On March 19, 2014, a group of concerned Fairfax County taxpayers met with John Mason, CEO of Workhouse Arts Foundation (WAF), to review the future of the Lorton Workhouse in order to support its success while ensuring no more Fairfax County bailout in the future. The meeting was a response to my letter to the editor on “Engage taxpayers in future of Lorton Workhouse” (Feb. 7, 2014).
I was hoping that Springfield Supervisor Patrick Herrity would sponsor a town hall meeting on the issue since he has been very proud of having voted against the bailout -- and I hoped that he would have been interested in getting more taxpayer inputs so that no more bailouts would occur in the future. Be that as it may, WAF CEO John Mason very kindly offered to brief us concerned taxpayers, as my letter suggested. I posted minutes of the March 19 meeting, with the following highlights:
1. SAME MANAGEMENT. The press had reported earlier that the Lorton Arts Foundation was replaced because it failed in its management of the Workhouse. We were informed that the Lorton Arts Foundation was simply renamed to Workhouse Arts Foundation with the same tax ID number.
2. BUSINESS MODEL UNDER DEVELOPMENT. The plan for FY2015 continues the original plan -- with success dependent on large fundraising and increased estimated revenues. And if the revenues do not materialize, WAF is creating a reserve fund to be established by March 31, 2014. The FY2015 budget calls for $2.3 million expenditures and a balanced budget. No debt is to be incurred by WAF.
3. MAY NEED MORE FAIRFAX COUNTY FUNDS. The plan envisions a feasibility study of renovating the mess hall into an events center that MAY require more county funds. John Mason stressed that there is no county commitment to provide more funds at this time.
4. LORTON MASTERPLAN BEING DEVELOPED. Our taxpayer group asked to review the Lorton Masterplan and proposed alternatives that could mean NO Fairfax money/risk in the future. In particular, we suggested a long-term lease, perhaps to a university that could offer degrees in computer design, animation, robotics (the FUTURE of ART).
We hope that Supervisor Herrity would convene more town hall meetings in the future as part of responsible leadership in order to engage taxpayers in the success of the Lorton Workhouse. We Fairfax County taxpayers own all the improvements, land, buildings in the Lorton Workhouse and it is imperative that we prevent another financial debacle that has already cost us a $30 million tax bill -- and we do need to ensure the success of OUR Lorton Workhouse. And let me thank John Mason for a most informative session with our group of taxpayers.
Corazon Sandoval Foley, Burke