Funds To Cover Shortfalls

Funds To Cover Shortfalls

The Town Council unanimously approved the transfer of more than $1 million of capital project funds from five capital projects to provide additional funds for the completion of the Sugarland Run Trail project and the Herndon Police Facility project.

With recent bids opening for the police facility and Sugarland Run Trail projects, the town learned that it was facing significant financial shortfalls with the budgeting of the two projects, as well as the upcoming phase four of the Herndon Community Center.

Town Manager Steve Owen sent a memorandum to the mayor and council Sept. 10 explaining the shortfalls of the projects and offering four alternatives for funding the project. He recommended to the council to approve the alternative that calls for the completion of the police facility and Sugarland Run Trail because the grants for both projects are scheduled to run out soon, and have already been extended several times.

Mayor Michael O'Reilly stated at the meeting that the grants for the Sugarland Run Trail project alone total $843,000 that would be lost if the project did not currently move forward.

"We're experiencing the same thing others are experiencing in Northern Virginia," said Councilman Dennis Husch. "When the bids came back for the capital projects, the bids had increased because the price of fuel, the price of gasoline the price of concrete and the price of wood products are all up."

Because the town did not anticipate these increasing costs of construction, they did not allocate the proper amount of money for these projects in the Fiscal Year 2005 budget, requiring $1,118,122 to be transferred to the two projects.

This money will come from the available FY 2005 budget and reserve funding from five planned capital projects that will not be immediately ready for construction within the next year.

THE FIVE PROJECTS money will be transferred from include: $500,000 from the Runnymede Park Nature Center fund; $397,122 from the Cultural Arts Center fund; $46,000 from the Station Street Improvements fund; $150,000 from the East Spring Street Improvements fund; and $25,000 from the Herndon Parkway/Van Buren Street Intersection fund.

The police facility will be given $629, 177 to complete its construction and the Sugarland Run Trail project will be given the remaining $488,945, totaling $1,118, 122.

The council also approved a resolution at the meeting that accepted a State of Homeland Security Grant Program Part II grant for $102,680 to help assist in the funding for the police department renovations.

THE COUNCIL VOTED 6-0 with council member Ann Null present to reaffirm the town's non-discrimination policy that was initiated in 1988.

"I agree with the non-discrimination policy," said Null, recognizing her previous statements were offensive and apologizing for the anger her words generated. "But my words were construed to be racist ... I cannot support a resolution that doesn't acknowledge that."

Because there is a law that council members cannot vote on a policy pertaining to them, the council, under general consensus, agreed to let Null vote on the record with the acknowledgment that she was "present" for the hearing.

"Elected officials have an even heavier burden to avoid negative communication that is reflected heavily on the people we represent," said council member Harlon Reece during the council discussion portion of the resolution.

In response to an earlier statement made during the public forum of the meeting that by adopting this resolution the council was taking away Null's First Amendment right to free speech, Reece emphasized his support is based on community comments and that he "certainly do[es] not suggest we take away the rights of anyone on this council."

Council member Dennis Husch agreed that taking away First Amendment rights was not the council's intentions, and the he thinks freedom of speech is a freedom that is absolute, but he also said as a council member the standards of how one conducts himself is higher.

"You have to choose your words very carefully," said Husch. "They are no longer my words, the words represent the community and those who elected me."

Vice Mayor Darryl Smith said he hopes with the passing of this reaffirmation this will be the last time the council and the community will have to deal with this issue.

He said he and Null have agreed to disagree on certain issues, and he said they have talked to each other about certain things that were said and come to an understanding where they respect each other.

"I think we can recover from this," said Smith. "I hope the community will support us, let's move forward on this together."