Swimmers drowned out opposition to the Long Bridge Park Aquatic and Fitness Center at the County’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) hearing on June 26. At least a dozen athletes, instructors and disabled persons claimed they need the benefits of a new Olympic size pool, that current county facilities are inadequate, and that the heated pool at Yorktown is too hot for people with MS.
The only ones testifying against the facility, which will cost taxpayers $50 million next year alone, were the usual suspects–Jim Hurysz, Bob Atkins, Matt Wavro, Wayne Kubicki and Yours Truly.
In his testimony Wayne Kubicki commented: “Combining proposed debt service, including the $20 million interim non-bond borrowing, with its projected operating subsidy, Long Bridge’s annual cost is nearly $7 million per year. That’s over one cent on the current tax rate–for one single building, that most residents will never use, and that many would have trouble finding, even if you gave them a map.”
Kubicki also said: “The Long Bridge project raises the term ‘vanity project’ to a new level, and fiscally has the potential to be the Artisphere on steroids.” One would think that County Board would heed Kubicki, given his status as ACCF Revenues and Expenditures Committee chair and long time experience as an accounting professional. But Long Bridge boosters were out in force to assure that wouldn’t happen, and they are all but certain to prevail.
Also out in force were Bluemont residents who want to restore the Reeves farm house in Bluemont Park and are angry that County Board appropriated money for an RFP to come up with a plan but no money for restoration. They say that their group responded to an RFP several years ago and that the structure is ready for rehab now.
There were two other critics at the otherwise packed meeting. Richard Pollack reported that the price County Board has offered for the Thomas Building/homeless shelter is 125 percent of market value and commented that asking taxpayers to pay such an inflated price is criminal.
Northern Va. ConservationTrust (NVCT) official Mike Nardolilli was chagrined that County Board has appropriated only half the $2 million he requested for parkland acquisition. This may be a good thing, because now Nardolilli realizes that he got nothing in return for antagonizing the residents of EFC by agreeing to the County’s plans to put in a massive mixed use development at EFC Metro.
It also illustrates the real problem with unnecessary capital spending. Many other less expensive but worthwhile capital projects like parkland acquistion and historic preservation are foregone to pay for white elephants.