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Then There Was One

Staff to review offer from third round of new labor site operator requests.

The Town of Herndon has received one proposal at the close of its third official request for a new operator for a town day labor site on July 30.

Staff will announce the results of its review to Herndon's Town Council at its Aug. 14 public hearing.

The new proposal comes ahead of an official Herndon Town Council review Aug. 8 of a special exception permit for the current operator and a possible new operator to run the labor site on Herndon municipal property. The current permit is set to expire Sept. 15.

Staff will review the proposal ahead of the public hearing to make sure that it matches the appropriate criteria listed in the official request for proposals, issued July 11.

Two previous labor site proposals were rejected before being presented to council last month, as they did not satisfy the demands of the previous request for proposals, according to town staff. The first request did not receive any bids.

Herndon resident Dennis "Butch" Baughan, who had turned in one of the previously rejected proposals, said on Tuesday that he had presented his revised proposal to the town ahead of the deadline.

THE PROPOSAL COMES in response to an effort from Herndon's mayor and some members of the council to replace current day labor site operator Project Hope & Harmony with one that will require worker residency authorization status checks. The search was initiated in January.

A draft special exception application for the site, set to be reviewed by the council next month, would allow for both Project Hope & Harmony or a new replacement operator that checks for work authorization status at 1481 Sterling Road to manage the site for one more year.

The primary operating funds for Project Hope & Harmony, a branch organization of local non-profit Reston Interfaith, is about $175,000 and is secured from a contract with Fairfax County to manage the county's day labor population.

Working to continue their ongoing "strategy to deal with day laborers" throughout Fairfax County, the county's Board of Supervisors renewed that funding in June. The Herndon site is one of three locations in Fairfax County where workers gather that is managed by county-funded individuals.

"Day laborers are here to stay ... this is not an issue that needs to be dealt with by law enforcement," said county spokesperson Merni Fitzgerald, noting that "general loitering" and asking for work are constitutionally-guaranteed rights. "We're focused on the mitigation of public nuisance complaints, and we are addressing that through organization of the workers where they meet."

IF A NEW SITE operator is found to meet the criteria and is approved by Herndon's Town Council, Project Hope & Harmony would have 30 days under their current agreement with the town to dismantle the Herndon Official Workers Center and vacate the property. Project Hope & Harmony would have 60 days to vacate if the proposed permit is agreed upon as it stands, according to the application.

The county contract with Reston Interfaith is not a "lump-sum" payment and could be cancelled with a 30-day notice if a new operator is chosen and the current site shuts down and no alternative day labor management options are discovered, according to Fitzgerald. That money will not be transferred to a different operator if one is chosen by Herndon, she added.

"The county signed a contract with Reston Interfaith, so if the town wants a different vendor, then they will pay for it on their own," said Fitzgerald. "If that were to happen, we'd respect the town's decision, but we would look for other avenues of self-management to deal with this issue."

As the fate of the town's current labor site hangs in the balance, the curiosity of its regular visitors continues to increase, according to Bill Threlkeld, director of Project Hope & Harmony.

What will happen to the site "is the question that's on their mind everyday, every time I go [to the site], that's what I'm always asked," Threlkeld said.