I am writing to suggest that Fairfax County taxpayers be engaged more actively in deciding on the future of the Lorton Workhouse that was managed poorly by the nonprofit Lorton Arts Foundation, resulting in at least a $30 million bill for taxpayers, including myself. Fairfax County regularly asks all taxpayers to be involved in the overall budget process and I believe that the Lorton Workhouse program also calls for such citizen engagement through town meetings and votes on future bond offerings in order to help ensure that this financial debacle is not repeated.
I appreciate the statements by Fairfax County Chairman Sharon Bulova, Springfield Supervisor Patrick Herrity, and Braddock Supervisor John Cook for they enabled taxpayers, like myself, to understand better the issues of poor management by the Lorton Arts Foundation that has now been abolished. Starting anew is a critical step and it might be best not to have former employees or Board members involved in future operations of the Lorton Workhouse.
My own humble opinion is that the bipartisan majority decision by the Board of Supervisors was not an easy one to make but was probably necessary — with the caveat that future decisions have to be monitored so much more carefully. The idea of having the Lorton Workhouse “shuttered up” while decisions are left to fester during a process of foreclosure would not have been in the best interests of our community. And we taxpayers are all involved for we all own the project since Fairfax County owns the land and buildings of the Lorton Workhouse.
My own list of options include the following:
1. Bond issues by the new nonprofit should be approved by the taxpayers as part of the election process — similar to votes on school and park construction. This would allow for proper taxpayer review/critique; as John Mason had indicated regarding the second bond offering: “I think if I had been involved as CEO at the point where the decision was made to go for a second bond, I might have wanted to pause and think about whether we could absorb the costs of the first bond.” A citizen review process is critical in the Lorton Workhouse future.
2. Exit interviews should be conducted for all employees of the failed Lorton Arts Foundation in order to understand the management problems as well as gather suggestions for solutions from those who were involved in the project. Starting afresh means letting poor performers go, but not necessarily ignoring insights which might be valuable for the future.
3. Town meetings should be held not just for those in the surrounding community but for the whole of Fairfax County — the tax bill was not just for Mount Vernon District residents but for all of us, including residents of our Springfield District. I sent a note to Springfield Supervisor Patrick Herrity inquiring about town meetings on the future vision for the Lorton Workhouse that should gather suggestions/critiques from taxpayers, at meetings or through the internet.
Corazon Sandoval Foley, Burke