The push for more town support for public art in Leesburg, as well as some needed neighborhood sidewalk and drainage improvements, highlighted Tuesday night’s Town Council budget public hearing.
Scores of residents turned out for the public hearing on the proposed fiscal year 2020 budget. But, rather than speaking about what is funded in the budget, it was what is not that drew comments from the public.
Donna Torraca, speaking on behalf of the Friends of Leesburg Public Art, said that, despite FOLPA’s success in funding many public art projects throughout town, there is only so much the nonprofit can do. She highlighted several projects FOLPA would like the town’s financial help on—a performing arts event; costs associated with establishing an Art Walk; a banner project for the Arts & Cultural District; and equipment and other costs for a light projection show on the Loudoun County Courthouse.
“We understand there are many people asking for money from you,” she said. “I hope a small amount can be identified from the General Fund to make these projects a reality.”
Realtor Zach Cummings also spoke in support of public art, noting that he recently took prospective buyers on a tour of Leesburg and the amount of public art they saw was one of the draws for them in choosing to move to the town.
“Art creates a community and that makes people want to move here,” he said.
Two capital projects planned for future years also commanded a great deal of public attention. Several residents along Edwards Ferry Road urged the council to accelerate construction for replacement of the sidewalk along the north side of the road from west of Woodberry Road to Prince Street.
“It’s really a liability,” Edwards Ferry Road resident Bruce Roberts said.
Roberts and several of his neighbors pointed to both increased vehicular and pedestrian traffic along the road, and said the narrow sidewalk can make travel perilous.
As currently scheduled, the $1 million project is not expected to begin construction until spring 2023.
Another project that is a few years out from reality, drainage and sidewalk improvements along Royal Street between Church to Wirt streets, was also spoken about. Ted Jackson said he’s been through “three mayors, two town managers and there still hasn’t been anything done” about the drainage problems along his street. The $4.3 million project is not slated to begin construction for another five years.
Finally, Georgetown Court resident Susan Platt urged the council to set funding aside to establish office space for the mayor. Renting private office space is estimated to run the town around $30,000 annually.
“It’s time to show the mayor the respect and dignity of the office she holds,” she said.
Some members of the council asked Town Manager Kaj Dentler to look into accelerating the two capital projects, and what impact that would have on other scheduled projects.
The Town Council is expected to wrap up its budget work in the next couple of weeks. A final budget mark-up session is slated for the March 25 work session, with a public hearing on the tax rate and budget adoption eyed for the following evening. The proposed budget can be viewed online at leesburgva.gov/budget.