Change was in the air for Springfield during 2005, as an out-of-state company purchased Springfield Mall, the Mixing Bowl continued to progress and parents of students in the West Springfield High School area prepare for possible changes to their school boundaries.
<sh>Springfield Mall Purchased
<bt>In late October, Paramus, N.J.-based Vornado Realty Trust entered into an agreement to purchase the Springfield Mall, paying $36 million for the option of buying the mall upon the death of a member of the current ownership. Vornado will pay an additional $80 million once it picks up that option.
It is expected that the final details of the agreement and preliminary proposals for changes to the mall will be made in early 2006. Under the current zoning, the mall, on an 80-acre site, can double in size through by-right expansion. The property also includes the Silver Diner on Franconia Road and several office buildings.
It is expected that the Vornado will make some renovations and bring in new stores for customers once taking ownership of the mall.
<sh>West Springfield Boundary Study
<bt>Parents and students from West Springfield and Lee High Schools, along with Lake Braddock Secondary School, became enlightened to the process of determining school boundaries this year, as the threat of overcrowding was brought to the attention of the Fairfax County School Board while drawing boundaries for the new South County Secondary School.
Under the guidance of the Offices of Facilities Planning, two public hearings convened to debate the pros and cons of four possible changes to the three schools. The issues of split feeders, in which students from one elementary school are sent to two or more middle and high schools, played a central role in the boundary study, causing a division in some neighborhoods. A decision is expected from the School Board in February.
The four possible outcomes of the study have a wide-range of impact. Option one would eliminate all split feeder schools, consolidating the Daventry neighborhood into West Springfield High instead of sending some children to Lee High. Option two would retain Keene Mill Elementary School would remain a split feeder, with some children going to Lake Braddock while others go to West Springfield. The third option would keep the current boundaries as they are, but would have the entire Daventry neighborhood attending West Springfield instead of Lee High School. The fourth option would leave all boundaries intact and make no changes at all.
The Facilities Planning Services office will make a suggestion to the School Board during a meeting on Jan. 12, and two public hearings will take place on Jan. 30 and 31, beginning at 7 p.m., at Jackson Middle School. A final decision is expected from the School Board at its meeting on Feb. 23, also at Jackson Middle School. Any changes would be phased in, beginning with the 2006-07 school year, to be completed by 2009-10.
<sh>Lake Accotink Dredging Deal Set
<bt>Frustrated boaters on sludgy Lake Accotink can breathe a sigh of relief, because the dredging project is finally underway. After five years, two contract bids and short funds, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a contract with Mobile Dredging and Pumping Co. to dredge the lake, while the Fairfax County Park Authority finalized plans for the process.
Lake Accotink, created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1918, helps manage storm water runoff. As it does this, it collects silt. In 1960, said Lake Accotink Park manager Tawny Hammond, the lake was 110 acres. Now, it is 55 acres.
In 1998, Fairfax County authorized $6.1 million in a bond referendum for the project and in 2000, the design process began. Planners decided to use hydraulic pumps and pipes to remove silt from the water, piping the material to a Virginia Concrete site in the Shirley Park Industrial Complex off Backlick Road, three miles away.
The project went out to bid twice, first in December 2003, and again in February 2005 when the first bid came back too high. Mobile Dredging was the only bidder both times, and in July the Board of Supervisors awarded them a $7.25 million contract to dredge the lake.
The dredger is a 50-foot barge that floats along the lake surface and attaches to a 14-inch-diameter pipeline. The silt-filled water, or slurry, flows through the pipe to the Virginia Concrete site, where it is dried and used to grade a section of their property.
"We anticipate to get in there and do a good job, get it done on time," said Jerry Vetter, executive director of Mobile Dredging. "I hope Virginia Concrete ends up with a nice site and the people at Lake Accotink end up with a lake they can use again."
<sh>Watts, Sickles Re-Elected
<bt>In two campaigns that were reduced to personal attacks at times, Dels. Vivian Watts (D-39) and Mark Sickles (D-43) were re-elected to the House of Delegates in November, beating political newcomers Michael Meunier and Ron Grignol, respectively
Sickles, a public relations professional, received 64.17 percent of the vote to defeat Grignol and return to Richmond. This will be his second term in office.
In Annandale, the campaign to represent the 39th District was marred at times with accusations of racism against Watts by her opponent. Elected with more than 62 percent of the vote, Watts will return for her 10th year in the House of Delegates.
<sh>Del. Dave Albo Re-elected
<bt>In one of the most expensive races of the year, Del. Dave Albo (R-42) defeated political newcomer Greg Werkheiser (D) to represent the southern part of the county in the House of Delegates.
During the campaign, the two men raised more than $875,000, making this race one of the most expensive races for the House of Delegates in Virginia history.
While Democrats retained the governor's mansion, Republican Albo managed to defeat Werkheiser after a campaign that included each candidate targeting the other's past, from Albo's acceptance of campaign funding from the alcohol industry to Werkheiser's 10 speeding tickets in 10 years.
Albo, who has served in the House of Delegates for 11 years, was seen as an integral part in the construction of the South County Secondary School, a component of the Albo-Rust Plan that secured funding for the school's construction.
<bt>Negotiations are ready to begin between the Virginia Department of Transportation and Fluor-Transurban to install HOT lanes along the Interstate 95 corridor, including the Springfield Interchange.
Fluor-Transurban and the Clark Construction group had submitted proposals to build the lanes during Phase 8 of the Mixing Bowl project. The proposal from Fluor-Transurban included an estimated price of $913 million for the project, which would be financed by tolls.
The Springfield Interchange is in the middle of an eight year, $676 million renovation, designed to make it easier for commuters and long-distance drivers to gain access to Interstates 95, 395 and 495 through the middle of Springfield. Several ramps which have been under construction are expected to open in 2006, and the project is slated to be completed the following year.