The latest attempt at regional cooperation in Northern Virginia received a temporary "not in service" signal last week when the Alexandria City Council pulled out of a plan to implement an emergency 911 dialing system in the area.
The refusal by the council to join a plan looked favorably upon by Fairfax and Arlington counties added another brick to Alexandria's wall of resistance to its neighbors interest in regional cooperation.
In recent years, the Alexandria City Council has:
Erected barricades in the Dowden Terrace neighborhood, just across from Fairfax County, to keep county motorists from cutting through Alexandria streets.
Refused to consider widening King Street near the Fairfax County line, again partly to discourage motorists from using Alexandria streets as commuter routes.
Established three-hour parkng limits for nonresidents in Old Town, after studies showed 92 percent of cars parked there during the day were owned by "outsiders" and half of those were from Fairfax County.
Refused to permit the opening of three Metro stations in Alexandria -- which have no parking lots for commuters -- until a fourth station on the line -- which has commuter parking -- opens in Fairfax County. The reason? City officials feared Fairfax County commuters would clog Alexandria streets, one official said.
Despite criticism from its neighbors, Alexandria officials say their first responsibility is to see to the city's needs.
"Alexandria is a very unique place," council member Jim Moran said after voting against the 911 proposl last week. "We take pride in our past and our economically tough-minded approach to the future. We're not against regionalism, but we didn't want to commit ourselves to a system that's going to be outmoded in a few years."
But Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman John F. Herrity syas he is "fed up" with Alexandria's sense of uniqueness.
"They want our (tax) money for Metro," said Herrity, "but when it comes to something like this (911), which we want, they are suddenly not interested. It's a perversion of regionalism."
By pulling out of the 911 system, which ws expected to start next year. Alexandria has forced Arlington and Fairfax to decide whether they will pick up the bill for calls that would have been paid for by Alexandria. If the two counties refuse to do that, or pull out of the 911 plan themselves, the system would be killed for the present time.
"I don't know what we're going to do," said Arlington County Board Chairman Walter L. Frankland. "We'll have to study the issue some more."
The Fairfax Board of Supervisors has requested a meeting with the Alexandria council to discuss the 911 controversy. The meeting is expected to take place this month.
Alexandria City Council member Caryle C. Ring Jr., one of two council members favoring the measure, admits the decision could come back to haunt the city.
"This was a relatively small expense, about $22,000 annually. But we're still vulnerable on Metro funding, which can cost us millions," Ring said after the vote. "It's a shame something like this had to happen, because the other jurisdictions may remember it when we go to ask their cooperation on something else."
Under the complex formula for Metro funding, a new 2 percent gasoline tax in Northern Virginia will be sent to a regional agency, which will then reallocate funds among the localities.
According to Ring, an attorney, the statutes "are vague as to how the money is to be allocated. Fairfax will probably argue that since they raise more than we do, because they are a bigger jurisdiction, they should get a larger share back, even though more (subway) stations are in Alexandria."
Alexandria Fire Chief Charles Rule and city Police Chief Charles Strobel has opposed the 911 system. Both claimed it would cause confusion as emergency calls were manually transferred to the proper jurisdiction. Additonally, both men argued, it made little sense to invest in a manual system, which in all likelihood would be replaced with a computerized system in a few years.
"If Alexandria had been alone in this, I would have agreed with the chiefs," Ring said. "But with all the other jurisdictions involved, I think we have to be responsive to their needs. After all, we ask them to be responsive to ours."
Some observers said the council vote should have come as no surprise.
"Let's face it," said one city observer. "Alexandria traditonally has not liked its neighbors. This council is no different from previous councils -- they want to protect their own prerogatives."
John W. Epling, head of the Northern Virginia Planning District Commission which helps coordinate regional programs, said the current disputes are not unusual.
"Northern Virginia has lived with the problem of regional disputes for some time," sighed Epling. "You'd have to be against God and motherhood to be against 911, but the technical aspects are very complex. We (at the planning commission) were prepared to recommend against it, but then the jurisdictions jumped on the bandwagon.
"But even with Alexandria's opposition to it, I don't think regionalism is in such bad shape."
The system was first proposed in 1976, but it was not until two years later that several regional study groups were set up. Last year, Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax sent letters of intent to the C&P Telephone Company, indicating they wanted the 911 system to be in place by 1981.
Almost as soon as the letters went out, Alexandria officials began questioning the feasibility of the system. The questions ranged from those raised by Rule and Strobel to one raised by Vice Mayor Robert L. Calhoun at last week's council meeting.
"WHY DO WE HAVE TO RENT USED EQUIPMENT FROM "C&P?" Calhoun asked. "Why can't we wait for the new technology? This is a half-baked system."
But the issue foremost in the minds of other jurisdictions was Alexandria's apparent resistance to regional cooperation.
However, state Sen. Wiley F. Mitchell Jr. (R-Alexandria) says he believes the city is as concerned about regional issues as its neighbors.
"There is no lack of regional interest in the city," he said, "and no desire to shut out the rest of Northern Virginia. But there is no forum for politcians to informally sit down and talk about their own needs and priorities. I think there should be. Maybe that would be a way to lessen the problems that sometimes develop."