Butler, a long-time employee of RA, was formerly the chief operating officer nd actually was the acting CEO once before, prior to the hiring of Lynch in 2018.
All of this is to say that Butler understands RA and the challenges that come with running one of the largest community associations in the country.
It’s also a complicated time for RA, with the organization in the midst of budget season, possibly increasing assessments, cutting capital projects, and still dealing with the effects of the pandemic.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Reston Now (RN): Since you took over as acting CEO in early September, what’s been taking most of your time? What have been the challenges so far?
Larry Butler: What’s taking the most time is working through the budget process, which is always time consuming. The key part there is trying to get a [grasp] from the broader community on what the priorities are for the coming year. There’s obviously a lot of opinions on what those priorities should be and how we fund those priorities.
RN: And what have you heard from the community so far?
LB: Not as much as we would have liked. I would have thought we have had more people participating in the September board meeting. We’ve had listening and work sessions… and very, very few members are jumping on that.
We do a pretty good job of getting information out there. One person [told me] maybe that means people are okay with the job that RA is doing in the community. Maybe that leads to some apathy, at least regarding the budget.
RN: In terms of the budget, an assessment increase is being considered. Why is that and is there any way to avoid it?
LB: We are a staff-driven organization, a service organization. Whether that is our central service facility, taking care of all of our myriad facilities throughout the community, or our programing staff and intelligence, we are staff-driven. What I’ve put into the budget draft is a 3% merit pool increase because there was no merit increase in 2021. I feel strongly that’s a very important thing. It’s a very difficult job market right now.
Insurance costs are also going up, that’s something we must absolutely pay for. There’ll be three new positions as well. We’re going to be adding into the next budget draft a senior environmental position at the RA Board’s direction. We are currently operating without three of our senior leadership team. We don’t have a CEO, our IT director resigned, and October 20 is the last day for our director of Human Resources. There’s also inflation.
One of our considerations to help offset these costs and increasing assessments… is looking at our fiscal position in terms of the repair and replacement fund as well as some operating surplus going forward in 2022, as well as possibly 2023.
RN: If assessments do increase, how does that impact the affordability of living in Reston? There’s been some discussion about working with the Friends of Reston on providing help to those who can’t afford the assessments.
LB: We haven’t fully fleshed out how that could work yet. It’s a difficult situation because when one buys into or even rents in Reston, it’s contractual in nature. We don’t have the ability in our governing documents to afford relief. We’ll have more discussion about it, certainly with the Friends of Reston. The difficulty there too is that there’s limited funding there as well. We may be able to assist a handful of people, but not hundreds.
RN: There’s been a lot of talk about capital improvement projects, renovations, and possibly “repurposing” of pools. Where is the discussion currently at with that and how is a decision made on that?
LB: In terms of big projects, we are not in much different position than in years past. But, sure, none have been like Lake Thoreau Pool, which is much more complicated because it’s next to a lake… that will be the biggest capital project we’ve ever done in terms of cost.
In terms of smaller projects on pools and tennis courts, what we are finding now is that it makes more sense if you are going to go spend a [few] hundred thousands of dollars on a pool, that might be a time to rethink the shape. Or could it be something else? I think we’ve done a really good job of managing that and managing the expectations.
Anytime you bring up the notion of closing recreation facilities, whether it’s a pool or a tennis court, you get a lot of input. Those four pools [being considered for repurposing] have historically really low usage, but cost is the same to maintain and repair. We’ve heard a lot from those [communities] around those four pools. It’s really about starting a conversation about what’s possible.
In the end, if that conversation leads to we would like our pool exactly the way it is, so be it. That’s what we will program for and budget for. It was really just to get that conversation on the table.
RN: What’s the status update on the process of finding a new permanent CEO?
We are finalizing the contract with the search firm. Hopefully, that will be done [soon]. The search firm will be putting together a profile based upon input from the RA board… like what skill sets, traits, and experiences are wanted. Then, we will kick it off in earnest.
There’s not an established timeline, at least not until the board meets with the search firm. Typically, a search like this could take four to five months.
RN: Any last thoughts you’d like to share?
LB: We have public hearings on the budget coming up on October 13 and November 10. It would be great to have people come out and share their thoughts.
We know people are so busy and they get most engaged when something impacts them really close to their homes, like the pool discussion, but talking about the more nebulous things that don’t impact them exactly where they live, it’s harder for them to get excited about that.
Reston Association pitched several major capital projects to Friends of Reston (FOR) last week in hopes of enlisting the nonprofit as a fundraiser, but the proposal didn’t go over as planned.
RA staff made the case at the joint board meeting on Thursday (Aug. 19) that it could use FOR’s help to cover the costs of three projects: a Brown’s Chapel event barn, a Walker Nature Center treehouse, and an inclusive playground similar to the one at Clemyjontri Park in McLean — each with an estimated cost of more than a million dollars.
However, the RA and FOR boards both expressed hesitation and even frustration at the appeal, citing a lack of membership feedback, COVID-related sensitivities, and an ongoing budget crunch.
“For any kind of capital campaign, we’d have to see that 80% of the community wants this,” FOR President Carol Nahorniak said. “I’m concerned about the cost…Looking at that price tag, we always know it will cost more. There are certain things I’m just not comfortable with.”
RA Director Sarah Selvaraj-D’Souza said she had heard only about the event barn prior to the meeting with FOR, calling it “embarrassing” that the board of directors wasn’t made aware of the other projects sooner.
RA interim CEO Larry Butler downplayed the pitch, saying all of this was simply “brainstorming” based on examples of potential major capital projects from staff.
This isn’t the first time that RA has solicited FOR’s assistance with funding a major capital project. The completion of the Nature House at the Walker Nature Center in 2019 was the result of a capital campaign that raised $1.5 million for the design and construction.
However, FOR has not been involved with a major capital project since then.
Instead, FOR typically helps Reston Association with a multitude of smaller projects, causes, and programs every year.
The nonprofit made some funding requests of its own at the meeting, submitting a list with items like camp and tennis scholarships for kids, habitat restoration enhancements, and an environmental film series.
The largest ask in terms of dollars was nearly $11,000 to assist members who are struggling to pay their RA annual assessments, which could increase again.
Granting all the requests would cost RA just over $84,000. Both boards will discuss their top priorities on the list at a later date.
However, there might not be much of an appetite right now for RA and FOR to collaborate on any bigger projects.
Board members indicated during the meeting that pandemic-related concerns remain on many minds. Other factors behind the lack of commitment include the potential assessment increase due to rising operational expenses, higher priority capital projects, and the need to hire a new CEO.
Of the three projects proposed by RA staff as potential ideas for collaboration, the events barn drew particular consternation.
According to FOR’s governing documents, the organization is not allowed to help fund a project that would generate revenue — which is exactly the intention of the event barn.
Nahorniak noted that all capital projects take longer, cost more, and garner more intense reaction than often anticipated.
“Friends of Reston just stays away from controversy,” Nahorniak said. “I don’t want to be involved in a project that could embarrass anyone.”
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.
Reston Woman Dies After Car Crash — Stephanie D. Garcia, 29, of Reston died at Fairfax Inova Hospital on Aug. 8 from injuries she sustained the previous day in a two-car crash on I-95 at the 169-mile marker in Springfield. Reportedly not wearing a seatbelt, Garcia was thrown from her car when another vehicle struck it head on while she was making a U-turn. The other driver was transported to a hospital for treatment of serious injuries. [Virginia State Police]
D.C. Restaurant Week Returns — The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington’s summer D.C. Restaurant Week kicked off yesterday (Monday) and will last through Sunday (Aug. 15), with many participants again offering to-go options. Reston-area venues include Founding Farmers, Makers Union, The Melting Pot, and more. [Viva Tysons]
Construction on Autumnwood Pickleball Courts Begins — “Construction has begun on the permanent pickleball courts at the Autumnwood Recreation facility. Pickleball players have been temporarily moved to courts 3 and 4. Tennis will no longer be played at Autumnwood until the new pickleball courts are finished in September. When construction has been completed, tennis will resume at Autumnwood.” [RA News]
General Assembly Approves COVID Relief Plan — “The General Assembly on Monday approved a spending plan for $4.3 billion in federal coronavirus relief money, with lawmakers leaving about $1.1 billion unappropriated so it is available for future needs if the pandemic worsens…The plan calls for using $800 million of the American Rescue Plan money to replenish the state’s unemployment trust fund, $700 million for rural broadband, $411 million on clean-water projects, $353 million for small-business relief and $250 million for school ventilation systems.” [The Washington Post]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Reston Association is putting together a five-year plan for capital improvement projects as a number of decades-old facilities are in need of upgrades.
At last week’s Board of Directors meeting, staff provided a draft that details the capital improvement projects facing the organization over the next five years.
In much the same vein as one put together by other localities like the town of Herndon, the document will detail the cost, timeline, and designs of both major projects — ones that will cost over $500,000 — and minor ones.
“It includes a strategic plan…how we currently fund our projects, what are the major projects, and outlines all capital spending,” RA Director of Capital Projects Chris Schumaker said.
While the draft was provided to board members, it is not expected to be made public until before the Board of Directors budget work session on Aug. 18, when it will be discussed more at length, confirms RA spokesperson Mike Leone.
The potential increase is being contemplated due to a rise in operating expenses and the number of capital improvement projects that are being undertaken over the next several years. Back in March, a recreation facility work group determined that some of RA’s decades-old facilities are in dire need of renovations and work.
There are currently eight active capital projects and another 30 that are scheduled, according to RA’s website.
The renovations will turn two tennis courts into pickleball courts, which are expected to be completed in time for Reston’s first “Paddle Battle” tournament. In addition, construction on four footbridges will start next month and be completed early next year, Leone tells Reston Now.
There’s also the much-discussed renovation of Lake Thoreau pool, which received final approval from RA’s design review board last week. Construction on the $3.5 million project is now supposed to start in November — a four-month delay from initial estimates — with a grand opening expected for May 2023.
While new pools may be opening, there’s a chance several may be closing.
In May, RA staff recommended that four neighborhood pools be “seriously considered for repurposing,” which could mean closure, due to budgetary concerns and low usage. RA is currently collecting community feedback on that proposal.
The Reston Association Design Review Board gave its final approval to the $3.5 million renovation of Lake Thoreau pool, though with a request to see a color sample.
The approval at the design review board meeting on Tuesday (July 20) keeps the project on track for construction to begin in October or November, RA spokesperson Mike Leone confirms to Reston Now in an email.
While the motion to approve the application passed unanimously, it came with a request for a physical sample of the teal color that would be used for a railing.
Besides colors and railings, there was some discussion at the meeting about fencing as well as the cost of redesigning and maintaining the overlook deck.
However, none of that held up approval, allowing the multi-million dollar pool project to move forward.
Leone writes that RA is already going on to the next steps of the renovation process, including moving through the estimation and procurement phase.
“We have already released the RFP (request for proposal) to potential contractors and are awaiting their submissions due around this time next month,” writes Leone. “With that information, RA staff will be able to generate a final estimate for the project and seek Board of Director approval to move forward with construction.”
He anticipates the RA Board’s approval of the project to come in September with construction to begin shortly after, barring any more contractor or material availability-related delays.
Key design elements of the renovation include ADA access with a ramp into the pool, a redesign of the overlook deck, pool reconstruction, expansion of the parking lot, and repositioning of the spa away from the bathhouses as well as modifying and expansion of said bathhouses.
Lake Thoreau pool was closed last year for renovations that are expected to be completed in the fall of 2022. A grand opening is being planned for May or June 2023, the beginning of the pool season.
Two Charged in Herndon Man’s Death — “Fairfax County Police charged two Sterling men already in police custody Thursday in connection with the May 7 fatal shooting of 26-year-old Brian Constanza-Campos of Herndon…In the first six months of 2021, Fairfax County has already had 10 homicides.” [Patch]
Hook Road Tennis Court Renovations Delayed — “Due to availability and delivery issues of materials, as well as difficulties scheduling exterior work, Reston Association is anticipating a 3-to-4-week delay on completion of the Hook Road tennis renovation project. We now expect substantial work to be finished by Aug. 13.” [RA/Twitter]
Park Authority Board Resumes In-Person Meetings — After a 15-month shift to virtual meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fairfax County Park Authority Board will meet in person once again starting with its scheduled 7:30 p.m. meeting on July 14 at the Herrity Building. The board will also resume opening meetings with a public comment period. [FCPA]
Virginia Federal Prosecutors Increase Support for Civil Rights Cases — “Acting U.S. Attorney For the Eastern District of Virginia Raj Parekh announced Thursday the creation of a civil rights team within the office’s criminal division. Prosecutors will investigate hate crimes, bias-related incidents, and alleged law enforcement misconduct, among other crimes.” [WTOP]
(Updated at 8:55 a.m. on 6/25/2021) The threat of COVID-19 is starting to dissipate, but some of the changes that the Reston Community Center implemented in response to the pandemic could be here to stay.
Despite the expenses associated with video production, the community center will continue to offer some hybrid programming going forward, letting people choose whether they want to participate in person or virtually, RCC Executive Director Leila Gordon says.
Gordon told the RCC Board of Governors when it met on June 7 that the reservation system put in place for drop-in activities after the community center reopened in July 2020 could also become a permanent fixture.
Before RCC started requiring reservations, some programs would attract more people than they could accommodate, leading to “squabbles” over space in a water aerobics class, for example, in the Terry L. Smith Aquatics Center lobby, according to Gordon.
The new system, which requires attendees to get a pass in advance, has alleviated those issues.
“This system now allows people to pick the time they want to come, to be assured that there will be space for them,” Gordon said. “They make a kind of appointment and commitment…So, some of those innovations are things that we will keep.”
Even with facilities closed for more than three months and many programs, including summer camps, canceled, RCC’s June 2021 Annual Report suggests this past year was a busy one, as staff continuously adjusted to the ever-changing conditions introduced by the pandemic.
RCC used the lull in on-site activities to address a host of capital projects, including minor upkeep that is normally confined to a two-week maintenance period each August.
Projects tackled in the last year include:
- A CenterStage renovation that put in a new carpet and an assistive listening system, while completely replacing the existing seating with the addition of 260 new seats
- RCC Lake Anne Wellness Studio floor replacement
- New safety features, such as clearer step delineation, and a new carpet for the Hunter Woods pool overlook
- Installation of new meeting room dividers at RCC Hunter Woods
- Installation of 12 data ports across the Lake Anne and Hunter Woods facilities to support livestreaming
RCC also tackled most of the remaining tasks on its aquatics center renovation, most recently replacing gutter grates in a process that was completed last Friday (June 18).
Gordon says the center will be closed for about 12 days at the end of August so the contractors can put in the final touches, including applying a protective coating to the gutter’s cement ceiling and calibrating the dehumidification unit.
RCC’s other priorities for the past year included supporting its community partners, maintaining communications with staff and patrons — particularly older individuals who might have felt especially isolated — and adapting programs and events to online or socially distanced settings. Read More
Construction on improvements to the intersection of Elden and Center streets is now underway.
The Town of Herndon held a groundbreaking ceremony yesterday (Monday) to celebrate the initial steps of the project, which will realign the intersection, provide a new traffic signal, and add a turn lane.
“The two primary goals of the project is to signalize the intersection and to align the roadway on both sides of the road,” Richard Smith, a senior civil engineer for the town’s Department of Public Works, said. “And we’re accomplishing that by adding a right through turn lane on the south side of the intersection.”
The project also entails upgrades to the existing storm drain system and enhancements to the intersection’s pedestrian facilities, including improved crosswalks and new ADA signals. It is being coordinated with Comstock’s plans to redevelop downtown Herndon, which will encompass 4.7 acres adjacent to the Elden-Center street intersection.
Smith said there will undoubtedly some interruption to traffic during construction, but the town will do its “best to minimize any of those impacts and advertise those the best we can.”
The town council awarded a contract for the project on May 11 to Fort Meyer Construction Corporation with a low bid of $863,000 from five bids submitted.
Up to 50% of the construction contract will be covered by reimbursement funds through a revenue-sharing agreement between Herndon and the Virginia Department of Transportation. The costs not supported by the revenue-sharing agreement will come from local funds from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.
Town manager Bill Ashton confirmed that the project is currently projected to come in under budget at around $1.4 million. It is scheduled to be completed in spring 2022.
The Elden-Center street project is one of several capital projects in the works for Herndon’s downtown area.
The town council recently awarded a contract for pedestrian improvements at the Elden and Monroe street intersection, and a third phase of streetscape improvements is expected to start construction this year.
The Reston Association Board of Directors appeared to come to a general agreement during a recent meeting that member assessments need to be raised in 2022.
The question, of course, is exactly how much.
According to a table presented by RA CEO Hank Lynch, additional operating expenses are set to be added to the 2022 budget to the tune of about $850,000. These expenses include staff pay increases, insurance costs, and additional positions.
By Lynch and RA treasurer Bob Petrine’s estimates, this could mean assessments will need to increase by approximately 6%, or about $40 per member. The assessment currently sits at $718.
However, the exact increase may vary depending on RA’s non-assessment revenue (like facility rentals, camps, and garden plots) and budget cuts.
There’s also a host of capital improvement projects that are ongoing or upcoming. While nothing new is currently expected to be added to the budget, Petrine cautioned the board to consider what could come in the future.
There’s also a potential option of deferring some of these projects, something RA has done before.
Over the course of several budget meetings planned for the coming weeks, the board will discuss exact finances, potential cuts (including the potential “repurposing” of some pools), and what an increase could look like.
The first of these meetings is set for tonight (June 8). The plan for this evening is for the RA Board to provide Lynch with a percentage range for an increase that the RA board would be comfortable with.
Assessment increases are nothing new for RA members. Last year, it went up by $10, or close to 1.4%. In 2019, it went up by 2.2%. Overall, between 2010 and 2018, the assessment went up by a combined 34%.
However, this potential 6% raise would be the highest in a number of years.
Taking the rising costs of personnel and facility maintenance and improvement projects, how would you feel about Reston Association raising assessments again?
Herndon is moving forward with another capital improvement project.
The Herndon Town Council voted 6-0 on Tuesday (May 25), with Vice Mayor Cesar del Aguila absent, to award a contract to the Ashburn Construction Corporation for the Elden Street and Monroe Street Intersection Improvement Project.
The intersection project is similar to other projects in the town’s Capital Improvement Program in that it will include brick crosswalks and sidewalks as well as ADA compliant curb ramps. The project will also bring a new traffic signal and storm drainage improvements.
Ashburn Construction Corporation beat out one other bidder to win the $1.1 million contract.
Half of the funding for the construction costs is available for reimbursement through revenue-sharing funds collected from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. The NVTA funds come from the 30% local distribution revenue given to localities for transportation projects through House Bill 2313, which was passed in 2013.
According to the Town of Herndon’s Fiscal Year 2021-2026 CIP, this project will link the East Elden Project, the Downtown Streetscape Project, and the Elden-Monroe private development project, a reference to the now-completed Junction Square mixed-use development.
The East Elden Project is being designed and constructed by the Virginia Department of Transportation, which plans to widen Elden Street into a six-lane divided section between Herndon and Fairfax County parkways and a four-lane section from Herndon Parkway to Van Buren Street. The project will also include streetscape and median enhancements.
The Elden/Monroe project will provide a transition when the street narrows down to two travel lanes west of Van Buren Street and approaching Monroe Street, according to the CIP.
The Downtown Streetscape project entails widening and enhancing streetscapes with brick sidewalks, grated tree wells and other features. Construction on the project’s third phase is expected to begin this year for an anticipated completion in 2022.
Image via Town of Herndon
The Herndon Town Council is nearing approval of its fiscal years 2023-2027 Capital Improvement Program, which includes newly added projects like a traffic signal along Herndon Parkway at Sunset Park Drive and a possible expansion of the Herndon Police Department’s parking lot.
Every year, the Town of Herndon updates its six-year schedule for public improvements known as the Capital Improvement Program. The projects scheduled for the upcoming fiscal year — in this case, FY 2022 — are adopted along with the budget, while the rest of the program is adopted separately.
CIP projects have been limited the past two fiscal years due to budget constraints resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, going forward, the town hopes these new projects will proceed on the proposed timeline.
The CIP has 49 projects, six of which are added in this year’s version, including:
- New Herndon Parkway traffic signal at Sunset Park Drive. This project will also add new street lighting, signals for bikes and pedestrians, and crosswalks to improve safety and traffic circulation access to Sunset Business Park. It has an anticipated completion date of FY 2025 and an estimated cost of about $4.5 million.
- Herndon Police Department parking lot expansion. The first step is to initiate a study to determine how many more parking spots are needed and an estimated budget for construction. Both the study and construction are expected to happen in fiscal year 2023.
- HVAC and roof replacements at 1481 Sterling Road. First installed around 1986, the roof and four HVAC units at the town facility on Sterling Road have far exceeded their lifespans. These are “emergency” improvements, Herndon Deputy Director of Public Works John Irish noted Tuesday, and they’re estimated to be completed in fiscal year 2023.
- Energy conservation project. The town will utilize energy audits done in 2017 to inform decisions about replacing equipment, lighting, heating systems to make town buildings and infrastructure more energy efficient. While the project is expected to cost about $22,000 upfront in fiscal year 2023, it could reduce the town’s energy bills by over $380,000 annually. “[It] will essentially fund itself by the savings the program identifies,” Irish said.
- Fuel tank replacement at Town Shop facility. The two underground 10,000-gallon tanks used to fuel all town-owned vehicles are nearing the end of their lifespans. A study will be done in FY 2022 to identify any environmental concerns before the tanks are replaced in FY 2023.
- Herndon Community Center pool pak replacement. “This is a critical piece of equipment for the conditioning of the water and also the air that circulates in the natatorium,” Irish said. The units are reaching the end of their life cycles. Design work is set to be completed this year, and then, the roughly $500,000 replacement is expected to happen in FY 2023.
Overall, town staff is recommending just over $150 million in CIP projects over the next six years, with a large portion of the funding coming from the general government fund.
Irish noted that a number of transportation projects are expected to undergo construction and be completed soon, so they will likely not be in next year’s version of the CIP.
Photo via Bill Ashton/Facebook
(Updated at 2:30 p.m. on 5/19/2021) Reston Association staff is recommending that four pools be “seriously considered for repurposing” due to low usage.
Pool usage will be discussed at a joint work session with the RA board and Recreation Facilities Working Group on Thursday (May 20), along with budgetary recommendations based on findings that the working group presented in late February.
Two decades of data that RA CEO Hank Lynch will present at the work session show that Golf Course Island, Newbridge, Tall Oaks, and Shadowood pools all have lower usage compared to RA’s 11 other pools.
As a result, staff recommends that RA consider “repurposing” the facilities. Tall Oaks and Shadowood are both currently closed for ongoing capital improvement projects.
With pools now open for the 2021 season, the staff recommendations come on the heels of a year-long evaluation by the recreation facilities work group that found a number of decades-old facilities are in need of work and repairs.
The group noted in its report that funding for these capital projects may not be sustainable without a significant increase in members’ annual assessment.
Over the next decade, RA is scheduled to spend about $40 million to operate, maintain, and address capital improvement needs on its 15 pools and more than 50 tennis courts, according to Thursday’s work session presentation.
When asked to comment about what could happen to these specific pools, RA spokesperson Mike Leone told Reston Now in an email that their fate has yet to be determined:
The Facility Working Group’s work session is simply the start of the process. During the work session participants will review the Recreation & Facilities Working Group findings and recommendations on RA’s recreation facilities and the long term operational, maintenance and capital costs for such facilities. ‘Repurposing’ of some facilities may be a consideration and any decision to do so down the road, will require significant community input and discussion, involve RA’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee and would be the decision of the Board of Directors.
When asked if “repurposing” could mean the potential closing of those pools, Leone demurred.
“‘Repurposing’ could mean reimaging the space for a different type of amenity or use of interest to members,'” he wrote.
In general, pool usage has dropped by about 37% over the last decade, according to the work group’s data. Every pool except for Dogwood and Glade has seen a decrease in usage since 2010.
The four pools that have seen the least frequent usage as of 2019, Golf Course Island, Newbridge, Tall Oaks, and Shadowood were all built between 1969 and 1976, making them three to four decades old. It has cost about $9.6 million in total to maintain and operate them over the last 10 years.
In total, RA has spent about $33 million on pool maintenance and operations since 2010.
Budgetary concerns and lower usage aside, a number of community members told Reston Now that they want those four pools to remain open, saying they value their neighborhood pools and believe that recent usage statistics alone do not tell the full story.
Golf Course Square Cluster Association President Elmer Reinhardt says that 400 units would be affected by the repurposing or closing of the Newbridge pool.
“Newbridge pool is the only pool in Reston that you don’t have to cross a through-street to get to it,” he said. “The children can walk to that pool without ever crossing a highway, and we think that’s important.”
A resident of the community for more than 40 years, Reinhardt says he believes the recent lower usage has more to do with the population being cyclical.
“We’re seeing a huge influx of young families into our neighborhoods now and those are the ones that use the pools,” he said.
He argues that it would be shortsighted to make a decision to repurpose or close certain pools based just on recent data.
“[The demographics] change every 10 to 15 years. One year, you’ll only see wheelchairs being pushed on the sidewalks and, the next, only strollers,” he said.
RA has recently renovated several of their pools, including an ongoing and much-discussed $3.5 million facelift for Lake Thoreau. This spring, Glade pool’s slide was resurfaced, and new lighting was added.
The presentation suggests that a “seasonal indoor racket sports facility should be considered,” along with amenities sought by new RA members.
Currently, a conversation about pools is currently not on the agenda for the RA Board of Directors meeting on May 27, Leone confirms.
However, there remains a possibility that it could be added to the agenda prior to the meeting, and members can discuss it during the meeting’s comment period if they wish.
Photo courtesy Reston Association
Another capital improvement project is moving closer to completion in the Town of Herndon.
The Herndon Town Council unanimously voted in favor of awarding a contract to Fort Myer Construction Corporation for improvements at the Elden and Center streets intersection during its public session on May 11.
Fort Myer submitted a bid of $863,000, the lowest of five bids that the town received for the project.
The project will reconstruct and realign the existing intersection “to incorporate additional turn lanes as well as a new fully operational traffic signal,” Herndon Deputy Director of Public Works John Irish says.
According to the project description, the lane and signal changes will be installed in conjunction with improvements to the existing storm drain system and enhancements to pedestrian facilities located at the intersection, including the addition of brick sidewalks.
The project description states that these enhancements “will assist with the existing and future mixed-use residential development on Center Street which places greater traffic volumes in this project area.”
The project is expected to be completed by 2023.
Up to 50% of the construction contract will be covered by reimbursement funds through a revenue-sharing agreement between Herndon and the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Irish told the council during a work session on May 4 that the cost fell below the $930,000 that had been budgeted for the project.
He added that the plan to make up the half of the costs not supported by revenue-sharing funds is to use local funds collected from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. The NVTA funds come from the 30% local distribution revenue given to localities for transportation projects through House Bill 2313, which was passed in 2013.
The Elden-Center Street project is one of 48 capital projects included in Herndon’s FY 2021 – FY 2026 Capital Improvement Program that was adopted June 9, 2020. Irish says this is the first of several capital improvement projects that will be brought before the town council in the next few months.
Image via Town of Herndon
2020 was the “single greatest year” for capital project execution in Reston Association’s history, outgoing RA president Julie Bitzer declared at the association’s annual members’ meeting on Tuesday (April 13).
However, a number of much-needed capital projects remain, and RA CEO Hank Lynch says the ability to fund them is “primarily my biggest concern” for the next five to 10 years.
Despite delays and shortages related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Reston Association managed to finish 85 of its 121 ongoing capital projects this past year — 70% completion rate.
There are 13 active projects, and 28 projects will be completed this coming year, according to the map available on RA’s website.
Lynch specifically cited the Hook Road tennis court renovations and the Lake Thoreau Pool project, which is expected to enter the construction phase in the fall, as “taking up a significant amount of capital work.”
$3.8 million was spent on all projects this past year, and $3.6 million is being budgeted for this coming year, Bitzer said.
“We have aging amenities…About half of [the swimming pools] are more than 30 years old,” Lynch said. “As we look to the next five to 10 years, five of these pools will require major renovations.”
Lynch noted that these renovations will take multiple years and require multi-million-dollar commitments.
However, RA’s budget for taking on these big projects is lacking, and the association may need to make some hard decisions going forward.
“Our assessments have really not kept pace with our anticipated long-term spending demands that we now found ourselves facing,” Lynch said. “We are really going to have some tough choices to make when it comes to some of these larger price-tag items.”
According to the presentation at the annual meeting, a huge chunk of members’ $708 annual assessment already goes towards maintaining and improving facilities as well as providing recreation services.
58.5% of the annual assessment dues goes towards these three categories. That’s about $414 annually per member.
RA members suggested some other ways to raise revenue, such as re-starting boat and Lake House facility rentals, particularly with weddings and other big events potentially returning this coming year.
But officials made it clear that the biggest potential source of much-needed revenue would be to raise annual assessment rates again. Rates went up each of the past two years, though there was a decrease in 2017.
“Keeping our assets and facilities in top condition remains a top priority for the board,” Bitzer said.
Photo via Youtube/Reston Association