Five of the candidates (Sridhar Ganesan was away on business) met at RCC-Hunters Woods on Wednesday night for a Candidates Forum, a public event that is most often sparsely attended and short.
This year's forum was the largest in years, with audience members asking the candidates hard questions about the future of Reston and RCC.
Earlier this year, RCC hired consultants Brailsford & Dunlavy to conduct a feasibility study for a new facility to include a 50-meter pool to supplement the 35-year-old, 25-yard pool at Hunters Woods.
There were a series of public meetings, some of which became quite contentious. While many triathletes and swimmers are advocating for the pool, some North Reston residents (who would be affected by the proposed Baron Cameron Park location) and others in favor of fiscal responsibility and getting Fairfax County to pay for the facility are not.
Newcomers Tammi Petrine and John Mendonça are among the latter group.
"I am concerned about a proposal to construct a totally self-funded rec center in Reston," said Petrine, who has watched other development issues as part of the Reston Citizens Association Reston 2020 committee.
"I do not think that Restonains can afford anymore to self-fund everything in Reston," she added. "There is a difference between a rec center and community center. Rec center is much more than a pool. People are having a hard time in this community in making ends meet. To me, it is vital we protect our citizens."
Mendonça, a CPA who has served on the boards of several arts and sports groups. said he is concerned about "mission creep" for RCC.
He said the organization needs to take a hard look at who they are serving and refocus if necessary. There was discussion about whether RCC's focus should be on the arts, fitness, leisure activities.
"If you have program and eight people are in the audience, why?" he said. "Reston is not prepared to raise taxes. We should make sure we serve people who need to be served. We need to look at what we are offering and how we are doing."
Michelle Moyer, who spoke on behalf of Reston Masters Swimming at most of the recent public meetings, said she would be in favor of putting the issue to referendum now. She also said RCC should partner with other community organizations (the new rec center would be in conjunction with the Fairfax County Park Authority).
"The opportunity to partner with FCPA is a win-win," she said. "We can get proffers from other businesses. More funding for Small Tax District 5 also comes from business. We will have more [money] coming from business as Metro comes in."
All of the candidates agreed that the arrival of Metro in Reston in 2014 will be an important factor as the community moves ahead. Just as Reston of 2013 is not the Reston of 1979 - the population has grown by 2/3 - the Reston of 2030 will look quite different.
"We are not building it for the 60,000 people who are here," said current board chair Beverly Cosham, who is running for another three-year term on the board. "It is about the people who are going to move here in the future. That is our stewardship."
Bill Keefe, another board member who is running for re-election said the process has a long way to go. The board will keep getting public input and then make the decision whether to put it to referendum, which may be in the fall of 2014 or '15.
"We are in the second inning of a none-inning ballgame, he said. "We hope we don't have to go into overtime."
Said Cosham: "We are also residents here too. We worry too about our rates going up. It’s the community that makes the decision. We are not coming to you saying we are building here. We are in a certain space in that process and we have not come to the end yet."
Each property in Small Tax District 5 should have received a ballot in the mail. Mail-in ballots must be received by the counting agent (a pre-addressed envelope is provided with the ballot; postage is required) no later than 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 3. Walk-in and online ballots must be received by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 4.