout the County and recognizing the very real limitations on the supply of County land for support uses and the limitations and pressures on the county budget,” Schwartz said.

by ARLnow.com — August 5, 2015 at 3:45 pm 1,392 0

Arlington Fire Chief James Schwartz presents to the County BoardArlington County Fire Chief James Schwartz will be joining county government as a Deputy County Manager next month.

Schwartz was appointed by another Schwartz — Acting County Manager Mark Schwartz. The appointment is effective Sept. 8.

As Deputy County Manager, Schwartz will oversee the county’s public safety and emergency management agencies. ACFD Assistant Chief Joseph Reshetar will take over as the department’s acting chief after Schwartz departs.

The full Arlington County press release, after the jump.

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