A citizens task force established by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in March has made recommendations on possible uses for the original Mount Vernon High School building, which now sits vacant on Rte. 1 about two miles north of Fort Belvoir.

Citizens advised that the dilapidated building, which has long been a financial drain on the county budget, should become a multipurpose community building, with vendors ranging from an artisans center and cafe to senior citizen housing, a church and an law enforcement intelligence museum.

The task force report was delivered to the board in July and the county staff is expected to make its recommendations for the behemoth Georgian-style building this fall. The task force was made up of county staff and citizens from the Mount Vernon and Lee districts.

"The biggest problem we're going to have is coming up with the funding," said T. Farrell Egge, supervisor for the Mount Vernon District where the 50-year-old former school is located.

In January 1985 the public schools' Department of Facilities Services estimated it would cost $5.8 million to rehabilitate the building, which has serious roof damage and interior disrepair. The building, which was closed in spring 1985, was last used as Walt Whitman Intermediate School.

"The money {to rehabilitate the building} isn't there to come out of the county budget," Egge said. "We're going to have to be creative in any leases with occupants of the building so that the occupant can make the improvements and perhaps have a reduced rent in return."

On Jan. 23, 1986, the School Board voted to turn the building over to the county. The Board of Supervisors voted in March, after a great outpouring of citizen interest, to keep the building a public facility, to retain it as a county building and to have the task force suggest uses.

The task force said the two-story, 157,200-square-foot building should have several uses, including office space for the Mount Vernon/Lee Chamber of Commerce, a county-run day care center, two classrooms for the county's Head Start Youth Program, meeting space for area civic associations and fraternal organizations, and an artisans center for the 2,000 people who work with crafts in the Fairfax Council of the Arts.

The report agrees with a recent request by the county Department of Recreation and Community Services to open the gymnasium and locker facilities as soon as possible, which would cost $100,000 to $300,000, to be used for community recreation programs.

"There was a debate {on the task force} between people in the Mount Vernon District who felt the school was the rightful home of Walt Whitman Intermediate School and people from the Lee District who did not feel as strongly on that," said Lois Passman, task force chairwoman.

The task force report also suggests the building, built in 1937 as a Works Project Administration project, be made an historic landmark.

The Gum Springs Historical Society, which represents one of the county's oldest black communities, would like to open a museum there. A group of retired FBI and CIA employes wants to open an intelligence museum and gift shop.

The task force also recommended the building be used as a day care center for the elderly, exhibit and seminar space for nearby Woodlawn plantation, office space for United Community Ministries, a visitors center for the Mount Vernon area and as a General District Court for the southeastern part of the county.

Long and Foster Real Estate Inc. said a local church is interested in leasing space for services. Several area businesses also have expressed interest in leasing space.