The $53,000 Storm

The $53,000 Storm

Alexandria’s summer storms prompted 200 emergency calls and 400 truckloads of debris — dumping 10 inches of rain and creating 95,000 cubic yards of debris. From June 25 to July 6, wind and rain created the kind of storm that weather experts say will only happen once every 300 years. And now the bill has arrived: $479,000.

“Debris removal is very expensive,” said Laura Pettus, a grant coordinator in the city manager’s office. “So we’re pursuing all avenues.”

Officials at City Hall expect the federal government to pay most of the bill. They have requested money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Highway Administration, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In the end, they expect the feds to pick up 75 percent of the bill and the commonwealth of Virginia to kick in 11 percent of the tab.

That’s leaves the city’s share of the cost burden at $53,000 — not bad for a bill that only comes once every 300 years.


Be There or Be Square

There’s no substitute for being there — especially if attendance is being taken. Members of City Council expect their appointees to various boards and commission to attend at least 75 percent of their meetings. And they mean it. The Council voted Tuesday to dump five no-show members for lack of attendance.

“Each of the five persons has been notified by letter of their attendance record,” wrote City Manager Jim Hartmann in a recommendation to get rid of the absent appointees. “These persons may reapply for appointment with other new applicants when the positions are advertised.”

The council’s vote opens space on the Alexandria-Caen Exchange Commission, the Commission on Employment, the Early Childhood Commission and the Emergency Medical Services Council. The city manager’s memo also included a list of 48 city boards that held 455 meetings between July 1, 2005 and June 30, 2006. The Board of Review of Real Estate Assessments took the record for the most engagements, meeting 39 times. The Building Code Board of Appeals, on the other hand, met only once. The Fair Housing Testing Program Advisory Committee didn’t meet at all.

But 75 percent of nothing is nothing. So its members don’t have to worry about the city manager’s attendance log.


The $3.8 Million Discovery

According to an annual financial report from the city manager, the city government took in more money than it expected last year — $3.8 million more than it expected.

“The primary source of these funds were real estate tax revenues where collections of both current and delinquent real estate taxes were $2.1 million higher than expected,” wrote City Manager Jim Hartmann. “Personal property taxes and interest earnings also ran ahead of projections.”

Hartmann said that the money will be put into a savings account for the next budget, which he expects to cause a bit more heartache at City Hall than recent years.

“It is important to set aside funds now for FY 2008, which will be a challenging budget year given slowing real estate assessments,” Hartmann wrote.


Democracy in France

Alexandria’s French sister city is Caen, the picturesque French community that is perhaps best known as the location of the Battle of Normandy. At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, a delegation from France visited City Hall to get a glimpse of the je ne sais quoi that fuels Alexandria politics.

Mayor Bill Euille welcomed the delegation and recalled his recent visit to Caen. He said that he was particularly impressed by the organization of its city government, which had 16 vice mayors and 54 members of council.

“They were sitting half a block away,” Euille said. “But they were all around the table.”