Reston Association budget crunch forces talks about delaying or cutting capital projects

Faced with a tight budget, Reston Association is contemplating what capital improvement projects it should prioritize — and which ones might need to be delayed or even cut.

At a budget work session on Wednesday (Aug. 18), the board of directors discussed planned renovations, cracking tennis courts, potential pool repurposing, and where the money is going to come from to address all of those issues.

RA’s capital needs have grown in recent years, according to a presentation delivered at the meeting by the chair of the fiscal committee Dave Kerr.

Over the next decade, it’s estimated that RA will need $40 million to cover capital costs, which have become a persistent concern. RA is currently working on a five-year capital improvement project plan to better assess its existing and future needs.

“We believe that we maybe should revisit even approved projects just to make sure we are working on the right things,” said Kerr.

The projected increase in costs is due in part to a renovation schedule with six pools over the next six years, according to the presentation.

The list includes Shadowood pool, which is currently closed while it waits for about $200,000 worth of maintenance. That is in addition to the $1.4 million needed to renovate the entire facility, according to another staff presentation.

The Shadowood pool is also among the facilities that RA has proposed potentially repurposing due to low usage.

The board devoted a chunk of the meeting to discussing if it’s worth spending money to do maintenance work on the community pool now, only for it to be renovated or even repurposed later.

The consensus was that it was not, leaving the possibility that the pool won’t be open again for the 2022 season.

RA is still gathering community feedback on its pool repurposing idea, though board member Sarah Selvaraj-D’Souza offered a motion asking that an in-person event be arranged to better interact with the residents who use that pool.

“Shadowood is a very different community [than the rest of Reston]. They don’t have the time…to sit through a RA board meeting,” said Selvaraj-D’Souza. “A lot of them are non-English speaking…If we want to get feedback from Shadowood, we need to get boots on the ground, and get their feedback.”

The motion was approved unanimously, committing RA to hold an in-person event — perhaps an ice cream social — to solicit feedback.

The Barton Hill tennis courts are also in need of a major overhaul, and comments during the meeting suggested that project is a staff priority.

The courts are cracked, the foundation is an issue, and some community members have requested converting them into pickleball courts. Other possible improvements include the addition of lights and a seasonal, roof-like covering. Of course, all of that would cost money — potentially more than $850,000.

The board didn’t make any decision on the Barton Hill project beyond requesting more information about the cost and timeline.

Given the amount of capital improvements waiting to be made, including many that the board didn’t have time to discuss, one board member floated the idea of RA borrowing money so it could afford all of the projects. The board has also discussed raising assessments next year.

Further complicating discussions about RA’s fiscal year 2022 is the impending departure of CEO Hank Lynch, who announced earlier this month that he will resign for another position. While he is still technically in the role until Sept. 3, he wasn’t in attendance at the virtual budget work session.

The board of directors named RA Chief Operating Officer Larry Butler acting CEO on Thursday (Aug. 19) as the organization conducts a search for a permanent replacement.

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