Arlington police will get new high tech equipment in the coming months thanks to a $740,000 grant from the federal government.
U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) delivered the funds to the County Board Saturday. The funds are expected to purchase seven new police cruisers, six night vision scopes and 25 tazers. It will also be used to mount 30 forward-looking digital video reorders on police car dashboards and to provide officers with simulation firearms training.
"The need for this funding really goes back to that watershed event on Sept. 11," Moran said. "Every day we become more cognizant that Arlington County is ground zero for terrorism and that puts an enormous strain not just on the county government but on its budget."
Moran said the grant is less than the county was given in previous years. He blamed Republican tactics on Capitol Hill that, he said, have stalled the appropriations process.
"Last week was the week we should have finished up with appropriations," he said. "Instead, the Republican leadership chose to strip the District of Colombia of its gun laws."
Referring to the Republican push to end the ban on guns in the district and to create a constitutional amendment barring homosexual marriage, Moran said, "These were deliberate political distractions when we should have been focusing on appropriations."
He added that the federal government's current deficit, estimated at $422 billion, has left little funding available for homeland security like the grant money Arlington received.
"The money just isn't there," Moran said.
Board member Walter Tejada said the equipment will go a long way towards helping police combat gang crime in Arlington.
In other business, the board signed a funding agreement known as the Metro Matters program, which was created by the Washington Metro Transit Authority. It commits the seven regions that fund Metro to provide $900 million dollars of state and county funding to a six year capital investment program.
Some changes to Arlington's pedestrian signals also made the board's agenda. It approved a project to adjust the timing of pedestrian signals, increasing the number of seconds Arlingtonians have to cross the street by an average of five seconds. The plan calls for an evaluation of 170 signals for the installation of lighted count down clocks to help pedestrians know how much time they have remaining to cross an intersection. County Board Chairwoman Barbara Favola said the program will "help us to improve our pedestrian safety, our traffic flow and air quality. These are all important goals for our community."
Focusing on local parks, the board approved a proposal that will create a master plan aimed at restoration of Four Mile Run. The plan will analyze drainage, geology and other environmental aspects of the park at a cost of $1 million. The objective of the plan is to restore the area as a habitat for wildlife and a recreational center. Planning for the project is being done through a citizen's task force in conjunction with residents of Alexandria.