(Updated at 2:50 p.m.) Operations at the McLean Community Center (MCC) are starting to look a lot more like 2019 — at least as far as its budget is concerned.
The center’s governing board will hold a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. tonight (Wednesday) to gather community input on its proposed budget for fiscal year 2025, which will begin July 1, 2024 and end on June 30, 2025.
The draft funding plan will represent MCC’s return to full operating levels after a few years of reduced capacity and programming due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, before that, a full renovation of its facility at 1234 Ingleside Avenue.
“Due to various circumstances, the past several years’ budgets have been anomalies,” MCC Executive Director Betsy May-Salazar said by email. “…It wasn’t until the second half of FY23 that MCC began to see a recovery in operations and programming. FY24 (the current budget year) is picking up to pre-Covid levels of program revenue and FY25 is budgeted, and expected to be, a full year of return-to-normal operations.”
Maintaining the current tax rate of 2.3 cents per $100 of assessed value that has been in place since 2015, the proposed budget projects that the community center will bring in $7.5 million in revenue, a 9.5% increase over the final fiscal year 2023 numbers. More than 82% of that will come from the real estate tax, but over $1 million is expected from programs and events.
The $8.3 million in anticipated expenditures includes $800,000 for capital projects.
In addition to carrying over $557,023 for upgrades to The Alden theater from the current year, the draft budget has added a $800,000 request to make the Old Firehouse Center entrance and bathrooms accessible in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. That amount will be reduced after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved $500,000 for the project yesterday (Tuesday) in a carryover package.
MCC has also proposed reallocating $50,000 that had been set aside for an electric vehicle charging station to instead fund an overall energy study.
(Correction: The story originally stated that the full $250,000 placeholder for the EV charging station had been reallocated to the energy study. Just $50,000 is reallocated, while the remaining funds have been removed from the budget, MCC says.)
The governing board has suggested undertaking a study in accordance with the prioritization of sustainability in MCC’s five-year strategic plan and its involvement in the county’s Interagency Climate Team, according to May-Salazar.
“The intent of the study is to explore and make a full assessment of the center’s facilities to see how they can become more energy efficient,” May-Salazar said. “We expect to receive a report with recommendations of best practices for MCC to adopt and/or maintain.”
A timeline for the study hasn’t been set yet. It’s slated to be approved by the governing board when it meets tonight, May-Salazar said.
Other planned projects include $40,000 to improve stormwater drainage behind the community center, $50,000 for an OFC sensory room, $25,000 for new signage, and a $50,000 contribution to the campaign for a new McLean Central Park playground. Read More
The assessment fees that Reston Association members pay every year are expected to go up again in 2024, based on a newly proposed budget.
To cover the actual costs of running the organization, the annual assessment would need to increase to $872 next year — a 14.3% jump from the $763 that RA charged this year, RA CEO Mac Cummins said in a report to the board of directors.
Last year’s assessment hike was lower than initially anticipated, thanks to a $1 million buydown using a cash surplus, but Cummins has advised against repeating a buydown of that scale, warning that it’s unsustainable and “only delays the inevitable.”
Instead, he recommends taking a more incremental, “bleed in” approach that would involve a smaller cash infusion of $700,000 to bring the 2024 rate down to $840, which would be a 10% increase from last year.
“A dramatic increase in assessment…will lead to unfounded narratives and a communication / transparency breakdown,” Cummins wrote. “…If we were to set aside $1.4 million dollars of cash reserve and put $700,000 into the budget, we could take the excess surplus cash and put it into a money market account and generate some earnings over the next 12 months until it’s again time to use for the 2025 assessment.”
For the upcoming budget, RA has proposed eliminating member fees for recreation passes and certain events, such as the annual “Totally Trucks” event, and instead incorporating those costs into the base assessment.
The move would bring RA more in line with its past practices and those of other homeowners’ associations, according to Cummins. The organization brings in about $400,000 from the recreational pass fees for members, covering only about 15% of the approximately $3 million it takes to operate the pool and tennis facilities.
Pass fees from non-RA members generate about $240,000 in revenue.
“The membership currently subsidizes 85% of the cost of these facilities without access to them,” Cummins said.
According to the draft budget, RA anticipates a 7% increase in operating expenses, driven in part by personnel costs, maintenance needs, an uptick in insurance premiums and “a dramatic rise in costs for many materials and supplies” due to inflation.
While looking at how to reorganize staff to be more efficient, including eliminating staff accountant and communications manager positions, RA has proposed adding positions for a chief financial officer, a land use planner, an information technology director and a business analyst.
The IT director would come as the organization grapples with persistent technology issues and a pending website redesign, while the land use planner would “allow the organization to be far nimbler and more responsive than we currently are,” Cummins wrote.
Other staff-related costs include a $90,000 increase in funds for lifeguard salaries “to be more consistent with the market and allow us to fill necessary slots for our summertime aquatics activities,” according to the report.
RA predicts that approximately $3.2 million will be needed for facility repairs and replacements and other capital projects through 2028. Major investments planned in the next five years include Ridge Heights pool renovations and improvements to the Lake Newport, Uplands, Shadowood and Autumnwood tennis courts.
Staff have pushed the Lake Newport project to 2025, and improvements at the Golf Course Island swimming pool could be paused or scrapped entirely.
“Staff have reduced the investment in Golf Course Island to account for maintenance needs but are not currently planning a major investment in the pool,” Cummins said.
The CEO noted that RA recently completed a community survey to gather member feedback on its parks and recreation needs. The results could prompt revisions to the capital improvements plan.
The draft budget will be presented to the RA Board of Directors when it meets on Thursday (Sept. 28).
Fairfax County has harnessed the fiery power of the sun for two of its fire stations.
The Reston and Woodlawn fire stations are now home to rooftop solar photovoltaic arrays that will generate 17% of the electricity needed for the buildings to operate.
The facilities are the county’s first to get major rooftop solar installations, a milestone that local officials plan to celebrate with a ceremonial flipping of the power switch at the Woodlawn station this Wednesday (Sept. 27).
“Combined, the projects will generate 100 kW of power and provide about 17% of the electricity needed for the two stations,” John Silcox, a spokesperson for the Fairfax County Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination (OEEC), said. “The projects are being managed through an energy performance contract with engineering consulting firm CMTA that will save the county nearly $13,000 in the first year.”
The projects support the county’s operational energy strategy, which aims to ensure that 50% of electricity generated by county facilities comes from renewable energy sources like solar by 2040, among other goals.
The Reston and Woodlawn fire stations were both recently renovated. The approximately $15 million new Reston station at 1820 Wiehle Avenue reopened in the spring of 2022, while the renovation of the Woodlawn station at 8701 Lukens Lane was completed in 2021.
More solar installations will happen at other county facilities this year, Silcox said.
The county has been pursuing a number of solar projects under a power purchase agreement (PPA) initiative announced in 2019, but collapsed lease negotiations with one of the contracted vendors, supply chain issues and rising material costs created complications.
After initially pursuing the Reston Fire Station project and others through the PPA initiative, the county opted instead to hire an energy efficiency firm to install the solar panels in conjunction with other energy upgrades.
Similar projects are in the works at the Sully Community Center, the Spring Hill Rec Center in McLean, the Pender building and the upcoming Springfield commuter parking garage. Another 17 sites are in line for installations next year, county staff told the Board of Supervisors at an environmental committee meeting in July.
OEEC Division Manager for Innovation and Sustainability John Morrill previously told FFXnow that PPA contracts — where the panels are provided by a private company that covers all installation, managment and maintenance costs — are better suited to large-scale projects, like a 40-acre array planned at the I-95 Landfill Complex in Lorton.
The Lake Thoreau and Shadowood pool renovations in Reston should both be finished in time for the facilities to open for next year’s swim season, Reston Association staff say.
After running into delays this summer, construction on Lake Thoreau pool at 2040 Upper Lake Drive is about 90% complete, RA Director of Capital Projects Chris Schumaker reported in an update on Friday (Sept. 22). That puts the project on track be done by Thanksgiving, he said.
The roughly $3.5 million renovation includes a pool with six lap lanes, a ramp and “zero-depth” feature to provide ADA access, a redesigned and elevated deck, a larger 25-space parking lot, an overlook with a pollinator garden, and expanded bathhouses, which have been moved away from the spa.
“We’ve now moved [the spa] over to the other side of the facility to provide ADA accessibility,” Schumaker said. “It’s been kept the same size but has improved jets and heating that we didn’t have before.”
This is the first major overhaul of the pool since it was originally built in the 1980s. The facility has been closed for the project since 2020, but work didn’t begin until last fall after encountering delays related to permitting and the availability of contractors and construction supplies.
Schumaker also reported that the first phase of RA’s Shadowood pool renovation at 2201 Springwood Drive has been completed, a process that included squaring the main pool and replacing the bathhouse roof.
Design engineering on phase two is now underway, and RA is preparing to submit plans for the Design Review Board‘s approval and Fairfax County permits, according to Schumaker.
“Some of the features proposed in phase two at Shadowood include the conversion of the wading pool into a splash pad, installation of gas heating for the main pool for users’ enjoyment, and ADA enhancements to the bath house and entrance,” Schumaker said.
The Shadowood pool has been closed for four consecutive swim seasons after RA determined that significant improvements were needed to address sewage and other issues at the aging facility, which was built in 1976.
“We anticipate this work being underway here in the fall and winter and be completed before reopening in 2024,” Schumaker said of the project’s second phase.
A planned renovation at Reston’s Glade tennis courts has been rescheduled for next year.
The project, which was originally scheduled to begin this year, has been pushed to next year, Reston Association announced yesterday (Monday).
The courts reopened this week after the court surface was reconditioned and new court lines were installed. The old layer of the clay was removed, replaced and reconditioned.
The change was prompted by limited contractor availability, according to RA Chief Operating Officer Peter Lusk.
“The pool of contractors that can complete this work is small and are booked through the end of this calendar year,” Lusk said. “RA contemplated starting the project in late 2023, through 2024, but pausing the project for cold weather is not considered best practice.”
Staff are working with the contractor to determine dates for next year. Once it begins, the project would take between three and five months.
The Glade tennis facility has been reopened, with the planned renovation rescheduled to next year due to contractor availability and permitting requirements.
The anticipated start is now late Spring or early Summer 2024. pic.twitter.com/tbn9adZp5W
— Reston Association (@RestonOnline) July 31, 2023
Image via Google Maps
Fairfax County’s efforts to become more energy efficient will get a power boost this week, as work begins on improvements at McLean’s Spring Hill Rec Center.
Set to break ground at 2 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday), the project will add the recreation center at 1239 Spring Hill Road to a growing list of county facilities supported by solar panels. Other planned changes include pool dehumidification unit replacements, LED lighting upgrades, improved building automation systems and a new geothermal HVAC system.
“The project represents a significant step forward toward meeting the county’s goals for carbon neutrality in its facilities, fleet vehicles and operations, including 50% of county electricity from renewable sources by 2040,” the Fairfax County Park Authority said.
Adopted in July 2021, the county’s Operational Energy Strategy set 2040 as the target date for achieving carbon neutrality in its energy use — the point when it will remove as many greenhouse gas emissions as it releases.
In addition to getting half its electricity from renewable sources by 2040, the county hopes to reach carbon neutrality by cutting overall energy usage in half, transitioning to fully electric or non-carbon-emitting vehicle fleets by 2035 and producing zero waste by 2030, among other goals.
After running into some early roadblocks, particularly when it came to solar panels, the push to make the county’s facilities more energy efficient has picked up steam in recent months.
There are 22 solar projects in progress, including the Spring Hill one as well as five others that are under construction and expected to be completed this year, the Fairfax County Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination reported to the Board of Supervisors at a July 18 committee meeting.
Later this afternoon, the board will hold a public hearing on whether to lease some upcoming facilities, including the new Franconia Governmental Center and planned Mason District Police Station addition, for solar photovoltaic (PV) array installations.
The county has also finished installing 96 electric vehicle charging stations at 11 facilities and has another five locations and 116 charging spaces on the way through 2024, though the Spring Hill Rec Center isn’t on that list.
The rec center will be the county’s fifth energy efficiency retrofit project, following completed upgrades at the Cub Run and South Run rec centers and the City of Fairfax Regional Library. Improvements to the Pender Building that houses the Department of Housing and Community Development are on track to finish this November.
According to the park authority, the Spring Hill Rec Center’s new solar PV array will produce 307 kilowatts of energy, providing 13% of the building’s annual electricity.
“That’s enough energy to power 33 homes, annually,” FCPA spokesperson Benjamin Boxer said.
Coordinated by energy service contractor CMTA, the upgrades are collectively expected to reduce the facility’s electric consumption by 19% and gas consumption by 29% each year, the FCPA says.
The park authority anticipates finishing work on the project by late summer 2024.
“There may be occasional, temporary disruptions to Rec Center operations due to construction activities, but the Park Authority will work to minimize any impacts to our patrons,” Boxer said.
Offering classes, camps and one of the FCPA’s three licensed preschools, the Spring Hill Rec Center hosts a 15,000-square-foot fitness center, an indoor gym, a swimming pool and spa, and various outdoor facilities, including a playground and baseball and soccer fields.
Additional growth in the Town of Herndon is prompting town officials to consider adding additional capacity to its sewer system.
At a Herndon Town Council work session on Tuesday (July 11), Public Works Director Tammy Chastain told the council that the town is working with Fairfax County to install a new sewer pump station. The project would take roughly two years to design and three years to construct.
Additional development and growth — particularly in the Herndon Transit-Oriented Core and the Transit Related Growth areas — is expected to place more strain on public utilities overall, Chastain said. The town is in the midst of planning ways to accommodate that growth, she said.
“We need to look at our utilities,” Chastain said.
The town is considering two sites for the pump station. So far, officials are favoring a site opposite Marjorie Lane and Herndon Parkway that preserves an undeveloped area and does not require any easements. The location is also further away from historic structures and a swim club, Chastain said.
The area will flow into the Sugarland Run sewer lane.
Chastain said the pump station is needed because the capacity of the regional Potomac Interceptor is maxed out.
The county will share the cost and capacity of the project. The timing of the project is dependent on development, Chastain said.
The school system has formally submitted a proposal before the county to add 126,000 square feet and modern amenities to the school.
“The increase in space will accommodate anticipated future enrollment,” FCPS spokesperson Julie Moult said. “Additions will provide a new administration wing with a new main entrance vestibule, a new library, an extension of the classroom wing, and two new pre-K classrooms. Renovations will enhance current classrooms and learning and support spaces, improve the bus and kiss and ride loop, and create new outdoor play areas.”
The project is currently in the design phase and was funded by a 2021 bond, Moult wrote in a statement. Built in 1985, the school’s current enrollment is 360 — well under its design capacity of 786 students — but the school building is in need of “significant” improvements, according to the application.
The renovated building will feature a new one-story administrative suite and a two-story classroom addition along the front of the school building. A one-story library addition is also planned on the west side.
“With the proposed renovations, the existing design capacity will increase by 14 students for a design capacity of 800 students,” the application states.
Three new playgrounds are also planned on the southern portion of the property. The parking lot will also get 36 more spaces on the existing playground area — a number that includes eight ADA spaces.
The project is expected to finish in the summer of 2026.
Questions continue to swirl around Lake Accotink Park’s long-term future, but that hasn’t stopped Fairfax County from pursuing some needed facility upgrades.
This Saturday (June 3), the Fairfax County Park Authority will celebrate the completion of its new Accotink Creek Crossing, a 320-foot-long concrete trail and 325-foot, elevated pedestrian bridge that closes 3.9-mile trail loop around the North Springfield park.
Coinciding with National Trails Day, the ribbon-cutting ceremony at 8:30 a.m. will be followed by a full day of outdoor activities, including nature and history hikes and a trail bicycle ride.
Under construction since last summer, the new crossing has improved the conditions and slope of the trail at the Lake Accotink dam outfall, according to the park authority.
“The previous stream crossing at the outfall of the Lake Accotink dam was subject to sudden and frequent flooding, often stranding trail users and tempting them to wade through swiftly moving water,” the authority said. “Additionally, excessive storm damage necessitated the total reconstruction of the trail twice within the last five years.”
The project was funded with just over $3 million from park bonds.
Playground replacement expected this year
Other impending improvements include an overhaul of the park’s playground, which has been out of commission since November after an inspector determined that the aging equipment was unsafe to use.
With $300,000 approved for a replacement, the park authority recently unveiled a design concept showcasing the features planned for the new playground, including a tower structure with a slide, four swings, a climbing net, a bouldering feature, a music feature, and a playhouse.
“In the interest of delivering a functional, safe and enjoyable playground experience as quickly as possible, this particular project was conducted as an in-kind replacement,” meaning it will fit within the footprint of the existing playground, FCPA spokesperson Benjamin Boxer said.
The new equipment is expected to be installed late this summer or by early fall, though the timeline could be revised “as ordering, delivery and installation details are finalized,” according to Boxer.
Known as the Capital Improvement Program (CIP), the six-year schedule sets funding plans for the town’s infrastructure projects and is incorporated as part of the operating budget.
This year’s $25.4 million plan includes new projects like sidewalk improvements along Spring Street and Locus Street. In recent years, residents have called on the town to improve safety and security for pedestrians in those specific areas.
The town is proposing nearly $1.4 million in funding to construct ADA-compliant 5-foot-wide sidewalks and curb-and-gutter along both sides of old Spring Street. The project would also include curb-cuts and crosswalks, extending from Locust Street to the new Spring Street.
The Locust Street project — which would also cost nearly $1.4 million — also includes sidewalks and curb-and-gutter along both sides of Locust Street. It would extend from old Spring Street to Elden Street.
Both projects may need to be constructed in phases, according to the proposal.
The Herndon Town Council is expected to discuss the proposed CIP for 2025-2029 at a work session tonight (Tuesday).
This year’s program continues to benefit from federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act.
In a presentation, staff noted that many of the projects included in the plan are “addressing aging and deteriorating infrastructure.” The presentation described the plan as “reasonable,” given the current financial climate faced by the town and throughout the country.
A new project to implement life cycle updates at Herndon Community Center is also on the books.
The life-cycle projects, which would cost roughly $1.4 million, are not yet set in stone. The town plans to complete an analysis of the project’s scope by fiscal year 2029 in order to determine what areas need upgrades and replacement. The proposal notes that the roof needs to be replaced.
According to the proposal:
The racquetball court, fitness room, locker rooms, and gym HVAC units were last replaced in 2005 with a useful lifespan of 20 years. An analysis should be completed in FY28 to determine the project scope, estimated replacement schedule and construction costs. This project will replace and upgrade the units and address any duct and related infrastructure work needed to facilitate the new units.
The town also anticipates replacing the floor of three racquetball courts, which was last installed in 1989, and additional work on the sidewalls.