Reston, VA

A new sculpture installed on Lake Thoreau late last month was designed and built by South Lake High School students, a tradition that dates back to 2014.

Part and Parcel” was developed by about 20 students on the South Lakes High School STEAM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) Team.

Made primarily from repurposed PVC piping from a previous Reston Station project, the sculpture’s design and name were envisioned as a metaphor for how each part of society is needed in order to create one that’s functioning and whole.

“I hope people are left with a sense of joy and hopefulness after seeing Part and Parcel,” Ann Ehrlich, a member of the STEAM team, wrote in an email to Reston Now. “We were able to present a lovely piece of art to the community during such a rough time and I hope they can see that even during difficult times, some beauty can arise.”

The sculpture sits on the Lake Thoreau spillway, turning a potential eyesore into a work of art.

Part and Parcel transforms and activates an otherwise drab concrete platform into something unexpected and visually delightful, both during the day and when lit up at night,” Public Art Reston Program Coordinator Phoebe Avery told Reston Now. “This is what public art is all about.”

Public Art Reston is a longtime sponsor of the project.

This is the seventh sculpture designed and built by the students in the program, which was co-founded by South Lakes art teacher and local artist Marco Rando. The previous one, installed in summer 2019, was called “Spectrum” and was composed of five wooden interlocking prisms.

Rando says that, beyond putting beautiful art in the world, the program also teaches students how to collaborate, take feedback, defend their ideas, and navigate processes that can sometimes be difficult.

“The students see firsthand…the steps of [having] to defend their idea, who they have to defend it to, preparing for a presentation, explain how they’re going to go about building this, and logistics of everything,” Rando said. “They’re getting that professional experience at this wonderful age of learning. It’s shaped a lot of students.”

Team member David Raw agrees that this project provided a glimpse into the professional lives of artists and engineers.

“By working on Part and Parcel, I was given the opportunity to work hand and hand with real art and engineering professionals.,” he wrote to Reston Now. “From contacting material suppliers to assisting helpers put up the final piece on the spillway, I was exposed to the real working environment of professional art.”

Of course, the students had their fair share of challenges this year. The design was first conceived in the fall of 2019, prior to the pandemic, but it had to be tweaked due to public health restrictions. In-person group meetings were sporadic and had to be socially distant. The budget was also significantly lower than in previous years, Rando says.

All of this posed potential problems that the students had to overcome.

“We came into a huge issue with the integrity of the design,” Gwyneth Wagner, one of the students, said. “We had to completely rethink the design of the sculpture and it set us back until our later install date…[but] I think it was for the best because we are all really happy and proud of the sculpture now.”

Wagner’s teammates agree that the extra attention and collaboration paid off.

“Personally, the most rewarding aspect of designing and building this sculpture was being able to collaborate with others,” Sofia Pakhomkina said. “It is always so amazing to watch as a group turns a simple idea into a physical, tangible thing.”

Rando is proud of his students.

“It was perseverance, like I’ve never seen it before,” he says.

“Part and Parcel” is expected to be on display at Lake Thoreau at least through the end of the year.

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Morning Notes

Virginia to Change Vaccine Scheduling Systems — Fairfax County residents will finally follow the same approach to obtaining COVID-19 vaccine appointments as the rest of the state, as the Virginia Department of Health says its statewide system will also be retired on Sunday (April 18) in favor of self-scheduling through Vaccine Finder. [Patch]

Lawsuit Filed over Virginia’s Unemployment Benefits — “Several legal groups filed a federal class-action suit on Thursday against the Virginia Employment Commission for its failure to reach residents with unemployment benefits, and abruptly cutting off payments to others without explanation.” [DCist]

Fish Released into Lake Thoreau — Reston Association stocked Lake Thoreau with 80 triploid grass carp this past Sunday (April 18). RA says that the fish are part of its plan to “help manage aquatic plants such as hydrilla” in the lake and must be released if caught while fishing. [RA/Twitter]

Reston Nonprofit to Give Free Food to Those in NeedCornerstones will hold a free food distribution event tomorrow (Saturday) in the parking lot of the Fairfax County Department of Family Services building at Lake Anne (11484 Washington Plaza West). The grocery bags will contain toiletries as well as fresh produce, and they will be distributed from 10 a.m. to noon, though spaces are limited. [Lake Anne Elementary School]

Hunter Mill District Bike Tour Sold Out — Tickets for the inaugural Tour de Hunter Mill sold out yesterday. Scheduled for May 15, the event will take cyclists on a scenic tour from Reston to Vienna and back, but attendance was capped at 150 riders to ensure social distancing. [Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling/Twitter]

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The Reston Association plans to spend more on lake management in 2021 than in previous years.

Lake Anne and Lake Thoreau suffered from constant algae blooms and overgrowth of invasive hydrilla in 2020, according to an RA community discussion last week about the lakes.

To manage those rather typical lake-related issues, the plan is to take a more “proactive” mitigation strategy, but that requires increasing the lake management budget, a possibility that was first discussed last fall in relation to a potentially toxic algae bloom that emerged in Lake Thoreau over the summer.

However, the investment is planning to be substantially more than initially thought.

In 2020, RA spent $17,000 for monitoring and treating lakes. In 2021, the plan is to spend about three times more money — nearly $52,000.

As stated at the March 31 meeting, this is largely due to Lake Thoreau.

Besides algae, Reston’s deepest lake also suffers from overgrowth of hydrilla, an aggressive, invasive aquatic plant that crowds out native species and impedes boating and fish habitats.

“Hydrilla is a big concern in Lake Thoreau,” said Bill Kirkpatrick of Aquatic Environment Consultants, which RA hired to manage the lakes. “Hydrilla grew late in the year, and the treatment was done on an emergency basis. We’ve revisited this and rethought the process.”

The plan is to start treatment early in the growth stage with a low, multiple-dose application of herbicide that is released slowly through clay pellets dropped to the bottom of the lake.

“It’s kinda like taking antibiotics,” Kirkpatrick said. “You don’t take all of it at once…You split it up to keep a certain concentration in your body.”

While this is a more expensive and time consuming way of treating the hydrilla, the hope is that it lasts much longer.

“It should suppress the growth and it never reaches that big die-off phase,” Kirkpatrick said.

While the hydrilla treatment will cost about $19,000 in 2021, the consultant believes that, if it is successful, no further treatment will be needed in 2022 or, perhaps, for several years beyond.

Starting in May, both Lake Thoreau and Lake Anne will be treated with low-dose algeasized concentrations on a monthly basis through September.

“The goal is to control the noxious algaes and allow the beneficial algaes to exist,” Kirkpatrick said.

Aquatic Environment Consultants plans to manage algae in this manner going forward, and the cost of algae treatment in 2022 is expected to remain the same.

All in all, it’s currently being estimated that the budget for lake management in 2022 will be $29,471 — about $22,000 less than RA anticipates spending in 2021.

The budget also includes funds to monitor lake water quality and to manage alligator weed, water primrose, and water lilies on Lake Newport.

The community discussion covered several other lake-related topics as well, including restocking the carp population, a new fishing line recycling program, and managing the Canadian geese population by tracking nests, counting geese, and potentially addling eggs.

“They cause traffic disturbances, they cause damage to people’s property, and they can put a huge amount of nutrients in the lakes, which can cause some of those algae blooms,” RA Watershed Manager Bill Peterson said. “We are not trying to eradicate the geese population, just trying to keep it down to an acceptable level.”

In recent months, the Reston Association has increased the assessment fee by $10, and as noted at the meeting, the boat mooring rate has also gone up.

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The potential renovation of Lake Thoreau Pool is coming closer to fruition.

The Reston Association’s Design Review Board will look at a preliminary site plan application for the pool during its March 16 virtual meeting. The application will return to the board for final approval at a later date after comments and requirements for the project are integrated into the design.

The proposed alterations to the pool facility include selective tree removal, the expansion of the parking lot for more parking and ADA accessibility, and additional sidewalks. Other changes include the pool’s reconstruction, including the basin, retaining walls, observation plaza and deck, and modifications and expansions to the existing bathhouse.

Materials, fixtures, colors, landscaping, and artwork for the project will be presented to RA later in the design process, according to the submitted application.

In the proposed concept, the parking lot will include 25 parking spaces with two ADA spaces. The pool house would increase by 348 square feet to 1,375. The site plan also includes a proposed connection to the Lake Thoreau Loop Trail.

RA’s Director of Capital Projects Chris Schumaker said during the board’s Feb. 25 meeting that the project is projected to be three months behind schedule. Schumaker estimated another review by the Design Review Board in mid-July and the contract would head for a board vote in August.

He also estimated the pool project could be completed in October 2022 and a grand reopening could happen in May 2023.

The pool, which was opened in 1981, has been closed due to a compromised retaining wall. The details of the deterioration of the pool were identified to RA in October 2019 in a Terracon report.

RA’s Board of Directors allocated roughly $1.6 million in its 2021 capital budget for the project in October.

Images via handout/Reston Association

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The major renovation of Lake Thoreau Pool, which has been closed since last year, is set for a groundbreaking in October.

While the project is on budget, the overall effort is roughly three months behind schedule due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and anticipated delays with the county’s permitting process.

In a presentation to Reston Association’s Board of Directors late last week, Chris Schumaker, RA’s capital projects director, said that while it may be possible to catch up on the project timeline, permitting delays are very common due to the pandemic.

“Things that used to take weeks now take months,” Schumaker said.

In response to a member’s concerns about delays, Schumaker noted that the county is not conducting onsite inspections. Field surveys are being done over the phone, which has slowed things down quite a bit.

Member Michelle Kimmel urged RA to keep the community engaged and informed about the ongoing project.

“Already, our pool has been closed for years,” she said.

After meetings with the community, RA selected a lean design concept for the renovation project that works within the existing footprint of the site. A zero-depth wading pool would be installed on the facility’s deep end, the parking lot would be expanded, and the bathhouse would meet county and federal code requirements for individuals with disabilities. A lounge observation deck is also planned in the new design.

RA is considering replacing a lakeside retaining wall with a metal-framed overlook deck, a move that would significantly decrease the cost of the project. Plans are underway to determine how to integrate a family-use bathroom. The parking lot will have 25 spaces for the time being, according to the presentation.

RA allocated roughly 1.6 million in its 2021 capital budget for the project.

The association is also working through plans for storage options for watercraft.

An initial concept review by the Design Review Board is tentatively set for March 16. After another review by the DRB in mid-July, the contract would head for a vote by the board in August.

Kimley-Horn has been hired as the chief project engineer, along with Lemay Erickson Willcox for building architecture, Councilmen Hunsaker for pool design, GRS Group for surveying, and Terracon for geotechnical work.

So far, roughly 60 percent of the project’s drawings have been completed, along with a geotechnical survey and engineering, a review of existing conditions, and other surveying.

A grand reopening is set for May 2023, although the project will be completed by October of next year.

RA also plans to evaluate the success of the project and review feedback from members towards the end of next year.

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Thursday Morning Notes

Lake Thoreau Pool Work Begins — Contractors will be on-site at Lake Thoreau pool later this week for soil sampling. This step is necessary to begin the engineering and design of the pool’s retaining walls and parking lot. [Reston Association]

County Executive Releases Podcast — County Executive Bryan Hill discusses the COVID-19 pandemic, the search for a new police chief, and the upcoming fiscal year 2022 budget in his latest podcast. [Fairfax County Government]

Reston Songwriter Releases New Single — Singer and songwriter Amanda Cunningham has released a new single about breaking free from bad relationships. [Reston Patch]

Photo by Marjorie Copson

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Lake Audubon Pool, operated by Reston Association, is in the midst of renovations. The pool is undergoing re-plastering, the pump and filter are being replaced, and other plumbing is being fixed.

Work began in mid-January and is expected to be completed sometime between mid-April and early May. But weather could delay the project, cautions Mike Leone of Reston Association.

This is all part of Reston Association’s regular maintenance plan and required for compliance under Fairfax County Health Department code. Plaster coatings have about an eight-to-ten- year service life, writes Leone in an email to Reston Now.

Another Reston Association pool, Lake Thoreau, is also expected to undergo renovations but a funding hang-up has caused delays. The Lake Thoreau Pool project could cost up to $3.5 million.

Lake Audubon pool renovation project is costing roughly $120,000, according to Leone.

At this time, it remains unclear when Reston Association pools will open this summer. In 2020, four out of 15 pools opened in late June.

“RA does not have hard dates for the opening of any of our pools for the 2021 summer season,” wrote Leone. “We are planning to open as many facilities as we can this summer.”

As pool season inches closer, updates will be posted on the Reston Association website.

Photo courtesy of Reston Association

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A rare winter algae bloom that has both toxic and non-toxic forms has formed over Lake Thoreau.

Reston Association is advising caution after the bloom — known as Aphanizomenon flos-aquae – took over parts of the lake. The bloom is toxic if humans ingest it but dogs can become ill after ingesting or coming in contact with the algae.

The association has no immediate plans to treat the lake until water temperatures are in the upper 50s.

In the latest budget cycle, RA’s Board of Directors significantly increased its funding allotment by 86 percent for lake management and water treatment after major blooms — caused partially by ineffective or delayed water treatment — consumed Lake Thoreau over the summer.

Monthly treatment is expected to begin in the spring as part of RA’s new lake management strategy.

But winter blooms are more uncommon in Reston.

In a statement released today, RA noted that Reston typically does not have algae blooms in the winter because of colder temperatures. Water temperatures have hovered in the upper 30s and lakes have not completely frozen this season.

RA’s spokesman Mike Leone said that the organization has not yet determined the toxicity of the current bloom. He noted that certain species of cyanobacteria are referred to as toxic because they can harm people, pets and wildlife.

‘The current algae bloom has the potential to be toxic but it does not mean that it is toxic all the time. Given the potential though, RA encourages individuals and their pets to avoid contact with water where they see visible algae just to be safe,’ he wrote in a statement to Reston Now.

RA staff found that areas where the algae bloom was before have already been reduced.

Photo via RA

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Delayed since mid-December, the Reston Association’s project to inspect and repair Lakes Audubon, Anne, Newport, and Thoreau dams will finally get under way later this month.

In a statement posted to social media, Reston Association will start work on January 25 on the trash racks and riser structure in Lake Audubon. This requires lowering the lake on January 21 and 22, a foot and a half to two feet a day. That work is expected to take a week.

Then, on February 1, the organization will draw down the lake again, this time to a total of eight feet, to allow for a full inspection of the dam infrastructure. It will be drawn down no more than a foot a day, so this work could talk up to one and a half weeks.

Due to this, Lakes Anne, Newport, and Thoreau will also be lowered to prevent spillage.

Later that month, February 15, more dam inspections will be done. This is expected to take until February 24. Once finished, the lake will be allowed to refill naturally which could take up to a few months to happen.

Reston Association asks all residents to provide slack in their moor lines so that boats can lower safely with the water level. The lake bottom will be “deep mud” so do not attempt to walk on it, RA advises.

Every year, the Reston Association performs these inspections and repairs. They are a state requirement, Chris Schumaker, Director of Capital Projects, tells Reston Now via email.

The project was initially pushed due to “delays both in the fabrication and delivery of key materials for the Lake Audubon trash rack and valve replacements,” writes Shumaker.

Photo via Reston Association/Facebook

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Students at South Lakes High School will debut their seventh temporary public artwork for the Lake Thoreau spillway in early 2021.

The project, titled Part and Parcel, is made largely from repurposed materials in order to draw attention to ”companies and corporations that could have better systems of disposing unused products and materials,” according to a project description.

Students who are the SLHS STEAM team began creating public artwork for the spillway after a Lake Thoreau resident pitched the idea in 2012. Since then, Reston Association worked with Public Art Reston to launch a partnership.

Students who are part of the team and led by local artist and SLHS art teacher Marco Rando, design, develop and construct pieces of public art. Members then present the concepts to RA’s Design Review Board and Public Art Reston’s public art committee.

”By repurposing materials, we are challenging ourselves to create art out of things that would otherwise be deemed trash,” the students wrote.

Photo via Public Art Reston

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The Reston Association’s project to repair and inspect the Lakes Anne, Audubon and Thoreau dams was scheduled for the second week of December has been rescheduled for the second half of January 2021. 

According to a statement from the Reston Association, the start date for the project was pushed due to delays with both the fabrication of new parts and with shipping. However, the statement says that the shift will lessen the impact on holiday plans the community may have. 

Previously, Lake Audubon was supposed to be lowered to conduct repairs on the riser structure, and the Lake Thoreau dam was supposed to be thoroughly inspected. 

According to Chris Schumaker, the Director of Capital Projects, the Lake Audubon Projects as well as the three spillway inspections should take no more than one month to complete. Lake Audubon is the only lake that needs to be lowered to complete the replacement of its spillway trash racks and several gate valves in addition to the inspection of the outfall pipes. 

Lake Thoreau, Lake Anne and Lake Newport do not require lowering more than a foot to conduct inspections and therefore won’t impact its members, according to Schumaker. 

Photo by Matt Paulson

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Reston’s Lake Thoreau Entertainment Association is officially holding its 8th Annual Lake Thoreau Festival of Winter Lights. 

The festival, a lakeside tradition, will raise money for local causes. Residents must decorate the lake-facing side of their house, condo or boat with lights, and in return, donors will donate money to organizations of their choice.

This year, the initial pledges include:

  • $12 per house contribution (max $2,000) for Lake Thoreau concerts next year (contact [email protected] to join the pledge).
  • $8 per house contribution, cumulative from two donors, towards Cornerstones.
  • $5 per house contribution (max $1,000) to Public Art Reston to sponsor Reston community art projects (donations can be directed to the Lake Thoreau project).
  • $100 fixed contribution to Friends of Reston.

According to the statement, this means a total of $25 per house will go to the causes listed above based on the current commitments. 

Those interested in becoming a donor can reach out to James Pan at [email protected]. Donors can pledge either a fixed amount or on a per house basis. 

The Lake Thoreau Entertainment Association encourages the whole neighborhood to become involved and beat last year’s count of 177 homes and boats with lights. Since residents put up their own lights, the event is COVID-19 friendly — one of the safer seasonal celebrations to partake in. 

The houses will be counted on Monday, Dec. 21, weather permitting. 

Photo by Bob Ricca/Unsplash

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Next month, Reston Association will be conducting its annual lake inspections on Reston lakes.

The association announced the inspection in a press release Tuesday (Nov. 17). Starting the second week of December, if weather permits, Lakes Anne, Audubon, Newport and Thoreau will all have inspections inside and outside the bodies of water, according to the press release.

“We contract with an engineering firm specialized in this service whose team inspects the inside and outside of the structure and uses divers to look at areas underwater,” the press release said. “To accommodate this inspection, each lake is lowered slightly to prevent water from spilling over the concrete lip that is at the regular lake pool surface level. This lowering typically does not impact activities or boats on the lake.”

Reston Association Watershed Manager William Peterson says these inspections are performed to look for several possible areas of concern.

“Regardless of whether a part of the riser structure is under water or out of the water, we are looking for similar things,” Peterson said. “Essentially, anything that might create a concern. This could include cracks in the concrete, leaks in the control gates, corroded metal for any of the gears, pipes or grates, proper operation of the gates and valves, and more. We want to make sure that our dams are well maintained to ensure the safety of our community and those downstream of each of our lakes.”

Restionians living near any of the four lakes – Anne, Audubon, Newport and Thoreau – should not expect to be affected by the inspections, according to Peterson.

“Typically, the inspections do not affect the residents living near the four lakes,” Peterson said. “Although each riser structure has gates to control the water level, they are always closed except for maintenance purposes. The level of the water for the lakes is typically right at the concrete threshold that allows the lakes to have continuous flow downstream. For the inspections, we lower the levels slightly, typically about a foot, so that water is not flowing inside of the riser structure during the inspection. This helps the inspectors identify possible leaks.”

This year, according to Peterson, Lake Audubon will be lowered a lot more to accommodate the water-overflow.

“Lake Audubon’s water level will be lowered six to eight feet to conduct an inspection on the Thoreau dam outfall, which is on the Lake Audubon side of the dam, Peterson said.” “This is on the opposite side of South Lakes Drive from Thoreau. Although Lake Thoreau will be lowered to prevent water from flowing over the threshold mentioned above, it will not be lowered substantially like Lake Audubon is and should not impact boats on Lake Thoreau.”

For more information about the upcoming lake inspections, visit Reston Association’s website.

Photo via Restion Association/Facebook

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In mid-August, a major and possibly toxic algae bloom blanketed Lake Thoreau following Reston Association’s treatment of an invasive plant in the lake.

The treatment, which RA said was one of several factors that caused the bloom, was conducted much later into the season, making the bloom worse.

Following this issue and subsequent community meetings about lake management, RA CEO Hank Lynch wants to more than double its lake maintenance treatment budget for 2021 budget, which is currently under development. This year’s lake maintenance budget is $31,745, up from $17,103 in 2020’s. budget.

The proposed budget would include up to five algae treatments of Lake Thoreau, up to five algae treatments at Lake Anne, and $18,920 to treat lake Thoreau with sonar pelters in the spring or early summer.

The association also plans to shift from treating the lake with contact herbicides to systemic herbicides earlier in the season to control the hydrilla plant.

“This solution will control the hydrilla before it gets to grow and become a problem in the lake,” according to meeting materials.

The systemic herbicide treatment is much more costly than previously used treatment but will produce more long-lasting results, Lynch said at a Board of Directors’ meeting last week.

RA also hopes to remove water lillies at Lake Newport every few years. Its consultant, Aquatic Environment Consultants, will “continue to monitor to determine the right timing of this treatment,” according to meeting materials.

The removal of primrose and alligator weed at Lake Thoreau on the shoreline and along the dams has also been identified as a pending project. The issue will be addressed based on growing conditions this summer.

The lake will also be stocked with 130 carp — which consume aquatics plants — to help manage the overgrowth of certain aquatic plants like hydrilla. The lake was last stocked in 2017 with 80 carp.

RA will hold another community engagement meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) at 6:30 p.m. to discuss Lake Thoreau and lake environmental health. The meeting will take place online.

Photo by Jeannine Santoro

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Despite full support for a major replacement of Lake Thoreau Pool, Reston Association’s Board of Directors grappled with how to fund the project, which could cost up to $3.5 million.

At a meeting on Thursday night, board members said it was unclear how RA would fund the project as it develops the budget for the coming fiscal year. RA staff and CEO Hank Lynch suggested splitting the cost of the project between fiscal years 2021 and 2022.

The board’s latest meeting highlighted pressing and longstanding budgetary management concerns as RA determines next steps for moving forward with the project.

RA’s COO Larry Butler stressed the need for more structured longterm planning, including the developing of a five-and ten-year capital project plan for projects that exceed $250,000. Those plans would allow the board and the community to have a “true understanding or real costs,” he said.

“There’s a lot to be done in that realm,” Butler said.

Board Director Ven Iyer said the question of how to fund Lake Thoreau highlights RA’s habits of “fiscal irresponsibility.”

“In spite of bringing in 18 million a year, we are unable to find $3.5 million dollars to fix a pool,” he said.

For the pool, the most favored design includes a zero-depth wading pool in what used to be the facility’s deep end, expand the parking lot and bathhouse to meet Fairfax County and Americans with Disabilities Act code requirements, and incorporate an elevated observation and lounge deck.

Staff recommends splitting project costs between $1.6 million in 2021 and 1.5 million in 2022. Under this scenario, the board could defer upgrades to Lake Anne’s dam and renovations to Glade Tennis Court.

RA is expected to grapple with other major renovation projects, included the full-scale renovation of Shadowood Pool. Despite cosmetic changes in the last few years, parts of the facility are obsolete and ongoing sewage issues continue on the site.

Lynch also stressed that RA needs to allows its recreational facilities and working group to evaluate the association’s recreational needs, missed opportunities for amenities, and a review of the need or lack thereof of current amenities.

RA Board Director John Mooney suggested that the board consider financing certain project instead of pay-as-you-go funding.

“It’s not fair that current rate payers foot the bill for a facility that will serve multiple future generations of rate payers,” he said.

A motion to direct staff to explore an across-the-board seven-percent cut to all operational expenses failed to gain traction. Some board members said they were confident staff had already pared down operational expenses to the extend possible.

Discussions on the budget are expected to continue in coming meetings.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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