Following some spirited exchanges tonight, the Falls Church City Council moved to bring to a vote at its next business meeting a resolution authorizing the issuance of $19,575,000 in general obligation bonds to finance capital improvement projects, including $4,3375,000 in City Hall renovations and expansion plans and $7,885,000 in school system improvements, including $4 million to repay loans for the Thomas Jefferson renovation and $2,4 million for preparations for a Mt. Daniel Elementary expansion.
The main bone of contention at the meeting involved the funding for City Hall, as Councilman Phil Duncan pointed out that leaders of the City’s Economic Development Authority had questioned whether expending resources to renovate the 1950s structure made financial sense instead of a plan to raze it and build a new City Hall from the ground up at that location or elsewhere.
Duncan’s concerns were challenged vociferously by Councilman Ira Kaylin, who viewed them as attempting to delay badly needed City Hall renovations. “We all know you want to tear City Hall down and delay,” Kaylin bellowed. “This is a gem of a site. I couldn’t disagree with you more on how this is being handled and your position.”
The matter was resolved with comments by Vice Mayor David Snyder, who pointed out that $3.4 million is needed for immediate renovations at the facility to address real hardships for the police department and courts use of the building, among other things, and another $1 million designated for architectural and engineering planning, which could include both plans to expand the existing building, or to evaluate the option of going to a new site, altogether.
When Duncan pleaded for at least providing an estimate of the relative costs of building a new City Hall, altogether, compared with the cost of a renovation of the existing building, it was agreed that this could be part of the task for the $1 million in planning money included for City Hall in the proposed bond issue.
City Manager Wyatt Shields pointed out that with the extraordinarily high growth in enrollment at the Mt. Daniel Elementary, School Division officials are scrambling to determine how to best expand that site to accommodate the growth.