The South County Federation's monthly meeting was on Tuesday, October 5 in the library of South County Secondary School. As is typical of Federation meetings, the agenda was wide-ranging.
Candidate Proxies Present Case
The meeting began with presentations from the campaign managers of the respective candidates for the seat of Virginia's 11th Congressional District. Tim Edson, of challenger Keith Fimian's (R) campaign spoke on his behalf while James Walkinshaw spoke on behalf of incumbent Gerry Connolly (D).
Edson repeatedly attacked Connolly for being part of a record spending spree by the Democratically-controlled House of Representatives that has led to an unprecedented level of debt. Edson pointed out that the impact of carrying such substantial debt will have negative repercussions for future generations, but also, that carrying such debt puts a significant strain on state and local budgets.
Edson pointed to Fimian's success in the private sector and to his status as someone outside of the culture of Washington as evidence of his qualifications as a candidate.
Walkinshaw emphasized what Connolly, who was previously Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, has brought to South County in his first term in office. Specifically, the Lorton Land Transfer, the completion of the Fairfax County Parkway and the new middle school that is scheduled to open in 2011.
Walkinshaw also reminded attendees that the country was in dire financial straits when Connolly and President Obama took office in 2009, blaming the situation largely on George W. Bush's tax cuts, a prescription drug plan and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that were not adequately financed.
However, Walkinshaw did say that Connolly was in favor of extending the Bush tax cuts with the belief that a failure to do so would jeopardize the economic turnaround that has started to occur. Walkinshaw added that, though unemployment is at 9.5% nationwide, it is only 5.7% in Fairfax County.
South County Federation President Pete Dickinson asked both managers questions he had received in advance from Federation members pertaining to transportation, the health care bill and spending cuts, among others.
Hyland and Herrity Remarks
The meeting then was addressed by Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland. Hyland offered his condolences to the family and neighborhood affected by the fatal fire on September 22nd in Lorton, saying, "I've never experienced such a tragedy in Mount Vernon in all my time in the district."
Next, Hyland reviewed many of the same issues raised at the meeting he called on helicopter flights last month. (Read Lorton Patch's coverage of that meeting here.)
Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity also addressed the Federation. Herrity discussed the spate of burglaries that have plagued his district (which have yet to effect Lorton), sewer/septic issues and finally, the referendum that will be on county ballots in November pertaining to zoning ordinances. Herrity did not take a position on the referendum. Rather, he cited its confusing verbiage as fear that voters will not be clear what they are actually voting for. (The referendum in question, as well as other ballot measures and races can be viewed here. )
Supervisor Hyland then introduced Joyce Doughty, Director of the Solid Waste Disposal & Resources Recovery Division of the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES). Doughty addressed the pending effort by the DPWES to re-visit its existing contract with Covanta at the waste treatment facility located off Furnace Road.
Doughty said that an appraisal of the value of the facility is set to commence in the near future. The existing contract between the county and Covanta allows a brief window of time, which we are currently in, for which the county may explore the possibility of purchasing the facility.
This possibility has been the source of much speculation in recent weeks, including that it is a result of a rift between the county and Covanta over tipping fees, which is what Covanta charges for each ton of waste delivered by the county. Those fees are then passed along to taxpayers.
Doughty did not comment on such speculation, but said that the window of time when the contract could be re-evaluated presented the county with an opportunity that they needed to explore in the best interest of the taxpayers. Doughty emphasized several times the strength of the partnership between the county and Covanta, saying, "They are a good partner and we have a good relationship."
Michael Renga, who manages the facility for Covanta, echoed Doughty's sentiments.
The present arrangement between the county and Covanta runs through 2016. Covanta has a lease with the county to use the land through 2031. Should the county opt to purchase the facility their ownership would become effective at the time of the decision. Should the county choose not to purchase the facility, the arrangement would continue as is through 2016.
What would take place when that agreement ends has been one of the main sources of speculation. Many in the community fear that Covanta would then begin to seek additional customers from outside the area, which among other things, would increase truck traffic on Lorton Road, already a source of concern. Furthermore, there is also the possibility that Fairfax County might then have to take its trash elsewhere, which could potentially result in higher tipping fees, and therefore, higher taxes.
Another issue complicating matters is the energy that is converted by the plant and sold to Dominion Energy. 90% of the revenue from the sale of the energy goes to the county. It's unclear how revenue totals from the sale of energy would change were the county to take over the plant.
Finally, there is the matter of how the plant would be paid for. Supervisor Herrity, citing figures between $200-600 million, said that the county could not afford such an expense in light of the money that will be spent on schools and transportation in the coming years. He suggested that a 20-year lease be considerd as a way for the county to maximize its relationship with Covanta.
Supervisor Hyland has not taken a position on the issue.
Doughty emphasized that no decisions have been made regarding the plant and that appraisers have not even begun their work. Once the appraisers do begin, they will have 30 days to finish. At which point, they will make a recommendation to the County Board of Supervisors. The Board will then have 90 days to act on the recommendation. Should the Board opt to purchase the plant, the county would then have 60 days to arrange financing.
Doughty, addressing Herrity's concern over financing, said the funds would be raised through tipping fees and revenue bonds. She did also say that it would be a challenge for the county to arrange for financing, should they need to, in 60 days. But, ultimately it would be happen.
The meeting concluded with discussion pertaining specifically to the South County Federation such proffers and outreach in the community.
Next month's meeting will be on Election Day, November 2 in the library once again. Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Sharon Bulova is expected to attend.