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RCC’s Future Top Topic at Candidates Forum

by Karen Goff September 9, 2014 at 3:00 pm 10 Comments

RCC LOGO Candidates for the Reston Community Center’s Board of Governors talked about the future of RCC Monday night — its 2,000 annual programs in general and the plans to build a 50-meter indoor pool and recreation center, specifically.

Four candidates running for three openings in the annual preference poll took part in the 2014 Candidates Forum at RCC Hunters Woods. Two, William Penniman and Vicky Wingert, are incumbents.

The other two candidates are longtime Reston resident Linda Singer, who has served in a variety of local organizations, and William Keefe, a former RCC board member who was not re-elected in 2013.

As Reston, which has a new master plan and the first of its Silver Line Metro stations, prepares for growth, it is important that RCC grow with it, all candidates said.

“RCC is unique,” said Penniman, who has served on the board for eight years. “There is nothing like it in Virginia. No other community center has this kind of energy — it is important we preserve it. It is important we continue to strengthen and rise to meet needs that will grow.”

RCC will probably have to do that in the face of tough economics. The candidates said they do not want to have to raise the special tax that residents of Small Tax District 5 (Reston) already pay. RCC has studied building the new pool at Baron Cameron Park on land donated by the Fairfax County Park Authority, the county is also facing a cash crunch.

Residents of Small Tax District 5 are currently taxed 4.7 cents per hundred dollars of assessed home value. RCC officials say the expectation for future growth is that the tax base will grow with the population, not by raising rates.

“It is difficult [to predict] given the financial situation,” said Keefe. “It will take some time to assess what capital needs and revenue sources will be. We would like to diversify funding, proffers from developers and a series of other things to get to where we need to go to improve facilities for all people in Reston.”

Added Singer: “The county does not have the money either. There is space at Baron Cameron Park where we can build something, but I don’t believe the park authority will pay for it. All residents of Fairfax will not be happy if their taxes had to go up to pay for it.”

The board has been examining the proposed new pool since early 2013. Consultants from Brailsford & Dunlavy, hired for a feasibility study, say the new facility will cost about $30 million. The community has had mixed reaction to the expansion, and many of the detractors have said it is not a financial sound idea.

Before the idea can move forward, it will face a voter referendum, and RCC executive director Leila Gordon said that won’t happen in 2014.

“Our job as the Board of Governors is to find the best possible solution and deal that we can find,” said Wingert. “I think we are pursuing all the options possibly available. We [candidates] are all taxpayers too. It is ultimately up to community to decide what priorities are going to be and up to us to come up with best possible package.”

Residents of Small Tax District 5 should have received RCC ballots in the mail. Voting opens Sept. 12 by mail, online or in person.

  • Consis Tently-Wright

    It appears the candidates forum was a complete waste of time because none of the candidates clearly explained their position on the proposed new pool/indoor tennis. Incumbents traditionally do not have the guts to stick out their neck, and neither does ex-officio Keefe. So that leaves only one candidate, and she realistically states: ““The county does not have the money either. There is space at Baron Cameron Park where we can build something, but I don’t believe the park authority will pay for it. All residents of Fairfax will not be happy if their taxes had to go up to pay for it.”

    Well said – you got my vote!

  • STD#5 resident

    Oh, the RCC Board wants to build a new center sooo badly, they can taste it! All they are doing now is looking for a way to stick STD#5 residents with the tab.

  • Tammi Petrine

    I join with the two commenters below with a public plea:

    If you do NOT want to pay EXTRA RESTON TAXES for an expensive new REC CENTER (not our existing wonderful community center) that Fairfax County instead should provide, please vote for Linda Singer only on your RCC ballot which was recently mailed to your address. Please also mail the ballot vs. dropping it off at the RCC.

    Only 7 citizens attended this year’s RCC candidate forum. Of the 4 contenders for 3 seats available this year, ONLY LINDA SINGER recognizes the burden that will be placed on Restonians’ shoulders and on their Reston property deeds in perpetuity for financial responsibility of the expensive new Rec Center that RCC director Leila Gordon and RCC board member/Fairfax County Park Authority board Chair Bill Bouie (Yes, he holds BOTH positions) with some other current RCC board members are pushing. The Rec Center is the giant elephant in the room that none of the candidates, especially Bill Keefe, acknowledged in their candidate statements sent out with ballots. At the forum, he stated that the public would decide on an up/down vote on the Nov. 15 bond (to be paid by RESTON ONLY) referendum vote and ditto on a PERFORMING ARTS CENTER which is next on his wish list. How he can not consider the financial burden on ALL of Reston property owners is astonishing. We need Linda Singer and other board sitting members to expose the true costs of these dreams to the public.

    Small Tax District #5 which funds the existing Reston Community Center was never meant to be a bottomless source of special taxes for elaborate community amenities. Just as with the toll road which was never meant to fund billions of Metro Line expenses, we have to draw a line now before we are bankrupted.

    • Leila Gordon

      Mr. Keefe did not state there would be a November 2015 bond referendum; he simply stated that any capital facility project that RCC undertakes would be subject to voter approval as a bond referendum question put to Small District 5 voters. RCC is seeking solutions to the community’s desire for more indoor recreation and performing arts options for its growing population. How we accomplish that will require new approaches to funding including contributions from development, and County support (from the General Fund or other County resources.) The entire Board has committed to maintaining the current tax rate and using these approaches to support options that the community will be involved in shaping – as it has been for the past year and a half.

      • Tammi Petrine

        Mea culpa? No, I don’t think so, Leila. You and your ‘board’ are determined to push the issue of a rec center paid for by Restonians only. You didn’t select this year so next opportunity is 2015. Hopefully enough people will catch onto this scheme before then and you will withdraw your plans just as you were forced to withdraw the plans for a similar facility at Browns Chapel several years ago. I elected to mention Bill Keefe as he was egregiously eager to set us up for an “up/down vote”: his words.

        BTW, even if the rate stays the same, we will still all be paying much more as the county increases our RE assessments. The Reston public is educated and knows the math of rates multiplied by increased assessments = more $$$ for RCC/Small Tax District #5. Our schools have 31 students/classroom; our streets are crowded; our library is in jeopardy. We have other priorities that are needs vs wants. BUT… if the county has extra $$$ in the general fund, PLEASE have Mr. Bouie build the Reston Rec Center from Park Authority funds for us as it has for every other district in the county except RESTON/Hunter Mill. We’ve only been waiting 30+ years….

        Linda Singer is the only RCC candidate this year who is alert to the undue burden of self-funding another major Reston amenity. Please vote for her only and mail in your ballot in the envelope provided.

        • Leila Gordon

          “mea culpa: an acknowledgment of one’s fault or error.”
          Tammi, the above is not a mea culpa; there has not been a fault or error on my part with regard to anything in my post. Your views are well-known as are those of the more than 200 others who have contributed to our understanding of this issue since February 2013. We all continue to do the best we can to serve the community.

          • Tammi Petrine

            The “mea culpa” I was referring to was my own, Leila. Satire 101. Thanks for acknowledging that many in community know my views just as we, the tax payers know yours. By no means am I unique in my perspective of this issue.

      • Bill Bouie

        The RCC Board has made NO DECISION to pursue a Rec Center and if it does it will go to a referendum of Small District 5 voters before anything is finalized. NO REFERENDUM IS SCHEDULED!!!!!!

        There is no question that a Rec Center is needed in Reston and in the Hunter Mill District. That has been validated. What has not been determined is where it is to be located and how it will be paid for. The Park Authority is constantly exploring ways to meet the ever growing demands of tour diverse population and will be completing a new county wide needs assessment next year. If we look at our last needs analysis of what is needed, from a capital building, land acquisition, and maintenance program, there is a significant gap, over $200M, in meeting those requirements. Therefore we look to partnerships to provide as much support as we can through proffers, land dedications, and bonds to bridge that gap as much as we can.

        Just as Developers Timber Ridge at Discovery Square, Inc. provided the turnkey Sully Highlands Park, we hope to work with others to provide other projects as well as development continues. Our many community groups have stepped up to provide a major source of funding for our Synthetic Turf Program. There are many trails groups that have worked to get land dedicated for new trail systems. The RCC is another potential partner on a number of fronts, so all avenues are being explored. All of these plans and projects that come to fruition are years in the making.

        I have heard many people critical of the upgrades and expansions of the Rec Centers at Spring Hill and Oak Marr. Those facilities are over 30 years old and needed upkeep and repair. The plans for those programs were years in the making and the decisions were made in 2007. This is 2014, so you can see the gap.

        I just want everyone to know we are doing the best that we can with what we have, and we will continue to explore ALL avenues to meet the needs of our citizens. This is in spite of our budgets being cut 1% next year, and an additional 3% in FY 2017.

        Thank you for your support of Park Bond Programs. Our citizens overwhelmingly pass those and without them we would be even further behind the curve. You can always contact me directly and I would be more than happy to meet and discuss all of these issues.

        • Tammi Petrine

          Bill, glad to hear that no RCC referendum is in the works! We will hold you to that.

          What the community’s question is now, and always has been, is why (when times were good) tax money flowed abundantly from the Dulles Corridor and millions of proffer $ from Reston development poured into the county coffers, has Hunter Mill District NEVER had a rec center put on the ‘must-do NOW’ list of the FCPA? How can you or anyone in the Park Authority management think that the ONLY district to be shorted is the one who gave so much to so many others??? Did you think we did not deserve a rec center like each of the other 7 districts?

          Of course Hunter Mill people are sore that rich communities such as Oakton and McLean are getting multi-million dollar renovations! THEY are being paid for with Hunter Mill taxpayers’ money!!! But not one county cent has ever been spent on OUR rec center because no Hunter Mill rep has ever requested that we get one??? What’s wrong with that picture? You as CHAIR of the Park Authority board AND our FCPA representative for many years must answer that embarrassing question.

          Please do not cloud the issue with conversation about how to fund the obviously invisible Hunter Mill rec center and future partnerships IF those partnerships involve forced EXTRA RCC taxes on Hunter Mill folks. That will not work.

          It is NOW our turn!!! We want what we deserve and have been paying for everyone else in the county for the 50 years of Reston’s existence: A completely Fairfax County-funded rec center at the location specified in the 2014 approved Reston Master Plan, in the government Center adjacent to Reston Town Center where our police and library will be located.

          Thank you for your service and the hope that now you will advocate to the Park Authority for those you have represented for so many years.

  • Always Vigilant

    Obama’s a joke.

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