RA Puts Two Big Renovation Projects on Hold

by Karen Goff July 6, 2016 at 10:00 am 36 Comments

Pony Barn Renderings, July 2015/Credit:RAReston Association will put on hold two pricey renovation projects until the independent review into the Lake House is complete, said RA CEO Cate Fulkerson.

RA is in the process of forming an independent review committee to determine how the Lake House/Tetra renovations incurred a $430,000 overrun in the last several months.

The association will soon put out the call for members to be on a committee. The committee will then choose auditing professionals to conduct the investigation. RA hopes the review will be complete by September.

In the meantime, work has been halted on renovations of the Central Services Facility and the Pony Barn, says Fulkerson. Both of those projects are still in the design and planning stages.

“I asked the Board Governance Committee [in June] ‘would it be helpful if we just paused until the review is done?’ ” said Fulkerson. “The RA directors on the committee said ‘good idea.’ So I talked to contractors and asked for pencils down by June 30.”

The renovation of the Central Services Facility is expected to cost a little over $1 million. The facility, which houses Reston’s vehicle fleet and is the headquarters for grounds and maintenance crews, is more than 30 years old. It needs bathrooms, phone/Internet and HVAC systems brought up to date, as well as a meeting space for the more than 80 employees who are based there, Fulkerson said.

So far, only $15,863 for design work has been spent on the project in 2016, RA records show. The renovation is not slated to begin until November, said Fulkerson.

At the Pony Barn Recreation Area, $350,000 ($175,000 of it in the 2016 budget) has been marked for renovations aimed at making the park in south Reston the only fully handicapped-accessible RA facility.

The RA Board approved the renovations to the Pony Barn about a year ago. The spot at Steeplechase and Triple Crown currently houses a picnic pavilion and swing set.

The renovation began as a $30,000 project for a new floor and other updates to the pavilion. The Pony Barn Working Group assembled by RA expanded it to be a much bigger project though, including renovations to the pavilion, a playground accessible for people with disabilities, a tot lot, a paved pathway, a historical information kiosk, cooking grills and a deck to overlook a butterfly garden.

RA hired Fairfax-based Christopher Consultants earlier this year to do design work for the project. Of the $175,000 marked to be spent on the Pony Barn in 2016, about $18,000 has been spent so far this year.

Fulkerson said her goal is to get the Pony Barn “mostly, if not fully, covered through fundraising and developer contributions.”

She also said RA hopes to use information learned from the independent review in order to keep the Central Services Facility and the Pony Barn on budget as they get further in the renovation process.

Graphic: Rendering of changes for Pony Barn/Credit: RA

  • Reston Crimewatcher

    The Central Services Facility does not need meeting space. Why can’t they meet at the Taj Mahal office space we already pay for? Put some port-o-lets out there. They don’t need HVAC upgrades if they get in their air conditioned / heated trucks when they go to work. Feeding the beast that is RA is taking up all the money. Disband the entire thing.

    • eyroll

      Yes it makes loads of sense before a large all hands meeting, for everyine to drive over to the the RA offices, and then drive back to the maintenance facility.

      • Reston Crimewatcher

        Its probably less than 1 mile, and they could carpool. Don’t be silly.

        • Greg

          No, they can walk or, better yet, take the metro.

      • Mike M

        Schedule the meetings in the AM.

      • Overrunhell

        These threads have wandered into nonsense land. I can’t believe I’m reading this, demeaning employees who maintain our spaces. But then I see the recall petition has a whopping 21 signatures so far. So much for organizing, sticking to facts, outreach and avoiding the nonsense that turns off the rest of the community.

        Nothing will come of this, as all I see is this little echo chamber.

  • Guest

    If Central Facilities renovation was such a priority why did RA move forward on the Tetra deal? Priorities are severely distorted here.

  • Ming the Merciless

    She also said RA hopes to use information learned from the independent
    review in order to keep the Central Services Facility and the Pony Barn
    on budget

    We don’t need an independent review to get these projects “on budget”.

    What we need is simple, and already known – namely, you clowns who wasted our money should all resign and go away.

    You have abundantly demonstrated that you are incompetent, irresponsible, and totally untrustworthy stewards of the community.

  • Ming the Merciless

    The renovation of the Central Services Facility is expected to cost a
    little over $1 million. The facility, which houses Reston’s vehicle
    fleet and is the headquarters for grounds and maintenance crews, is more
    than 30 years old. It needs bathrooms, phone/Internet and HVAC systems
    brought up to date, as well as a meeting space for the more than 80
    employees who are based there

    Why do grounds and maintenance crews, who work outside, need the internet? They don’t.

    How often do all 80 of them meet at once? We note that the RA already has an adequate meeting space for this purpose:


    “Rooms accommodate small groups of 35 or fewer or large groups up to 170.”

    Are the groundskeepers too sweaty to meet in the HQ when they need to? You don’t want them stinking up your nice clean facility?

    • Overrunhell

      You’re kidding, right? I mean, your posts in the past have been well articulated, factual and reasonably unbiased. Do you know what a maintenance facility is, or does? I don’t know man, this isn’t you.

  • tmw313

    “The association will soon put out the call for members to be on a committee. The committee will then choose auditing professionals to conduct the investigation. RA hopes the review will be complete by September.”

    So how much is the independent review of the lake house project going to cost us? Auditors don’t work for free.

  • Gary Johnson is my God

    Ming is right, why would crews providing services for the homeowners association ever need access to the internet? Why should they get to use bathrooms? Or work in climate controlled conditions? As Reston Crime Watcher advocates, let’s disband the entire homeowners association!

    Paying $600 a year is too much money!

    I want to live in a geographic area without any services or restrictions on what is built or where and what my neighbor puts in their yard! Purple houses for everyone!

    • Reston Crimewatcher

      They don’t work there. They go there to get in their vehicles and drive elsewhere.

      • Reston Dumbwatcher

        nonsense. They do work there, have you ever been?

    • Mike M

      I’ll help you pack!

  • Need to save money so to buy Tall Oaks and build a lake house there.

  • Nyla J.

    Turn the Lake House into the new central services facility, as-is. Park the fleet there. Sell the old facility to a developer. All problems solved.

  • Tammi Petrine

    How is any adequate investigation of a very complex set of questions about the Tetra referendum and the ensuing series of SNAFU’s resulting in massive spending overruns going to be accomplished in a month??? The audit must be a valid, complete examination of the facts so that RA can reform the processes that lead to this sad situation. The timing of the result can not be pre-determined. This can not be a whitewash. Otherwise, why bother?

    • Overrunhell

      Then why don’t you volunteer? Set ’em straight.

    • 30yearsinreston

      How long does it take to do was whitewash ?

    • John Higgins

      I fear you are right, Tammi, that the board’s timeline is unrealistic and threatens the required thoroughness. It was haste to close the deal that left many questions unasked (much less answered) and haste played a large part in renovation planning. The review will require multiple interviews, at a time when many people will be unavailable due to holiday plans. When the work period is extended to complete this job one can be sure of seeing one thing: another cost overrun. We can only hope that bidders will be upfront about their fee in the likely event that the work period needs to be extended.

      The renovation “overrun” is probably the easiest part of this review. Prior to the purchase, no renovation plans had been considered or priced. Someone advised RA that renovating a 35-year old office building (presumably modernized and up-to-code, but not re-purposed) typically runs $80/ sq.ft. That’s the basis for the number we saw in the referendum materials. With usage plans in front of RA and specific components priced, the first and only valid estimate was on the table. So the answer to the “overrun” question will be fairly easy: an invalid estimate was inserted at the start. Why? What should they have done? Why did no one question this process? We won’t like the answers, but that part of the review should be completed in a few days.

      There are a number of issues far more important. Read the appraiser’s report and ask why an additional $1.35 million of value was added if the property were marketed as a restaurant site? That supposes that one could, indeed, build out into Lake Newport despite county ordinance restrictions. There might be reasonable explanations, but this is a discussion that should have been aired in detail before the purchase, not a year later.

      • Reston Crimewatcher

        Get Fulkerson’s emails. Hell, get all the board members’ emails. If they refuse or say they are all deleted, then it will be clear.

      • Overrunhell

        John, did you say you were the treasure in 2003, when the Tetra owner started the process of building a tall office building and restaurant at that location. I believe Susan Jones was the president then. What was Reston Association’s position back then? Did you have any input?

        • John Higgins

          Yes, I was involved with RA back then. I have no recollection of any issue involving that property coming to the board in 2003, or for that matter, in 2010 when Milton Matthews obtained an appraisal. In those days, the treasurer was not on any executive committee, so unless an issue ripened to the point of full board discussion, I would not have seen it. If Susie Jones is a reader, perhaps she can add to this conversation.

          • Overrunhell

            Thanks John. It appears Mark Looney was deeply involved with the owner of Tetra at that time. As I understand they were very close to getting it done. Just trying to understand what the RA board did with it. They must have been aware, and had views on the matter.

            You were on the board for the Pony Barn item, correct? Any thoughts there.

          • John Higgins

            i was shocked by the price tag for Pony Barn and dismayed at the lack of perspective in the decision to approve the plan. It is a good plan and this will be an attractive facility. But in consenting, the board did not line this up again other projects – some of which would have served a wider field of members – thereby eliminating the competition for resources that is pretty basic to a sound budget process.

          • Overrunhell

            But, it started out as a $30,000 project funded by an outside partner. The affected community went against it. Reston Association apparently listened and created a community working group to determine an appropriate future for the dilapidated facility. You say you were there, what did you say or do? Your colleagues? What happened?

          • John Higgins

            The earliest plan was a modest up-dating of the area, with $30,000 coming from RA’s capital fund. Some folks talked about a “re-purposing” of the facility and there was mention of IPAR contribution public art. Some of the possible new uses of the facility were objectionable to nearby residents (and others) so a working group was formed to suggest alternatives. I was no longer involved with RA when the project was approved, so I can’t comment.
            I have no real complaint with converting a marginal facility to one that will be inviting and more useful. I think the process was flawed by not giving the working group budget guidance up front, a flaw we see repeated in the Lake House project. Maybe the board has learned from these two projects.

          • Overrunhell

            So I was doing some digging to see how RA approaches these projects. It appears they follow the land use resolution which the board, and I suspect you approved in 2014. In further digging I’m confused.

            You now say you are shocked, but a year ago you stated in RestoN Now: https://www.restonnow.com/2015/07/31/ra-approves-pony-barn-concept-but-must-find-350k-to-implement/

            “The RA budget for the next two years has not been developed and won’t be approved by the board until the last quarter of this year. The board set up a reserve for new spending like this. So, either they will draw down the reserve or put aside $175,000 in 2016 and again in 2017 for this purpose (if this is the high priority on their spending list.) I think reserving for new investment is a great idea, but that plan shouldn’t be confused with an actual budget.

            The project has, indeed, morphed from a renovation to a reinvention. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Can we afford it after the major investment in Tetra? As others have pointed out, it comes down to priorities. Note that RA ended 2014 with revenues in excess of expenses of $913,000. And that’s after deducting non-cash expense (depreciation) of $1.6 million. That comes close to a “wow”. And it makes a $350k investment sound quite affordable.”

      • cRAzy

        The reason the $1.35MM was added for restaurant use was that the proposal for the conversion DOUBLED the size of the building—which would have been illegal.

    • cRAzy

      It is taking RA TWO months to pick a selection team and then a contractor in mid-August. (This idea was approved in late June.)

      And then they want the contractor to turn around a thorough, independent report in ONE month–by end of September–so it fits RA’s budget schedule!

      What are these idiots thinking? (Forgive me, I know they are NOT thinking; they’re just being REALLY stupid.)

      Hey, we’ve already adjusted this year’s budget by $430K to address Tetra cost overruns. We can wait until the middle of next year to slash spending on Tetra, maybe even sell the hole. Hell, give the damn thing away; that will cost less than further work.

      No audit report needs to be done by September 2016.

  • Why do you bother?


  • Overrunhell

    I assume the commenters here are just having some fun…right…?

    • Nyla J.

      Welcome to Reston.

  • 30yearsinreston

    Just the first shoe falling
    Expect lots of other critical projects to be helved because of this money sucking pit which benefits a few wealthy lake Newport homeowners

    • Northpoint h8r

      This is the only post in this thread that is true. This Lake House fiasco was only to benefit those few wealthy homeowners that have houses close to the building. Now the rest of Reston suffers because of this boondoggle. I still want some damn shade umbrellas at my local pool, but somehow they get over $3 million for this stupid lake house. Bulldoze it, tear up the parking lot, and call it a day. The point was to preserve “greenspace” right? Well let’s make some green space.


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