In the first in this series, county and state elected officials focused on improvements in transportation, expansion of health care services, and meeting the challenge of funding the needs of elementary and secondary education programs. In this second in the series the leaders of private organizations also ranked transportation improvements, expansion of health care services, and funding the needs of public school programs at or near the top of their lists.
SHIRLEY MARSHALL, executive director, United Community Ministries.
Q. What were UCM’s top three accomplishments of 2013?
A. * Progresso Literacy and Citizenship Center joined in a partnership with UCM to ensure the continuation and coordination of services to immigrants. Their English as a Second Language classes taught by extraordinary volunteers complement UCM’s employment and related services.
Our employment services were expanded to include long-term coaching of clients moving up from minimum wage jobs to more skilled positions.
We partnered with the county, school system, and community leaders to encourage resident participation in their neighborhood and school activities.
Q. What are UCM’s priorities for 2014?
A. They will include:
Moving our Thrift Store and Work Center to new improved locations. They will remain on Route 1. An announcement will be made in early 2014.
Thanks to a generous bequest we will establish a new vocational training program for local high school graduates.
We will focus on providing inter-generational services to ensure that adults and children are moving forward at the same time.
Q. What is the challenge of providing services for low income households in the greater Alexandria-Mount Vernon area?
A. Multi-ethnic diversity is both a strength but a challenge in our area. It can be uplifting but simultaneously a barrier to mutual communication. As part of that challenge we have to continue to provide training opportunities for people with limited education. Without effective job training low income families will have trouble moving out of poverty, will not be able to afford housing, and they will spend long hours away from their families.
Another challenge that serves as a barrier for families and their children from moving out of poverty is a lack of early child care options. If the parents have limited literacy their children will begin school at a disadvantage; the key is to provide early child learning opportunities. That takes money and accessibility which we will continue to strive to provide.
No one non-profit or government agency can make the difference alone. We need all the community to come together in support of early learning, affordable housing, and job training services. Together we can provide paths for men and women in need to become more self-sustaining.
GLENDA BOOTH, president, Friends of Dyke Marsh
Q. What were the most important environmental accomplishments in the Mount Vernon area in 2013?
A. Federal funding ($25 million) for the restoration of Dyke Marsh, a 2,200 year old freshwater tidal wetland. Congress added Dyke Marsh to the national park system in 1959. It has been 31 years since the dredging that hauled away the marsh ceased. The U.S. Geological Survey scientists determined that the dredging fundamentally destabilized the marsh. The long awaited restoration plan will be out next year.
Q. What should be the areas top environmental priorities in 2014?
A. Only 6 percent of our county land is left undeveloped. Therefore, the county and others should restore more disturbed and degraded areas and preserve and protect what we have. Many public properties are in need of creative environmental restoration and protection approaches such as natural landscaping with the goal of creating healthy habitat, create biodiversity, and reduce workload, watering, and pesticide use.
Our area streams are impaired. Stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces is a major contributor; both the volume of runoff and the pollutants runoff transports. We should all work to retain stormwater instead of allowing it to runoff to pollute our sick streams and the Potomac river, a source of drinking water for five million people.
Q. What is the state of the environment in Mount Vernon? What needs to be done to head off the disaster brewing with the rivers and streams beyond what you have already mentioned?
A. Establishing a public mass transit system on U.S. Route 1 will pay big dividends for the environment in the long run. In that connection the currently underway multi-modal transit study is a key step in reducing dependence on automobiles, and reducing ozone pollution.
Litter, in the form of cigarette butts, beverage and fast food containers, and other stuff contribute to the toxicity of our environment. We can do better.
Invasive non-native plants are pervasive and out-competing native plant species. Nurseries don’t label plants as native or non-native.
The county should bring about a better balance to Park Authority staffing, funding, and programming and make natural resource parks a higher priority.
HOLLY DOUGHERTY, executive director, Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce
Q. From the Chamber perspective, what were the most important events that took place in 2013?
A. Passage of state legislation that provided transportation funding for repair and construction of new roads, and funding to conduct a multi-modal transportation analysis that will eventually provide a plan for and funding for improvements in transportation along the Route 1 corridor. The Chamber supported this legislation and our elected officials should be congratulated for their work.
Another important initiative realized was the inaugural community celebration sponsored by the Chamber: Celebration, Mt Vernon and Lee! This was a great event that brought the community together to showcase all the good things happening with our schools, businesses, and community groups. We plan to make this an annual event and invite all interested parties to join us in celebrating the community.
The Chamber moved to a historic building located at the intersection of Richmond Highway and Memorial Street. We renovated the building and revitalized our own block of Richmond Highway. The Chamber’s long term vision is to turn the building into a Visitors Center to accommodate the tourism needs of our area. The year 2014 marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of our organization and a Task Force of members has designed a new logo and corporate identity to bring us into the 21st Century and commemorate our growth. Our online business directory that promotes local businesses is now receiving about 2,000 hits a month and we hope that will increase as the community looks to shop local first.
Q. Is there anything else you would like to comment on as you look ahead to the Chamber’s priorities for 2014?
A. We will continue to advocate for a stable and growing business climate. Transportation improvements will continue to be a high priority for the Chamber and we will monitor and participate in the debate and deliberations as the transit study moves forward and plans are formulated. The Chamber will work to make sure the changes coming will include jobs and economic development — and not just redevelopment. Businesses need certainty in taxes, regulations, financing, and employment issues, and we will make sure the voice of our members will be heard as we move forward on the transit improvements and land use planning for the future.
EDYTHE FRANKEL KELLEHER, executive director, Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation, a non-profit economic development corporation which focuses its efforts on three areas in the Route 1 corridor: marketing, economic restructuring, and urban design. SFDC receives money from Fairfax County under a memorandum of understanding as well as from private and other sources. It was founded in 1981.
Q. In 2013 what was the most important accomplishment for SFDC?
A. The opening and leasing of the first mixed-use development, the Beacon of Groveton. Other new businesses located in our area: Walmart at Kings Crossing; Costco at Route 1 and Sherwood Hall lane.
We have a new president, Walter Clarke, Burke and Herbert Bank, and added new professional staff.
Completed a well attended Summit series for the public and the development community, and installed phase one of the Wayfinding signs program. In addition, the multimodal transportation study was begun by the VDRPT for Route 1.
Q. What are your goals for 2014?
A. Opening the Shelby residential community in the Penn Daw community, breaking ground for the mixed-use Grande of Huntington, completion of the first phase of the Mount Vernon Hospital expansion, and completion of Jeff Todd Way.
SFDC will continue our Summit series, and will launch a new business roundtable series for small businesses. In addition, we will look forward to the recommendations of the VDRT.
Q. Anything else you would like to comment on as you prepare for 2014?
A. Funding to implement the recommendations that emerge from the transit study will be critical, and will help shape the character of development in the years to come. Mixed-use, very popular elsewhere, is coming to Route 1 in a big way. Some zoning applications have been approved and others are still in the pipeline, including the North Gateway Comprehensive Plan nomination. The corridor is also becoming home to more tourist-oriented development, beginning with new hotels. Visit Fairfax estimates that each hotel room generates $4,000 annually in taxes, in addition to other monies spent by visitors.
BARBARA SULLIVAN, executive director, Mount Vernon AT Home. This is a private non-profit organization that advocates for independent living services for seniors who wish to remain in their homes as long as they desire and practical. Four years old, it is among a growing number of “senior villages” in the metro area and nationwide that are being created in response to the growth in the number of seniors who wish to remain independent but nevertheless need services. MVAH has approximately 200 dues paying members and according to Sullivan that number is expected to continue to grow in 2014.
Q. What were MVAH’s major accomplishments in 2013?
A. MVAH has successfully filled a void in transportation critically needed by seniors. We participate actively with the county to prepare for future needs of the residents. One example is our active involvement in NV Rides, a partnership (hopefully) with other existing non-profits who provide transportation for the county and other organizations.
Q. What should be the county’s senior citizen priorities?
A. What the county’s priorities should be is hard to gauge at the moment. There are a lot of important conversations taking place about housing, transportation, meals, senior centers, walkable neighborhoods, etc. I have not seen projected priorities; however, there are great conversations going on and a serious look at the future needs of the 50+ age group. In the meantime I am working with the Hollin Hall Senior Center staff and the neighborhood and community services staff to help the folks who need more care, and advising on next steps to address the needs of seniors requiring more care.
Q. What are the overall needs of seniors in the county? What should we be doing to prepare for the so-called “Silver Tsunami”?
A. We need a focus for and more advocacy for seniors within the county government. It is there, but more needs to happen. The current 50+ study I am confident will be looking at coming up with recommendations to strengthen our advocacy and focus and raise awareness and priorities for action to help seniors. We need effective advocacy at the federal, state, and local levels on transportation assistance; affordable housing; alternative housing; more grants for assisted living; better communication on a crosscutting basis within the county, and intergovernmental cooperation.
GRACE LYNCH, director of communications, Department of Family Services, Fairfax County government.
The Board of Supervisors and the Fairfax Commission on Aging held public forums across the county this summer to listen to residents offer their ideas on creating a more aging-friendly community. More than 750 attended the forums. Subsequently, a 50+ Plan Steering Committee was formed to review the ideas suggested and propose initiatives for the Board of Supervisors to include in its 50+ Plan. This study process is still underway and it is anticipated that early in the year the Board of Supervisors will receive a set of recommendations to consider.
According to the 2010 Census summaries there are 26,080 residents living in the Mount Vernon Magisterial District that are 55 and over. That amounts to approximately 22 percent of the Mount Vernon population. County-wide there are approximately 255,200 people who are 55 and over.
FRANK COHN, transportation commissioner, Mt Vernon District
Q. What was the most important transportation initiative accomplished in 2013?
A. We received the money to widen the road to six lanes in the Ft. Belvoir area, and design work has begun. Fort Belvoir finished widening the roadway bridge over Route 1 and studies are underway to determine the type of mass transit for the highway, as well as looking at the priority for widening the highway at the other two segments where the highway remains as a four lane road.
Q. What should be the top priority transportation issue for 2014?
A. To see that we gain agreement that rail should be the primary mass transit focus on Route 1. The type of mass transit is negotiable. In addition, I would like to see more work on sidewalks on both sides of Route 1 — and we should not have to wait until the highway is widened. Also, we should correct the bike trail on Fort Hunt road at the country club segment; it has a dangerous configuration and at one spot it is non-existent.
Q. What is the state of transportation in Mount Vernon District? What are the most pressing needs?
A. In Mount Vernon we have issues pending with all modes of transportation. We have to widen roads, install turn-lanes, construct sidewalks and bike paths, and improve safety for our school children who walk to school. Last but not least we have to solve our mass transit deficiency. The trick is to move forward on all these issues simultaneously. We have a long way to go before we have satisfied the many pressing transportation needs in our District.
RITA WAKEFIELD, marketing manager, Inova Mount Vernon Hospital.
Q. Inova Mount Vernon Hospital is in the midst of a major expansion of the hospital. What is the status of the expansion?
A. The expansion is progressing on schedule. The Tower and the Operating Rooms are scheduled for completion in the Fall of 2014. The total cost of the expansion is $43.6 million. However, built into the expansion will be additional capabilities realized on the new third floor which will require an additional $10 million. We are now working on a capital campaign to raise the money that will be needed to complete the third floor expansion.
Q. Can you describe some of the details of the expansion, number of beds, etc?
A. We are not increasing the number of beds in the hospital, but the number of private bedroom suites will be expanded. The project includes a new medical surgical patient tower, and two large operating rooms. In addition, the project will add three additional stories to our hospital. Space will be built to more efficiently accommodate our heating, ventilation, and air conditioning needs. The fourth and fifth floors will have 20 finished private patient rooms on each floor. The addition of these rooms will also decompress the existing floors to create additional private rooms.
We now perform approximately 2,000 joint replacement surgeries annually. The expansion will enable the hospital to operate more efficiently and effectively, and expand our capacity to serve the residents’ health care needs.