It took a month for Fairfax County and Fairfax City to decide how they would open negotiations on new contracts for services that the county provides the city.
It took another four months for representatives from the city and county to establish the ground rules for how the negotiations would proceed on revising the contracts.
A month later, the county and city were in the midst of working out a new contract for sharing their fire services.
But early this week, months of negotiating came to a standstill with the fire contract being the only one of several contracts that was ever discussed.
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman John F. Herrity announced Monday that Fairfax City had "abandoned the spirit of cooperation" in the negotiations and that the county was forced to judge by itself what to charge the city for services.
He blamed the breakdown on a letter from Fairfax City Mayor Nathaniel Young that stated the city would only accept the terms for a fire services contract proposed by the city in the first of four negotiating sessions.
"The county has been subsidizing the city at about $1 million a year," Herrity said. "From now on we're just going to send the city the bills."
The county operates Fairfax City's school system, treats city sewage, disposes of the city's solid waste, and supplements the city's fire and rescue services among other services.
The board of supervisors voted unanimously Monday to ask the county staff to draw up new formulas for charging the city for services.
Young commented that the county was taking a hard line to discourage any area in the county from growing independent - a prospect the county has fought in the Virginia General Assembly.
At the last session, the county vigorously opposed bills that would have permitted areas of the county to go independent and would have cost the county part of its tax base. The county also was opposed to measures that would permit present or future cities to annex portions of the county.
Young said Herrity told him, "There have been approaches by other groups that want to become a town or city, and want to get the 'good deal' Fairfax City has.
"All counties are paranoid about annexation, and I don't think Fairfax County is exempt from that disease," Young said.
Young said that the city was "very surprised that the county has chopped off negotiations completely. The city made a final offer (on the fire services contract on Oct. 12) that we felt was quite generous."
Herrity said Young's Oct. 12 letter "wipes out what progress has been made."
"We reached what we thought was an agreement," he said. "The city led us to believe certain provisions were acceptable: then they took them all back and returned to their original position."
Perhaps the main sticking point, as far as the city is concerned, is the county's contention that the city should pay "overhead" on services it receives.
Fairfax Assistant City Manager Robert C. Norris said overhead would cost the city $600,000 over the current fiscal year. Last year the total bill for services from the county to the city was $8.8 million.
Until the current contracts for services are voided - a process that takes 18 months to three years, depending on the service - Young said "we (the city) have an agreement we feel is enforceable as law . . . . there is no provision for new formulas (for the county to charge the city for services provided)."
In answer to the county's claim that the city has been getting $1 million worth of free services from the county, Young said, "I think they (the county) pulled the figure out of their head, and that's a good round figure."
Board of Supervisors member Martha V. Pennino (D-Centreville) said of the city's position: "It's in their interest to keep the terms (of the contracts) as they are, by delaying or whatever else they can do.
"We're not being vindictive or punitive (by setting new service charges without continuing negotiations)," Pennino said. "But all the efforts to negotiate in good faith have been to no avail."
Fairfax County announced on March 21 its intent to renegotiate charges for services to the county, saying that since the contracts were first negotiated, inflation and other changes have affected "the nature and scope" of those services.
Most of the service contracts were first negotiated in 1965, after Fairfax City changed status from a town in 1961. Amendments to the contracts were made in 1971. That same year a sewer contract was signed between the two jursidictions.