Despite the defeat of a $20 million road bond referendum in November 1984, the Prince William Board of Supervisors last week said it would support a citizen proposal to put another road bond before the voters this year.
The Citizens' Bond Referendum Committee, appointed by the board last summer, told the board that roads are the number one need in the county and that residents say they are willing to pay for them with a bond issue rather than with taxes. The committee's report was based on two telephone surveys that reached more than 700 county residents.
"The board will support a bond referendum for roads, and I think this time it will have a better chance with the voters," said Board Chairman Ed King. "The surveys will help . . . . The people themselves told us what they need and how they want to pay for it. And look at the success of Transpo '85."
Transpo '85, a broad-based coalition of civic and business groups formed after the bond referendum defeat, launched a major effort to build support for another referendum. The group held an exhibition on transportation issues in October and worked to educate the public about the county's need to solve its own transportation problem rather than wait for the state to do so. Although road construction and improvements historically have been state responsibilities, local governments are finding it increasingly necessary to pay for what Fairfax Board Chairman Board Chairman John F. Herrity calls the three most important issues of the day: roads, roads and roads. Fairfax voters approved a $135 million bond for roads in November, the largest in the history of Virginia counties.
Committee chairman Terry Spellane told the board his committee will recommend an amount for the bond issue and determine other items that should be included before the board approves the 1987-88 budget April 30. One thing the referendum will do, he emphasized, is avoid the "pork barrel" effect of the last one, which essentially listed a road improvement project in each of the county's seven magisterial districts.
Spellane said the new bond issue would address the most vitally needed road improvements and perhaps two other projects that survey respondents listed as necessary. They are a police and fire training center and another full-service public library.
Other items that respondents said should be funded on a pay-as-you-go basis within the next two to five years include an indoor recreation center, an equestrian center, a cultural arts center and bicycle and hiking paths.
The two telephone surveys, one in November and the second last month, cost $10,000 apiece and were done by a Utah-based national research firm called Decision/Making/Information.
Board Vice Chairman Joseph Reading, who said he would support a bond referendum, added that, in light of the committee's recommendation, the sooner the county changes its form of government from county executive to urban county executive, the better able it will be to do what the surveys indicate must be done first -- build and improve roads.
The latter form of government allows the possibility of increased authority to raise and spend money on roads, similar to the powers that cities hold under Virginia law. If the voters approve urban county executive status, a second referendum would be necessary to acquire that power. Although the board last month delayed action on the issue, most supervisors indicated a strong interest in giving the voters the option of a new form of government in this fall's election.
"If we had city status," Reading said, "we would be better able to pursue our destiny."