Requests for individual projects were among the statements made during Monday's public hearing before the Vienna Town Council on the budget for FY ‘04-05. Although no theme stood out, all the citizens who spoke asked for continued support of Town services.
"In essence, this is an investment in the community for us," said Vienna Volunteer Fire Department chief Howard Springsteen, who went before the Council asking it to consider contributing $100,000 for renovations for a new fire station on Center Street.
While Springsteen asked about funding for fire station renovations, Vienna resident George Creed wondered whether the Town might consider lowering the real estate tax rate sometime soon. He also questioned whether the Town should explore obtaining its water from Fairfax County, since the rates were cheaper and have not increased at the same rate as the Town's water.
Vienna's proposed water and sewer rate for the next fiscal year is $2.83 per 1,000 gallons, up 12 cents from this current year's rate of $2.71.
"For us, in this town, if we can't do it in a more competitive basis ... I'd like to see us considering turning our water system to Fairfax County," Creed said.
TWO CITIZENS inquired about public works projects within their neighborhoods. Storm Simenson of Westbriar Court asked the Council to consider placing a covered pipe to replace the deteriorating Westbriar drainage ditch. The Council had discussed repairing the ditch with a sod-like ditch, but Simenson, on behalf of his neighbors, argued that the sod-like ditch would be more costly in the long term, may not be as safe and may overflow if a major storm occurs or if the water tower is drained.
Loren Setlow of Oakton, formerly of Branch Road in Vienna, asked about the status of a water impact study for Wolftrap Creek. He learned that money had been allocated in the budget to clear the silt from Wolftrap Creek, while the Town is working on securing grant funding from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation on the study.
The adoption of the $16.7 million budget will occur on June 2. It calls for a 1-cent reduction in the real estate tax to 26.5 cents, an increase in water and sewer rates to $2.83 per 1,000 gallons, and a reduction in debt service by 3.32 percent.
ANOTHER POSSIBLE item for next fiscal year's budget came from a request from former Councilman Vince Olson. A year ago, he had requested placing two flag poles in the town, in order to have the ability to place another banner above Maple Avenue, but the request was dismissed because of inadequate funding.
But Olson asked Council to consider the request again, because of the rising demand from community associations to use banners. He suggested placing the flag poles near the Outback Steakhouse on Maple Avenue.
"It's become more and more of an issue with the different civic associations and clubs," Olson said.
Earlier that Monday evening, a woman from the Vienna Woman's Club asked the Council to limit the time that organizations can display their banner across Maple Avenue and give priority to organizations that have a set date, so they can advertise their event properly.
The current system is to wait outside Town Hall on January 2, at 8 a.m., and sign up for banner space then. When she showed up this year at 7:25 a.m., four people were already waiting. Even though she was only the fifth person in line, she could not get the desired date for the banner, because a person in front of her took the dates she wanted.
The Vienna Woman's Club event is scheduled on Nov. 13, but its banner will be up Oct. 4-13.
The Vienna Woman's Club also asked the Council about Community Center fee increases, arguing that the fees were becoming too costly. Council replied that the fee increases were established in order to make the rental fees comparable to other jurisdictions.
Council responded to the banner situation by placing the item on a future work session.
IN ADDITION to the budget, the Town Council approved several traffic-calming measures for Branch Road Southeast, between Echols and Locust streets. The measures are to paint a stop stripe at Branch Road and Echols; to relocate the stop sign on Echols Street closer to the intersection; to paint a crosswalk on Branch Road at Locust; and to place two modified speed humps on Branch Road between Locust and Echols, location to be determined later.
The Council also approved, by a vote of 4-2, to place a three-way stop sign at Branch and Echols. Councilwoman Edythe Kelleher, Councilman George Lovelace, Councilwoman Maud Robinson and Vienna mayor Jane Seeman voted for the stop sign, while Councilwoman Laurie Cole and Councilman Sydney Verinder voter against the stop sign.
Testimony about safety and speed from six citizens helped Councilmembers determine which traffic-calming measures to adopt, as well as recommendations from the Transportation Safety Commission (TSC). According to TSC chair Rich Denbow, Vienna Police had counted over 4,000 vehicles on the road per day. A school bus stop also exists at Branch and Echols.
Public Works director Dennis King informed Town Council that road repairs were scheduled by the Virginia Department of Transportation in 2007, and that modified speed humps cost between $3,000 and $5,000. Despite pending repairs, the Council decided that speed and volume reported on the road warranted the traffic-calming measures.