A plan to pay a quarter of a million dollars to a consultant to help plan Fairfax County's move from its current Fairfax City offices into a new government headquarters is coming under fire by supervisors as a waste of taxpayers' money.
The $258,000 contract, which the Board of Supervisors will vote on Monday, came just days after Acting County Executive Richard King asked his staff to be ready to squeeze millions more from their agencies so the county can pay its bills through June.
"This is under the 'nice to have and not a necessity' category," said Supervisor Kate Hanley (D-Providence). "This is certainly not a necessity. Good grief!"
In Fairfax County, accustomed to first-rate service but sometimes criticized for being too extravagant, the consultant contract is symptomatic of the tough decisions supervisors are now being forced to make as heady days of overflowing revenue give way to fiscal parsimony.
The county will start moving 42 agencies and 4,000 employees later this year from the Massey Building in Fairfax City to a new government center now being built a few miles west near Interstate 66 and Route 50.
King's staff wants the board's approval to hire the consultant to help smooth the way.
"There's no way I could support this," said Board Chairman Audrey Moore, who voted against a complicated land swap by the county under which a private developer built the government center. "The way that whole thing was handled was why people are suspicious of government. I'm not going to vote for this and make a bad deal worse."
King said the move will require expertise that his office does not have.
"It's a very complex process," King said. "We're talking about moving many agencies." He said that if the board rejects the contract, however, "we'll do what we have to do to accomplish it on our own. That's why it's going to the board for consideration."
When he asks for the contract on Monday, King will also bring a $10 million menu of budget cuts that the board can approve to close a deficit that already has been identified.
County employees across the board have been angered recently over delays in pay raises, reduction of overtime and hundreds of vacancies left unfilled, all in the name of fiscal prudence. Even supervisors' office budgets, considered their lifeline to their constituents, may get cut.
So it is not surprising some supervisors find the consultant contract especially hard to stomach.
"With the budget as tight as it is, I can think of a lot better uses for a quarter of a million dollars than hiring a consultant to tell us how to move," said Supervisor Thomas M. Davis III (R-Mason). "We ought to have some logistics people who can handle this in-house."