The Prince William County Board of Supervisors last week heard a report from the Citizens Bond Referendum Committee that hardly came as a surprise. Prince William County residents want roads -- more roads, better roads.
Not covered in the report, however, was the question of how to pay for what many see as the most important need in the county. Committee Chairman Terry Spellane said the group will further analyze the survey on which the report was based and come back to the board with specific funding recommendations by April 30. Despite its name, he said, the committee is not predisposed to a road bond referendum.
At its formation several months ago, the committee's charge from the board was to review the county's public facilities. A $10,000 survey was conducted by a Utah-based national research firm called Decision-Making-Information. Using random telephone interviews, the survey asked 356 residents 18 years of age and older four basic questions:
*Which county services are most important?
*How well does the county perform these services?
*Are these services performed better or worse than a year ago?
*Which service is it most important to improve?
Three geographic areas -- western urban, eastern urban and rural -- were represented.
Although building new roads is a state function, "construction of new roads" drew an 8.2 in importance on a scale of 1 to 10, while respondents gave the county a score of 5.1 for performance. In addition, "the road department" and "road maintenance" were listed as the two worst county services, receiving a 9 and an 8 "worst" rating respectively. Respondents in the mostly rural western end of the county tended to favor improvements to existing roads while the more urban eastern end participants leaned heavily toward new road construction, the survey showed. It also indicated that respondents viewed police and fire protection and public education as high in both importance and performance.
Police and fire protection scored 9.4 in importance and 7.8 in performance; education drew a 9.1 importance rating and 7.2 in performance.
Survey respondents said they believed performance in all the above categories, including roads, has improved considerably during the last year.
Spellane said his committee found the responses regarding roads particularly interesting in light of last year's defeat of a $20 million road bond referendum.
Although a broad-based coalition of civil and business groups called Transpo '85 has launched a major effort to build support for another road bond issue, Spellane said his committee will attempt to provide the supervisors with other options as well.
He named toll roads and special taxing districts as possibilities. "We may recommend a multifaceted approach to the program -- a little bit of everything," he said.
County planner John Schofield said the report indicated that his department's job will be to educate the public about the source of road funding. "People have to realize that no matter who pays for roads, ultimately it comes out of the taxpayer's pocket.
"The difference is, if our taxes go up in Richmond, the taxpayer may not get his dollar's worth because the road money will have to be spread over the state. If local funds are used, improvements will all be in Prince William County," he said.
The survey showed that fully 80 percent of those questioned rated Prince William County as a good or excellent place to live, and 58 percent said that county government services overall are good or excellent.
The board has allotted another $10,000 for a second survey if the committee finds it necessary. According to officials, the information provided by the survey will benefit nearly every county agency. "No matter what else happens with this report, the county got its money worth," Schofield said.