Council Defers Final Vote on Water Rate Increase Until September

July 11, 2011 by George Bromley · 2 Comments 

Falls Church Times Staff

July 11, 2011

Facing continued criticism from Fairfax County residents, the Falls Church City Council this evening declined to approve the second reading of a water rate increase. 

The Council adopted a motion introduced by Councilman Ira Kaylin to defer a vote on the proposed ordinance until September 12.   The motion also directs City Attorney John Foster and the City’s outside counsel to request that Fairfax Water agree that the proposed increase, if adopted, is in compliance with the final decree issued by Fairfax Circuit Court Judge R. Terrence Ney on January 6, 2010 in the case of Fairfax County Water Authority vs. City of Falls Church. 

That decree enjoined the City from transferring profits from its water system to its general fund.  It also ordered that Falls Church must comply with its Charter, which states that “water rates .  .  will result in receipts equal to expense (including any future expense of the water system).”  

The motion further directs that if an agreement is obtained, Mr. Foster then is to seek a decree from the Court resolving that the rate increase complies with the 2010 ruling.   If Fairfax Water declines to join in securing the Court’s concurrence, then the City will seek it unilaterally.  

The motion was approved, 3-2, with members Johannah Barry and Robin Gardner absent.          

Mayor Nader Baroukh and Councilman Ron Peppe voted with Mr. Kaylin to approve the motion.  The mayor and Mr. Kaylin both urged caution, given the prior litigation with Fairfax Water. 

Vice Mayor Dave Snyder and Councilman Lawrence Webb opposed the motion.  Mr. Snyder cited the pressing need to maintain the system’s infrastructure.  Mr. Webb concurred, stating that the City was only seeking to charge what it takes to run the system and that deferring action only served to delay what is inevitable.

Before the vote seven Fairfax County residents spoke against the rate increase, maintaining that it violated Judge Ney’s decree.  Some called on the City to merge its system with Fairfax Water in order to achieve greater economies of scale.  Others were visibly angry.  One called on Fairfax customers to boycot Falls Church businesses if the increase were approved.

Falls Church is proposing an 8% increase.  The City has not raised its rates since 2005.  Ninety-two percent of the system’s customers reside in Fairfax County.

CDC Task Force  –  The Council unanimously approved a resolution extending the Child Development Center Task Force’s deadline until August 8. 

City Manager’s Report  –  Mr. Shields announced that Falls Church’s recycling rate has risen from 57% of solid waste in 2009 to 60% in 2010.  The state average in 38.6.  The annual hazardous waste collection will be held Saturday, July 23.  Residents are encouraged to  

Closed Session Cancelled  –  At the end of the meeting the Council removed the session from the evening’s agenda, presumably due to the earlier decision to defer action on the water rate increase.

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Speed Readout Signs Coming to Falls Church City

July 11, 2011 by (see byline) · 4 Comments 


July 11, 2011

To help calm traffic and improve safety, the City of Falls Church will install new electronic speed readout signs at 11 locations throughout the City.  The City’s engineering staff studied traffic and roadway conditions to determine the best location for the signs.  The signs are 30”x 42” with an LED display screen, mounted on a single pole and powered by solar energy.  This project, funded by a federal grant dispersed through the American Recovery and Reimbursement Act (ARRA), will be managed by the Department of Public Works.

Electronic speed readout sign locations

   500 and 513 E. Broad St. 
   430 Great Falls St.
   410, 413/415, 815, and 816 Lincoln Ave.
   503/507 and 504 N. West St.
   903 Lanier Place, along S. West St.
   1001 Parker St. along S. West St.

Owners of the properties adjacent to the rights of way where the signs will be posted were contacted in advance by the City.

For more information about the speed readout signs, contact Cyrus Salehi, civil engineer with the Department of Public Works, at 703-248-5331, or e-mail [email protected].

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Preliminary Hearing in Gardner Case Tomorrow

July 11, 2011 by George Bromley · 1 Comment 

Falls Church Times Staff

July 11, 2011

Michael Gardner is due in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court tomorrow morning for a preliminary hearing in connection with sexual abuse charges.  Mr. Gardner, 47, was arrested on June 22 and charged with aggravated sexual battery and object sexual penetration involving three young girls.  He has denied the charges, according to his attorney Brian O’Connor. 

The hearing is set for 11:45 am in the City Hall Courtroom.  Judge Esther Wiggins will preside.  No decision has been announced thus far as to whether the court will be open to the public or closed. 

Nicole Wittman, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney for Loudoun County, will serve as prosecutor.  Her assignment apparently is due to Mr. Gardner’s past contacts with Arlington County officials.  In January 2011 he and his wife hosted a fund raiser for the current Decmocratic candidate for Commonwealth Attorney in the Arlington district, which includes Falls Church City.

A preliminary or probable cause hearing provides the accused and his counsel an opportunity to see a portion of the prosecution’s case.  However, as the burden of proof for the prosecutor’s evidence is lower than the “beyond reasonable doubt” standard required for trial, a prosecutor often will only present enough of the case for the judge to decide that there is sufficient evidence to proceed.

If Judge Wiggins finds probable cause based on the evidence presented, the case will be referred to the Grand Jury.  If an indictment is then handed down, trial will be held in the Arlington Circuit Court, which holds jurisdiction over felonies.  If the judge rules that probable cause is lacking, the prosecutor could still seek an indictment through the Grand Jury.

Mr. Gardner currently is free on a $50,000 bond on the conditions that he not reside in his Ellison Street home prior to Tuesday’s court date and have no contact with any minor children.  He has no prior criminal record. 

A well known Falls Church News Press columnist, blogger, and political activist, Mr. Gardner is married to a former City mayor and current council member.  His arrest, which stunned City residents, has attracted local and national media coverage.

UPDATE:  At 7:17 pm, July 11, a City spokesperson advised the hearing will be at 11:45 am, July 12, not 10:45 as previously indicated.

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