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Under new plan, $4 million from Prince William fire levy reserve fund used to fund career firefighters

Can county officials take funds from the fire levy to fund career firefighters?

Virginia law does allow it, said Prince William County Attorney Angela Horan.

Now, under a new proposal, $4 million would be removed from Prince William County’s $77 million fire levy reserve fund. The money traditionally goes to pay for the cost of new fire stations, new fire engines and equipment, as well as to fund, in part, operations at the county’s various volunteer fire houses.

Shifting the funds will lessen the burden on the county’s general fund, which, in prior years, had $3.5 million of it used to pay the salaries of Prince William County’s growing corps of career firefighters.

In this next year’s budget nearly $8 million will be needed to fund those salaries.

“Four million dollars is a big change,” said County Executive Melissa Peacor. “I’m sure the volunteers would tell you that.”

The Prince William County Board of Supervisors spent Saturday looking for budget cuts. They also looked at moving monies from reserve funds to the general fund in an effort to cap a planned property tax increase to no more than 4% in next year’s budget.

The fire levy reserve fund collects $35 million per year, and the fund is directly tied to property tax bills. The fund has grown too large at the expense of the county general fund, according to Prince William Board of Supervisors Chairman At-large Corey Stewart, who said it should be tapped to help lessen the burden tax burden on residents.

Volunteers fear, however, that if county officials dip into the reserve fund to pay for new career firefighters now it’ll mean less money to purchase new equipment, and funds to train new volunteers, and operations costs down the road.

“If you continue to take increased funds from the fire levy over the next five years, the fund becomes stagnant,” said Nokesville Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brian Hickerson.

Hickerson added that he is the county will funnel even more funds from the levy in 2017 and ‘18 to meet the growing demands of the county’s career fire staff.

Peacor and County officials dispute that claim and say they will only take $4 million from the fund each year for the next five years.

Career firefighters are on duty from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Prince William Fire Chief Kevin McGee said his department will spend $10.6 million funding career staff during traditional volunteer hours – nights, weekends, and holidays.

The fire levy will also go to fund construction of the planned $11 million Bacon Race Fire station on the corner of Prince William Parkway and Hoadly Road near Dale City.

McGee said volunteer fire chiefs will meet on Wednesday to get a first look at the proposal to shift $4 million away from the fire levy to the general fund.

Call to Action: Birmingham Green Senior Living looking for volunteer guitar players

Good morning  – its official – spring and warm weather are right around the corner and you can kick it off in style with the Shindig Jig 5K to benefit the Rainbow Therapeutic Riding program on Saturday March 14 at Silver Lake Regional Park. Check in at 8:30am and race time is 10am. Come with your 3 person team for just $25 each or by yourself for $40. All proceeds benefit this wonderful program. Please visit: rainbowriding.org to register.

· BARN Transitional Housing is kicking off spring with their 1st. Yard Sale of the season on Saturday March 14th as well. It runs from 8am-12noon or you can access the early bird shopping at 7:30am for a $5 entrance fee. Great stuff, great bargains and all for a great cause. The BARN is located at 9541 Linton Hall Road in Bristow.

· Keep Prince William Beautiful needs volunteers to judge science projects at the PW – Manassas Regional Science Fair from 9am-10am. Please call (571) 285-3772 to learn more.

· The 2nd fun need is volunteers are needed at the 24th Annual SERVE Bowl a Thon in Manassas from 1pm-4pm. Tasks include set up, greeting participants, handing out t-shirts and other general tasks. It’s a great opportunity for teens age 16+ or younger with their parent. This super fun day is very important to the SERVE families. Please email Jan at: jhawkins@nvfs.org for all the specifics. And then don’t forget about the BEACON Event: Keep Reading…

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Prince William resident to leaders over $96 tax difference: ‘They can buy back their souls with it’

cash on stand

The Prince William County Board of Supervisors will be meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday for another budget work session, to discuss potential cuts and what programs to retain. The ceiling property tax rate — the county’s largest source of revenue — must be advertised as of March 3, only giving the board members a few more days to work out an initial tax rate number.

County Executive Melissa Peacor presented the first draft of the budget at the board meeting earlier this month.

The board took a vote in December and directed Peacor to create a budget with a 1.3% tax increase, which reflects the CPI inflation rate. It was not the 4% increase written in the county’s 5-year plan, decided upon last year. Peacor was given additional restrictions on segments of the budget that had to be fully funded, including public safety and the libraries.

Many of the community programs that had been on the chopping block saw their funding restored. But now leaders must decide what else to cut to ensure taxes do not rise beyond the planned 4% increase. 

“I wasn’t on this board when the direction was given but had I been on the board – I think it’s fair to say that I would have voted for [the 1.3%],” said  newly elected Brenstville Distirct Supervisor Jeanine Lawson.

Occoquan District Supervisor Michael May was not present for the vote, but also stated he was in favor of looking at a budget using the inflation rate.

Gainesville District Supervisor Candland also voiced his support for the 1.3%.

Coles District Supervisor Marty Nohe was against the 1.3% vote, as was Potomac Supervisor Maureen Caddigan, who favored the original 4%.

“My belief then, was that we would end up with a budget that was far too detrimental to our school system’s budget. That the amount of rollbacks that the school board would have to do in order to implement that budget would be more than our community is willing to swallow,” Nohe said.

Corey Stewart, Chairman At-large stated that the vote for the 1.3% was meant only to serve as an exercise to get the county thinking about the types of cuts that could be implemented.

“The vote that the board took in December was the guidance to the County Executive to prepare a budget at the 1.3%, but that is not the rate that the board is ultimately going to adopt, and it’s not even going to be the one we advertise. The purpose of requiring the County Executive to develop the budget at such a low level was to force the county government and the schools into the exercise of looking for cost savings, and trying to identify things we could cut in order to keep tax bills as low as possible,” Stewart said. Keep Reading…

Winter weather, community outreach brings attention to homeless population in Prince William

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The frigid temperatures of the past few weeks, and the work of community outreach groups are drawing attention to the growing needs of the homeless population in Prince William County.

The Dale City Civic Association has been working with their Homeless Outreach program tirelessly this winter to provide supplies for the homeless individuals in camps gathered in the wooded areas of the county.

“It would be easier to tell you where they’re not – they’re everywhere,” said Lucille Cahill, a coordinator for the Homeless Outreach program.

According to Cahill, the program services homeless individuals aged 17 to 65, with the goal of not only providing them with necessary supplies at drop-offs every Saturday, but getting them out of the woods altogether.

“Our goal is to get them out of the woods, and into housing – whether family take them in, or we get them jobs and find them a room until they can find affordable housing. If they need medical care, we try to work that out with the local free clinic,” Cahill said.

To get funding for the supplies and outreach work they do, Cahill said they look to the community and churches for assistance.

While there are a lot of ideas about the lifestyles and situations of homeless individuals, Cahill stated that a lot of the people that are homeless in these camps work one, and sometimes even two jobs. They simply can’t afford to pay the high rent prices in the area.

“People who work at Wal-Mart, or local businesses can’t afford to live here anymore, and they wind up in a tent,” Cahill commented.

Recently, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors donated 200 sleeping bags to the program, costing around $6,000.

“It was wonderful because we cannot afford that kind of sleeping bags. It actually saved lives,” said Cahill.

Cahill was appreciative of the sleeping bags they board donated, but she felt more importantly that the actual dialogue started between the homeless outreach and the board is what is going to help the homelessness issue in the county.

“I think there’s finally a dialog between the outreach groups and the county. There’s been a lot of dialogs lately. Low-income housing is the first step…90% of the people I service – they work. They have jobs. They just can’t afford to eat and pay rent,” Cahill said.

Potomac Supervisor Maureen Caddigan, who was involved in the board decision to donate the sleeping bags, said that something needs to be done, but that there isn’t an easy solution.

“[The board] is going to be doing what our human services is doing right now. We have people in place. We want to help – within reason,” Caddigan commented.

Caddigan stated that she has received requests from residents, asking that the county purchase a vacant Holiday Inn hotel in Dumfries to house the homeless. The hotel is currently being listed for $3.5 million, and for Caddigan, that is not a realistic option as the board moves forward to handle the budget.

There are several county buildings that are opened for the homeless on dangerously cold nights, by the county’s deputy director of Human Services, Elijah Johnson. But very few homeless individuals utilized the shelters, according to Caddigan.

“The thing is, that the people in the woods don’t want to leave their belongings. They don’t want to go into a shelter – some of them,” Caddigan said.

The Prince William County Committee of 100 has even recognized the homeless population as in issue in the community. The Committee hosted a forum on homelessness on February 19, where several panelists spoke with attendees about the issue, and potential steps to help the homeless community in Prince William.

There have been major successes for the Homeless Outreach program, in their goal to move the homeless into housing.

“We’re working [with] a couple right now…[one of the individuals] mother is elderly, and she has agreed to take them both in, in return for them caring for her. So we’re helping them get out of the woods and to New Jersey, which is no small feat when some of these people haven’t left the woods for several years,” said Cahill.

They have launched a Go-Fund Me page to help raise funds for the couple’s transport to the housing being offered to them in New Jersey.

If you’re a resident or organization that is looking to assist the Homeless Outreach program, they are currently looking for the following supplies, according to the Dale City Civic Association’s Facebook page:

McDonalds gift cards
Virgin Mobile phone cards
Verizon mobile phone cards
Trackphone cards
Cases of water
Backpacks
Cases of canned soups
Tents 
Winter Gloves
Sleeping Bags
Hats
Rat Traps
Cases of Toilet Paper
Cases of Hand Wipes
Packs of Batteries – AA, AAA, C & D
Blankets
Tarps & Ropes
Protein Bars
Toilet Paper
Canned meats
Boxes of crackers
Case of canned meat
Printer paper 
Marble notebooks
Pens

Manassas Superintendent presents budget, speaks to parents at Saturday meeting

As part of the Saturday with the Superintendent series, the Manassas City school’s superintendent, Dr. Magouyrk, spoke with parents about the school budget and took questions from the community last Saturday.

The meeting was well attended despite the snow, according to Magouyrk.

“We had great attendance, even though the snow was coming down like it was,” Magouyrk said.

The Saturday with Superintendent events take place about every six weeks and serve as a primary way for parents to interact with administrators.

“It’s just an opportunity for the community – for families – to know what’s taking place,” Magouyrk stated.

One of the main topics for this meeting was the budget, which is currently in progress for the upcoming fiscal year.

“We talked about the Superintendent budget presentation – that is right now what the school board is working on. We talked about the new Baldwin [school], and our school calendar for next year,” Magouyrk said.

Magouyrk also spoke to parents about the Career and Technical (CTE) initiatives taking place in Manassas City schools.

Overall, Magouyrk stressed that the meetings are an opportunity for parents to ask questions and get information they need from their children’s schools.

“We had a parent of a gifted student [at the meeting], and she wanted to get more information about our gifted program. So they were able to ask me questions,” Magouyrk commented.

For the remainder of the school year, two more of these meetings are scheduled – one on March 21 at Jennie Dean Elementary and one on May 16 at Baldwin Elementary.

Closings and delays Friday, Feb. 27, 2015

Public schools 

Suspect in Tuesday’s shooting in Manassas apprehended

On Tuesday night, the Manassas City Police responded to a call for a shooting that took place at the intersection of Stonewall Road and McKenzie Circle in Manassas.

The suspect in the shooting, who was in a vehicle at the time of the incident, fled the scene.

Last night the Manassas City police took the suspect, Paul David Thomas, into custody after a traffic stop near Liberia Avenue.

The victim of the shooting experienced non-fatal injuries.

More from a police release:

Manassas City Police Department

Shooting – Arrest

An investigation by Manassas City Police following the February 24th shooting at the intersection of Stonewall Rd and McKenzie Cir have resulted in the identification of Paul David THOMAS (18), of 8522 Piney Point Cir, as the primary suspect in the case.  At approximately 8:35PM on February 25, 2015, THOMAS was taken into custody without incident on a traffic stop in the area of Liberia Ave and Stonewall Rd and charged with aggravated assault, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and discharging a firearm in public.  THOMAS was held without bond and has a pending court date of March 19, 2015.  The victim, an adult male of Manassas Park, sustained non-life-threatening injuries as a result of the initial incident.

 

Prince William Police Seeking Help for 2014 Murder

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – According to Prince William police, homicide detectives are still seeking any information that can lead to the arrest and conviction of the individuals connected to the murder of Glenda Marisol Coca-Romero.

The murder occurred at Platanillos Grocery and Jewelry in Woodbridge, VA on February 21, 2014.

The local police and the FBI Washington Field Office are working together to offer a reward of $20,000 for information that can lead to the arrests and convictions of these individuals. Additionally, there is a $1,000 reward being offered by the Prince William County Crime Solvers.

Glenda Coca-Romero was one of two victims (both employees) caught in the shooting at Platanillos Grocery and Jewelry, located in Woodbridge on 14342 Jefferson Davis Highway. The second victim was a 42-year-old store clerk who had also been shot and wounded. According to the police, the murder happened before 9:00 pm when three males entered the store in dark clothing and covered faces caught by the surveillance video footage. Following the shooting, the men fled the scene, most likely on foot.

Another employee, as well as a customer, was also inside the store when the murder happened but were unharmed. Prince William police also reported that no money or property was taken from the scene. Prince William police have released the surveillance footage from the night, and it is available for anyone to watch. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Prince William County Crime Solvers anonymously.

Below is the latest from Prince William police;

Reward increased to $21,000 in the 2014 Murder of Glenda Marisol Coca-Romero

Prince William County, Va. — Prince William County Police Homicide Detectives continue to seek any information related to the murder of Glenda Marisol Coca-Romero, which occurred on February 21, 2014 at the Platanillos Grocery and Jewelry in Woodbridge, Va.

The FBI Washington Field Office partnered with the Prince William County Police Department to offer a reward for the arrest and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for the murder of Coca-Romero. On February 20, 2015, the reward amount was increased to $20,000. This reward is still being offered in conjunction with a reward of up to $1,000 from the Prince William County Crime Solvers.

Anyone who has information regarding this case is asked to call Crime Solvers at 703-670-3700 or 1-866-411-TIPS. You do not have to give your name, just the information.

Glenda Coca-Romero was murdered at the Platanillos Grocery and Jewelry located at 14342 Jefferson Davis Highway in the Woodbridge area of Prince William County on February 21, shortly before 9:00p.m. A second store clerk, a 42-year old woman, was also shot and wounded during the attack.

Three male suspects wearing dark clothing with their faces covered were seen on surveillance entering the store. The suspects immediately fled the business following the shooting, possibly on foot. Two additional individuals, a customer, and another employee, were also inside the store at the time of the incident and were unharmed. No property or money was taken during the incident. Both victims were identified as being employees of the business.

The FBI and Prince William County Police encourage the public to continue viewing the video surveillance taken during the attack.

The Prince William County Police Department is the lead agency for this investigation. The FBI has been providing investigative assistance.

FBI Bulletin seeking information: http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info/glenda-marisol-coca-romero/view

Surveillance footage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i07VFaj8RL8

 

Glenda Marisol Coca-RomeroGlenda Marisol Coca-Romero

 

 

 

Qarni to run for 29th district Senate seat

Atif Qarni, a teacher in Prince William County and a veteran, has decided to run for the 29th District Senate seat currently held by Senator Chuck Colgan.

Colgan has made the decision to retire, after almost 40 years in his seat.

Qarni previously ran for Delegate Bob Marshall’s seat back in 2013 and lost by a slim margin of votes.

Before working as a teacher in Dale City at Beville Middle School for six years, he served in the Marine Corps for eight years. He has his Master’s degree from George Mason University. Qarni currently lives in Manassas with his wife and two children.

During his candidacy, Qarni has three main issues he hopes to address – education, transportation and strengthening small businesses.

“I want to restore the funding for public education. With the transportation bill that was passed, the state is looking at where to invest money – I want to really fight for those dollars to be focused on Prince William County – really fixing some of the infrastructure issues that we have,” Qarni said.

According to Qarni, the way to deal with the growing issue of residents having to leave the area to find jobs is by investing in small businesses.

“A lot of people are leaving the county – I want to bring jobs back to the county – and I think that the best way to do that is really strengthening our small businesses,” said Qarni.

Governor McAuliffe appointed Qarni to the Small Business Commission. He is also the chair of the Teacher’s Caucus for the Prince William County Democrats.

While he did not win the delegate race against Marshall, Qarni stated that the race taught him things that he will bring into this Senate race.

“I had a good grasp of running prior to [the delegate race], but I feel that I’m even stronger in that area. I can really represent the concerns the folks have in our district,” Qarni commented.

Qarni feels that he and Colgan share some core values that will allow him to continue that political legacy.

“Senator Colgan has done a lot for our district – with his 40 years of service, especially with the community colleges…and I’m big on education. So one of my hopes is to really continue in that regard, but focus more on K-12 education,” said Qarni.

Before entering the general election race, Qarni will have to primary against two other Democratic candidates – Delegate Michael Futrell and former delegate candidate Jeremy McPike.

“What sets me apart [from the other primary candidates] is my service background. With my military service, having served my country for eight years, and having gone to combat in Iraq…and my service as a teacher. I understand this district better than anybody.”

The primary will take place on June 9.

Qarni mentioned during his interview that he felt a candidate forum with Futrell and McPike would be an appropriate venue for voters to assess the candidates.

Meeting tonight on new police and fire station in Prince William

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 10.34.57 AM

Occoquan Supervisor Michael May is hosting a meeting tonight to discuss the upcoming Central District Police Station and Bacon Race Fire Station projects in Prince William County.

“Both of these projects are projects we’ve tried to fund for a number of years. As the community has grown, 43% in 10 years, obviously the demands on infrastructure have increased,” said May.

The two projects have already been a part of the Capital Improvement Plan for Prince William County. The fire station, which is set to cost $11.2 million, will be paid for out of the county levy funds. The police station, set to cost $28.6 million, is being paid for from the county’s general fund.

According to May, the fact that the county’s two current police stations are on opposite ends is not the most efficient setup for public safety.

“The [current] police station essentially operates as a central district police station, out of the eastern district station…There are a lot of jurisdictions of our size, which have as many as 4 stations,” May said, continuing, “…if every [police officer] has to go and check in at the far end of the county, and then spread out to their beats – that’s not an efficient way to spread out your public safety resources.”

When the stations are complete, officers will be able to check into the centralized station and then go out to their beats in the community.

“It doesn’t directly affect response times, [but] I think having that central station there…does help improve public safety response overall,” May commented.

May stated that the additional fire station was also needed, given the growth of the county, to ensure firefighters and medics can get to incidents quickly.

“With an increase in the population, you want to have those kinds of facilities spread out [across the county], to get to incidents more efficiently,” May said.

May said that the purpose of the meeting is to get feedback from the community about features and things residents want to see, to help the facilities blend in with the community.

“The purpose of these meetings are – these buildings are coming in, and they’re coming into our community. We want to hear from you on how you feel about where we’re looking at placing them, the architectural renderings, to make sure they complement the neighborhood.”

The county owns a parcel at the corner of Davis Ford Road and Prince William Parkway and intends to build both facilities on the site.

The construction of the police station and fire station are slated to begin this fall, and will be completed within the next two years, May said.

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