F.C. City Hall Work Still Underway for Added $

AT LAST SATURDAY’S Falls Church City Council “retreat” at the Henderson Middle School library, the chair of the City’s Economic Development Authority Bob Young (left) chatted with City Councilman Phil Duncan. (Photo: News-Press)

Made public for the first time at Monday’s Falls Church City Council meeting is the fact, extensively discussed behind the scenes before then, that the work on the City Hall renovation project has yet to be fully completed.

F.C. City Manager Wyatt Shields told the News-Press Wednesday that the work is substantially confined to HVAC heating and cooling issues, and in the meantime, negotiations between the City and Hitt continue to be ongoing to establish a cost for the work.

Shields said at the City Council meeting Monday that the cost of the change order would be in excess of $450,000 but otherwise, the matter is under ongoing negotiations that he said he’s hopeful will be resolved within a month.

Meanwhile, Shields told the Council Monday that the new stormwater task force has established six priority projects around the City with a price tag of about $15 million over 10 years.

A debt issuance to cover these costs will be supported by the City’s Stormwater Reserve Fund and may require an increase in stormwater fees to cover, but the City’s current operating budget surplus will not be required to cover this cost.

However, it will be used to add $400,000 to the City’s neighborhood traffic calming program if the Council gives a final OK to the plan for using the current year’s $4.2 million surplus for that purpose in a Feb. 10 vote.
Identified improvements are for speed humps on N. Oak and W. Jefferson, striping and signage on Lincoln Avenue, significant work at the Great Falls and Little Falls intersection as well as on the Annandale Road at Gundry Drive intersection and in the Greenway Downs area.

Councilman David Snyder noted that legislation is moving through the General Assembly in Richmond now that would allow local jurisdictions to set their own speed limits on neighborhood streets, which would be a big help in traffic calming efforts.

Last Saturday, the Council held its annual planning retreat in the library of the Henderson Middle School, and in a prioritization exercise that included members of City boards and commissions led by Earl Haddad, a collaborative facilitation consultant also involved in other projects with the City, affordable housing and walkability emerged as the two most valued priorities for the City going forward.

Councilmember Letty Hardi made a reference that that outcome at Monday’s City Council meeting, noting that none of the $4.2 million surplus money was being earmarked for affordable housing. “We have to advocate for those who can’t speak for themselves,” she said.

The City’s regional transportation expert, Snyder, said Monday that Governor Ralph Northam has submitted the “best transportation funding package ever seen in Richmond.”

An update on the long-term “bus rapid transit” (BRT) plan to link Alexandria and Tysons on Route 7 through the City of Falls Church was provided at Monday’s Council meeting by Dan Goldfarb of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.

Noting that currently 600,000 passengers use buses daily in the region (compared to 700,000 who use the Metrorail), it has been decided that, rather than light rail, a BRT option would work best along Route 7. It would involve dedicated lanes where possible (not in F.C.), fare collections at the stops and not on the buses, high frequency of buses and real time digital signage with updates on arrival times.

The current plan shows a deviation off Rt. 7, going up N. Washington St. to stop at the East Falls Church Metro station and back onto Rt. 7 at Seven Corners.

Mayor Tarter said he strongly urges the planning to also take in a stop at the West Falls Church Metro station.

This year, the City will be asked to pitch in $50,000 to this effort although the bad news is that the 3T Metro bus line, which comes down Rt. 7, will again be discontinued at the end of 2020.

At the City’s request, some of the funds from the new tolls on I-66 were designated for the reinstatement of the 3T line, which served Winter Hill residents with a stop right in front of the Harris Teeter on Rt. 7 headed to the East Falls Church Metro, but poor ridership numbers have cut short its continuation.