The County Board approved the use of $3.27 million of Neighborhood Conservation bond funds to begin seven new streetscape projects and complete several existing ones.
The construction mostly involves improving sidewalks, curbs and gutters in neighborhoods. Since a $10 million bond was passed in 2004, some $6.6 million has been designated for 26 projects across the county.
"THESE KINDS of projects are very important to the neighborhood," said County Board member Walter Tejada. "They worked long and hard to put them together."
The county does not have all the funding necessary to complete the projects now, but will by the time they go to bid, County Manager Ron Carlee said.
As part of the package, the board allocated nearly $800,000 to complete 10 existing projects. The reason for the added cost is the rising prices of construction materials and the lofty building standards the county imposes on contractors, Carlee said.
In the coming weeks the county may do value engineering to lower their overall costs.
Several speakers at the meeting criticized the board for allowing the construction to proceed without securing enough funding first.
"This is enough to make an Enron account gag," said civic activist Robert Atkins, who voiced his overall approval of the Neighborhood Conservation program.
Tim Wise, president of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, urged the board to exert greater oversight of the projects in the future.
"It’s a great idea having people walk around their neighborhood looking for things to fix up and improve… but it’s a bad thing we have 4.9 million in cost overruns," Wise said.
Board member Jay Fisette said that the county might have to re-think the way it allocates money for Neighborhood Conservation projects. "I don’t think this will be easy to address over the coming years," he said.
Fisette asked the county staff and Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee to work to find a balance, so that future "vibrant" projects can be completed in a time of escalating construction costs.