Starting June 14, the Northern Virginia Mennonite Church will host someone else’s party. The church has been designated as a temporary polling place for the City of Fairfax’s second precinct, while the John C. Wood Center is being torn down and a new police station constructed. None of the other precincts will be affected by the change.
The Mennonite Church is located at 3729 Old Lee Highway near the Farrcroft development. Precinct Two is generally bounded by Lee and Old Lee highways, Main Street and Rebel Run.
Although hosting a polling place may be an inconvenience, the congregation welcomed the opportunity to help.. "We wanted to be a service to the community," said Pearl Hoover, pastor of the church.
Hoover said that as Mennonites, some members had expressed concern about maintaining the separation between church and state, but this was something that the congregation felt it could do without violating that proscription.
Voters will park in the lot on the side of the building and then enter through basement-level double doors. They will then use the fellowship hall on the right, Hoover said.
THE CITY’S Electoral Board had initially been looking for locations in the Old Lee Highway area, in order to keep the new polling place close to the old. "We were initially looking at Fairfax High School," said John Harold, registrar for the City of Fairfax. The board, Harold said, contacted several locations. Some had been disqualified because the buildings were not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act; others were not interested.
Many locations, Harold said, were excited about the possibility of hosting the place. The Electoral Board settled on Paul VI High School. The school had recently created renovations and had a spot which Harold said would have been ideal for the new polling place. "They were really willing to carve off a significant parking bay," Harold said.
"For me, it is not a big inconvenience at all," said Philip Robey, principal of Paul VI.
Like Hoover, Robey saw the opportunity to host the polling precinct as a civic duty and said the school would likely have asked to allow the students to visit the precincts to witness the democratic process.
Robey said that if the city should decide the school is a good site in the future, they would be willing to help. "If they wanted to use the school in the future, they would be welcome," Robey said.
During council deliberations, Councilmember Jeffery Greenfield lobbied for the Mennonite Church, noting that since it was across the street from the old voting location, it would be less confusing for voters.
"The [City] Council wanted to stay on Old Lee Highway," Harold said.
Renovations to the church were necessary, and the city has spent about $1,500 in one-time costs to build a ramp that will allow wheelchair access to the building, Harold said. Another $1,000 in costs will be allocated for postage and signs notifying voters in Precinct Two of the change, and it will cost the city $2,700 in warm weather elections to rent a handicapped accessible portable toilet and air conditioner. In cold weather, only the toilet will be necessary at a cost of $600, Harold said.
After the new police station has been completed, voters will return to the other side of Old Lee Highway to vote there. "There is, in the design, a training room which has separate access," Harold said.