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Voters cast ballots in a McLean Community Center Governing Board election (courtesy MCC)

(Updated at 12:15 a.m. on 5/25/2022) The McLean Community Center saw a noticeable uptick in participation for its latest governing board election.

A total of 2,504 ballots were cast to determine three new adult board members and two teen members, MCC reported in its preliminary results. That is roughly four times the 606 voters who turned out for last year’s election.

There were 2,381 voters and 123 youth voters. 2,064 people voted absentee, while 440 people cast their ballot this past Saturday (May 21) during McLean Day.

The turnout still represents just a fraction of the 18,000 households in Small District 1A — Dranesville, the special tax district that funds the center, but MCC says it was glad to see more residents get involved.

“We are happy with the increased participation,” MCC spokesperson Sabrina Anwah said. “As the center’s programs continue to expand and become more inclusive, we hope to experience more and more involvement of the patrons that we serve.”

The 2022 governing board race was unusually crowded, drawing 12 candidates — nine adults and three teens.

Kristina Groennings led the field for the adult seats with 1,531 votes. She will be joined on the board by Anna Bartosiewicz (1,403 votes) and Ari Ghasemian (1,400 votes).

Max Blacksten, who currently represents the McLean High School boundary area on the board, was defeated by two votes in his bid for reelection. He will be succeeded by Sarah Tran, while the Langley High School area will be served by Charlotte Loving, who unsuccessfully campaigned for the seat in 2021 but ran uncontested this year.

Tasked with making policy, programming, and budget decisions, the MCC Governing Board’s typically unassuming proceedings have been shaken up over the past year by conservative backlash to a “Drag Storybook Hour” for children that the center co-sponsored with the Dolley Madison Library last June.

According to The Washington Post’s account, tension over the Pride Month event turned the 2022 board elections into a referendum on MCC’s efforts to promote equity and diversity with its programming, which has become a priority under new Executive Director Daniel Singh.

Groennings, Bartosiewicz, and Ghasemian had expressed support for Fairfax County’s One Fairfax equity policy and were backed by members of the county’s Democratic committee, according to the Post. The other candidates included former Trump administration official Katherine Gorka.

(Correction: The election winners were not endorsed by the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, as previously stated. They got support from individual committee members, but the FCDC didn’t officially endorse any candidates, since this was a nonpartisan election.)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted today (Tuesday) to formally appoint the election winners to the governing board.

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McLean Day returns with amusement park rides like the Himalaya, pictured from 2019 (courtesy McLean Community Center)

Thousands of people are expected to descend on Lewinsville Park Saturday (May 21) for the first full-fledged McLean Day since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

After getting canceled in 2020 and limited to a drive-thru event last year, the McLean Community Center’s annual outdoor festival will return for its 107th year with all of the usual carnival rides, live entertainment, food vendors, and family-friendly activities.

McLean Day will unfold from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1659 Chain Bridge Road. While admission to the overall event is free, the rides require tickets that can be purchased online in advance or on site.

Community members can get a sneak peek of the rides from 2-10 p.m. tomorrow (Friday).

Here is more of what to expect from McLean Day, from MCC’s news release:

Rides and More Amusements

The large amusement rides are a big draw at McLean Day. This year’s selections will shake things up! In addition to the large rides on the parking lot, the Kids’ Way area of the park offers smaller, ticketed rides especially for younger children. Also, for the young and young-at-heart are costumed superhero characters who will be available for photos. Other free activities include laser tag, Bubble Ball, two rock-climbing walls, balloon twisters, a magician and a petting zoo.

Lots of Treats to Eat!

Do you favor festival food? Come to McLean Day ready to enjoy a wide variety of international entrees, snacks and beverages. Some of the area’s best gourmet food trucks that will be on hand to serve the crowds in Lewinsville Park.

Performers Onstage and Off

Free performances will be offered throughout the festival on the Community Stage. Young dancers enrolled in MCC’s Art in Motion Dance classes will open the show at 11:05 a.m. The McLean Community Players will follow at 1:05 p.m. The Alden’s Unruly Theatre Project teen improv group will perform at 1:45 p.m., followed by the McLean High School Chorus at 2:25 p.m. The McLean Citizens Association will present its Teen Character Award at 3 p.m. and G’NASH, a five-member rock band comprised of McLean High School students, will perform at 4 p.m. In addition, a Jugglers’ Stage, located close to the children’s ride area, offers free performances throughout the event.

Voting will also be underway for this year’s MCC Governing Board election, which has been unusually heated with nine adults vying for three seats. There are also three youth candidates for the two teen seats on the ballot.

While absentee voting concluded at 5 p.m. yesterday (Wednesday), the in-person election will be held at McLean Day from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

With parking at Lewinsville Park unavailable during the festival, Fairfax Connector will provide free shuttle service from 10:25 a.m. through 6 p.m. Buses will be available from the McLean Metro station, MCC (1234 Ingleside Avenue), McLean Baptist Church (1367 Chain Bridge Road), and the Trinity United Methodist Church (1205 Dolley Madison Blvd.).

The festival is being sponsored this year by Wheat’s Landscaping, Mars Inc., McLean Properties, and Johns Hopkins Community Physicians, which opened a primary care office in McLean in February.

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The McLean Community Center (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

About half of the McLean Community Center’s staff positions are currently vacant, leaving its existing workers reportedly struggling to keep up with an increased workload.

As of last Thursday (April 28), the center had filled 58 of its 125 positions, 25 of which are considered full-time, MCC Marketing and Communications Director Sabrina Anwah told FFXnow in a statement. Only one of the vacancies is a full-time position.

“MCC is currently undergoing a strategic planning process,” Anwah said. “Once that is complete, a workforce analysis will be performed, and we can provide additional updates after that.”

The facility’s staffing limitations came up during an April 20 meeting of the MCC Governing Board’s programs and outreach committee.

When discussing the ongoing effort to develop a new strategic plan, which will guide MCC’s future direction, some board members proposed that staff deliver regular reports to the board with their ideas and updates on how well the center is doing based on program participation, community feedback, and other metrics.

According to the meeting minutes, staff said they would welcome new reporting tools but currently “don’t have time to do our regular jobs.”

“We are understaffed and doing much more programming than previous,” staff said. “There needs to be an awareness of how thinly-staffed MCC is.”

MCC’s staff is limited to 40 work hours per week with no option for overtime. They frequently work in the evenings and on weekends, Executive Director Daniel Singh told the committee.

“Staff is under severe duress, especially in programming,” he said.

According to Singh, MCC reduced its staff under his predecessor, George Sachs, while the center was undergoing a renovation that concluded in 2018.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in spring 2020, Sachs opted not to restore all of the vacant positions, including MCC’s deputy director, Singh said, noting that reassigning a position takes eight to 16 months.

“Staffing issue is not something MCC can turn around quickly,” Singh said, according to the minutes.

Staffing has been a challenge across the board for the Fairfax County government over the past year, from the police department and behavioral health workers to trash collectors and school bus drivers.

The county’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2023, which is scheduled to be adopted on May 10 and will take effect starting July 1, provides funding for 34 regular positions at MCC, including two new positions — a network analyst and an administrative support staffer “to support expanded activities within the community center.”

According to the budget document, the county estimates that utilization of MCC is up 457.1% this fiscal year, which began on July 1, 2021, after plummeting while the center was closed or had limited capacity due to COVID-19.

Usage of the facility for classes, meetings, and programs is projected to increase by a less dramatic 5.9% over the next year.

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Morning Notes

Sunrise at Reston National Golf Course (photo by Terry Baranski)

Masks Now Optional on Metro — “Effective immediately, Metro will make masks optional on Metrorail, Metrobus and MetroAccess for its customers. Masks also will be optional for Metro employees. This change comes as a result of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) suspending enforcement, while the Biden Administration reviews a federal judge’s ruling.” [WMATA]

McLean Community Center Faces Anti-Equity Backlash — Protests of a “Drag Storybook Hour” at Dolley Madison Library last summer by some McLean residents have grown into broader opposition to MCC promoting diversity and inclusion in its programming. The tension has manifested in this year’s governing board race, where nine candidates, including a former Trump administration official, are vying for three open seats. [The Washington Post]

Capital Beltway Overnight Closures Planned in Tysons — “The I-495 (Capital Beltway) general purpose lanes and 495 Express Lanes will have nightly lane closures Friday, April 22 and Saturday, April 23 to allow crews to set the new pedestrian bridge truss in place as part of the Tysons/Old Meadow Road Bike/Ped Improvements project.” [VDOT]

Recess for Middle Schools Approved — “Middle school students in Fairfax County, Virginia, will get a short daily recess period beginning next year. The school board voted Thursday night to update its student and staff health and wellness policy to allow for a 15-minute recess period every day.” [WTOP]

Alcorn Plans to Seek Reelection — “Barely halfway through his term as Hunter Mill District Supervisor, Walter Alcorn has announced plans to seek re-election in November 2023 to a second 4-year term…His main reason is that he wants to see initiatives that he has worked on actually implemented.” [The Connection]

Research Reveals County Libraries Were Segregated — “Yes, FCPL was segregated. Yes, separate services were provided for White residents and for Black residents. The surface answer we had provided for years gave way to the truth, that our path to desegregation was mirrored across the region for our residents.” [The UncommonWealth]

Sediment Removal Project Underway in Reston — “Fairfax County Stormwater Management will be performing a sediment removal project at dry pond 0330DP located at 11950 Walnut Branch Rd. The project will start the week of April 18 and is expected to last a few weeks.” [Reston Association/Twitter]

Volunteers Needed to Pack Ukraine Donations — All the coats and other winter clothes collected for Northern Virginia’s donation drive for Ukrainian refugees will be delivered to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Oakton. Volunteers are needed on Friday and Saturday (April 22-23) to help pack the items for shipping to Poland. [Dalia Palchik/Twitter]

New Playground Opens at Lorton’s Laurel Hill Park — “The playground is appropriate for children ages 2 to 12 years old. Features include a large spinning Americans with Disabilities Act accessible play structure, small tot play composite and a large unique play structure for children 5 to 12 years old.” [Fairfax County Park Authority]

It’s Tuesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 47 and low of 37. Sunrise at 6:27 am and sunset at 7:51 pm. [Weather.gov]

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The McLean Community Center is co-located with McLean Central Park (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The McLean Community Center wants to update its policies, and its counterpart in Reston has emerged as a possible model.

The MCC governing board has started exploring a possible revision of the memorandum of understanding that dictates its relationship with the Fairfax County government.

Many of the changes floated at the board’s March 23 meeting are straightforward tweaks, such as using gender-neutral pronouns, allowing more flexibility for virtual meetings, and updating the name of the tax district that funds the community center from “Small District 1” to “Small District 1A.”

However, suggestions that MCC replace its board elections with a preference poll — the process used by Reston Community Center — and review its public comments protocols are more concerning, McLean Citizens Association President Scott Spitzer says.

The association argued in a letter signed by Spitzer and approved by its governance committee that MCC would risk ceding authority to the county by revising the MOU, which delineates the governing board’s responsibilities for handling programming, finances, capital projects, public meetings and other duties.

“The MOU works. They ought not to open up a discussion with the [Fairfax County] Board of Supervisors to revise it at this time,” Spitzer told FFXnow last week, proposing that the community center instead make any necessary updates through its internal policies.

The MCC board raised the idea of revisiting the MOU in September but didn’t vote to look at it until Feb. 23. Aside from an addendum made in 2007, the agreement hasn’t changed since it was originally signed in 1984, according to Board Chair Barbara Zamora-Appel.

Board members Shivani Saboo, who serves as treasurer, and Suzanne LeMenestrel volunteered to lead the review.

Zamora-Appel did not return a request for comment from FFXnow, but according to a statement shared by MCC, she emphasized at the beginning of the March 23 meeting that the proposed draft was based on individual board members’ suggestions, not from the board as a whole.

“We are very early in any discussion of potential changes, and we will not move forward any proposed changes unless and until we have had sufficient input, discussion, Board decisions, pros and cons, and discussions with Fairfax County officials,” Zamora-Appel said. Read More

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The McLean Community Center is in need of roof repairs (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The McLean Community Center has a water problem, and it will take about $100,000 in repairs to fix it.

The MCC governing board unanimously approved that funding on March 10 for a roof repair project deemed “urgent” by the board’s Capital Facilities Committee.

A pre-construction meeting with Function Enterprises, the Springfield-based company enlisted as the vendor, is scheduled for the end of April, MCC Director of Marketing and Communications Sabrina Anwah told FFXnow.

The bulk of the project focuses replacing a section of roof that mirrors the hallway to the facility’s Susan B. DuVal Studio. The replacement will cost $82,500, according to a vendor quote.

“This is where we have most of our recurring issues with water getting inside the building,” MCC staff said in an explanation of the quote.

According to staff, the remaining $16,580 will be used for repairs “that can improve our overall roof quality without the need to do a full replacement.” Identified issues include hallway leaks and a clogged roof drain that needs to be cleaned out.

The roofing challenges come a little over three years after MCC unveiled its $8 million renovation of the facility at 1234 Ingleside Avenue.

According to MCC, the existing roof was not a part of the renovation, but “several roofing deficiencies” were found near the end of that project.

“Those items couldn’t be addressed due to scope, budget and timeline issues,” MCC Facilities Manager Joe McGovern told FFXnow by email. “To begin addressing these issues, only a very small portion of the roof is being replaced.”

MCC chose Function Enterprises as the vendor for the repairs at Fairfax County’s recommendation, since the contractor was brought on to finish the renovation in 2018, staff said at a Capital Facilities Committee meeting on March 10.

“[Function Enterprises] recognized issues then and stated that they should take more time to complete due diligence, but the county instructed them to only address the contracted scope,”Β  McGovern said, according to the meeting minutes. “And thus, this is part of the reason we are now experiencing/realizing issues.”

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The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department responds to a gas leak in the McLean Community Center (via FCFRD/Twitter)

(Updated at 9:10 a.m.) There has been a “small” gas leak inside the McLean Community Center, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department reported this morning (Monday).

Firefighters were on the scene at 1234 Ingleside Avenue around 7 a.m. At that point, the situation was under control, and units were waiting for the gas company to arrive, according to the department.

The facility has been closed for the day, according to the McLean Project for the Arts, which says the leaking gas is carbon monoxide.

In a separate incident, the community center had to be evacuated in October, when workers hit a gas line on Oak Ridge Avenue, causing a leak near the adjacent Dolly Madison Library.

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Morning Notes

A puddle on the path along Kingstowne Lake after a day of rain (staff photo by Brandi Bottalico)

Stuff the Bus Drive Returns Tomorrow — “Since inception, Stuff the Bus has collected over 220 tons of food to feed people experiencing food insecurity in Fairfax County. Donate to Stuff the Bus at any of these locations on Saturday, March 19, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.” [Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services]

Reston Cooking Class Raises Funds for Ukraine — A borscht-making class raised nearly $179,000 to become one of the top fundraisers in World Central Kitchen “Cook for Ukraine” campaign, Reston Patch reported. Radhika Murari, the founder of Reston-based OmMade peanut butter, came up with the idea by helping two Ukrainian sisters promote their class. [Fairfax County EDA]

Fort Belvoir’s Name to Remain for Now — “The Naming Commission, tasked with choosing new names for Army installations that had been named for Confederate generals, has removed Fort Belvoir from consideration, according to a commission announcement this morning.” [Inside NoVA]

WeWork to Subsidize Rent for Local Startups — “Companies must commit to a six or 12-month lease in one of four WeWork D.C.-area locations — Metropolitan Square at 655 15th St. NW, the program’s hub, 1775 Tysons Blvd., 200 Massachusetts Ave. NW and Midtown Center — between now and the end of August, according to the terms and conditions.” [Washington Business Journal]

McLean Community Center Board Candidates Announced — “Early voting has started for the annual McLean Community Center governing board election. There are 12 candidates running for seats in 2022. The candidates include nine adults and three teens running for three adult positions and two youth positions.” [Patch]

British Consulting Firm Opens Tysons Office — “Buro Happold, a global engineering consultancy firm, has set up shop in the Washington, D.C. area, among five new cities the firm has entered. Roger Chang has been named principal and will head up the D.C. office, which is currently at 1775 Greensboro Station Place in Tysons, Va., with plans to operate space in the District as well.” [Commercial Observer]

Herndon Police Officers and Volunteers Recognized — “With community spread of COVID-19 remaining at low levels, the Herndon Police Department decided it was safe to finally host a public ceremony to recognize all of the officers and volunteers who’d received awards from 2019-2021.” [Patch]

It’s Friday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 69 and low of 48. Sunrise at 7:16 a.m. and sunset at 7:20 p.m. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Neighborhood Watch sign by Lake Audubon townhouses in Reston (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Masks Still Required on County Buses — “The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), upon the recommendation from the CDC, is extending the security directiveΒ for mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs for one month, through April 18, 2022.” [Fairfax Connector]

Traffic Disruption Scheduled in Herndon — “Crews will be working at the intersection of Elden Street and Monroe Street to replace the current traffic signal pole and mast arm. On Friday, March 11th, a brief traffic disruption of approximately 15 minutes will be required as the mast arm is installed. We recommend using Herndon Parkway and the routes shown as an alternative to using Elden Street.” [Town of Herndon]

Inova Hospital Starts Expanded Hours Today — “Effective March 11, we will have expanded hours for visitors. Visitors must be 16 years or older. Everyone must wear a surgical/medical-grade face mask at all times. Mask will be provided if needed.” [Inova/Twitter]

Work on Broad & Washington Project Could Begin Soon — “The Insight Group is getting its massive project at that corner of downtown Falls Church’s central intersection underway at last, with the anchor of the project to be a mega-Whole Foods supermarket, a new home for the Creative Cauldron theater and 339 rental apartments.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Vienna Looks to Cut Real Estate Taxes — “Town Manager Mercury Payton presented the budget proposal Monday. The budget proposes reducing the real estate tax rate by 1 cent from $0.2225 to $0.2125 per $100 of assessed value. Town of Vienna property owners pay this real estate tax on top of Fairfax County’s real estate tax.” [Patch]

Grand Opening Coming for New Reston Fire Station — The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department will hold a grand opening for its new Fire Station 25 at 1820 Wiehle Avenue in Reston at 10 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday). [Hunter Mill District News]

“Saturday School” Planned in Lincolnia — “Glasgow Middle School Principal Victor Powell is tapping some of his school’s share of federal pandemic relief funding to host an estimated 260 students and their parents in sessions designed to boost reading, math and social-emotional skills, as well as get students and parents alike inspired to think about college and goal-setting for the future.” [FCPS]

McLean Chocolate Festival Returns — “The 10th Annual McLean Chocolate Festival, sponsored by the Rotary Club of McLean, will be held April 24 at the McLean Community Center…Due to the pandemic, the club did not hold a festival last year. However, in 2020, almost 3,000 people attended, and organizers expect a similar number at this year’s event.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Daylight Saving Time Starts This WeekendΒ — Get ready to move your clocks ahead one hour. Daylight saving time begins at 2 a.m. Sunday (March 13), running through Nov. 6. We’ll lose an hour of sleep but hopefully be spending more time in the sun. If you hate these changes, you’re with most Americans, and a congressional panel this week looked at why we might want to end this annual custom. [The Washington Post]

It’s Friday — Rain overnight. High of 58 and low of 37. Sunrise at 6:27 am and sunset at 6:13 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

A Shell gas station and car wash on Franconia Road in Rose Hill is going to be replaced with a 7-Eleven, per permit applications (staff photo by Brandi Bottalico)

Expanded DMV Service Starts Today — “The Virginia DMV will offer both appointments and walk-in service Monday through Friday at all 75 locations starting Wednesday, March 2, Secretary of Transportation Shep Miller said in a news release. Walk-in service will still be an option at some offices on Saturdays.” [WTOP]

Local Students Learn About Russia-Ukraine Conflict — A political science and current affairs class at Langley High School has turned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine into a central topic of discussion. Teacher David Kuhn says his students, some of whom have lived in Russia, have shared “perspectives…beyond what their [years] would indicate.” [WUSA9]

Worker Rescued from Tree in Chantilly — For the second time in as many weeks, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue units helped free a person caught in a tree. A worker stuck 20-30 feet up a tree in the 4300 block of Warner Lane was transported to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries yesterday afternoon (Tuesday). [FCFRD/Twitter]

McLean Community Center Encourages Masks — “Per current metrics, Fairfax County’s COVID-19 Community Level is low, and masks are now optional in county facilities. While masks are no longer required, MCC highly recommends that patrons continue to use masks while in its facilities to protect those too young or unable to be vaccinated in our communities.” [MCC]

Reston Condo Fire Displaces One — The condominium fire in the 1400 block of Northgate Square that ended in a cat’s death displaced one resident and caused an estimated $93,750 in property damages. Investigators say the fire started accidentally in a bedroom when “unattended incenses” burned “too close to ordinary combustibles.” [FCFRD]

Reston Tech Company Lands Millions in Funding — “GridPoint, a building energy management and optimization technology that decarbonizes commercial buildings, announced Tuesday that it has closed a $75 million investment round. Goldman Sachs Asset Management led the round, with Shell Ventures, another veteran investor in GridPoint, also participating.” [Commercial Observer]

Reston Association Election Begins — “Voting is now open for members of Reston Association to cast their ballots for the 2022 Board of Directors’ election. Ballots are due by April 1 at 5 PM. Members of RA, both property owners & renters can cast their vote in the election.” [RA/Twitter]

Public Meeting on McLean Central Park Tonight — The Fairfax County Park Authority will present a revised development concept for the park by Dolley Madison Library with a virtual meeting at 7 p.m. An initial concept included an amphitheater and dog park but drew some skepticism from community groups. [Patch]

It’s Wednesday — Today will be mostly sunny, with a high near 61 and a low around 44. Sunrise will be at 6:38 a.m. and sunset at 6:03 p.m. [Weather.gov]

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