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Fairfax storm water bond draws criticism

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Photo - Flooding in the Huntington area was a major problem in 2006 and 2011. (Examiner file photo)
Flooding in the Huntington area was a major problem in 2006 and 2011. (Examiner file photo)
Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland

Fairfax County's plan to borrow $30 million to build a levee and pumping station in the Huntington neighborhood to protect it from flooding has drawn fire from some local officials.

The plan goes before voters next month. The bond issue was requested by County Board of Supervisors member Gerry Hyland, D-Mount Vernon, after massive floods in 2006 and 2011 ravaged about 160 homes in Huntington, which sits along Cameron Run.

Since that time, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has studied various ways to protect the neighborhood, including dredging Cameron Run and floodproofing homes, but ultimately decided a levee and pumping station are the best way to keep the floodplain safe.

But three board members -- John Cook, R-Braddock, Pat Herrity, R-Springfield, and Michael Frey, R-Sully -- voted against the $30 million bond at a May board meeting.

"Unlike other bonds that benefit the county as a whole, this is a one-time thing that's been thrown in to benefit about 200 households," Cook said. "We need to look into this more."

The total cost of the project worries Herrity, who said the county "was bumping too close to its fiscal limits" should voters approve the bond.

But Alan Ruof, a member of the neighborhood's community association, said the damage and loss of personal property associated with flooding has "been financially devastating" to residents and left many frightened and hoping the project will pass.

"This would give us hope," Ruof said. "It will remove the constant threat of flooding and show everyone that there's light at the end of the tunnel."

Board Chairwoman Sharon Bulova said the bond funding the levee is necessary to protect the neighborhood. She said the county budgets a certain amount of money each year to pay off bonds and keep the county's high credit rating and that tax rates aren't expected to rise if the bond passes.

County residents will also vote on three other bonds in the Nov. 6 election.

The first, a $25 million public libraries bond, would go toward the renovation of three Fairfax libraries -- John Marshall, Pohick Regional and Tysons-Pimmit Regional -- and may allow the county to relocate Reston Regional.

Bonds totaling $55 million would be used to renovate the Baileys Crossroads, Herndon and Jefferson fire stations, as well as 22 courtrooms at the Fairfax County Courthouse. Improvements are expected to include security upgrades and wall and ceiling replacements.

The county is also proposing park and park facilities bonds totaling $75 million that would go to the purchase of land and renovation, and expansion of many existing county parks, among other things.

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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