Fairfax Board Could Police Illegal Signs

County officials have proposed using jail inmates to clean up illegal signs on county roads.

At the end of February, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will weigh using jail inmates from the county’s Community Labor Force to clean up illegal signs in problem areas across the county.

A public hearing on the issue is set for Feb. 26.

According to county officials, the program is estimated to cost about $150,000 – money that supervisors approved for sign cleanup during the FY2012 carryover review last year.

Under the supervision of officers from the sheriff’s office, inmates would clean up signs on roughly 53 roadways around the county, Deputy County Executive Rob Stalzer said Tuesday.

A bill by Del. Dave Albo (R-42), passed last year, and also closed a loophole in the state code that made it unlawful to remove signs from public rights-of-way until three days after an election.

Under new law, the county can now form an agreement with the Virginia Department of Transportation to remove the signs.

The Board of Supervisors, by taking on the debate, is one step closer to making such an agreement a reality; the proposed program would allow Fairfax County to provide personnel to assist VDOT, which currently handles illegal signs on a complaint basis.

“This is a critical next step in going after the worst of the worst,” said Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield), who has been working on the illegal sign issue closely since December 2011.

But some supervisors wanted to make sure that the Community Labor Force was being used to the fullest extent.

Supervisor Michael Frey (R-Sully) said it would be unwise to use the resource on sign blight if it could make a bigger impact elsewhere.

“This could be a pretty large undertaking,” Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee) said. “I think we need to be prepared as a board, should we approve implementing this, to pay for it.”

Chairman Sharon Bulova said costs might go down as awareness of illegal signs — which can also include daycare notices and shoddy advertisements — increases.

“Hopefully, over time the need for as much enforcement will diminish because the community will get used to it not being allowed,” she said.

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