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Votes

Labor Site to Move?

Council member vows change of venue for day labor site

Pointing to the message sent by voters in this month's local elections, council member Dennis Husch has said that while the controversial Herndon day labor site will not be closed in the near future, it will be moved off of municipal property within the first months of his new term.

"A place can be found outside of [municipal] property," for the site, said Husch, who as highest vote-getter will be named vice mayor. "Not only is it possible, it will happen."

"In my mind the voters sent a clear message that they reject any support of taxpayer money or municipal resources that would encourage illegal immigration," he added. "That was the decision the voters made by choosing us."

While stating that he had not spoken with other members of the new council that will take office on July 1, Husch said that based on what he and other candidates said during their campaigns he will push for the site to be moved by "late summer or early fall," of this year.

Citing what he said were voters' concerns about workers who utilize the site cutting through private residential property as the chief impetus for its relocation, Husch said that he will search for an industrial zone to house the Herndon Official Worker's Center.

"If the new site goes into an area that is purely industrial, the town wouldn't have a problem with it anymore," Husch said. "I'm sure there are areas out there that can be used."

For the site to be physically relocated, someone who owns property in the Town of Herndon would have to file an application for a conditional use permit to operate the site on their land, according to town manager Steve Owen.

After an application has been filed, the proposal would go to both Herndon's Planning Commission and the Town Council for review. After reviewing the application, the council would then advertise the proposal and open a public hearing to consider the opinions of anyone who would be affected by the decision.

The process typically takes three to four months after an application is filed, Owen said

A DECISION TO MOVE the day labor site from its location in a municipal parking lot at 1481 Sterling Road would not be easy or cost-effective for Project Hope & Harmony, the non-profit organization operating the center, said site director Bill Threlkeld.

"Site development, once you find a place to move to another site from this one," is the largest obstacle, Threlkeld said. "It would cost a lot of money that we [Project Hope & Harmony] don't have."

Threlkeld said that changing the site to a location that would not be easily accessible to laborers looking for work could negatively impact the site's ability to address the problem of keeping workers away from street corner work solicitations, which are currently illegal under a local ordinance.

"I'm concerned about the workers," he added. "If candidates talk about moving or changing the way the site operates, then it could become where it won't be very useful for the workers, and then we'll go back to the way it used to be with guys hanging out on corners."

THE PRESENCE of a regulated site for temporary day laborers is a necessity for the Town of Herndon due to the large number of workers located in the town, Husch said.

"There must be a formal site somewhere in town because if we do not have one, we cannot enforce the local ordinance," banning work solicitations on the street, Husch said. "But it will not be located on public property and will not be supported with [Herndon] taxpayer money."

As long as the center is able to operate and find work for laborers, Threlkeld said that Project Hope & Harmony doesn't care if it's located on public or private property.

"The site that we have right now is the best possible one that we could find," Threlkeld said. "This isn't a very big town, there are not a lot of places where you can put it."