Every so often, it’s good to see our local government leaders doing the right thing.
It took split votes and a lot of politics, but the Prince William Board of County Supervisors made some smart decisions June 25 when it approved sending a $355 million transportation bond referendum and a $41 million parks bond referendum to county voters.
The process began earlier this year with county leaders talking about bond referendums topping $1 billion. Keep in mind that bonds are not free money – the county (i.e., taxpayers) is obligated to pay the money back, with interest, over time. But they are a smart way, especially with low interest rates, to finance big-ticket capital improvements.
The $1 billion-plus package was pared down to about $600 million, which was presented at a public forum this spring and sent to the board for consideration.
However, the parks bond component of the package included several luxury items, the most expensive of which being an $84 million indoor sports complex somewhere in eastern Prince William. Among the features of the complex would have been an indoor running track with hydraulic lifts to raise the corners (think Daytona Speedway for runners).
As we said several weeks ago, that’s not something that Prince William needs, and if it was something the county wanted, then some private developer can build it. It’s not something taxpayers’ money should support.
Thankfully, the board listened, removing the indoor sports complex from the parks referendum, along with a $42 million aquatics and fitness center in the eastern end of the county and a $17.6 million indoor field house in the county’s western end.
The remaining projects in the parks bond referendum are simply improvements and expansions to a number of existing parks, plus $20 million for development of trails and open space countywide. It’s tough to argue against that, especially in a rapidly growing county – more usable green space is a good thing.
On the transportation side, the supervisors listened to local residents opposed to the extension of Van Buren Road in eastern part of the county and removed that from the bond package, along with several other projects. But they smartly increased the amount of proposed funding for a Route 28 bypass or widening from $100 million to $200 million. There is no local road in Prince William more clogged than Route 28 at rush hour, and it’s way past time for the county and the state to fix the issues there.
There’s no greater capital need in our county than new and improved roads and more or expanded schools. The board has addressed the road issue in a smart way; we encourage them now to do the same with the plan to eliminate school trailers.
In the meantime, though, voters will have an easy decision in November. The road and parks bond referendums approved by supervisors last week should have smooth sailing to passage.