Last weekend’s winds may be a memory, but the damage lingers. Downed trees and power lines can be removed and repaired, but the inconvenience to daily routines takes a bit longer. Some schools closed unexpectedly because of power issues, and no one could anticipate that southbound I-95 would be closed (for more than two days) because the wind-damaged Potomac Mills sign in Prince William County was in danger of falling onto the travel lanes. Hopefully, many residents heeded repeated pleas to be prepared for emergencies, but if you didn’t, you can get a handy folder of hints and recommendations by contacting my office: 703-256-7717, or [email protected]
The heavy winds kept many elected county officials from attending the annual legislative conference of the National Association of Counties (NACo) this weekend. Officials whose flights were not cancelled described harrowing Friday and Saturday landings at National, and lauded the pilots who were able to put planes down safely, though bumpy. During the legislative conference, NACo’s steering committees meet to discuss current federal legislation pertinent to counties, as well as bring forth resolutions about current issues that may need federal involvement. As a vice chairman of the Environment, Energy, and Land Use Committee (EELU), I was called on to chair Saturday’s day-long committee because the chairman’s flights were cancelled, multiple times!
There were 50 or so committee members present from all across the nation; while we often share common challenges — water quality and water quantity, for example — there are some issues that set us apart. A Florida commissioner spoke about the dying coral reef in his county; another commissioner wanted help with flooding that occurs when a dam upstream releases water ahead of forecasted storms, without coordinating with the local government. A Colorado commissioner was concerned about who has the responsibility to cap abandoned oil and gas wells, and how to pay for it. In North Carolina, Idaho, and New Mexico, local issues involve what’s getting into drinking water sources from chemical plants and federal nuclear research facilities. As a Virginia member, I often find myself explaining subsidence and sea level rise, as western commissioners try to explain “split estates,” which pertain to mineral rights and their extraction, especially on federal public lands. Whatever the issue, many officials seemed to be skeptical that any actions would be taken by Congress or the federal government at this time, leaving local governments pretty much on their own, although an EPA speaker did encourage counties to submit grant applications.
At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, a proposed real property tax rate increase of 2.5 cents was advertised, as recommended by the county executive. The vote was 9 to 1 (Herrity nay). The Board may adopt a tax rate at or below the advertised rate, but cannot adopt a rate higher than advertised. If adopted on May 1, the new tax rate would be $1.155, with a quarter cent increase to .0325 in the stormwater fee. The Mason District Budget Town meeting will be held next Thursday, March 15, at 7 p.m. at the Mason District Governmental Center, 6507 Columbia Pike in Annandale.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]