Updates from Letty – November 23, 2016

Dear Friends,

With the holiday week, my update is early. We had a productive work session on Monday night, covering a number of important topics (GMHS-MEH campus planning, City Hall renovation, Visioning) so I wanted to be sure to provide you the highlights.

I hope the beginning of this holiday season brings you peace and joy. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.



What Happened This Week:

City Council Work Session:

(1) Joint City Council-School Board Work Session

  • We had, in my opinion, one of the most effective joint work sessions on the campus project to date. We covered the first of three sections in the set of 20+ questions/issues that both bodies previously agreed need resolution before proceeding. This week’s focus was on GMHS enrollment, capacity, future projected enrollment, key maintenance issues and their replacement costs, and an early discussion on renovation costs. These figures are important so that both bodies have a consistent understanding about the current state.
  • Presentation materials and the binder of data (the same binder each School Board and City Council member received on Monday) are available online.
  • Main takeaways:
    • GMHS building capacity = 780 students*
    • GMHS current classroom capacity = 876 students*
    • *these numbers differ because shared spaces like cafeteria, gym, etc have fixed capacity of 780, while classroom capacity can be flexed depending on room re-configuration and use of trailers
    • Current enrollment as of 9/30/16  = 817 students
    • Previous efforts targeted a new GMHS project that would accommodate 1200-1500 students
    • Using current projections, GMHS will reach 1200 students in approximately school year 2027-2028, depending on the methodology used.
    • The key maintenance issues at GMHS: HVAC, roof, air quality, which are important components in framing up a renovation option. However, even if we choose to move forward with a new GMHS, these could be interim repair costs we’ll have to plan for while construction is underway.
    • Renovation estimate – there was a conceptual “full gut” renovation + expansion estimate done in 2015 that we reviewed, with a cost of $88MM.
    • The Working Group will continue meeting on an aggressive weekly schedule on 12/1, 12/8, and 12/15. Next, I expect the Working Group will deep dive on financial modeling and affordability analysis before reconvening the joint bodies again.

(2) City Hall Project

  • The high level design of the City Hall project is wrapping up, and this week’s work session provided us a project review before we’ll be asked to approve the next phase at our 12/12 meeting.
  • As a recap – this is a $17MM capital project, with $1MM spent to date on the most critical renovations and $700K spent on the current design phase. If approved, site plans would be approved next summer and construction would begin next winter.
  • This one pager is a nice summary of the key improvements.
  • The debt service required for the $17MM project would be equivalent to 2-3 cents on the real estate tax rate (as a point of reference, the library bond referendum that passed recently is about 1.5 cents). If we proceed, the bond will be issued in the coming fiscal year.
  • Because this will not go to a voter referendum, I encourage you to email us with your feedback or questions about the project before our vote on 12/12. You can reach all of City Council by emailing the City Clerk, or speak during public comment at our next regular meetings on 11/28 or 12/12.

(3) Visioning

  • We discussed feedback on the vision statement and concurred to send out the draft to Board and Commissions for input.
  • Current draft: In the year 2040, the City of Falls Church is a vibrant, walkable, safe, small city in Northern Virginia. Falls Church keeps pace with regional growth, while strengthening its identity as a special place. The City invests in its schools, neighborhoods, and natural environment. The City celebrates its history, community character, and cultural diversity. A growing population and economy and the continual rejuvenation of commercial areas support the City’s high quality of life.


What’s Coming Up:

  • NVTA (Northern Virginia Transportation Authority) Survey open until 11/28 – your input helps shape transportation planning for Northern Virginia for the next 25 years. This is a good way for us to get funding for multi-modal solutions to balance out the “build more roads” strategy advocated in the outer suburbs.  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RF8NXNC
  • Mon, 11/28 – 530 pm – Downtown Falls Church Tree Lighting
  • Mon 11/28 – 730 pm – City Council meeting – this is looking like a packed meeting agenda. Topics include: 1-66 project briefing, FY17 budget amendment, commercial development tax incentives, legislative program (meant to guide our lobbying efforts in advance of the Virginia General Assembly convening in 2017), and cottage zoning.
  • Thurs, 12/1 – Campus Working Group Meeting, 9 am
  • Mon, 12/5 – City Council Work Session
  • Tues, 12/6 – Economic Development Authority Retreat – for those of you with an interest in economic development, the public is welcome to attend the EDA’s annual retreat where they’ll be discussing priorities for the coming year. (Viget Headquarters, 105 W. Broad St, 5th floor). Email edo@fallschurchva.gov for more info.
  • Thurs, 12/8 – Campus Working Group Meeting, 9 am
  • Thurs, 12/8 – Inside the Beltway I-66 Public Hearing (Mary Ellen Henderson Cafetorium) – 630-830 pm,  hosted by VDOT – this will be an opportunity to review preliminary design plans to widen I-66 eastbound in a 4 mile stretch, from the Beltway to Exit 71 (Fairfax Drive).
  • Mon, 12/12 – City Council meeting (last one of the year)
  • Thurs, 12/15 – Campus Working Group Meeting, 9 am