by Rose Murphy, Bull Run Observer

6 Oct 2006, pp. 1, 60

“Gainesville Supervisor John Stirrup reported on recent road projects in his district, and introduced county officials who discussed the upcoming bond referenda Sept. 21 at a town hall meeting in Bull Run Middle School.

“Stirrup noted there will be a ribbon cutting Oct. 17 at 11:30 a.m. at the intersection of Sudley Manor Drive and Rt. 234 Bypass for the opening of the segment of Sudley Manor Drive from Linton Hall Road to the bypass.  By year’s end the missing link of Sudley Manor Drive from the bypass to Chatsworth Drive also should be finished, completing Sudley Manor Drive from Splashdown to Linton Hall Road.

“Wally Covington, (R-Brentsville), pointed out this week the project is a year ahead of schedule, due to his efforts in advancing the work.

“Stirrup also explained that improvements to I-66 cost $3.8 million and are set for completion by the end of October.  The project runs from VA 234 Business to the Rt. 234 Bypass.  He said Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) would do the next road segment for near University Boulevard to just past US 29.  That project should start ‘after the first of the year,’ Stirrup added.

“He reported University Boulevard has been opened from US 29 over I-66 to Wellington Road near Nissan Pavilion.

“Stirrup said Heathcote Road is a ‘developer road’ and has engineering flaws. He pointed out that from Catharpin toward Heritage Hunt the road’s angle is too steep, and that cars traveling the posted miles per hour ‘would bottom out at Catharpin.’  He said he hopes the road will be fixed by year’s end.

“More than 35 Bull Run area residents turned out for the town hall meeting. Prince William County officials outlined details of three bond referenda voters will be asked to approve in the November 7 general election.

“The $370 million referenda include $300 million for road bonds, $27 million in park bonds and $42.55 million for libraries in Gainesville and Dumfries Magisterial Districts.  If the referenda pass, the Bull Run area also will get six road projects completed, including the widening of Old Carolina Road to four lanes from I-66 to Piedmont Vista Drive.

“Speaking at the meeting sponsored [by] Stirrup were Carl Hampton, the county’s fiscal services manager; Jay Ellington, executive director of the county’s park authority; Dick Murphy, library system director; and Rick Canizales, a county transportation planner.

“The proposed road bond was detailed by Canizales.  Roads in the Bull Run area slated for work should the bond pass are:

“– VA 28 will be a six-lane, divided highway with raised median from relocated Vint Hill Road to the Rt. 234 ramps at the bypass. A connection will run from the northwest corner of relocated Vint Hill Road to give access to Vint Hill Road.  The work will be 11,500 feet long, while relocated Vint Hill Road construction will be 4800 feet.  Vint Hill Road connector will be 240 feet. The project is set for completion five years from the start date and will cost an estimated $52.5 million.

“– Heathcote Boulevard will be a four-lane divided roadway with raised median. The project will be from James Madison Highway (US 15) to Old Carolina Road for a total of 1300 feet. The work, valued at $10.1 million, will take two years, ten months to finish.

“– VA 28 will be four lanes divided with a raised median from Fitzwater Drive to Vint Hill Road relocated. The $29.2 million project is 12,900 feet in length and will take five years to finish. Work includes right-of-way acquisition, traffic maintenance and environmental ele-ments.

“– University Boulevard will be four divided lanes with raised median from Sudley Manor Drive to Hornbaker Road. Price of the project is estimated at $21.5 million. The 5000-foot-long section is set for completion three years, ten months from the starting date.

“– Rollins Ford Road will be four lanes divided with a raised median from Vint Hill Road to the existing intersection of Songsparrow Drive/Yellow Hammer Drive. The 4300-foot-long project will cost an estimated $19.5 million and take three years, three months to complete.

“Murphy presented plans for the two libraries that would be built if the library bond passes. The $24.18-million Gainesville Library would sit on four acres at Lightner Road and US 15, a site proffered by Dominion Valley. The Bushey Park House, an 18th-century middle class farmhouse, would be incorporated into the design.

” ‘The house has been moved to the site. It’s two rooms and not the type usually saved,’ Murphy remarked.

“The library director said each new library would be 20,000 square feet. The Gainesville Library is expected to open in 2012, while the Montclair branch would open a year earlier.

“Murphy stressed that costs of each new library are projections, not actual costs.

“‘I don’t determine costs. That’s done by the department of public works,’ he said.

“County citizens in a 2005 survey reported 96.8 percent satisfaction with library services, up from 96.2 percent in 2003 and 2004, the speaker noted.  Some 18,000 children participated in the library’s Summer Quest program this year, explained Murphy.

“Ellington said the park bond would include $3 million for land acquisition, $11 million for improvements to Ben Lomond Community Center and Chinn Aquatics and Fitness Center, $750,000 for trails, $5 million for relocating sports fields from the county landfill and $2.5 million for improvements to a host of county parks.

“Fields at these park and school sites would be improved: Long Park, Beville Middle School, Godwin Middle School, Turley Fields, Leitch baseball/softball, Neabsco Eagles Park, Howison Homestead Park, Veterans’ Park and Hellwig Park.

“Ellington noted the park projects were chosen based on citizen.response and a strategic issue analysis process, which included many citizen groups.

“The park director explained that the bond would not be enough for new parks in the future. He added the bond ‘will help narrow the gap between facility needs and the ability of the community to pay for recreation… Our county needs many more trails and parks than can be built, at this time with these funds.’

“Hampton told his audience the county is one of only 30 counties of 3000 counties nationwide to have an rating.

“Hampton explained what a bond referendum means to a county.

” ‘It means a county, city, township or borough has a legal obligation to repay it.  Anyone can buy a Prince William County or Fairfax County bond, and they are tax exempt.  The interest we pay you is not taxed at the federal or state level.  The IRS doesn’t like that, so there are lots of rules,’ Hampton remarked.

“The fiscal manager added that an advantage of a bond referendum is that ‘It lets the community get enough money to leverage for infrastructure and to get it in place quickly.’

“Hampton said using bonds could reduce costs of construction.  ‘In the last two years, construction costs have gone up 50 percent. If we borrow, we can do construction earlier and build before inflationary costs,’ he added.

“An audience member asked Stirrup about overcrowding in the county residences. He mentioned he’d heard that the rule is only two non-related persons can share a bedroom.

“‘But that means in a three or four-bedroom home, you can have lots of unrelated parties,’ he said.

“Stirrup said the county relies on ‘self-declaration’ on whether residents are related.  He noted the county is studying new ways to address overcrowding in rental units.  He said an inspection process for rentals could be implemented, and that the property owner would pay a fee to see if the property meets county code.

” ‘We’re trying to address this issue,’ Stirrup added.

“Dale City resident Jackie Bell asked the supervisor if he would support a plan for a new county stadium at a site other than adjacent to McCoart Government Center off Prince William Parkway.  He also asked the supervisor if he would support a public hearing on the stadium project.

“Stirrup contended softball teams would ‘lose a season’ during stadium construction.

” ‘I would support a public hearing, if the public is concerned with how public dollars are being spent. Public financing for teams always is controversial,’ he remarked.

“Ellington pointed out that plans for a new or refurbished stadium ‘have been in the county’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for about eight years.’  He said the county took over the project three years ago from the park authority.

” ‘It’s in the county budget, and it’s already funded,’ Ellington added.”