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Fairfax County hopes to build a new Reston Regional Library as part of a larger redevelopment plan (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Various pieces to redevelop land at the intersection of Bowman Towne Drive and Town Center Parkway — known as Reston Town Center North — are moving along as Fairfax County seeks applications for the project.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn directed staff at a Board of Supervisors meeting yesterday (Tuesday) to conduct a master plan study for the county-owned land in RTC North.

Alcorn encouraged staff to work closely with the ongoing effort to amend the Reston Comprehensive Plan and to complete the study by the end of the year.

“The time is right to move forward with a master plan with locations for critically needed community facilities in Reston Town Center North,” Alcorn said.

The project would include a new Embry Rucker Shelter, facilities for services and permanent housing, and a new Reston Regional Library.

In February, the county received an unsolicited proposal from Foulger-Pratt to redeveloping a nearly three-acre parcel of land owned by the county into an apartment building for working families, a new library and free parking.

The unsolicited proposal prompted the county to issue a call for other proposals for the project. The application period closed on May 16.

Alcorn established a Reston Town Center North Public Facilities Community Task Force through a board matter in April.

A review of proposed changes to Reston’s Comprehensive Plan is also underway. Staff are currently going through recommendations from a task force that produced a draft after hundreds of hours of meetings on the topic.

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The nonprofit Reston Strong set up tents outside the Hunter Mill District office to call for action on homelessness (via Reston Strong)

Fairfax County is looking for more ways to bring more people into supportive and permanent housing beyond what some consider the band-aid approach to tackling homelessness — temporary shelters.

At a meeting yesterday (Tuesday), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously moved a board matter directing staff to complete a comprehensive evaluation of ways to boost supportive housing, the evaluation of current options, and protocol for emergency shelter in commercial and industrial districts.

The matter was jointly collaborated on by Chairman Jeff McKay and supervisors John Foust, Walter Alcorn, Rodney Lusk, and Dalia Palchik. Foust led the motion.

Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross cautioned the board to consider that policy changes can only go so far in implementing goals.

“We really need to make sure we recognize that policies can only be so good as the people who are actually trying to implement them too,” Gross said. 

Foust acknowledged that the county’s work relies heavily on support for external partners and nonprofit organizations. He also noted that the policy directive encourages county staff to examine resources overall.

“So much of what we do in that arena is through the nonprofits and we need to look at that specifically,” Foust said.

There are currently 1,191 people experiencing homelessness in Fairfax County, per a Point in Time count calculated by the county. 282 adults are experiencing chronic homelessness, and 50% of those counted identified as Black or African American, even though that demographic makes up just 10% of the county’s general population.

The board matter specifically delves into the county’s Quarantine, Protection, Isolation/Decompression (QPID) hotels program, which was created to provide emergency shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program was run in addition to the county’s hypothermia program, which operates every winter.

This year, the end of both programs raised red flags about the chronic issues of lack of emergency shelter and permanent housing. QPID ended in March.

While supportive options are available in the county, many find themselves unsheltered until a shelter bed or housing becomes available, the board matter said:

Given the shortage of shelter beds and housing, individuals may be unsheltered and unhoused between hypothermia prevention seasons. These individuals can wind up sleeping in cars, at bus shelters, in tents in the woods, and in other outdoor places. They often sleep near the County’s homeless shelters so they can access services such as meals, bathrooms and showering, laundry, and outreach/case worker assistance.

The nonprofit group Reston Strong brought awareness about lack of housing for people experiencing homelessness and the need for emergency shelters through a tents campaign called Neighbors in Tents.

The county has been working on the issue for years. In April, Alcorn directed the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness to review the county’s current operational performance in its effort to prevent and end homelessness.

The latest board matter directs staff to do the following:

Evaluate the successes and challenges experienced with QPID, including costs, operations, and results, and including how QPID compares with the success of the County’s established use of hotel rooms as temporary shelter for qualifying unhoused families.

Identify site-specific options for the development of more permanent supportive housing, with a focus on creative solutions for the long-term housing and service needs of the homeless population.

Review current zoning requirements and allowances for emergency shelter in commercial and
industrial districts where vacant and underutilized properties might be used by private entities to provide sheltering and transitional services to the homeless population and include this issue as a possible addition to the Zoning Ordinance work program for the Board’s consideration.

Provide an analysis of other available options that are not currently being used to address
homelessness in the County, including costs and benefits of each, and provide recommendations for the Board’s consideration. This analysis should include a review of successful efforts that have been implemented in other jurisdictions.

Ensure that the county’s partners in addressing homelessness have an opportunity to provide input to staff regarding matters addressed herein, including the operational review requested in the April 12 board matter.

Staff will present findings and recommendations at the board’s housing committee meeting on Nov. 22.

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The second annual event returns to Reston and Vienna tomorrow (via Walter Alcorn)

The annual Tour de Hunter Mill bicycle ride returns tomorrow (Saturday), taking riders through scenic routes in Reston and the Town of Vienna.

Introduced last spring by Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, the event is scheduled to take place from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Riders will start at the Vienna Town Green and continue throughout the district.

Cyclists have the option of choosing one of two routes: a longer 18-mile route that ventures to Reston Town Center and a 5-mile family route that stays around Vienna.

In a self-admitted “cheesy” video, Alcorn’s staff used a sock puppet YouTube video to market the event — noting that Alcorn was out of town when the video was made.

“The ride showcases Unity in our Community, as together we discover or revisit the many hidden treasures, cultural and environmental resources in the Hunter Mill District,” Alcorn’s office said in a news release. “We have volunteers working to ensure you have a safe and fun ride and will have more details coming soon on the family and long routes.”

The registration fee is $30 per rider and includes event socks and a $5 donation for the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling (FABB), a volunteer-run organization that advocates for safe and fun bicycling for all in the county.

The event will take place — rain or shine — with the former being in the forecast for most of the day.

In addition to FABB, sponsors include Reston Community Center, Public Art Reston, Reston Association and the Tysons Partnership.

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Morning Notes

Kanzan cherry blossoms in Merrifield (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Local Parents Scramble to Find Baby Formula — “In Virginia, the [Women, Infants, and Children] program expanded formula options available to participants after a February recall of Abbott-made formula, but low inventory has forced many parents to search multiple stores, Paula N. Garrett, the state WIC director, said in a statement.” [The Washington Post]

Covid Outbreaks at More than Two Dozen Schools — “Twenty-six schools in Fairfax County are dealing with a coronavirus outbreak, according to the Virginia Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard…The Fairfax County school system has the highest number of schools reporting an outbreak in the region.” [Inside NoVA]

Extended I-66 Ramp Closure Coming — “Virginia Department of Transportation will be closing another ramp temporarily as part of the ongoing construction at the Nutley Street/I-66 Interchange…On or around May 13, VDOT will be closing the ramp from Virginia Center Boulevard to West I-66 for approximately six weeks. The closure will begin at approximately 10 a.m.” [Patch]

Undercover Operation Leads to Arrests in Two Armed Robberies — “Detectives from our Major Crimes Bureau began investigating a robbery that occurred prior to 12 p.m. on May 7 in the parking lot of 6600 Springfield Mall. The victim arranged to meet the suspect through an online marketplace to purchase a tablet computer. When the victim arrived, the suspect entered the victim’s vehicle, displayed a firearm and took cash.” [FCPD]

Supervisor Walter Alcorn Had COVID-19 — “The good news is that the vaccines are working at preventing serious illness – I can personally vouch for this after my own bout with COVID-19 several weeks ago. It wasn’t pleasant but was much like having the flu for a few days.” [Hunter Mill District News]

FCPS to Add Meal Designed by Students to Menu — A quartet of seventh-grade girls were chosen to represent Chantilly’s Franklin Middle School in the Real Food for Kids challenge. The students came up with the “Vegejita Wrapadilla,” a quesadilla stuffed with green and red bell peppers, tomatoes and onions that will be added to Fairfax County Public Schools’ lunch menu for the 2022-2023 school year. [FCPS]

McLean Mansion Tops D.C. Area Real Estate Market — Monumental Sports & Entertainment co-owner Roger Mody and his wife Kyle have listed their 5-acre mansion for $39 million. Called The Cliffs, the four-level, 35,000-square-foot home features indoor and outdoor pools, a basketball court, a 22-car garage, and a kitchen “designed with ‘input’ from Chef José Andrés.” [Washington Business Journal]

Vienna Wins Mayor Fitness Challenge — “The results are in, and Team Vienna is the victor in the second annual Mayors’ Fitness Challenge! The friendly competition between the Town of Vienna and Falls Church and Fairfax cities encourages residents to get moving and log their minutes of exercise in the name of community spirit and team pride.” [Town of Vienna]

It’s Thursday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 67 and low of 56. Sunrise at 6:00 am and sunset at 8:13 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

A woodpecker perches on a tree branch (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

FCPS Proposes Limiting Phone and Social Media Use — “Proposed updates to school policies in Fairfax County Public Schools would ban students from using social media sites for non-academic purposes during school hours and define when cellphones can be used during the school day.” The phone policy has already been implemented at Herndon middle and high schools. [WTOP]

Falls Church Development Under Construction — Developer Insight Property Group will break ground today (Friday) on its 2.7-acre Broad and Washington project, which has been in the works since 2015. The mixed-use development will eventually include a 50,000-square-foot Whole Foods, 339 residential units, space for the theater nonprofit Creative Cauldron, a public plaza, and ground-floor retail. [Falls Church News-Press]

Police Officer Saves Glued Snake — “This little snake is alive and free tonight thanks to @FairfaxCountyPD’s Animal Protection Police Officer McLemore! The snake was caught in a glue trap, and it took time, care, and mineral oil to free him. Thank you for rescuing this little guy!” [Fairfax Animals/Twitter]

Metro Police to Increase Presence — “The Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) says they are increasing their visibility on trains, buses, and in stations to help deter crime…Crime has not spiked on Metro recently, but it certainly has not dropped at the same proportion that ridership has.” [DCist]

Vienna Plants Tree for Arbor Day — “Help Vienna celebrate the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day by planting a tree with us tomorrow, Friday, April 29! We’ll plant a white Dogwood with the help of local Girl Scout Troops 1489, 50056, and 50157. The event starts at 5 p.m. next to the Vienna Community Center front entrance.” [Vienna Happenings]

Meeting Planned on Mount Vernon RECenter Project — The Fairfax County Park Authority will update the public at a meeting on Wednesday (May 4) on its expansion plan, which will require a two-year closure starting early 2023. Staff will explain the project schedule, including the timing of the recently approved facility closure due to supply chain issues and key infrastructure system failures. [FCPA]

Tornados Becoming More of a Risk in D.C. Area — “While it has been 20 years since the La Plata disaster, its occurrence is a reminder that the D.C. region is vulnerable to devastating whirlwinds on par with those of famed tornado alleys in the Great Plains and Deep South. The D.C. region also sees much more frequent tornadoes of lesser strength.” [The Washington Post]

Consulting Firm Workers Help Clean Reston — “As part of Earth Day last week, employees from Virtual, Inc. picked up trash and helped to beautify the area surrounding their offices at 11130 Sunrise Valley Drive in Reston…Virtual is a professional services firm that works with associations and technology standards groups that are forming, growing and changing, according [to CEO Andy] Freed.” [Patch]

Registration Open for Hunter Mill Bicycle Tour — “Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn is hosting the 2nd annual Tour de Hunter Mill on Saturday, May 14, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event, including a five-mile family route and a 18-mile route, begins in the Town of Vienna at the Town Green, located at 144 Maple Ave. East.” [Hunter Mill District Office]

It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 62 and low of 38. Sunrise at 6:14 am and sunset at 8:01 pm. [Weather.gov]

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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 county has issued a request for proposals for the project (via Fairfax County Government)

A plan to possibly convert a portion of the Reston District Police Station’s parking lot into affordable housing is moving forward.

At Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn’s request, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed staff yesterday (Tuesday) to schedule a public hearing to consider conveying county-owned land to the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

“This will be for the development of affordable housing with appropriate replacement of secure parking spaces dedicated to police use and subject to the stipulation that in the event the FCRHA no longer pursues the project, the FCRHA will transfer ownership of the property back to the Board,” Alcorn wrote in a statement.

The move sets in motion the redevelopment of the Bowne Towne Court area. The county received an unsolicited proposal from Foulger-Pratt last month to build affordable housing on the existing parking lot, a new Reston Regional Library, and a parking garage. The area is located at the intersection of Bowman Towne Drive and Town Center Parkway.

After receiving the proposal, the county began advertising for competing proposals to determine next steps for the project. The project would redevelop a nearly three-acre parcel owned by FCRHA and includes 1.6 acres of the nearby board-owned police station.

A date for the public hearing has not yet been determined.

Bids for the project close on May 16 at 2 p.m.

Alcorn emphasized that moving forward with the transfer of property to FCRHA does not mean that the county is in favor of the recently submitted plan. All options will be considered as the proposal moves through the development process.

The board recently upped its goal for additional affordable housing units to 10,000 by 2034. Alcorn set a target of 1,000 additional affordable housing units in the Hunter Mill District by the end of 2027.

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The organization set up several tents outside county offices (via Reston Strong)

A familiar sight of tents returned to Reston Monday night (April 4), as a local advocacy organization seeks to raise awareness about homelessness and the lack of affordable housing alternatives in the area.

Right outside Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn’s office, Reston Strong set up tents to push officials to find solutions to homelessness. The campaign, coined Neighbors in Tents, launched formally in February.

The awareness campaign was timed to coincide with the closure of the county’s hypothermia shelters, which ran from Dec. 1 through March 31 this past winter.

“That means hundreds of people are back out on the street with no place to stay,” the organization’s state and policy director Mary Barthelson said. “Reston Strong volunteers have set up tents outside of Supervisor Alcorn’s office and are standing guard until a solution is found.”

In a statement, Alcorn noted that the end of the hypothermia program has been a challenge over the past decade and was exacerbated this year with the end of a two-year program to shelter people experiencing homelessness in hotels that was prompted by the pandemic.

Alcorn said he was unsuccessful in pushing the program into the spring due to a lack of trained staff to manage the program.

Still, the county was able to house 2,000 residents over two years and place 745 residents from hotel rooms into permanent housing, subsidized housing, and other housing options.

“While the hoteling and other ‘band aid’ solutions are important, it is imperative for all to understand that the underlying challenge is a severe lack of affordable housing, not just for the chronically homeless and other residents sheltering in tents but also for our essential workers,” Alcorn wrote in a statement.

While supportive of Reston Strong’s “right to direct political action,” Alcorn said he was against the organization’s efforts to create a new tent city “with the biohazards and assaults experience by the community several years ago.”

With the passage of time, this has proved counterproductive in our collective efforts to fund, site, and build permanent affordable housing, he stated.

“We need to move forward with a badly needed new homeless shelter, permanent supportive housing, and affordable housing for working families,” Alcorn said.

The Office to Prevent and End Homelessness, which is part of the Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development, says it is committed to pursuing sustainable solutions to eradicate homelessness.

Ben Boxer, the department’s spokesperson, noted that all of the county’s shelters are currently open.

“At these locations, individuals may obtain food, showers, laundry, counseling, and other assistance to help them meet their basic needs. We are also working with each individual at these locations to create housing plans based on their individual preferences and needs,” Boxer siad.

Alcorn said the bathroom of the Embry Rucker Community Shelter in Reston is available around-the-clock for use.

Reston Strong set up around 100 tents in February on Reston Parkway to raise awareness about homelessness in the community.

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The Fairfax County Government Center (staff photo by David Taube)

In an aggressive move, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted yesterday (Tuesday) to amp up its affordable housing goals.

Through a motion introduced by Chairman Jeff McKay and Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, the board set a new goal of 10,000 affordable housing units by 2034. The previous target, set in 2019, was 5,000 new units in 15 years.

McKay said the county’s previous goal was set in place as a floor, rather than a ceiling, and with the “intent to blow it out of the water.”

“It’s amazing that we’re in a position today just two years after adopting that goal, that we’re able to move the floor to 10,000 units moving forward,” McKay said. “That’s 10,000 individuals and families whose lives will be immeasurably improved, and that’s 10,000 units that we know will be occupied by many, many families over many years.”

Currently, there are 2,200 new affordable units under development in the county.

The county has also renewed efforts to make affordable housing a central planning tenet. For instance, the board approved $33 million in federal loans to fund a 175-unit residential project at Dominion Square West in Tysons.

Despite a renewed effort to boost the county’s affordable housing stock, the move still falls short of providing the 15,000 units that the county’s Affordable Housing Resources Panel predicted the county would need.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said he has set a goal of securing 1,000 additional units in the Hunter Mill District specifically by the end of 2027.

“I would welcome any of my colleagues who want to get a little friendly competition, as long as we’re not taking any projects from anyone else’s district,” he said. “This is something that’s going to benefit everyone in the county, but it is up to us to work through these issues, to make sure that the projects get funded, that they get support from the community, and work through the process as they are.”

Springfield District Supervisor Herrity voted against the board matter, expressing discomfort with pursuing a goal without having a a clear financial plan.

“I’m sorry I can’t commit to literally taxing many of our residents out of their houses, which we are doing and have done, by committing to spend untold tens of millions of dollars in rent-controlled housing with undetermined fiscal impacts,” Herrity said, noting that the county is in the middle of a budget cycle. “I’ve been supportive of creative affordable housing solutions, but we don’t have any of those on the table right now.’

McKay called Herrity’s comments an “affront” to the development community, the nonprofit community, county staff, and the community at large.

“This is an economic issue,” McKay countered. “Not doing anything will cost us far more as a community, not to mention all the moral responsibility issues and all the things we talked about here, but not aspiring to this goal will cost the county enormously from an economic standpoint.”

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Morning Notes

Spring flowers bloom in Reston (photo by Ray Copson)

FCPD Commander Demoted Over Shooting Response — “A Fairfax County police commander has been demoted as part of an ongoing administrative investigation of suicides by a department recruit and his wife that occurred hours apart in their Mount Vernon-area home in late February, authorities said…The officer was the on-scene commander during the incident.” [The Washington Post]

Fire Put Out Near Vienna’s Flint Hill Elementary — “Crews responded this morning to the 2400 block of Flint Hill Road for a small fire in a chicken coop. #FCFRD firefighters were im-peck-able in quickly egg-stinguishing the fire. Everyone felt very cluck-y that there were no reported fowl-talities or injuries.” [FCFRD/Twitter]

Last Living Pupil Revisits Historic Oakton School — The Vale Schoolhouse in Oakton got a visit from a familiar face last week. Now 103 years old, Stan Proffitt stopped by the two-room building, which dates back to 1884, with his three great-grandchildren from Florida during their spring break tour of Virginia history. [The Washington Post]

Conflict over Reston Invasive Species Program Continues — The Hunters Green Cluster Association board unanimously rejected a proposal to address invasive plants in the area, stating that the Reston National Study Group “has greatly exaggerated the problem.” The developer-led study group expressed surprise at the move, saying the pilot program was proposed by a member of the neighborhood’s board. [Patch]

McLean Design Workshop Tomorrow — “Weigh in on the design of McLean’s public spaces through this upcoming virtual community workshop! Share feedback on open space features including lighting, street furnishings, parks and more to help define the character of McLean!” [McLean Community Center/Twitter]

Reston Prom Dress Giveaway Returns From Pandemic Hiatus — “High school students from around the area will be able to choose prom dresses, jewelry and accessories for free as part of RCC’s Diva Central. The event will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., this Saturday at RCC Lake Anne, which is located at 1609-A Washington Plaza in Reston.” [Patch]

Hunter Mill Supervisor Recognizes Vienna Student Athletes — “The Board of Supervisors traditionally invites state champions to be recognized at a special meeting. During COVID, these were paused. Today, @WalterAlcornFFX joined us at school to recognize basketball, field hockey, baseball & swim/dive from the past two years…[He] also recognized the Pride of Vienna for their multiple state championships. Back 2 Back!” [James Madison High School/Twitter]

County Celebrates Land Surveyors — “The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors have designated the week of March 20-26, 2022 as Surveyors Week. This week recognizes the historic contributions of surveying and appreciation for the new technologies that are modernizing the profession.” [Department of Public Works/Twitter]

It’s Tuesday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 62 and low of 46. Sunrise at 7:10 a.m. and sunset at 7:24 p.m. [Weather.gov]

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