Most days, I travel past Lake Anne Elementary, where a major renovation project has been underway for a couple of years.
The school was Reston’s first to open in 1967. The 74,000 square foot facility was larger than most schools built during that time and allowed for future growth of the community. But does what was advanced in 1967 work for 2012?
The current renovations add approximately 8,000 square feet of classroom and support spaces, upgrade the mechanical and electrical systems and make improvements to grading, underground utilities, and storm water management. The changes are already making improvements for the students and teachers at Lake Anne Elementary.
According the Lake Anne Elementary PTSA newsletter, From the Lake, some students moved into one of the completed wings over spring break. The newsletter says the entire primary wing was relocated and students began the last quarter of the year in “wonderful, shiny classrooms with new technology.”
Although Lake Anne Elementary is a property of Fairfax County and not of Reston Association, it provides a perfect example of prioritizing and investing in what we already have in terms of facilities and assets. The county did not abandon the facility, but renovated it. I believe we need to focus our priorities in the same way.
Why focus on what we have? In an era of strained budgets, it is important to prioritize investments in a way that leverages, and most importantly, enhances or existing assets before taking on new projects. The benefits are easy to measure: cost savings, increased economic competitiveness, and enhanced quality of life.
The key point here is to build upon and maintain previous asset investments before building new. A dollar spent today can prevent the need for spending five in the future.
To me infrastructure includes our natural areas, our pathways, our lakes, facilities, pools, pavilions, tennis courts, ball fields, and the general aesthetics of the community.
Today, members of Reston Association enjoy a rich array of services and amenities. Over the years, general-funding resources have been directed for the most part toward maintaining and expanding these services. The questions need to be asked. Are we doing a good job keeping up with our critical infrastructure assets? Have we prioritized what’s most important, versus carrying on the status quo? Many of our assets are now 30 or 40 years old. Do we abandon, replace, repair or improve upon what’s there?
The tremendous cost of repairing, replacing, and providing new infrastructure should be one of the main focus areas of our planning process. We must avoid placing the burden on our members to solve these problems.
To address this, I decided to focus the Board’s attention on items we can hold ourselves accountable to over the next twelve months. During our last planning session, the Board of Directors, utilizing the 2012‐2016 strategic plan as a roadmap, identified the following three as our priorities.
Begin now, to annually develop and allocate appropriate financial resources to sustain and enhance the Association’s physical infrastructure.
Strategic board action: Revise the association’s budget development process/structure/framework to include a comprehensive review of assets to enable the board to set funding priorities.
By 2013, establish procedures that will ensure Reston Association’s interests are considered in redevelopment and revitalization of our community.
Strategic board action: Devote focused time and resources to define optimal approaches to ensure Reston Association’s interests are considered in development, redevelopment and revitalization efforts of the Reston community.
Regularly engage the diverse elements of the community on issues and opportunities that impact Reston.
Strategic board action: Develop and implement a comprehensive Board Community Engagement Plan with a strong emphasis on direct, two‐way dialog with the many diverse elements of the Reston community.
Reston’s population will continue to grow—it is part of being a successful community in a successful county in a successful state in a successful nation. The opportunity we now have is to make sure that we plan differently.
Rather than simply stretching our existing infrastructure dollars wherever special interests take us, we should do our best to carefully promote enhancing what we have and plan for the right growth in the right places leveraging all resources available to us including: community partners, the county, Commonwealth, federal and business and developer communities.
Much like Lake Anne Elementary now stands ready to great 21st Century students, our amenities and facilities must be ready to greet the newcomers and meet their needs while supporting those of us who call Reston home.