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Arts Center on Bond Issue

County Building Plans Include Park, Schools

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 28, 2004; Page LZ20

Loudoun County voters will be asked Tuesday to approve more than $108 million to fund building projects meant to help the county keep pace with rapid growth.

Two questions will be put to voters in a bond referendum. The first would authorize the county to take on $15.43 million in debt to complete a performing arts center in Purcellville and a community center in Dulles South, to renovate the Loudoun Valley Community Center and to buy land for a park in Lovettsville.

The second question asks voters to take on $92.6 million in debt for school projects. They include building an elementary school in Brambleton and a middle school in the Dulles/Ashburn area, renovating the county's four older middle schools and the 51-year-old Loudoun County High School and buying land for future schools. The elementary school would open in 2006 and the middle school a year later.

School Board Chairman John A. Andrews II (Potomac) said the county opens new schools "just on time" to avoid crowding, which he said means the system relies on voters to approve the yearly spending requests. They have voted yes for the past 13 years.

"If we're turned down it creates a scenario of having overcrowded schools, busing kids or trailers," Andrews said. "Those are the options."

Almost half the money for the school projects -- $41.68 million -- would go toward renovations. Refurbishing the Leesburg high school, the county's oldest, would cost more than $10 million. A two-story addition would replace six classroom cottages, the library would be relocated and other areas of the building would be renovated.

More than $30 million would be spent to refurbish four middle schools: Blue Ridge, Seneca Ridge, J. Lupton Simpson and Sterling. Libraries, science labs, art and music rooms and auditorium and gyms would be improved. The schools would also receive sprinkler systems, and their main offices would be rebuilt to allow office employees to better monitor the front door.

Andrews said that the last change was behind the middle school renovation projects and was needed to make the buildings more secure.

"I think that with everything going on in our country and the world, we need to re-do those schools for safety reasons," he said.

On the county side, most of the money would be spent on a multipurpose building in South Riding to replace the Arcola Community Center. The 9,000-square-foot building would initially include classroom space, a gym, preschool and senior cafe. It would be expanded later to include more recreation facilities, meeting rooms, classrooms and a 35,000-square-foot aquatic center.

More than $4 million would be used to renovate the Loudoun Valley Community Center in Purcellville, which was built as a school in 1922. Electrical, plumbing and heating and air conditioning systems would be upgraded, and parking and drainage issues would be addressed.

Land for a park in Lovettsville would cost $1.3 million.

The bond referendum would also allocate $1.4 million for the completion of the Franklin Park Performing and Visual Arts Center in Purcellville. The theater complex, which has been built on the site of a barn that burned down in 1997, would include classrooms, an exhibit area and performance space. It would be Loudoun's first combined artistic venue that is not attached to an educational institution.

"It's very important to have facilities where families can have a place to go together as a family," said Beth Wilson, president of the Friends of Franklin Park Arts Center. Although volunteers have built most of the structure, additional funds are needed to install electricity, carpeting, 300 seats and a stage. Wilson said the finished product would provide county residents who are interested in experiencing and learning about the arts an opportunity to do so in their own back yards.

"This will be a venue for the residents as well as the professionals," she said.

Staff writer Lila Arzua contributed to this report.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company