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Votes

Drains, Cigarettes and Fast Cars

Town Council looks at neighborhood issues.

The latest in a series of complaints about excess stormwater arose at the Vienna Town Council meeting Monday, Sept. 12.

During the public presentation section of the agenda, Dr. Jerome Covel, a 36-year town resident, complained of water drainage issues in the road outside his office. Covel, who has a dental practice on Beulah Road, said that the water flowing down Church Street has increased with the development of several new houses in the area. A receptacle to catch the water was ineffectual since it sits higher than its drainage ditch, said Covel. He added that the town's public works department had not provided any solutions to the problem.

"This needs to be taken care of," said Covel, adding that 75 feet of drywall on his building has black mold on it, and that the problem has worsened during the last six months. He asked the council to work on a solution, such as installing a deeper drainage ditch.

Mayor M. Jane Seeman said she is talking with Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) about the possibility for 1 cent of Fairfax County's real estate tax going to town stormwater management projects. Proceeds from the 1-cent tax are collected from town residents, but go to stormwater projects in the county as a whole, she said.

"Why should our citizens' money go to county stormwater?" asked Seeman. "We have our own projects and problems with that." Vienna's property tax, which provides most of the town's budget, goes into the general fund.

The Town Council also approved a measure to draft a letter to members of the House of Delegates regarding pending legislation on the way cigarette taxes are collected in the Town.

During the 2005 session, the Virginia General Assembly passed a joint resolution (House Joint Resolution 664) that would take away the ability of local jurisdictions, acting under the Northern Virginia Cigarette Tax Board, to collect cigarette taxes, said administrative services director Nancy McMahon. If HJR 664 is passed, she said, the cigarette tax would be collected by the Virginia Department of Taxation. Under the resolution, all cigarette tax revenue would go to the Department of Taxation first, and then to local jurisdictions.

Councilmembers expressed concern over HJR 664.

"How are we going to be assured, when [the Department of Taxation] starts doing it, that we’re getting our fair share?" said Councilmember George Lovelace.

Seeman likened HJR 664 to an employer sending paychecks to its employee's parents. "The cigarette companies think it would be easier. Well, yeah, since then the tax would go to one person," she said. "But I don't really trust this."

Councilmember Robinson said that seeing the cigarette tax revenue would be "a never-never land." The council unanimously approved the measure to draft the letter.

Town resident Kwansene Eversman asked the Town Council to brainstorm ways to slow traffic on Center Street. Eversman said that one day recently, eight cars were identified going above 75 miles per hour down the neighborhood street, which runs past Town Hall, the police station, the fire station and Vienna Elementary School.

Earlier in the summer, the Vienna Transportation Safety Commission (TSC) came up with several recommendations to slow traffic on Center Street, such as striped crosswalks on the north side of the intersection at Battle Street and the south side of the intersection on Cherry Street, striping along the curb line at the location of the crosswalks, and "Children at Play" signs placed along the road.

Town manager John Schoeberlein said that these improvements are scheduled for the beginning of the next construction season in the spring. Eversman asked if the process could be expedited.

Seeman suggested police presence along Center Street during the morning and afternoon hours children walk to and from school.

"On [Route] 123, people don’t tend to speed because they know the police are there," said Eversman.

Cars parked on either side of the street also help to slow traffic, said Schoeberlein. The town undertook a similar project on Broadleaf Terrace, he said, and although no one made a formal study, the residents seemed to think it worked.

"I think a lot of the vehicles you get on that part of Center Street are the same people day after day," said Schoeberlein. "Once there’s some heavy enforcement in the area, I think it’ll work better than just striping it."

The Town Council unanimously approved the motion to adopt the recommendations of the TSC, with amendments that included painting crosswalks on the east sides of Battle Street and Cherry Street.

Other motions unanimously approved by the Town Council were:

* A $13,986 federal grant from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to the Vienna Police Department to purchase emergency gasoline-powered generators for the town's traffic lights.

* A $144,612 federal grant from DHS so that the Vienna Police Department can make payments to MobileTec International

for new computer-generated dispatch systems.

* An amendment to trespassing laws in the Town Code so that once someone is identified as a trespasser, his or her name would go on record, giving police authority to arrest if the property manager is not present.

* A $19,752 award to AAA Recycling and Trash Removal Services for town trash pickup.

* The purchase of an R.S. Technical Omni Star camera and R.S. Technical Crawler, in the amount of $19,350, to maintain and clean sanitary sewer lines.