Fairfax County residents of the Mount Vernon and Lee districts are about to have life made much simpler and save a lot of time and gasoline in the process.
Beginning no later than May 1, residents will be able to enjoy one-stop shopping for all their human services needs without driving nearly 30 miles to the Fairfax County Government Center. On that date the new South County Center will welcome its first citizens.
"This building is functional and designed with the needs and concerns of the citizens in mind. It is a Class A Institutional Building, not glitzy, and certainly no Taj Mahal," said Kenneth P. Disselkoen, Fairfax County's Human Services Regional Manager in Region One.
Built on the open space concept, with individual walled offices kept to a minimum, most of the administrative and service areas utilize modular sound walls, thereby providing maximum flexibility to changing needs. "This entire structure is one the community can be very proud of," Disselkoen said.
Various county services will begin moving in on April 1 with a completion target date of April 30. Operations are set to begin about May 1. The grand opening, with ribbon cutting ceremony, is scheduled for June 15.
"This has been a true public/private venture that is saving the county millions of dollars," Lee District Supervisor Dana Kauffman emphasized. "It is particularly going to show how e-government can work for people."
That emphasis on e-government services will be immediately apparent to visitors as they enter the main lobby. To the left of the large reception station is a room to be known as "Access Fairfax." It will house individual computers and kiosks that will enable citizens to do business with all elements of county government from one location.
In addition, Access Fairfax will also serve as a total information center, either through the Internet or by means of publications. There will be staff available to answer questions and provide assistance, according to Disselkoen.
Behind the Access Fairfax public area are a series of offices that county departments can utilize as field offices enabling them to be more accessible to area residents. "Staff can use these offices to perform their duties or use the internet without going to Fairfax," he explained.
FULL SENIOR SERVICES
One of the most citizen-friendly elements of the new five story structure, located at 8350 Richmond Highway, is on the first floor. It will house the Adult Day Care Health Program currently located in the IMP Building.
"This facility will serve seniors that need more intensive care during the day. The people here will be those that are being cared for at home by other adult family members. It will serve people of all income levels," Disselkoen emphasized.
Located at the front of the building, it is comprised of a full kitchen, a crafts room, library, exercise room, nurse's station, restrooms, a full bath designed for wheelchair accessibility, and an outdoor patio area that is protected from traffic.
This facility has its own entrance, enabling family members to drop off and pick up their care receivers in a secured area. "There are also special alarms attached to the entrance doors to guard against those with Alzheimer's disease from wandering out unnoticed.
"We are particularly conscious of the needs of our senior citizens," Disselkoen explained. "This center is designed to meet their needs and to afford their care givers a chance to have some free time for other activities."
A GOOD DEAL ALL AROUND
Harry Furney, Fairfax County Project Manager for Public Works, noted, "One of the main objectives of placing this building at this location was to revitalize that area of the Route 1 corridor." He also buttressed Kauffman's claim of the building's fiscal soundness.
Financed with private money by Madison Development Partners of Alexandria, Fairfax County will lease the building on a 30-year fixed lease 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 all infrastructure and fees incurred by the developers in satisfying various agreements, will be $29 million. The building construction cost accounts for approximately $19 million of that," Furney said.
The flip side of senior care services is found on the third floor. Programs in this area, run by the County's Recreation Department, are designed for active seniors. Such diverse activities as language classes, dancing, and even card playing are offered. There is also a computer lab, fitness center, and game room.
"Our largest concentration of seniors is in this end of the county," Disselkoen explained. "In the evenings this area will convert to a Teen Center."
But this will not be the typical Teen Center. "It will be based more on a club model with a lot of character building and constructive socializing. As an example the computer room will serve as a homework area for those teens that don't have access to a computer or the internet at home," he said.
In planning and designing the new Center, a great deal of thought was given to placing services in areas that compliment each other to increase both their efficiency and effectiveness. The success of that goal and how it will contribute to both services and operations will be covered in the next of this series.