The Chairman of the Board of County Supervisors delivered his annual
State of the County address on Tuesday, Jan. 8, to open the first meeting of
the Board of County Supervisors for 2019. The Chairman noted that this will be his final
address. The full remarks are below.
In other business, the Board chose Potomac District Supervisor Maureen Caddigan to serve as Vice Chair of the Board for 2019. The Board also chose Neabsco District Supervisor John D. Jenkins as Chairman Pro-Tem for 2019.
More information about the Board of County Supervisors is available at pwcgov.org/bocs.
Before I deliver my final state of the county address, I want to thank the people of Prince William County for entrusting me with the duty to serve this community for the past 15 years. It has been a distinct honor and sincere privilege to serve all of you. I also wish to send my best wishes to Supervisor John Jenkins and pray for his speedy recovery and return to the Board. The Board also extends its prayers to the Anderson family at this difficult time.
Looking back over the past several years, one must marvel at the tremendous prosperity that has come to Prince William County. We were a separated community 15 years ago. We saw growth opportunities in western Prince William and stifled development in the east. Our road plans were in their infancy: the Prince William Parkway had yet to be completed, multiple artery roads were not yet aligned, widened or constructed, and sidewalks and walking paths led to nowhere.
Yet, we had a clear vision, strong leadership and a commitment to focusing our resources on core responsibilities: education, transportation, and public safety. We streamlined local government. We cut away excess spending. We eliminated bureaucratic red-tape. And, most importantly, we listened to our constituents, sought their input, and put their interests first.
We earned our first triple-AAA bond rating, which allowed us to save millions on capital infrastructure. We implemented sound financial management practices that assured we protected taxpayer dollars. We weathered the Great Recession, and today we are witnessing increased home prices and exponential growth in commercial investment. As families flocked here for the high quality of life, the County grew into the second largest locality in the Commonwealth. This growth increased the demand for services, and this Board committed itself to meeting that demand.
The cardinal duty of government is to protect the lives and rights of citizens. Over the past 15 years, this Board has fulfilled that duty. We have built 5 new Fire and Rescue stations, renovated and reconstructed an additional seven, and implemented, for the first time, a centralized Fire and Rescue System to guarantee consistent service throughout Prince William County. This year, we will expand our Fire and Rescue service to improve response times and enhance the level of service to the community around the clock.
We built both the Western District and Central District Police stations. We added hundreds of new officers and improved their pay to lower attrition. Police response times have dramatically improved and crime rates have dropped by 35%--from 24.3 crimes per 1,000 residents to 14. We are now one of the safest communities in America. A major factor in our efforts to reduce crime came in 2007 with our crackdown on criminal illegal aliens. Since establishing the 287(g) Program here in Prince William County, we have put more than 9,600 criminal illegal aliens into ICE custody. By working with the federal government to report illegal immigrants who are arrested for criminal activities in Prince William County, we made clear that we are a community committed to the rule of law.
In education, this Board has remained steadfast to its determination to meet the needs of children. Since FY 2004, we have increased public school funding by more than $286 million dollars annually, nearly doubling today what we transferred to the school system in 2004 when I first joined the Board of County Supervisors.
The current Board has particularly focused on education funding. We added a Class Size Reduction Grant in 2016 to provide matching funds for the Schools to target class size reduction initiatives. In 2017, we appropriated an additional $20 million to schools for site acquisition in eastern Prince William and for increased capacity for the new 13th high school located on the western end. And in FY19, we became the first locality in Virginia to hire retired police officers to serve as armed security officers in our public schools.
This Board has done its part in funding our education system, and we call upon the School Board to continue its management of those funds to provide the level of education the children of Prince William County deserve.
As we consider the future, we must not forget that the greatest benefits to Prince William County came as a result of the government specifically asking voters what they wanted in their community. We brought forth a road bond referendum, a library bond referendum, and a park bond referendum in 2006.
The changes in this community as a result of those referenda are staggering. We constructed two new libraries, at a time when other communities were shutting down libraries. Today those libraries are filled to capacity and stand as a reminder of the great value we add to our community when we give a voice to the people.
We added dozens of new, turfed, lighted, state-of-the-art athletic fields for our sports leagues. As a result, we now find children of all ages, young adults and seniors taking advantage of this tremendous resource.
In transportation, we have fully financed and have nearly completed all of the road improvements as part of the last Road Bond Referendum, building 150 lane miles of new roads, 1,700 additional commuter lot parking spaces, and 80 miles of sidewalks and pedestrian trails. No other locality in Virginia comes even close to accomplishing what we accomplished, and we did it on our own.
It is truly remarkable how far we have come, but there is much more to be done. Over the next 10 years, we will continue to grow as a county, and we must provide the types of facilities and infrastructure that will elevate Prince William County to the community we envision.
So, during this final year of this term, I ask this Board to place before the citizens of this County on election day, November 5, 2019, a referendum to fund essential transportation and park infrastructure to move Prince William County to the next level.
Although we have built many new fields, none of them are indoors, and for much of the year, cold and inclement weather prohibit their use. The community has called for the construction of indoor recreation facilities that allow for indoor track, basketball, volleyball, soccer, lacrosse, racquetball, and maybe even pickleball. We must consider constructing indoor sports facilities—on both sides of our County--that allow our residents of all ages to live a healthy lifestyle and meet a broad range of community needs 12 months a year and in all weather conditions. Although the County will cooperate with the private sector on these facilities to the furthest extent possible, such facilities are unlikely to be built and financed by the private sector alone. I ask this Board to place such facilities on a bond referendum identifying the cost and locations of such projects.
But most critically, the referendum must include further transportation improvements, particularly improvements which neither the Commonwealth nor NVTA will construct. This bond will ensure that Prince William County's 30-year commitment to local road construction will continue. This County has gone above and beyond its duty to fund our transportation construction, which in Virginia is a state responsibility. We have undertaken this burden because the Commonwealth has failed to keep up. We as a locality, however, cannot bear the entire burden on our own.
We call upon our delegation in the Virginia General Assembly to secure funding for needed transportation improvements affecting Prince William County residents, including the I-95 bottleneck at the Occoquan River, the Route 1/Route 123 interchange, and Route 28. These projects are too costly for the County to build on its own. Over the holidays, Governor Northam's Administration announced that the Route 28 improvements would not be financed. This is unacceptable. We call on our delegation to take up the mantle and fulfill the legacy left behind by Senator Chuck Colgan: put aside partisan differences and get the job done.
Finally, this Board must act to protect its rural area, which is disappearing at an alarming rate. Over the past ten years, more than 2,000 acres of our rural area has been lost to subdivisions, with 71% of that acreage lost in the past five years. The so-called Rural Crescent is failing and leaves land owners with no option but to carve up rural properties into 10-acre lots. This Board owes it to land owners—and to the residents of this County—to implement the recommendations of the rural land preservation study and permanently protect our rural areas.
In my time on this Board, we have never been afraid to address challenges head-on, and even though we may not always agree on the best course of action, we have always agreed that it is our duty to serve the interests of the community above all else. As we move into our final year, I am honored to have served with the members of this Board and so many other great leaders in Prince William County. I am particularly privileged to have had the opportunity to work with two of the greatest political leaders who have ever served on this Board--Maureen Caddigan and John Jenkins. We are blessed to have had their presence on this Board and in this community for so many years.
For me, this will be my final term on this Board. As we find in the Book of Ecclesiastes: To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven. My time here was one of transforming this community and this government. I am proud of what we have accomplished. As we finish our term in office together, I know we will turn over to the new Board a thriving community and a strong local government ready to face a new season and a new time here in Prince William County, the greatest place anyone could call home.