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Morning Notes

Sunlight shines through trees in Reston (photo by Terry Baranski)

D.C. Area Sees Rise in Teacher Resignations –“Resignations spiked enormously at the end of the 2021-2022 academic year in D.C. Public Schools and in several Northern Virginia districts, including Fairfax County…Educators say the reasons for resigning vary. But some cite the difficulty teachers faced readjusting students, many of whom had grown accustomed to pandemic-era remote education, to in-classroom learning this past year.” [The Washington Post]

Police Chief Addresses Gun-Pointing Incident — The Fairfax County Police Department released body camera footage on Friday (July 15) of officers pointing their guns at a person who was filming them outside a West Falls Church IHOP. Chief Kevin Davis said he understands “the anxiety that folks in the community have after seeing this video go viral” but defended the officers’ actions. [WTOP]

Fairfax County Among Wealthiest Counties in U.S. — “A five-year survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau looked at median household income to determine the wealthiest counties in the country…With a median household income of $127,866, Fairfax County arrives on the list at number five.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Staffing Challenges Affect County Trash Pickups — “Fairfax County residents have been experiencing trash pickup delays for several months, but Dave Lyons, director of the Fairfax Workers Coalition, said he wants them to know that’s not only because of the pandemic or the strained labor market.” [Fairfax County Times]

Vienna Resident Says No to Leaf Blowers — “Vienna could be more pleasant, family friendly and healthier if the town banned the use of cosmetic lawn chemicals and noisy gas-powered leaf blowers, resident Avril Garland told the Town Council July 11. Both of those policies already have been implemented in Montgomery County, Md., said Garland” [Sun Gazette]

Vienna Considers Removing Church Spire — “Church steeples add interest and variety to Vienna’s skyline, but the one at the former Faith Baptist Church likely will be coming down. The Vienna Town Council at its Aug. 29 meeting will consider a proposal to remove the spire at the former church.” [Sun Gazette]

Reston Woman Made Disguises for CIA — “A 27-year veteran of the U.S. intelligence community, [Jonna] Mendez unmasks the secrets of how she helped transform the CIA in her new memoir, titled ‘In True Face,’ available early next year. Mendez, now 77, developed shockingly realistic methods for instantly changing appearances, carrying concealed cameras, and protecting operatives in the field.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

School Board Selects New Chair — “The Fairfax County School Board has elected Rachna Sizemore Heizer (Member-at-Large) as chair and Tamara Derenak Kaufax (Franconia District Representative) as vice chair for a one-year term. The chair and vice chair assumed office at the July 14 School Board meeting” [FCPS]

Huntington Affordable Housing Apartments Now Leasing — “The Arden — a 126-unit affordable housing community developed, owned, and operated by Wesley Housing — is nearing completion and leasing activities have just begun! Apartment homes at The Arden will be available for applicants earning between 40 and 80 percent of the Area Median Income.” [Housing and Community Development]

See Fairfax County Police Officers Rescue Man From Smoke — “Our officers do amazing work every day. Watch as two officers from our Franconia District Station save a man trapped in a smoked-filled apartment.” [FCPD/Twitter]

It’s Monday — Rain in the evening. High of 85 and low of 74. Sunrise at 5:59 am and sunset at 8:33 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Fallen leaves can be turned into mulch (via Susan Jones/Unsplash)

The Town of Vienna will no longer grind up fallen leaves at its collection facility on Beulah Road NE, ending a program that has delivered free mulch to residents for decades.

The Vienna Town Council voted unanimously yesterday (Monday) to turn the upcoming leaf collection season into a trial period, maintaining the Beulah Road facility as a storage site while exploring the best method for transporting leaves for disposal.

“We give you the flexibility to essentially determine what the cheapest alternatives are,” Councilmember Chuck Anderson said to town staff. “Then, we revisit this next year to see what the results of your sort of transitional year is to figure out the efficient way of doing this.”

The town’s mulching operations at the 8-acre Beulah Road site have been the subject of debate for years, with residents taking exception to the machine’s noise, smell, and environmental impact.

Rising leaf disposal costs led the town to reevaluate its collection program, which ground up about one-third of the leaves collected every fall into mulch and sent the remainder to Loudoun Composting.

Town staff presented several possible alternatives, including using the Beulah site for storage but transporting all leaves to Loudoun Composting and taking the leaves directly to the disposal site.

While some community members expressed appreciation for the town’s mulch deliveries at a public hearing in March, a survey of whether users would still order mulch if they had to pay $50 per load received mixed results, with 62 out of 114 respondents saying they would.

“I don’t see any economic or environmental justification whatsoever for continuing the mulching,” Anderson said. “…It’s just something that’s costing the town and causing a lot of issues for people who live nearby.”

Instead of settling on a definitive process, the town will take a variety of approaches to this year’s leaf collection season, which will begin in late October, to see how the program will work without mulching and what costs to expect.

A staff analysis found that, based on current fuel costs, it would cost Vienna $138.02 per hour to hire rental trucks to transport leaves for disposal, compared to $192.81 an hour to use its own trucks. The rental trucks can also carry 25 cubic yards of leaves to the town truck’s 21 cubic yards.

“By using the rental trucks, we have more capacity, which equals fewer trips, which equals fewer miles and fewer gallons, so it is truly efficient, but it also allows flexibility that is required. We’re not limiting staff to that one option,” Councilmember Steve Potter said.

While the town will stop providing mulch, the council directed staff and the Conservation and Sustainability Commission to develop recommendations for a program to encourage residents to mulch leaves on their own properties.

Many localities, including Fairfax County, are already encouraging residents to “leave their leaves,” citing the environmental benefits of composting or using a mower to mulch leaves so they can decompose.

Anderson suggested Vienna could develop an educational program and potentially offer incentives for on-site leaf mulching.

“I know that not everyone is in a position to do this, but the work of staff and the CSC made it very clear that, from an environmental standpoint, that was by far the lowest carbon footprint and the best result,” Anderson said. “From an economic standpoint, it’s also the cheapest, because we don’t incur the costs of picking [leaves] up and all the rest.”

With its mulching operations shutting down, the town now has to find a long-term use for the Beulah Road leaf collection site. Some neighboring residents have advocated for turning the property into a park.

“We’re not going to be using that land 10, 15 years from now for leaves,” Councilmember Ray Brill said.

Photo via Susan Jones/Unsplash

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The Town of Vienna is contemplating eliminating its free mulch delivery services (via Maddy Baker/Unsplash)

To mulch or not to mulch? That is the question the Town of Vienna has been mulling for years now, fertilized by resident frustrations with a noisy mulch grinder on Beulah Road.

An answer will come at last later this spring, when the town council votes on whether to continue free mulch delivery services that have been offered to residents for as long as anyone present at Monday’s public hearing (March 21) on the subject could remember.

According to Mayor Linda Colbert, emails sent to the council prior to the hearing were about evenly split between supporters of the mulch service — which uses a portion of the town’s annual leaf collections — and those who want to eliminate it.

“It was obvious people feel very strongly one way or the other, and people mention a lot of good reasons either way,” Colbert said. “It’s something I know all of the council has thought hard about.”

Vienna Director of Public Works Mike Gallagher presented three options for handling collected leaves going forward:

  1. Maintain current operations: Some leaves are ground into mulch at the Beulah Road facility. The remainder is transported to a Loudoun Composting disposal site.
  2. Short haul: Leaves are consolidated at the Beulah site before being hauled away for disposal, ending the mulch program.
  3. Long haul: Leaves go directly to Loudoun Composting, ending the mulch program and use of the Beulah Road facility.

A cost analysis developed with a resident’s assistance suggests the first option would be the most expensive one, while the long haul would be cheapest. If the mulching program ends, Gallagher said some of the expenses would shift to other town operations, rather than getting eliminated.

Vienna could maintain its current mulching operations, end mulching but still use the Beulah site, or eliminate both (via Town of Vienna)

“There’s obviously some pros and cons to each one of these,” he said. Read More

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