The new South County Government Center will officially open its of services to the residents of the Mount Vernon and Lee districts on June 15.
At a ribbon cutting ceremony scheduled for 10 a.m., the 135,000- square foot complex at 8350 Richmond Highway will be launched. An open house will be held after the ceremony to allow visitors to tour the building and learn about the services offered. It will conclude at 2 p.m.
The new center consolidates county services previously scattered across the south county region. It also houses a community conference center that is available to community groups as well as county agencies. It can be configured as one large room or as many as six individual meeting rooms.
ALTHOUGH THE FIRST county government tenant moved in on April 3 and actual operations began on May 1, Saturday's event will offer the initial introduction of the complex to its citizen stakeholders.
"This building is functional and designed with the needs and concerns of the citizens in mind. It is no Taj Mahal," Kenneth P. Disselkoen, Fairfax County's Human Services Regional Manager, said during a pre-opening tour.
One of the most innovative services to be offered is ACCESS FAIRFAX, an open area on the first floor where residents can access many government services via the Internet, a kiosk, or an interactive voice response telephone system. The use of all these systems is free.
Immediately behind the ACCESS FAIRFAX public area are a series of offices that various county department personnel can utilize as field offices, thus enabling them to be more accessible to area residents. It also enables them to make use of the built-in modern technology to better serve their constituents and clients.
DESIGNED AS A one-stop-shopping location for county services, the five story edifice will house a full array of senior services, programs administered by the Recreation Department, a wide range of County Health Department offerings, centralized child and family services, and programs that address Housing and Community Development.
It is also the new satellite home of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. Located in the Mount Zephyr Building, just across Richmond Highway, for the past 12 years, it became the new center's first occupant. The main mission of this court is to house probation offices and operate two alternative school programs. There are no sitting judges at this location.
In addition to the e-government facilities on the lobby level, another citizen needs service is located on the third floor. It is the Job Source Center which offers access to high quality academic and occupational skills education, training, and job placement.
Included in this area is a computer job search capability, computer classroom to enable citizens to improve their high tech skills, as well as a business center to bring together employers and those seeking employment. One of the prime objectives of this service is to enable Fairfax County to maintain its high tech workforce in light of recent downsizings.
ONE OF THE MOST unusual aspects of this entire project was the financing. Fueled with private money by Madison Development Partners of Alexandria, Fairfax County will lease the building on a 30-year fixed price of $2 million per year. At the end of that time the county will take ownership.
"The total cost for everything from land through construction, including infrastructure and fees incurred by the developer in satisfying various agreements, will be $29 million. The construction costs account for $19 million of that," according to Harry Furney, Fairfax County Project Manager.
"Without using public funds or doing a bond issue, the county was able to take advantage of a good opportunity and freeze our lease costs for 30 years. And, the additional space in the building will certainly be utilized over the years," Mount Vernon District Supervisor and Vice Chairman, County Board of Supervisors, Gerald W. Hyland, said.
He was joined in his enthusiasm by Lee District Supervisor, Dana Kauffman. "This has been a true public/private venture that is saving the county millions of dollars. And, it is particularly going to show how e-government can work for the people."
Hyland also sees an ancillary benefit to the new Center. "The construction of this building has added to our efforts to revitalize that section of Route 1. It is a major plus for both the Mount Vernon and Lee districts. The opportunity to bring all our human services together will benefit everyone."