Updates from Letty – May 31, 2019
Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council
Thank you for the overwhelming and enthusiastic response to my announcement to run for re-election. I was flattered to be asked so many times to run again, and I have truly appreciated the outpouring of support. In less than a week – we’re nearly done with the required signatures already. The campaign won’t ramp up for awhile, so stay tuned about yard signs, fundraising, canvassing, and other ways to help. In the meantime, pay attention to the upcoming primaries (in person absentee voting open until June 8) and I’ll keep doing what I’m doing: working hard and making good stuff happen in Falls Church.
Speaking of good stuff – this week’s post is all about exciting things happening across town and a change in the financing plan for the new GMHS, with its groundbreaking exactly 2 weeks away. The latter didn’t get much coverage and it’s not as fun to write about, but in the spirit of transparency, I believe it’s important for everyone to understand the changes as we take on the largest debt in the city’s history. Among the exciting things is a whole lot of construction and road work, which I know can be a real headache. Once these projects are done, we’ll have intersection improvements, a new sidewalk, clear running water, a new park, and more (#ChristmasInJune). And yes, that includes the downtown park, where we hold the holiday tree lighting – now open for use. Save the date for a grand opening party on June 10 and a calendar of events coming soon. Read on, and send me your feedback and ideas for the park!
PS – City Council is taking a week off and we’ll be back to business on June 10. Before then, note lots of events, parties, and community meetings coming up below. It’s a race to the finish line before summer starts!
What Happened This Week:
(1) GMHS Bond Issuance Update
On Monday, we voted 6-0 to authorize the issuance of the next round of financing for the new GMHS, the purchase of the Fellows property, and other items in the CIP. The financing plan that has been discussed to date is a set of 3 bond tranches – the first $22.5M issued last summer to cover design costs for GMHS, City Hall, and design for the library project; the second tranche of $76M planned for this summer,; and the third tranche of $51M planned for next year. For a recap of the financing strategy, including how we’ve prepared for the extraordinary debt, see the archived materials here and my recap of the history of the project in the past 4 years.
However, as a result of the revised development plan that’s been deferred for a vote until July 8 and payment in an escrow account I wrote about a few weeks ago, staff proposed a revised plan in order to only finance the cash flow needed for school construction and Fellows and not take out more debt until we need it. The revised plan we approved includes a 2 step process. Instead of issuing bonds for $76M at once, the recommended plan is to take out $20M “line of credit” to bridge finance the school construction costs through Oct 2019 ($15.3M) and acquisition of the Fellows property ($4.7M). Then upon the developer’s first payment coming out of the escrow account, the full $76M tranche of bonds would be issued and the $20M line of credit would be paid off in Fall 2019.
(2) Construction Activity Everywhere!
Besides the storm clean up, Founders Row construction at Broad and West, and seasonal pothole repair – yes, there is a lot of other construction activity happening everywhere. I realize there is a lot of headache and traffic congestion issues caused by this work, but when we’re on the other side of it, these are all investments that will improve everyone’s quality of life. Here’s a quick snapshot of what I know about and what’s coming:
- Among many projects are several Fairfax Water ones, including a new water main on S. Oak and S. Lee St, which should help remediate the brown, murky water my neighbors have dealt with for years.
- E. Broad and Cherry – this intersection construction has been messy for awhile, and I know it’s been challenging for pedestrians first-hand. S. Cherry will be closed altogether this weekend, but the end is in sight – the project is expected to wrap up soon, with better signal timing, ped crossings, and more.
- Great Falls and N. West – improving this intersection has been long discussed in collaboration with Fairfax County and work is finally starting, beginning with utility undergrounding.
- New stop sign on Park and Lee – the intersection of Park and N. Lee is the only one without a four-way stop or traffic signal, which has been a long-standing personal grievance. I’ve observed many close calls as it’s confusing for drivers and pedestrians who may be expecting a four way stop. New stop signs have been installed but not yet unveiled. Be on the lookout!
- New sidewalk on Park and Virginia – this one dates back to our kids’ stroller days when we would walk to storytime at the library and get stuck on the orphaned sidewalk on the north side of Park Ave. The sidewalk ends at the 400 block of Park Ave, leaving all the residents living on Pennsylvania and N. Virginia or pedestrians who happen to be walking on the north side of Park Ave, with no safe way to proceed or cross. A new sidewalk extending to Cherry Hill Park is underway now!
- Downtown park – the downtown park, an initiative funded by the Economic Development Authority, is now in soft opening mode. It’s been a furious month of construction activity. Right before the long weekend, the turf was installed, landscaping was planted, furniture was moved in place, and the park opened for business. There remains a handful of items to be done before the grand opening party on June 10, but for now – go enjoy the park to meet up with friends, picnic on the turf, or savor post-dinner ice cream on the new benches and sitting walls. We’re working on programming the park in collaboration with our business community so it can truly be a fun, vibrant gathering place in our downtown. Stay tuned for a park naming contest and a calendar of events – I’d love to hear your ideas for the park.
What’s Coming Up:
- Saturday, June 8 – Comp Plan Community Meeting (9 am, Columbia Baptist Church)
- Saturday, June 8 – Tinner Hill Music Festival (11 am – 9 pm, Cherry Hill Park)
- Sunday, June 9 – Sunday Series Town Hall (2 pm, Community Center)
- Monday, June 10 – Downtown Park Opening Party (6 pm, 100 block of W. Broad)
- Monday, June 10 – City Council Meeting (730 pm, Community Center)
- Wednesday, June 12 – Founders Row Community Meeting (5 pm, FR Construction Trailer)
- Friday, June 14 – GMHS Groundbreaking (2 pm, GMHS)
- Monday, June 24 – City Hall Grand Re-Opening & Open House