Tysons, VA

Fairfax County is putting together a survey to direct funding for the Consolidated Community Funding Pool — which goes to help local nonprofits and organizations. The County is looking for public input on where the biggest needs are.

The goal of the fund is supplement the county’s ability to fill human services needs.

“To determine how these funds should be allocated, Fairfax County, with significant community input, establishes categories that are reflective of the needs residents feel are most important in their communities,” the County said in a press release. “In preparation for the next funding cycle, the county seeking your insight on our current category areas”

The categories are:

  • Financial Stability
  • Food and Nutrition
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Literacy/Educational Development/Attainment
  • Positive Behaviors and Healthy Relationships
  • Support/Community/Social Networks

A survey for prioritizing needs is available online, and responses are welcome until Friday, Oct. 30. All responses will be kept anonymous.

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The Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano said his overworked, understaffed office is in a state of crisis, which could have deep ramifications for public safety.

“Potentially innocent people could be wrongfully convicted, or guilty people could be left on the street, making our community more vulnerable,” he told the Board of Supervisors in a meeting on Tuesday.

The short-term solution he proposed involves hiring 20 staff for about $2 million. He said this would ensure the office does not fall behind when felony trials resume in November, after being postponed since March due to the coronavirus. The 20 staff would not be enough, for example, to handle the influx of  potential evidence that would need independent review if every police officer starts wearing a body camera.

To ramp up the number of cases his office can prosecute thoroughly and ethically, Descano said he needs 137 attorneys and support staff, which would cost $19.1 million.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors said they were surprised to hear Descano’s claim of unethical prosecutions and were experiencing a case of “sticker shock,” said Supervisor James R. Walkinshaw, of Braddock District.

“I think we’re all in a state of shock here,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey C. McKay said.

A plan would need to be developed to address how these changes would impact other areas of law enforcement and justice, including the police department and the Fairfax County Attorney’s office, he said.

“While it is an emergency, we cannot respond to it like an emergency,” McKay said.

Supervisor John Foust, the Dranesville District Representative, told Descano: “You’ve found the problem, but I’m not sure you’ve identified the solution.”

The Office of the Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney prosecutes crimes that occur in Fairfax County and felonies that occur in Fairfax City and the towns of Herndon and Vienna. It tries cases in the county’s district and circuit courts, as well as the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. The office works closely with state, county and local police departments.

But over the course of the year, Descano said he has had to cut back the number and scope of cases his office can prosecute.

The issue is a lack of state and local funding. Fairfax — the biggest jurisdiction in the state — receives less state funding in part because it tries to divert defendants from the criminal justice system. The state funds positions based on the number of defendants who make it to court and the number who are sentenced, Descano said.

He says local funding is low compared to surrounding jurisdictions, which spend up to four times what Fairfax County spends.

“A resident of Fairfax County can spend more on a gallon of milk than on the prosecution of crimes,” he said.

The ratio of officers to prosecutors is also imbalanced: For every prosecutor, there are 33 sworn officers making arrests, meaning prosecutors cannot keep up with the rate of arrests.

“We don’t have the time to do the cases properly,” he said. “The only way to give us more time is to add more staff. The reason we need this is without time, bad things can happen.”

These “bad things” include focusing on getting dockets cleared and farming out independent reviews of evidence to police officers.

“In essence, there were officers making case decisions as if they were attorneys, without the independent review of attorneys,” he said. “We like to think that has never happened in Fairfax County, but I’ve seen evidence that that has happened.”

Supervisor Pat Herrity, the Springfield District Representative, said he needs an executive session to be shown where the ethical issues are.

“I had not heard that before this issue came up and I think we ought to peel the onion on that skin a little bit,” he said.

Deputy County Executive David Rohrer, a former police chief for Fairfax County, defended previous commonwealth’s attorneys as well as the police department.

“I only observed the highest integrity and ethics in their staff,” he said.

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Friday Morning Notes

Fairfax County to Receive an Additional $4.85 Million in CARES Act Funding— “Through this final allocation, Fairfax County will receive an additional $4.85 Million in federal funding to assist residents facing higher risk of eviction and help combat the economic hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.” [Fairfax County]

3 F.C. Council Candidates Appear at First Joint Campaign Event — “A new breed of candidates for public office has surfaced in the race to temporarily fill a vacancy on the Falls Church City Council.” [Falls Church News-Press]

D.C. Restaurants Turn to Pop-up Concepts to Stay Afloat — “Bethesda’s URBNmarket is bringing a socially distant Oktoberfest event to Tysons on Oct. 9 and 10 with seasonal beverages in the pop-up biergarten.” [Washington Business Journal]

McLean Mom Plans Meal Packing Efforts During Pandemic — “Through her LiftLikeAMother​ Amplify program, McLean’s Alicia McKenzie coordinates meal packing efforts to help those in need.” [Patch]

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More Info on COVID-19 Outbreaks — “The Virginia General Assembly responded last week, unanimously passing emergency bills in the House and Senate to require the disclosure [of COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes and assisted living centers.]” [Inside NoVa]

Kanye West Will Be on Virginia Ballots — “Rapper Kanye West has qualified to appear on Virginia’s presidential ballot in November, according to state election officials.” [Inside NoVa]

Affirm Logic Corp. Scores New Funding — “A McLean cybersecurity startup, whose pedigree includes research from Carnegie Mellon University and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has secured a $25 million equity financing round.” [Washington Business Journal]

Photo by Michelle Goldchain

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(Updated 8/20/20) The City of Falls Church will receive funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) for its two proposed projects.

The projects are among the 21 transportation projects the NVTA announced will receive funding from its program, which is now in its fifth year and is offering $539 million, according to a press release. The projects were selected from 41 proposals — totaling $1.44 billion — from 13 localities and agencies in Northern Virginia.

The NVTA will fully fund Falls Church’s projects. One will address transit access and multimodal connectivity in West Falls Church for $6.9 million, while the other will tackle multimodal improvements in the downtown area for $8.3 million.

“We much appreciate the regional cooperation that has led to the approval for funding of both of the City of Falls Church transportation proposals,” Councilmember David Snyder, who also serves on the NVTA’s Executive Committee, said in a statement. “This is a great example of the direct benefits that accrue to our citizens from the active engagement of city councilmembers and city staff in regional policy and funding bodies.”

More from the city about the projects:

West Falls Church Access to Transit and Multimodal Connectivity ($6,900,000)

Install a new 10′ multi-use path and 6′ planting strip along Shreve Road between the W&OD Trail and Route 7, acorn style lights, crosswalk near the intersection of Shreve Road and Gordon Road, and benches near the entrance to the W&OD trail.

Downtown Falls Church Multimodal Improvements ($8,300,000)

Install two midblock crossings, widen sidewalks and remove obstructions (including utility lines), install curb extensions, adjust intersection geometry, and increase visibility at six crossings/intersections on Park Avenue between N Washington Street and Virginia Avenue.

While the majority of the selected projects got the full funding request, four projects received partial funding.

“The fully-funded projects will receive sufficient funds to advance to construction, while the partially funded projects will advance to the early phases of project development, but not necessarily [for] completion,” the press release said.

The Town of Vienna’s expansion plans for the Capital Bikeshare program to help people get to the Metro was among the 20 projects that didn’t make the cut. The project would cost roughly $280,000.

Update corrects name of NVTA

Image via City of Falls Church

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(Updated 5:40 p.m.) The Town of Vienna is giving $1 million to support Fairfax County’s new grant program to financially help town businesses.

The town announced the news today (Wednesday), saying that it’s giving some of its funds from the CARES Act to the county’s RISE grant program. The town received roughly $2.9 million in CARES Act funding at the end of April, according to the town newsletter.

“While the $1 million being provided by the Town of Vienna is designated specifically for Town businesses only, Vienna businesses also will be eligible for funding through the county grant program beyond the Town’s contribution,” according to the press release.

Natalie Monkou, the town’s economic development manager, said in the press release that the town originally thought about creating its own grant program, but decided that the county had more resources.

“Fairfax County has the infrastructure already in place to execute a grant program for businesses,” Monkou said, adding that the county will give businesses “more immediate access to grant funding.”

At least 30% of the total RISE funding will go to women-, minority- and veteran-owned businesses, she added.

“When we did a business survey a few weeks ago, one of the main things we heard was that businesses need access to capital, and that can be even more true for veteran-, minority-, and women-owned businesses,” she said. “The CARES Act allows us to provide this important assistance to our small businesses.”

The county’s grant program currently has $26 million for small businesses and nonprofits, according to the press release. The grant application will be open from June 8-15.

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Small businesses and nonprofit organizations in Fairfax County can apply for grants through a new program approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

The Fairfax Relief Initiative to Support Employers (Fairfax RISE) uses $25 million in federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The program is intended to provide immediate relief for small businesses and nonprofits impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and “address gaps that may exist among complementary programs,” according to the county.

Our hope is that these grants will help small businesses and nonprofits be able to emerge from these difficult times by retaining employees and preparing to grow in the future,” Fairfax County Chairman Jeff McKay wrote in a statement.

Businesses and nonprofit organizations can begin applying in early June. Funding will be awarded based on the number of employees, with amounts varying from $10,000 to $20,000.

Funding can be used for compensation, capital, equipment, inventory, rent and other critical operating expenses. No grant funds can be used to pay debts to start or close a business.

Here’s more from a press release:

Fairfax RISE will offer grants to qualified businesses or nonprofits that will not have to be repaid. It also specifically establishes a minimum allocation of 30% of the program’s total dollars — or $7.5 million — towards awards for minority-, veteran-, and women- owned businesses.

Not only have these kinds of businesses historically faced difficulty obtaining financing, but they also make a major contribution to the county’s economy. Minority-owned companies with employees account for 32% percent of businesses in Fairfax County, and collectively, all minority, women and veteran-owned businesses employ 80,000 people in the county with total annual revenues of $14.4 billion.

The grant application process is expected to begin in early June 2020. To be eligible, applicants must be established and have one or more location(s) in Fairfax County, including the principal place of business. Fairfax County includes businesses and nonprofit organizations located in the Towns of Herndon, Vienna, and Clifton. Additionally, awardees must have less than 50 total employees across all locations, have been in operation over 1 year; and, with the exception of nonprofits, have a valid Business, Professional and Occupational Licenses (BPOL).

The county also created a microloan fund for small businesses using county dollars.

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Fairfax County officials have created a fund to support small businesses struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Board of Supervisors approved creating the “Fairfax County Small Business COVID-19 Recovery Microloan Fund” during their meeting today (Tuesday). The board expects the loan program to be ready by May 1, according to county documents.

The program allows the Community Business Partnership (CBP) to distribute roughly $1.2 million to eligible small businesses in the county. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees make up about 94 percent of businesses in the county, according to the documents.

Businesses who undergo a pre-submission counseling session will be able to apply for loans up to $20,000 and will be able to use the money for things like rent, equipment and critical cash operating expenses. The loans will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis, the documents say.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said the county’s program complements federal aid, including financial assistance from the Small Business Administration.

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity said he was concerned about the administrative costs of operating the county’s program. He also proposed an amendment requiring the CBP to direct small business owners to seek federal aid prior to seeking local assistance.

McKay said Herrity’s amendment, which did not pass, was not necessary because the CBP already encourages individuals to seek federal avenues for help. He also noted that many businesses are falling through the cracks due to the limits of federal assistance, including delays in the rollout of funds.

Other county officials encouraged the county to reach as many affected businesses as possible.

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said he hopes the program champions “administrative flexibility” in order to help out businesses with between two and 10 employees.

The funding for the program is coming from $2.5 million in the Economic Opportunity Reserve to support economic relief efforts.

Staff in the Department of Economic Initiatives will monitor the distribution of the funds to figure out how to use the remaining $1.28 million, according to county documents. After 45 days, staff will let the board know if they recommend additional funds for the program.

McKay also directed county staff to explore additional relief options for businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Catherine Douglas Moran and Fatimah Waseem contributed to this story.

Image via Fairfax County 

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City of Falls Church staff want to create a guide to ensure the projects in the Capital Improvements Program all get completed.

Currently, the staff is managing 26 projects — with four in jeopardy, according to a new report by city staff.

Projects falling under the parks, facilities, stormwater, sanitary sewer, technology and public safety categories are either on schedule or have “some challenges.”

The four projects that are not active or on hold due to a “critical issue” fall under the transportation category, which includes more than a dozen projects.

“The city’s Transportation CIP program is the largest CIP program and demands considerable staff time and attention,” the report says. “The city is unique from most neighboring jurisdictions in that it does not have a transportation department, and instead manages the Transportation CIP with a team of staff members from multiple departments.”

More from the report about the transportation projects facing issues:

Park Ave Great Streets

Full scoping of the Park Avenue Great Streets project reveals project is underfunded. [Northern Virginia Transportation Authority] application for $8.3M submitted in September; awaiting decision from NVTA Spring 2020. Reduced scope option may be possible.

Downtown Multimodal project [is] on hold; inquiring about schedule changes with VDOT. Need to be coordinated with Park Ave Great Street.

S. Maple Ave Roadbed Reconstruction

Roadbed Reconstruction and improvements at the intersection of S. Maple and Annandale. Fully funded. No project manager assigned. Paving already completed Fall 2018.

Oak Street Bridge

60% design completed in December using existing RSTP funds. Current funding shortfall is $928K. City submitted $928K application for SGR funds available in FY21. Pending the award of SGR in the spring, 100% final design will be complete and ROW will start fall 2020. Construction would be scheduled for early 2021.

“Staff continues to look to the future and how we can improve our project implementation process to avoid these delays, as they can increase costs,” according to the report. “A CIP project implementation manual has been in development to streamline project management and ensure projects are successfully advanced and completed.”

The report says that funding and staffing shortfalls often cause projects to derail. Not having managers for some projects can be a risk for funding, the report notes, adding: “Many staff resources have been directed toward City Hall building commissioning and Mary Riley Styles Library Renovation and Expansion.”

Staff presented the report to the Planning Commission earlier this week.

The new CIP is slated to be unveiled on Feb. 3.

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Tysons’ 1st Stage Theatre is one of seven arts organizations receiving a grant from ARTSFAIRFAX.

ARTSFAIRFAX awarded grants totaling $105,296 to local arts groups in Fairfax County for fiscal year 2020, according to a press release. The grants range in amounts from $1,000 to $30,000.

The grant for 1st Stage will allow the theater to work with the Maryland-based Olney Theatre on a co-production of “The Royale” —  a story about the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion in the U.S. The show played at Olney from Sept. 25 to Oct. 27 and comes to Tysons in January.

“What we are witnessing is how these grants are helping propel the artistic growth of these grantees as their work reaches new audiences within and beyond the county,” Linda Sullivan, the president and CEO of ARTSFAIRFAX, said in a press release.

“Project awardees presented innovative and creative means to engage the community and bring people together to experience arts in fresh and unusual ways,” according to the press release.

Other recipients include the Greater Reston Arts Center, the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra and the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.

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