Falls Church officials are proposing a residential counseling center for troubled teen-age girls at 407 Little Falls St., an empty house owned by Shefer Schools Inc. several blocks from City Hall.
Officials have timed the proposal to coincide with an upcoming change in judicial districts. On Jan. 1, Falls Church will withdraw from the 19th Judicial Circuit, which includes Fairfax County and Fairfax City, and merge with Arlington in the 17th Judicial Circuit.
City Council member Edward Strait, who said such a facility would be open to Falls Church and Arlington residents, said a girls' home would help alleviate "the most glaring deficiency" in the area of juvenile services in Northern Virginia.
According to court officials, several homes for delinquent teen-age boys, but only one for girls, are operated under the control of the juvenile court system in Northern Virginia. Located in the Fair Oaks section of Fairfax County, that home serves a dozen girls.
Falls Church residents will no longer be eligible for the Fairfax facility when the judicial change becomes official.
"This is a service that Arlington County does not have," said Falls Church Mayor Carol W. DeLong. "And it is a service that we have demonstrated a need for in the city."
DeLong said city officials want to consider the proposal immediately because the property on Little Falls Street will not be available indefinitely and the city must have its application in to the Virginia Department of Corrections by November to secure state financing for the project.
City officials say the home's location makes it a suitable choice for a counseling center. Although it is in a single-family neighborhood, the house sits on a hill and is buffered from other houses by trees, shrubs and elevation.
City Attorney David Lasso said the city had a contract to buy the 1.2-acre property for $415,000. The contract is contingent on several factors, including approval of a special use permit by the city's Board of Zoning Appeals and adoption of the proposal by the City Council.
Lasso said the city proposes to serve up to 12 girls between the ages of 13 and 17. The girls would be referred to the facility by the juvenile court and would include runaways, habitual truants, abused or neglected teen-agers and delinquents convicted of minor crimes.
DeLong said that if the city approves the proposal, the house would need to undergo an estimated $225,000 renovation. She said the city would hire a director, three counselors and a cook to staff the home on a 24-hour basis. She said estimated operational costs would be $410,000 a year.
DeLong said that if the city secures financing, state money would pay for half of the capital costs, all equipment and two-thirds of the operational costs. That would mean the city would pay $320,000 for the total cost of purchase and renovation and about $140,000 a year to operate the facility.
The City Council will first consider the matter Oct. 26, and the Board of Zoning Appeals will take it up Nov. 12. The city will hold a meeting on the home at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Macon Ware Masonic Lodge.