Three months after a fire crippled Arlington's 30-year-old Court House, County Board members voted yesterday to place a $94.5 million bond proposal on the November ballot that includes plans for a new police and courts facility.
The proposal for a new courthouse, which would be built across the street from the existing structure and adjacent to a jail that is under construction at North 14th Street and Court House Road, makes up $53.8 million of the bond package.
Also included are $23 million for gymnasiums, heating and other improvements to several county schools; nearly $11 million for road improvements; $4.2 million for park improvements and land acquisition; and $2.5 million for a new fire station in the Cherrydale area.
The bond package -- the largest in Arlington's history -- already has been endorsed by several key civic and political groups, who agree that the May 20 blaze that destroyed the fourth floor of the current courthouse made an already inadequate facility intolerable.
"We need a new courthouse and police station. As to that, there can be no dispute," Scott McGeary, chairman of a residents' advisory panel to the Sheriff's Department, told the board yesterday.
Commonwealth's Attorney Helen Fahey echoed McGeary's comments, and said that jury trials continue to be held in small conference rooms because the top four floors of the seven-story Court House remain closed, with boards covering the windows.
Even representatives of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, often staunch critics of county spending, said they support the plan for a new courthouse. But they also say that the overall bond package is too large, and called on County Board members to trim school and park proposals.
"We don't want the County Board to authorize bond financing for projects that could reasonably be delayed," Robert P. Young, vice president of the taxpayers association, told the board yesterday.
But board members declined to trim the bond package.
The courthouse "is a facility we need," County Board Chairman Albert C. Eisenberg said. " . . . The schools are the workplace of our children . . . and we must provide for them."
The board yesterday also delayed a decision on whether to change development guidelines for a 7.1-acre site near the 14th Street bridge, where the Oliver Carr Co. wants to build three eight-story office buildings.
The land, site of the former Twin Bridges Marriott hotel, has been the subject of six months of fruitless negotiations between Carr officials and Arlington planners, who prefer that any development there be a mixture of retail, office and hotel or residential uses.
Arlington officials said yesterday that they will begin a six-month study of the tract and other areas along the Jefferson Davis Highway corridor to form a development guide.