Park authority construction director resigns

Patrick Mulhern, a 15-year veteran of the Prince William County Park Authority, resigned Wednesday during a closed-door meeting of the Park Authority Board.

He said Friday that he will be taking a job with the architectural and engineering firm Burgess & Niple, located off Prince William Parkway in Woodbridge, a Columbus, Ohio-based company. An announcement will be made next week, but he declined to comment further.

Until recently, Mulhern was director of corporate services, responsible for oversight of park construction and planning. Following the Valley View debacle and criticism of other park projects and operations Executive Director Peggy Thompson hired Alan Roberts, a 19-year veteran of the county’s public works department, and placed him in charge of construction.

Since October, the Park Authority experienced three months of turmoil that began with the finding of more than $1 million in cost overruns at Valley View Park in Bristow.

Cost overruns on Park Authority projects have been a concern for the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, which has authority over approval of financing plans for some park projects. About half of the Park Authority’s $17 million 2003 budget comes from the county.

After selling $3 million in bonds to pay for the park, the Board of County Supervisors authorized a loan of an additional $1.3 million to help complete it. County officials learned the authority was still short of completion costs in October.

Park Authority officials said Valley View was master planned before actual costs could be determined and that citizen input factored the need for additional softball fields and concession stands.

Valley View was not the first Park Authority operation to run afoul of the Board of County Supervisors. In previous years, the Board questioned the operations of water parks and golf courses when they didn’t meet estimates. In 2001, it was a shortfall of $670,000 in the Park Authority’s budget that prompted the board to ask for a full accounting of their finances. Since then, Park Authority officials said they are moving toward greater profitability at some of their operations.

An overhaul of the 1984 operating agreement between the Park Authority and county, possibly tightening the county’s financial purse strings, is currently in the works.

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

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