In 2014, Fairfax County entered into an agreement with the Virginia Commissioner of Highways, which allowed county staff and the Community Labor Force to remove signs from Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) rights-of-way, and invoice the owners of the signs at $100 per sign removed. Since the beginning of the program, more than 75,000 signs have been removed countywide, and fines of $64,000 have been invoiced to the violators; about half of that amount has been collected. The worst offenders include two real estate firms: one billed for $17,000 in fines, which have been paid in full, and one for $9200 in fines which, apparently, have been ignored.
Enforcement is having the desired effect of reducing illegal and unsightly signs along roadways. In the first year of the program, 19,438 signs were removed; there was a spike to 33,604 in 2015, but that number was reduced by almost 30 percent in 2016, to 23,264. Mason District was part of the pilot when the program started, and the program was expanded in 2015, with a second truck and a second Community Labor Force crew, which may explain the larger number of signs removed that year. Sign violators have gotten the message that posting signs in the VDOT right-of-way will result in loss of the sign and imposition of hefty fines. In fact, Mason District had the lowest number of sign violator invoices issued last year, followed closely by Mount Vernon and Lee districts, which also were part of the original pilot program.
Braddock, Providence, and Springfield Districts had the highest number of illegal sign invoices in 2016, perhaps reflecting the draw of the Fairfax Corner, Tyson’s, and Fair Lakes commercial areas. Whatever the reason, the Department of Code Compliance is doing its job, and sign pollution is way down in our community. To report illegal signage, call 703/324-1300, or log on to www.fairfaxcounty.gov to register an on-line complaint.
The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department recently released its FY 2016 annual report. Fairfax County has 38 fire stations, staffed by 1,402 uniformed personnel, 177 civilians, and 369 operational volunteers. In FY 2016, fire and rescue crews responded to 18,151 fire incidents, 72,037 emergency medical incidents, 7,016 public service calls, and transported 52,415 patients to local hospitals. In addition, fire department personnel conducted hundreds of fire and hazardous materials investigations, and participated in tests, inspections, and plan reviews more than 40,000 times. Mason District fire stations ranked in the Top 10 for every type of apparatus unit response, reflecting that Mason District is, indeed, a very busy place.
On the community side, the Fairfax Fire and Rescue Department focuses on “Preventing the 911 Call” through programs for Safety and Wellness, Life Safety Education in the schools, and the Coats for Kids and Holiday Toy Drive for children and families in need of extra help. Fire department personnel also visited more than 35,000 homes and installed nearly 4000 smoke alarms for residents. Don’t be a statistic; have up-to-date smoke alarms in your home, and fresh batteries in them. The entire report may be accessed on line at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fr/download/2016anlrpt.pdf.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]