The Prince William County Board of Supervisors last week approved a $111.8-million five-year capital improvement program that will put a $12.8 million bond referendum before the voters next spring.
The bond issue would include a regional library in the eastern end of the county, a recreation center at Davis Ford Park and a training center for police and firefighters. All are designed to serve residents countywide.
While they endorsed the plan, several supervisors, including Chairman Richard Pfitzner, said they felt that the list of projects would have to include "something for everyone" -- a project in each of the seven magisterial districts -- if it is to win public support. Most supervisors said the program could go as high as $20 million if that happened.
"I hate to use the term 'pork barrel,' " Pfitzner said, "but I think it's important that every part of the county have an interest in this bond." He suggested road projects and neighborhood swimming pools be included to garner countywide support.
Vice chairman Joseph Reading agreed. "There should be something for every district -- but I think it would be selfish of voters to oppose the bond if there isn't. I find it offensive when somebody refuses support because there's nothing in it for them."
Yet supervisor Tony Guiffre unabashedly said later that was one of the reasons he was the lone dissenter on the issue. "What is there for me to support? None of the facilities are needed; they are all just wanted. And there isn't one in my district."
Guiffre also opposed the package, he said, because County Executive Robert Noe's inclusion of "an incubator building" -- a 40,000-square foot building designed to entice high-tech firms to relocate in Prince William. Because the economic development department recommended that the space be offered at below market rates, Guiffre labeled them "subsidized buildings for business."
County officials have said they believe businesses wishing to locate in the county hesitate to do so because office space would have to be built first and they do not want to wait.
A yes vote on the package must be coupled with active support in the community, insisted supervisor Don Kidwell, who asked for a verbal commitment before each board member voted. "I don't want to go ahead with this bond referendum and then lose," he said. With the specter of last November's $20 million road bond referendum failure haunting them, each supervisor, except Guiffre, pledged to work for the passage of the project. "I promised not to work against it," Guiffre said later.
"It's true that some supervisors didn't work hard for the referendum last time," Pfitzner said, "but unless this bond is approved I'm despairing that we won't have the continued momentum to provide the facilities this county needs. I'll do whatever I have to to see that it passes."
Pfitzner noted that, despite a reputation for rejecting bond issues, Prince William voters have approved two of them in the last eight years; the Potomac High School bond in 1977 and a referendum for the new courthouse four years ago. "Fifty percent of the people that live here now weren't here 10 years ago," he said. "And I believe they really want safe roads, quality education and recreational facilities. We've made substantial progress; we can't let it come to a halt."