New Home for School Building Under Discussion

New Home for School Building Under Discussion

Fairfax Water may provide land for new transportation building in Lorton.

For now, it looks like Lorton residents won't have to worry about having a bus depot in the middle of their neighborhood.

During a meeting of the South County Federation Tuesday night, Jan. 10, Supervisor Gerry Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) told members that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the School Board may be close to reaching a deal that would place the school's transportation offices on five acres of land owned by the Fairfax Water Authority.

A new facility would have to be built on the land, located on Route 123 near the new Griffiths Water Treatment Plant, he said.

"We are currently engaged in discussions with the Water Authority about moving the transportation office and administrative center to that land," Hyland said during a phone interview a few days later. "I'm encouraged by this, but we've only been discussing this for about two weeks."

In October, Hyland tipped off an onslaught of criticism when he proposed a motion to the Board of Supervisors, suggesting the former Lorton School building, where the offices are currently housed, could be sold and any profits made could be set aside to fund the construction of a middle school in the South County area. In the same motion, Hyland suggested that an administrative building at the former Lorton prison site could be used to house the offices, which led to residents complaining about putting "a bus depot" in the middle of their community.

"I obviously want this to happen as soon as possible, I'd like to have it done yesterday," Hyland said. "But the Water Authority, the school system and the county staff all have to try and find a way to make this work."

CURRENTLY, OFFICES for some of the county's transportation and facilities staff are based in the former Lorton School building, on Lorton Road near on-ramps for Interstate 95. However, there has been interest in selling the building to make way for a proposed Inova facility in the area, Hyland said, but the building can't be sold until a new location for the offices is determined.

"In principal, all parties agree that this is the right thing to do. The doing of it, of course, requires the Water Authority's approval, the School Board has to approve it and the Board of Supervisors has to be involved."

Once a concept for the transaction is approved, he said, it should be an easy project to complete.

"It's up to county staff to find the land that will work," Hyland said. "If the concept is agreeable to all parties, that's a victory."

However, nothing has been decided yet, said Jeanne Bailey, public information officer from Fairfax Water.

"We've been asked to look into it, everyone's just talking right now," she said.

Fairfax Water is "waiting on the School Board to give us more details about what they need" in terms of land and new construction, Bailey said. "I'm not sure what we'd be able to do. It's all very preliminary at this point," she said.

Several steps need to be taken in order to make sure the Water Authority site is a viable option, said Dean Tistadt, assistant superintendent of facilities and transportation with Fairfax County Public Schools.

"It depends on how much topography is useful and what we'd have to do for the building itself," Tistadt said. He had a conversation with County Executive Anthony Griffin last week regarding the potential land agreement, he said, and said moving the offices to a new building on Ox Road "is still a possibility at this time."

"We need to get specific details about the site and there are some obvious topography issues, but the initial response from the Water Authority is favorable," Tistadt said. "Five acres could provide enough parking and geographic space to make it work."

As a result, the possibility of moving the transportation offices to the former Lorton prison site is "off the table" as far as he's concerned.

"I haven't heard another word about the prison site," Tistadt said. "I never thought the community would support it."

Some of the administrative functions performed at the current site may not be moved to whatever new building is established, he said. "The Lorton building also has some special education facilities in it. They may be moved to the Virginia Hills site," Tistadt said.