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Flu, Gridlock Top Council Meeting

City Council members discuss land-use application, city health and traffic pre-emption system at April 25 meeting.

A pandemic influenza is in our future, but Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu gave the Fairfax City Council some simple measures for the community to follow in order to avoid a local outbreak.

Although her presentation came an hour and a half into the meeting, it grabbed the attention of councilmembers and the public. Addo-Ayensu, director of the Fairfax County Health Department, presented studies predicting a pandemic flu, comparing the possible outbreak to the Spanish flu of 1918 that killed 40 million people. According to Addo-Ayensu, preventative techniques doctors have recommended for years are the weapons against the outbreak. Mayor Robert Lederer and Councilmembers Joan Cross and Scott Silverthorne both agreed the subject was more important than people may recognize, and it became one of the hottest topics of the Tuesday, April 25 council meeting.

“I think this is a huge public service we need to provide,” said Cross.

“I hope people will take this very, very seriously,” said Silverthorne.

Lederer took a small container of hand sanitizer out of his pocket, placed it on the dais, and asked the doctor if using such an item has any beneficial disinfectant value. Addo-Ayensu said it can be an alternative to soap and water, but should only be used as a second resort.

“The flu never goes to sleep,” said Addo-Ayensu.

Prior to the health discussion, the council adopted a resolution with one amendment for the City of Fairfax School Board title transfer of the former Westmore School Property to the city. In exchange for this title, the city would agree to make the Green Acres Elementary School property available to the School Board for future public school purposes, if need be. The city’s action on this project now awaits the School Board’s action on the matter, which will take place at their May 1 meeting.

The council also considered a rezoning application for a property on Judicial Drive. The land-use application, presented by Community Development Planner Heidi Waugh, brought up some size and scale issues with councilmembers. The council’s main concerns of the building project, at 10611 Judicial Drive, were its setbacks and its height. After determining that the building should look in context with other buildings in the area, the council passed the application with amendments providing the developer, not the city, pay for and construct the sidewalk, curb gutter and fencing around the project.

During the brief public speaking time, one community member spoke to the council in his last chance to address them before the May 2 election.

“The seven of you have done a really great job,” said Paul Sullivan, vice president of the Country Club Hills Civic Association. “You’ve been great stewards of our taxpayer money.”

Developers presented blueprints for the Blenheim interpretive center to bring council members up to speed at the work session following the council meeting. Monty Lowe of the Department of Community Development and Planning, presented floodplain maps to the council in order to inform them of FEMA requirements for flood insurance eligibility. The city must adopt the floodplain regulations and rate maps and present them to FEMA, by June 2.

The predominant work session topic was the traffic signal pre-emption issue. The signal pre-emption, which allows for emergency vehicles to manipulate traffic signals in order to quicken their response times, largely affects traffic for as much as an hour after the use of the pre-emption device.

Councilmember Jeff Greenfield, who questioned the system at the Department of Public Works budget presentation, said he supports the system along with the rest of the council, however, he said there needs to be options for dealing with the traffic issues that develop as a result of the imperfect pre-emption system. He then asked director of public works John Veneziano to come up with some kind of proposal to indicate the city’s steps in solving these matters.

Lederer also expressed his concern for the issue, saying that it should not be that complicated to ask for police to assist with traffic control in the instances where the pre-emption has severely impacted traffic.

“We're not quite there yet, but we've certainly responded to quite a few incidents that have occurred,” said Veneziano. Public works department has the ability to make the call, he said, but does not always have the staff.

“I find this reluctance of our police department to go out and help with traffic flow to be frustrating, at best,” said Lederer.