Fairfax County's budget, cable TV and clean air were the main topics, Monday night, when county Board of Supervisors Chairman Katherine K. "Kate" Hanley addressed the quarterly meeting of the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA).
The Washington Metropolitan region must meet federal air-quality standards by 2005. If it doesn't, all new transportation projects will be halted. According to statistics quoted by Hanley, by 2004, cars will be 75 percent cleaner, and SUVs, 95 percent cleaner, because of improved emissions controls and low-sulphur gasoline.
But and the number of vehicle miles traveled is expected to increase 46 percent by 2025, from 125 million to 182 million. And due to the greater number of SUVs already in the region, emissions in 2005 will be higher than allowed.
These higher emissions must be offset to conform to the clean-air standards; therefore, transportation projects adding emissions to the region, without offsetting them, will not be allowed. As it is, said Hanley, "Because of the delay in projects [because of funding shortfalls], a lot of things we thought would be finished by 2005 won't be."
Asking what can be done to fix the short-term problem, she then offered some answers: "Transportation emission-reduction measures, such as replacing diesel taxis with CNG-gas [vehicles], speed enforcement — [the higher the speed, the greater the air pollution], bike racks on buses, trails and teleworking."
"Telecommuting really does help," said Hanley. "If you keep people off the road one day a week, it's 20 percent of their time. But we have to get the federal government — the largest employer — on base, too." She said rail to Tysons Corner and out to Dulles Airport and Centreville would also aid the situation.
Regarding the county budget and the tax rate, she said the Supervisors will meet this Friday afternoon, April 19, and do markup on the budget on Monday, April 22. Hopefully, she said, they can adopt it on April 29.
"The state has left the [county] School Board in a difficult position," said Hanley. "How do we make up a $65 million hole in their budget deficit? Do we think we can make it up? It will be very difficult. We will do something." But she didn't yet know the specifics.
Bull Run Civic Association president Judy Heisinger then asked her about channel 16 — the TV channel for coverage of county government news and meetings. Because some areas of the county are still unable to get cable TV service, said Heisinger, "that information isn't available to those people."
Hanley said the county is investigating the possibility of broadcasting this information via satellite dish. However, WFCCA president Richard Smith said, "As it stands now, it doesn't seem feasible for the dish to do it. Maybe we could look into it."
Heisinger also asked if the WFCCA could then "push toward getting the cable-orphan areas strung for cable," and Smith said they would.
She also had one more questions for Hanley, regarding the 1982 Occoquan Downzoning. This action by the Board of Supervisors downzoned 40,000 acres of western Fairfax County so that overdevelopment wouldn't send pollution into the Occoquan Reservoir and jeopardize the county's drinking-water supply.
"Those of us who were downzoned would like to see if the criteria for which we did the downzoning was achieved," said Heisinger. But Hanley said it's difficult "to measure a negative and know how bad it would have been. The Occoquan Reservoir has lots of shoreline. It's still precarious — but we're still using it."