D.C. Mayor Marion Barry went to Fairfax City yesterday to sign an agreement, designed to end years of complaints, that spells out procedures to be followed in case of escapes or disturbances at the city's Lorton Reformatory in southern Fairfax County.
The mayor's visit to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors marked the first time he has appeared before a suburban governing body, his aides said -- and the meeting followed what apparently was his chauffeur's first encounter with the Northern Virginia road system.
Scheduled to attend the 12:30 p.m. signing ceremony, Barry didn't arrive until 1:27.
"My driver on the way to Fairfax County got lost at least three times," Barry said with a chuckle. "If I'd been driving, it wouldn't have happened."
He said he had looked up from a stack of documents to discover that the car was "somewhere on Glebe Road," and lost.
County Board Chairman John F. Herrity thanked Barry "very much for dropping by this afternoon on your way home."
At a news conference after the signing ceremony, Barry said he plans to announce soon a "comprehensive plan" to put unemployed workers from the city to work in the suburbs, where an economic boom has created an abundance of jobs.
The new Lorton agreement, largely a restatement of old promises and written and unwritten accords, says that D.C. officials will notify county police within five minutes of a suspected or confirmed escape or when a prisoner fails to return from furlough on time.
The agreement also says that Lorton's siren will be sounded within five minutes of a confirmed escape to alert neighborhood residents and that the prison will notify county police of a riot or other disturbance immediately after notifying the D.C. director of corrections.
The agreement further states that the District will reimburse the county for use of the county's police helicopter when it is used to search for escapees.
It also provides that meetings will be held regularly between top county police officers and officials from the District's corrections department.
On a related subject, Fairfax officials said yesterday that Lorton's Youth Center No. 1, where an inmate was fatally injured in December in an explosion triggered by a methane gas leak, will be certified as safe by the county in about a week. District officials would then decide when to move inmates back to that facility, according to a county spokesman.
On the employment issue, Barry would not give details of the plan worked out with Fairfax County and other Washington area officials to link unemployed D. C. workers with unfilled suburban jobs.
County officials added that specifics will be worked out after Barry makes his announcement.
But the effort -- believed to be the first of its kind in Fairfax -- could include better bus service, training programs, a new job referral system and possibly even transportation subsidies to get workers to outlying areas for job interviews, said Matthew F. Shannon, director of the D.C. Department of Employment Services.
Residents of the District of Columbia, where the unemployment rate in March reached 8.1 percent, with 26,000 people out of work, have cited poor public transportation and alleged racism in Virginia as major reasons for not seeking jobs there.
In Fairfax County, the comparable unemployment rate was 2.4 percent, and thousands of service industry and blue-collar jobs are going begging.
Some contracting companies say they're half-staffed, and "help wanted" signs are plastered in many windows.
Fairfax County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert would not say how much the program is expected to cost, but he said the major outlay would be for transportation, which would be paid by the District.
"We're prepared to cooperate and get a list of companies and individual employers to the District, but it's the private sector that will have to be the main player," Herrity said.
Shannon said he was excited about the plan, the outline of which was worked out in a meeting Thursday, but he added that it was too early to predict the impact of the plan on the District's unemployment rate.