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Votes

New High Schools Added to Bond

Two high school projects that have been the subject of contention among the South Riding and Brambleton communities will be on one ballot question at the Nov. 5 election, as decided by the Board of Supervisors at Monday's board meeting.

The board grouped the two high schools with a renovation and addition project at Broad Run High School, a cost of $130.8 million, to be financed through general obligation bonds and other funding sources. The bond is set for $118.8 million.

A second ballot question will ask voters to support issuing $8.8 million worth of bonds for designing, constructing and equipping the Dulles/Route 28 fire and sheriff station.

Supervisor Drew Hiatt (R-Dulles) asked that the school projects be divided into three separate referendum questions in addition to the question for the county project. "I believe the voters ought to be able to vote on them individually," he said.

"This sets up a situation where one community can vote out another," said Supervisor James "Jim" Burton (I-Mercer) in response to Hiatt's request for a motion.

Supervisor Chuck Harris (D-Broad Run) agreed with Burton. "I have heard citizens talk about voting one up and one down, which is concerning when it comes to the public education of our students," he said. "It's prudent to combine the school items as one issue."

Hiatt's motion was voted down 7-2 with Delgaudio also voting in favor. Supervisor Mark Herring's motion to remove the Brambleton project from the referendum question failed for a lack of a second.

"I did not believe both high school projects were warranted at that time, " said Herring (D-Leesburg). "The fiscally responsible thing to do is to move forward with one high school project, not both."

The vote returned to the main motion with an 8-1 vote, Hiatt voting against.

"We shouldn't be in a mode of pitting one community against another," said Chairman Scott York (R-At Large). "South Riding is a community, and unfortunately from the time it was approved, it's been looked at as a stepchild. We can't continue to ignore them."

With the two separate questions, the board is asking for $127.6 in bonds for projects that are included in the fiscal year 2003-08 Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The four projects with the additional funding sources are expected to cost $139.6 million.

York said the School Board will have the opportunity to decide which school to build first [or to build both at once]. "I'm not going to make their decision for them. That is their job," he said.

IN OTHER BUSINESS:

* The Loudoun County Health Care Task Force provided a report on Loudoun's health care needs with a list of recommendations.

The "surprising results" show that health care in Loudoun has a problem of accessibility and availability, compounded by a lack of hospital bed and emergency room space, a growing population and an increase in traffic, said B.J. Webb, chairman of the task force.

Webb organized the task force with the cooperation of the Coalition of Loudoun Towns to respond to resident complaints, specifically on the shortage of physician practices willing to take new patients and lack of emergency room and inpatient bed space.

"Many who arrive in our community without a physician end up using our emergency room as their primary care provider," Webb said. "It's not the fault of the doctors, nurses and the emergency room. There are more people than they can physically take care of in the space they have."

According to the report, the county will need 28 additional operating rooms and another 179 new hospital beds by 2012 even after considering the already approved beds. Emergency room visits are expected to increase to more than 60,000 that year from 35,000 visits this year, the report said. Another statistic from the report shows that 66 percent of Loudoun residents could receive inpatient health care in the county in 1985, compared to 42 percent in 2000.

"The need for medical services is great and growing in our county," Webb said.

The task force recommended the board support qualified providers of health care facilities and services, along with encouraging an independent Information and Referral Center for medical services and establishing a health care advisory commission.

The 25-member task force consists of town and county representatives, health care professionals and the public. The task force began meeting two years ago and has met monthly since February 2001.

* The board agreed to defer increasing commuter bus fare by $1 per ticket until after a new contract is awarded in January 2003. The current fare is $40 for a book of 10 one-way tickets or $5 for each one-way trip. The fare increase is expected to generate an additional $170,000 per year.

"It's been a long time since there has been a fare increase," Harris said. "Tax dollars are tight. [The increase] can help us get service up to a reasonable standard."

* The board authorized the issuance and sale of general obligation bonds for $74 million worth of capital projects from 1999-2001 and the refinancing of bonds from 1996.