Board puts off local bond referendum decision until Aug. 6

It was a day of deferrals.

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors was expected to deal swiftly with a proposed $69 million local bond referendum Tuesday, but instead put off until Aug. 6 a resolution getting it on the ballot.

It appeared to be the easy decision of the day — whether to include seven local road projects on the ballot for November, something the county has done many times before.

But even that proved too much in a day of wait-and-see.

Just minutes before the board issued its delay, supervisors agreed not to take an immediate position whether to endorse the half-cent sales tax hike in a regional road bond referendum. The board will do that in September.

When the question of local bond projects came up, more confusion and dissension threatened, so at-large board chairman Sean T. Connaughton once again moved to delay.

At issue with the local bond is whether to change one of the projects to reflect the concerns of Supervisor Ruth T. Griggs, R-Occoquan.

To satisfy Griggs’ concerns, the total bond may rise to $73 million to add $4 million for acquisition of rights of way for businesses that have already been displaced by the anticipated road-widening of Minnieville Road.

Most supervisors seemed to sanction the list of proposed improvements: Sudley Manor Drive extended, U.S. 15, U.S. 1, Minnieville Road, Benita Fitzgerald Drive and intersection improvements to the Prince William Parkway.

But Griggs demanded that the board honor its previous commitment to widen Minnieville from Old Bridge Road to Caton Hill Road before widening it from Spriggs Road to Cardinal Drive as called for in the latest bond. The previous project was dropped from the state’s six-year transportation plan, so Griggs is attempting to get it reinstated on the local bond.

Some businesses and a church have already moved in anticipation of the road-widening, Griggs said, and the county must reimburse them before launching into another segment of the road. The additional $4 million that County Executive Craig S. Gerhart is proposing would go to pay those costs.

“Those people moved in anticipation of the road,” Griggs said. “They didn’t want to do it at first, but they knew it was coming so they did it. One dentist spent his retirement relocating to new offices and a church relocated, too. These are projects we have already voted and voted and voted on, and we’ve had public hearings. I’m not supporting this referendum until we make these people whole.”

Without the funding a local bond would provide, Griggs’ project and the Minnieville Road project in Mary K. Hill’s Coles district — widening from Spriggs Road to Cardinal Drive — could wind up competing for dollars. “I hate to see us pit one project against another,” Hill said.

Supervisors have been anxious to get at least one project in their district on the bond. Each supervisor has at least one except Griggs who is sharing the parkway intersection improvements at Minnieville and Old Bridge roads with Hill and Supervisor John D. Jenkins, a Democrat, who represents Neabsco.

Supervisors Hilda Barg, D-Woodbridge, and Maureen S. Caddigan, R-Dumfries, questioned how the U.S. 1 money would be spent and if it would overlap with regional bond money if that referendum is approved. The county bond projects were chosen assuming the regional referendum will pass.

For instance, U.S. 1 is proposed to receive $150 million; that money could go to the U.S. 1 /Va. 234 interchange at Cherry Hill, to construct a new bridge over Neabsco Creek or for U.S. 1 at Va. 619.

But even if it does pass, Dana Fenton, assistant to the county executive, said there is much leeway in a six-year project plan being floated by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. That body, which had its first meeting this week, is charged with allocating the regional bond revenues. While $150 million is proposed for secondary road improvements, there is no telling in what year the money is to be allocated.

Staff writer Diane Freda can be reached at (703) 878-4723.

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