City Council – City Hall abuzz with activity once again

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The Alexandria City Council is back from summer recess and began their legislative year with a full docket, including an executive session on what to do about providing supplemental funding to the Alexandria Redevelopment Housing Authority for the redevelopment of Glebe Park.

Council did not take any formal vote or announce any decision after the executive session, so no reportable decision was made. They must make a decision soon because ARHA can no longer pay the $65,000 mortgage on the property, which is in danger of foreclosure.

Mirant
Mirant is moving forward to merge the smoke stacks at Alexandrias Potomac River Generating Station. We believe they need a permit and they believe they do not, said Vice Mayor Redella S. Del Pepper, co-chair of the Mirant Monitoring Group. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality decided to call an emergency meeting of the Air Pollution Control Board and let them decide. While there will be limited opportunity for people to talk, we want everybody to attend this meeting, which will be held on Thursday, Sept. 13, at the Nannie J. Lee Center. It is very important that we show the Air Board that we are serious about dealing with this issue.

The city has prepared a presentation, which will be given to the Air Board. We are very happy that the Air Board will be handling this matter because the VDEQ staff has been working hand-in-hand with Mirant, said City Attorney Ignacio Pessoa. We hope to get better results with the Air Board.

Mirant does not believe that the Air Board has the authority to decide what is, essentially, a legal matter. They will wait for the outcome of Thursdays meeting to decide what next steps they need to take.

King Street Trolley
Beginning in April, there will be a new mode of transportation on King Street, from the waterfront to the King Street Metro station. On Tuesday, council approved the appropriation of $141,000 from money set aside for the National Harbor cooperative project to solicit bids on operating a trolley on King Street. These vehicles will take visitors from the waterfront through Old Town and to the Metro so that they can enjoy other parts of our city, said Mayor Bill Euille. We want to encourage visitors to the Gaylord resort to come to Alexandria and we want to make it easy for them to get around.

The original proposal called for a trolley to be operated for three years. Council amended this to say for a one-year pilot project, renewable for up to three additional years. We want to be able to get the best price, and the possibility of a renewable contract for more than two years will help us with that, said City Manager Jim Hartmann.

The vehicles will have rubber tires and will use the cleanest fuel possible. These vehicles will represent our city and we want them to be as environmentally friendly as possible, said Councilman Paul Smedberg.

DASH is not able to operate the trolley because they just dont have the capacity without their new facility, said Euille. We can certainly look at DASH as a possibility after this first program.

While the initial cost for the project is $141,000, the yearly operating cost is estimated to be close to $600,000. I am very pleased that the Collaborative Work Group and the Chamber have brought this proposal forward but they need to start thinking of ways to fund this project in an ongoing manner because of our budgetary concerns, said Councilman Rob Krupicka. No one should assume that this is going to be in the budget after this initial year if other funding sources cannot be found. Also, we need to have a good mechanism for evaluating the success of the program if we are to continue to fund it.

The Request for Bids will be issued some time later this month, with proposals due in October. City staff will bring a recommendation for a vendor to council some time in late October or early November so that the vehicles can be here, ready to run in April when the Gaylord resort at National Harbor opens.

Start Strong
Rob Krupicka is a member of Virginia Gov. Tim Kaines Start Strong Council, which filed a report on universal access to pre-school in July. Kaine has decided, rather than recommending full state funding for this initiative, to develop public/private partnerships with existing pre-school providers.

It is much better to work with existing providers than to try and re-invent the wheel, Krupicka said. Council has scheduled a work session to discuss this issue as well and how we can increase our own pre-school slots in the city.

Kaine will present a statewide proposal to the General Assembly as part of his proposed F Y 2009 budget.

Economic Sustainability Work Group
Euille announced that there will be a community forum on the work of the Economic Sustainability Work Group on Saturday, Sept. 29, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. It will be held at the Crownview Hotel at 900 N. Fairfax Street.

The Work Group came out of a forum that we held in January of 2006, so it is appropriate to end their work with another community forum before they formally submit their final report, Euille said. We hope everyone will attend and participate because this is a very important topic.

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