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Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office vehicle (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A program that enlists Fairfax County Adult Detention Center inmates for litter pick-up, landscaping and other maintenance services will be put on hold.

The Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office told county leaders on June 16 that it will temporarily suspend its Community Labor Force (CLF) effective Sept. 12 “due to critically low staffing levels,” according to the sheriff’s office.

“By doing this, the agency will be able to redirect staff to the core functions,” Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Andrea Ceisler said.

The office is currently down 72 sworn positions, or 14.5% of its staff, according to Ceisler.

The agency reported in April that it had a vacancy rate of nearly 15%, despite additional recruiting efforts. The fiscal year 2023 budget that the Board of Supervisors approved in May included salary increases for sheriff’s office staff and other public safety workers, starting on July 1.

According to the sheriff’s office, the CLF provides public services that would otherwise require county staff or contractors:

The CLF services over 300 county bus stops, shelters and park-and-rides by collecting the trash, doing light landscaping, removing graffiti and performing general maintenance when needed. The crews service many of the county’s stormwater management facilities, including over 1,300 dry ponds that temporarily hold and filter water in neighborhoods and at businesses. They also do landscaping, litter pick-up and emergency snow removal on public lands.

The force consists of work crews of up to five “well-screened” incarcerated individuals, each overseen by a deputy. Participants can reduce their jail time by volunteering for the program, which currently has 11 inmates.

Alternatives Needed for Sign Removals

Due to the CLF’s impending halt, the county board directed staff yesterday (Tuesday) to review potential options for handling the affected services — specifically an effort to remove signs from street curbs, medians and other areas in the public right of way.

The county has relied on the CLF to remove thousands of signs from 100 designated roads under a July 1, 2013 agreement between the sheriff’s office, Board of Supervisors, the Department of Code Compliance and the Virginia Department of Transportation. In 2016 alone, the group collected 23,264 signs, according to the sheriff’s office.

“The number of signs in our right of way today compared to what we used to deal with has made a significant difference not only in visibility, but in public safety, certainly for the environment and litter clean-ups,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “We cannot afford to have a gap, not even for one day in this service.” Read More

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A sign outside Tysons Corner Center (via Google Maps)

Fairfax County is examining its signage rules to possibly allow bigger and brighter electronic signs.

Staff discussed the matter yesterday (Tuesday) during a Board of Supervisors’ land use policy committee meeting.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust questioned the goal of the review, which has been underway since March 2019, according to a staff report.

Staff told him the county’s existing ordinance is old and shopping centers want to be competitive. Casey Judge, with the county’s Zoning Administration Division, suggested that easing an application process could help businesses too.

The county has proposed simplifying and consolidating three application processes into one for nonresidential areas.

“We have an awful lot of sign pollution already,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said. “I’m really concerned about some of this.”

She noted that even signs within buildings, such as lighted “open” signage, can distract drivers and other road users.

Businesses are also already allowed to install electronic signs in residential areas, according to the county.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, the committee’s vice chair, said his office has received complaints about existing electronic signs in residential neighborhoods.

Alcorn said he’s not as concerned if a sign is in the middle of a commercial district, but he wants to find out more about how to manage issues near or adjacent to neighborhoods.

The committee’s chair, Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith, directed staff to return with further recommendations for the board to consider.

A draft of changes could be developed this summer or fall. Public hearings are tentatively expected this winter or in early 2023 on any modifications to the county’s rules.

Photo via Google Maps

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