Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church


 Mark Twain, writing in the late 19th century when frontier water wars influenced development patterns of the American West, reported that “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.” In the intervening centuries, water resources continue to have significant impacts on how we use the land, and relationships between localities, regions and states. Those impacts have played out in recent years between the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of Maryland, as well as between local jurisdictions here in Northern Virginia.

Although I have steadfastly refrained from commenting in this column about the litigated issues between Fairfax Water and the City of Falls Church, I applaud the City Council’s commitment to transparency as it decides the future of the City’s water system. However, the City’s water customers, 92 percent of whom live in Fairfax County, already have paid for the water system’s assets through the purchase of their homes and businesses. A buyer of those same assets will have to recoup the $44 million expense by charging customers significantly higher rates, essentially paying for the same assets once again.

Additionally, federal law (PL80-118) limits the Washington Aqueduct to selling water only to a governmental body in Northern Virginia. Congress would have to amend that law for the Aqueduct to sell water to a private company. Virginia law (Code Sec. 56-265.3(C)) prohibits an investor-owned utility from operating in Fairfax County, where a water authority already exists, without the consent of the Board of Supervisors. Although I can only speak for myself, I believe that our Board would be very concerned that a for-profit utility would charge rates that are far too high, particularly when other alternatives exist that can lead to much lower rates for the City’s customers. These concerns must be addressed before the City Council commits the City to a long process that does not serve the best interests of any of the City’s water customers.


Mason District lost a powerhouse citizen last week with the passing, on Easter Sunday, of Mary Jane Sargent. At heart, Mary Jane was an educator, teaching math at Holmes Middle School for many years and later serving on the Northern Virginia Community College Board of Trustees. Mary Jane was fiercely devoted to her neighborhood, and could be counted on for a common sense approach to problem-solving. A moderate Republican, Mary Jane nurtured and supported candidates like Senator John Warner, Congressman Tom Davis, State Senator Jane Woods, Delegate Vince Callahan, and Clerk of the Court John Frey, all of whom attended her funeral on Saturday. I knew Mary Jane for many years, as a constituent and a friend. Even though we were of differing parties, I suspect Mary Jane voted for me a time or two! She came from a generation that understood that politics, even partisan politics, usually meant working together to make progress. Mary Jane is survived by her husband, Bill, six children, and a very large extended family.


The very popular George Mason Regional Library book sale begins today at 5 p.m., and continues through Sunday, at 7001 Little River Turnpike, Annandale. Hours are 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday, and noon – 5 p.m. on Sunday.


Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov


  • Penny Gross

    Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov