Representatives of 10 Fairfax County citizens organizations have formed a committee to provide fact sheets, information, speakers and public briefings on the courthouse bond referendum scheduled for Feb. 22.
Although independent of the Board of Supervisors, the group was organized recently by Board Chairman John F. Herrity, Wayne Lynch of Annandale and Jo Carlberg of the Mt. Pleasant area of Fairfax are co-chairmen of the steering committee for the group.
Herrity said the group had only one meeting and that he "just sort of pulled everybody together." Herrity said he got the group together because "I thought the public ought of be totally informed with respect to the needs for the courthouse so they would have an opportunity to make a reasoned judgment at the polls."
The referendum would authorize bonds for $18.7 million to construct a new courthouse in the Fairfax County government complex.
Carlberg, who has taken responsibility for setting up the speakers bureau for the Citizen's Committee, acknowledges that it will be hard work to get the referendum passed. "But," she continued, "I think we can do it."
She said the early response to the committee has been good. She estimates that they have already had 20 requests for speakers.
The speakers, who will talk for five to 20 minutes, leave fact sheets or answer questions depending on the needs of the group, are being coordinated by County Clerk James Hoofnagle. Speakers are mostly the criminal justice staff, Circuit Court judges, members of the country bar association and members of the committee.
Lynch is also organizing at least two public briefings in the county where staff members will be present to answer questions after the talks. "One is planned for the present courthouse during the week before the referendum. The other will be held in another part of the county the same week," he said. Dates and times will be annnounced later.
Members of the steering committee were asked to arrange a speaker and to distribute of fact sheets to their own organizations. The membership of some groups on the committee is often divided on whether to support the referendum.
The Chamber of Commerce, which is not officially on the committee, originally turned down an earlier $21 million proposal for the courthouse and is still undecided on the newer $18 million proposal. However, Eugene Olmi, who is with the Chamber, decided to remain on the committee as a citizen.
The county Republican party, whose chairman Joe Ragan is on the Citizens Committee, barely squeaked by a straw vote approval of the bond at its county meeting Jan. 11. The group heard Sheriff James Swinson talk briefly on the lack of the room, bad acoustics and crowded corridors where prisoners, witnesses, jurors, judges and the public are in frequent contact.
Swinson told the group, "We need a new court house. Sooner or later we have to do it. If we put it off it will just be more expensive."
Harley williams of the Taxpayer's Alliance spoke against the referendum at the GOP meeting. He said he was opposed to increasing the bonded indebtedness of county and the cost of the debt service.
Williams suggested moving some of functions now in the court building, such as juvenile and domestic relations, to a renovated empty school building and decentralizing the admininstrative offices dealing with minor traffic charges.
When the final vote was counted, the vote was 33 for the bond, 31 against and 29 undecided.
John Lynch of the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations said that the membership of his organization voted without dissent to support the bond issue at their regular meeting last Thursday.
The board of directors recommended that the proposal be supported. Gary Hoffman, chairman of the committee that studied the proposal, also recommend support of the referendum.
Until the proposal was approved by themembership, both Hoffman and Lynch were on the commitee as interested citizens rather than as official representatives of their organizations.
In their fact sheet the committee places emphasis on the need for the courthouse building and the advantages of bond financing.
According to the fact sheet, pay as you go financing would require an increase in property taxes for one year of $350 on a $62,000 home. However, with bonds there would be no increase in property taxes.
The fact sheet also states that with the triple. A bond rating of the county, the cost of servicing the bond debt will be less than the 10 per cent annual inflation in construction costs.
All voters registered in the county by Feb. 8 can vote on the referendum. It is the only item on the ballot.
Speakers can be arranged by calling Jo Carlberg at 549-5551. Notice of the place and time of the briefings will be sent to organizations and will be posted in libraries. The larger and more detailed study of the need for the courthouse is available in all county libraries and from the county administrative offices.
Other members and organizations represented on the citizens committee are Vivian Watts of the League of Women Voters, Emilie Miller of the County Democratic Committee, Murray Wheeler of the Mason District Council, Jesse B. Wilson of the Fairfax County bar association, J. Sidney Holland of the Countywide Black Citizens Associations, Gerald Hopkins of the Community Ministry of Fairfax, Larry Stinson of the Annandale District Council and Gary Hoffman of the Federation of Civic Associations.
Most of the background material being distributed by members of the group has been provided by the research and statistics office of the county's public safety and human services division.
Research and statistics chief Ralph R. Young said that under the Code of Virginia, counties are required to provide adequate court facilities. "Since it is generally felt that our facilities are inadequate," he said, "it could be construed that if the required to build a new courthouse from some other source, such as general revenue funds." However, he said the probability of that happening is remote.