In the absence of new agreements between Fairfax City and Fairfax County for sharing fire and rescue services next year, the city last week earmarked nearly a million dollars in its $15.3 million budget to staff and acquire land for a new fire station in the northern end of the city.
The continuing disagreement between the city and the county over $8.3 million in contracts for eight services the county provides the city would leave the county's Massey Building, which sits on a 50-acre plot of county land in the center of Fairfax City, without close-in fire protection.
Fairfax City already has announced that in May 1978 it will take over control of its fire department, Company No. 3, located on University Drive less than a mile from Fairfax County administrative offices. As far as Fairfax is concerned, after that date the city will take care of the city and "the county can take care of the county," said Fairfax City mayor Nathaniel young.
Currently, the city provides fire protection for the county in exchange for training and communications facilities from Fairfax County. The city owns Company NO. 3 but the county operates it.
If responsibility for fire and rescue services falls along jurisdictional boundaries, it will leave the Massey building as well as about 12 square miles of county surrounding Fairfax City without nearby fire protection. The closest county-owned fire station to the Massey building is Company No. 23 on Guninea Road roughly two miles away.
The new Fairfax City fire station, to be located across from the Rt. 50 entrance to Fairfax High School, will be needed for additional fire protection in the city after May 1978, Fairfax City officials said.
Fairfax City already has budgeted the $961,039 to build the new fire station for back up protection it now receives from Fairfax County. Fairfax City volunteer fireman are expected to raise $90,000 to build the station. But Fairfax County also could wind up spending millions to build the other stations to protect growing areas of the county now covered by the city's fire department if no agreement is reached.
That agreement could be a long time coming, since the two jurisdictions are arguing about how negotiations should be conducted. No date has been set for the county and city to get together and iron out their differences concerning the service contracts. The services which the county provides the city, besides fire protection, include school operations at more than $7 million, sewage treatment and waste disposal.
Robert C. Norris Jr., Fairfax City assistant manager, said the new fire station would have been needed eventually, "it's just a matter of building it sooner than we expected."
"The city had to get its budget set up, so I assume it has budgeted for the worst possible eventually," said Fairfax County Executive Leonard Whorton. "I expect we will be able to reach a satisfactory agreement to both sides before we end up with such a situation."
J. Hamilton Lambet, Fairfax County deputy executive for operations, said the county "is quite capable of taking care of itself" regarding fire and rescue services. He said the county has planned three new fire stations to be built, "the only question, as always, is when." One is planned for the Burke Center area, another for the Merrifield section and one near the interesection of routes 50 and 66.
Fairfax City officials say its going to cost the county some $5 million to build the stations ahead of schedule. Lambert says he does not know "where the city got that figure. Possibly they could cost $5 million, possibly less. That's no set sum."
According to Whorton, a satisfactory agreement between city and county would be one that continues the present arrangement of sharing fire and rescue services.
But while the two jurisdictions squabble about how they will negotiate to reach an agreement, no agreement appears to be in sight.
Fairfax City wants to tackle the eight contracts in step-by-step negotiations, starting with fire services, saying that "it is of immediate public safety and financial concern to both juridictions." After that contract is agreed upon, the city wants to discuss the contract covering school tuition payments. The city says the county overcharged it $1.1 million in annual tuition payments during the past four years. The county claims it undercharged the city $542,000 between the 1965 and 1972.
Fairfax County, on the other hand, wants to negotiate all contracts in one process, signing all agreements at the end of negotiations.
Fairfax County also wants two firms-Fitzgerald and Smith, which specializes in intergovernmental relations and is on $15,000 retainer to the county, and Daniel A. Robinson and Associates, a management consulting firm-to represent the county in negotiating contracts with the city.
Fairfax City, however, is "dismayed" over third-party representation in the negotiations, saying they should be conducted in a more "personal" atmosphere.
"It would appear that our efforts at establishing a dialogue would be more meaningful and enhance relationships if it were a staff/governing body team . . . doing the work as opposed to engaging costly outside consultants," said Fairfax City Manager Geoege E. Hubler Jr. in a letter to Whorton.
Whorton said he felt the negotiations could be conducted in a "professional and dispassionate manner" with the firms' representation.