The Great Falls community is made up of over 15,000 people, but the Great Falls Citizens Association is only made up of a little over 600 people. In other words, less than one percent of the community makes up the organization that represents it. This is something that the Association is determined to change.
"We need more power and we need a bigger voice," said Gene Herbert, Chairman of the GFCA's Membership & Outreach committee. "We get a bigger voice by increasing membership."
In the GFCA's most recent newsletter, the group's president David Olin recently put out a plea for more Great Falls residents to seek membership.
"I cannot help but notice that a few, a very small few, tackle the burden of vigilance. A very small few actively engage in correspondence with our county and state representatives, attend hearings and planning meetings and voice their opinion. A very small few appear to speak for the majority and in the interest of the community and its environment," wrote Olin.
SUBSEQUENTLY, THE GFCA is currently seeking new and creative ways to recruit more members.
"We've got a couple of concepts that we are putting forth here," said Herbert. "One is a mass mailing which will occur with November's newsletter... and that goes out to about 6,000 homes."
Herbert added that members recruited between now and the end of this year will receive "a little token of appreciation." His goal is to increase membership by 4-5 times its current number.
"I don't know how far we can go with this, but I certainly can't rest until we reach 3,000 and I don't see any reason why we shouldn't be able to do that," he said.
Herbert is particularly interested in increasing the GFCA's membership because he feels that the County does not always take their concerns seriously since it is but a small representation of the community.
"I want to get the majority of registered voters in Great Falls," said Herbert. "[The County] says 'you say you speak for Great Falls but your membership is only a little less than 700.' If we get more registered voters then we may have some voice in our future."
SPRINT NEXTEL REPRESENTATIVES also gave the company's official presentation for its proposed Distributive Antenna System along Georgetown Pike and Old Dominion Road in Great Falls and McLean. The system would require the installation of sixteen nodes in Great Falls and thirteen in McLean. The presentation sparked a number of questions and concerns, particularly in regard to whether or not good cell phone coverage is really necessary while driving on Georgetown Pike.
"For most of us, driving up and down the road in Great Falls, coverage is not very good," said Stuart Mendelsohn, a former member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
However, many other residents complained that there is no reason for people to be using their phones while driving along such a curvy road.
"I think many people in Great Falls would like to eliminate all cell phone usage along Georgetown Pike," said GFCA Transportation Committee Chair Eleanor Anderson. "I'm just interested in how you surveyed the community."
John Steele, Manager of Special Projects for Sprint Nextel noted that the need for coverage was based on engineer studies and not on community inquiries. He emphasized that a Distributed Antenna System is built for co-location and that "there is a big-time commitment in our company to this type of technology."
Sprint Nextel had already presented this application to the McLean Citizens Association (MCA) and obtained their approval based on the fact that the application is in total compliance with the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan.
"So ultimately, it's a question of how we want it, not do we want it," commented GFCA member Stella Koch.
GFCA members want to make sure that their aesthetic needs are met should the proposal go through. Namely, they would like the height of the node boxes to be higher than the 8 feet that is currently suggested, and they would like the node boxes to be painted brown rather than gray so that they will better blend in with the surrounding environment.
<lst>Both McLean and Great Falls citizens groups have heard presentations on the Sprint Nextel application. The public hearing is set for Thursday at 8:15, Sept. 29 in front of the Fairfax County Planning Commission in the board auditorium of the government center building at 12000 Government Center Parkway