The three Boy Scouts who showed up at the last Vienna Town Council meeting on Dec. 19 for their Citizenship in the Community merit badges got to see some action when several residents of the Windover Heights Historic District again confronted the council, this time with complaints about the last meeting of the district's Board of Review.
First, Johanna Covel submitted a check for the fee to have her property removed from the historic district.
Then, Susan Stich, also of the historic district, approached the council to complain about being denied a chance to speak at the Dec. 6 meeting of the Board of Review. "I was approaching the podium, and as I did so, Mr. [Steve] Bukont, the chairman, was flailing his arms and shouting, 'The public hearing is now closed,'" she said.
Footage of the incident was posted on the Web site historicvienna.com, to which the Stichs and Covels contribute and which seeks to discredit the historic district. Based on the footage, "flailing his arms and shouting" seems to be an overstatement, but after what appears to have been a prolonged confrontation with Michael Covel, also of Windover Heights, Bukont, obviously upset, closed the public hearing as Stich was attempting to be heard.
She also said that as he was leaving the meeting, Bukont swore at her. There is, however, no record of the incident. Stich called Bukont's conduct "a clear sexist display of intimidation."
"I listened to the tape of that meeting, and I did not hear any swearing or any ranting or raving," said Mayor Jane Seeman. As for Stich's account of Bukont swearing after the meeting, the mayor said she could only go by the official record.
Michael Covel then summed up his version of the incident by saying, "During that meeting Mr. Bukont said there were historic structures in the Windover Heights Historic District. When asked multiple times what they were, he refused to answer. He refused to answer any basic questions. Then, after being questioned about conflicts of interest and how much money he's made from Vienna Town Council votes, he ran out of Town Hall throwing multiple F-bombs at citizens including myself."
Covel went on to say he had heard that, following the incident, members of the Town Council had proposed "banning videotaping of meetings, banning legal appeals and stationing armed police" at meetings. He wanted to know who had made the proposals.
Matthew Stich, Susan's husband, has been videotaping the citizens' confrontations with the council and the Board of Review. Indeed, he was taping at this meeting.
"We were not proposing to ban anything. We were just looking into the legalities of the issue of taping," said Seeman. She said videotaping may intimidate citizens who wish to speak at a meeting.
As for the possible stationing of an officer at meetings, she said, "Most other council chambers, there is a police officer present." She said an officer would only be called to action "if a meeting gets out of hand and we think that the chairman or the board members need some assistance."
"Do you think the chairman of that board got out of hand?" Covel asked.
"From the tape that I listened to, no," Seeman responded.
DURING THE COUNCIL members‚ report, Councilmember George Lovelace mentioned that he had heard complaints about the pavement on Upham Place. Much of the pavement had been repaired, he said, but much of it had been left unrepaired.
Town manager John Schoeberlein said he would look into it.
Councilmember Sydney Verinder asked Schoeberlein how leaf collection was coming along and whether leaf grinding had begun.
Schoeberlein said leaf collection was running about two weeks behind as a result of snow. Leaf grinding, he said, would not and had not been expected to begin until after the first of the year.
The council then moved rapidly through a relatively long list of "housekeeping" items.
They granted a request by the Department of Public Works for $140,000 for emergency repairs to the Wall Street water tank. "It's a million-gallon tank, and it was found during the inspection to have extensive rust," said Dennis King, the town's director of public works. The funding is in addition to what had been budgeted for water tank maintenance.
The Department of Public Works also requested the purchase of four dump trucks from low-bidder Central Motor Company. The total cost will be almost $300,000. Schoeberlein pointed out that the total bid for the trucks was about $19,000 more than had been allotted to the vehicle replacement program. "But we have sufficient funding because of savings we've made in other areas," he said.
"All of the vehicles are going up in price for several reasons," said King, citing the costs of energy and steel and the cost of equipping vehicles to accept biodiesel fuel, which is not yet available on a large scale.
The request was granted, as were requests by the Vienna Police Department to ride a Commonwealth of Virginia contract for the purchase of uniforms and accessories and to ride a Fairfax County contract to lease vehicles, as well as a request by Vienna Parks and Recreation to award a contract not to exceed $15,264 to Silver Communications for printing four 32- to 40-page quarterly brochures.
Also granted was a request to award Bank of America Leasing and Capital LLC a contract to finance this year's vehicle and equipment replacement program. The cost is 9.22% of principal, or $51,658.88.
The council also voted to amend the town's finance regulations on eligibility or exemption to real estate taxes, following a public hearing on the subject at the last meeting. The amendment increases the net combined financial worth cap from $240,000 to $340,000 and the gross income threshold from $12,000 to 20,000, making the levels the same as those recently approved by Fairfax County.
The Finance Department requested the establishment of a part-time clerk position. The department has been using temporary part-time help and is now required to establish a permanent position in order to retain the help. The estimated cost for the rest of the fiscal year is about $8,000, which will be taken from the existing budget.