- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The mayor-elect and the only two incumbents re-elected to the Herndon Town Council say the town likely will push toward relocating its day-laborer center and try to stop funding the facility with taxpayer money.

“There has been no discussion so far between the new mayor and council, but if I take just from what I saw in the campaign it appears to me the strategy will be to find a new location for the center in an industrial site,” said Dennis D. Husch, one of two council members re-elected May 2.

Mr. Husch said that the “funding for the site [could be done] with grant money or somehow charge a fee to the employers.”

He also said that he is interested in funding the center “with private money, so the issue of spending taxpayer money on illegal immigration is no longer an issue.”

Mayor-elect Steve J. DeBenedittis agreed with Mr. Husch, adding the people he talked to during his campaign told him they “didn’t like tax dollars being used to help people without the legal right to work in the United States.”

“There have been a lot of statements made that you can’t verify the right to work, but we should explore that,” Mr. DeBenedittis said.

Earlier this month, voters ousted the incumbent mayor and two Town Council members in an election largely seen as retribution for approving a day-laborer center, which the current council approved in a 5-2 vote last summer. Voters instead elected a new mayor and four new council members. The center opened in December.

“Some of the desire of the council elect is to No. 1 find a new location, and perhaps find a different way of operating it,” said J. Harlon Reece, the lone re-elected supporter of the center. “I will be happy to listen to that and see what can be done … I have an open mind, but I don’t want us to go back to the unregulated situation we had before.”

Before the formal center opened, a 7-Eleven store at Alabama Drive and Elden Street was an unofficial gathering site for day laborers. The gatherings drew the ire of residents, who complained about loitering, trash and safety issues associated with them.

Mr. Husch, who opposed the application for a regulated day-laborer pickup site, said it is “not practical” to shut down the center because ad hoc day-laborer sites could pop up around Herndon because the town’s anti-solicitation laws can’t be enforced without a regulated site.

The site, which is funded in part by a $175,000 grant from Fairfax County, has a conditional-use permit that expires in 2007.

The new council and mayor take office July 1.

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