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By 4-3 Vote, F.C. Council Puts $200K Of Surplus to Pedestrian Safety Steps

BOY SCOUT MEMBERS OF DEN 5, Pack 681 at St. James School weighed in for better traffic calming and pedestrian safety measures in their appearance before the Falls Church City Council Monday night. (Photo: News-Press)
BOY SCOUT MEMBERS OF DEN 5, Pack 681 at St. James School weighed in for better traffic calming and pedestrian safety measures in their appearance before the Falls Church City Council Monday night. (Photo: News-Press)

By a narrow 4-3 vote, a majority on the Falls Church City Council Monday night voted to allocate $200,000 of the $921,000 surplus from the Fiscal Year 2016 budget for traffic calming.

It was conceded, though, that with the onset of the late fall and winter seasons, no significant work could be done until the spring, even after the FY18 budget is adopted in April.

However, a large turnout of adults and their young children to the City Council meeting Monday proved persuasive, especially concerning the need for crosswalks along the stint of Lincoln Avenue in the City between the Lincoln Park at Great Falls and the City limits near Yucatan Street. That wide strip is notorious for speeding motorists as a cut-through to get on I-66 especially during rush hours and there are no pedestrian crosswalks there now.

Parents and children alike, ranging from articulate Mt. Daniel Elementary to Henderson Middle School students, testified before the Council on the hazards of trying to get across Lincoln Avenue now.

“It is a fatality waiting to happen,” said parent Sarah Tarpgaard. The intersection at Meridian, where there are school bus stops on either side of Lincoln, presents a particular hazard, she and others said.

Council members noted that there are other neighborhoods in the City where similar problems exist, but the debate on the Council was not about whether or not to address these needs, but how to designate the surplus from the last fiscal year budget.

F.C.’s Chief Financial Officer Richard LaCondre recommended it all go into the capital fund balance in anticipation of major capital projects looming down the road.

The real news was that the surplus existed at all, coming out of the $84 million budget of the fiscal year that ended last June 30. Simply put, the City spent less than it had budgeted for.

And while $200,000 was set aside for traffic calming, the remaining $721,000 will go, as LaCondre recommended, into the capital fund that will, for example, pay for the new high school that looms on the horizon. “The big news here is that we are getting this jump on the new high school,” Vice Mayor Marybeth Connolly said.

At Monday’s meeting, it was Councilman David Snyder who initiated the proposition that a portion of the surplus be dedicated right away to traffic calming “to signal the City staff that we want to see results sooner rather than later,” given the testimony that came before them Monday night.

Others, like Councilman Dan Sze, said it was meaningless to designate the money now since no serious work could begin until the spring.

But Mayor David Tarter said that knowing the resources are there would motivate the City staff to “tee up the projects in the meantime, getting them ready to be implemented as soon as the weather permitted.

Tarter led the four “yes” votes that designated the funds, joined by Phil Duncan, Letty Hardi and Snyder. “No” votes were cast by Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly, Karen Oliver and Sze.

Once the amendment passed, the Council voted unanimously for the revised use of the surplus.