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Let’s eliminate BPOL tax, build more schools in Prince William County



It’s a consistent, bipartisan complaint in Prince William County – residential real estate taxes are higher than they should be because our commercial tax base is too small. 

Yet, despite this widely-held sentiment, the problem remains.  There is a way forward, however, if we dispense with appeals to narrow ideologies and focus on decisions that aid responsible expansion of our commercial sector. 

To start, we need to eliminate or rapidly phase out the Business, Professional, Occupational, License (BPOL) tax.  Many criticize the BPOL tax on gross revenues as an outdated and unfair burden on county businesses, whose removal would not only help existing county businesses, but could be marketed to provide a potentially powerful incentive for new businesses to locate in Prince William County. 

Thus far our leaders have been unwilling to eliminate BPOL, fearful of the loss in revenue.  If coupled with other appropriate steps, however, any pain is temporary, and should generate large dividends in subsequent years as the expansion of existing businesses and the arrival of new ones increase the commercial real estate tax base.

We also need to review our regulatory framework for businesses.  Where we deem regulations necessary, we need to make certain we staff government adequately to administer them, for few things are as frustrating to a business owner than doing everything they can to meet regulatory requirements and then having to wait weeks or even months, for approvals.

And we need to consistently reevaluate the suitability of areas in the county we designate for business use, for when we try to entice commercial businesses by marketing areas that are, in fact, unsuited for business, we lose credibility and instead of more businesses, more housing becomes the investor’s option of choice.

To improve our business climate, we also need to make substantial, targeted investments in our infrastructure, particularly our schools.  Local education is a major consideration when companies look to relocate, and the simple truth is that additional desirable businesses will not come to Prince William County when our teachers our underpaid, our schools are overcrowded, and public officials use a “crisis” in the schools as a political sound bite without taking meaningful steps to address the issue. 

Of course we need to appropriately match our land use and infrastructure decisions, but the problem is now far larger than simply slowing down development or generating savings to reduce class sizes by small increments.  Some growth is inevitable – we can promote it, manage it, acquiesce in it, or fight it, but it will occur nevertheless – and at the moment we are already the equivalent of approximately a dozen schools short of what we need. 

While we can and should debate what those new schools look like, we should not fool ourselves about the need to build them.  To address this we need to develop a long-term financing strategy that not only makes better use of existing facilities, but that also looks at using our available debt capacity to help pull ourselves out of the current hole.

Finally, we need to improve the political culture in Prince William County.  Existing businesses suffer, and new businesses shy away, when political disagreements devolve into toxic attacks, or members of our community find themselves vilified for political gain.  We should be looking for and electing leaders who strive to appeal to the very best in our nature, not our very worst.   

My belief, borne out by direct, practical experience as a Mayor, as a senior financial executive, as a small business owner, and as someone who is deeply engaged in our community through numerous nonprofit and civic organizations, is that government cannot and should not try to do everything.  Government does, however, have a responsibility to nurture the conditions under which responsible private enterprise can flourish. 

Earnie Porta served as Mayor of the Town of Occoquan from July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2014, and is a candidate for the Occoquan seat on the Board of County Supervisors in 2015.

Townhouse fire in Manassas displaces 5


Yesterday evening at 5 p.m., Prince William fire and rescue units were called to a townhouse fire at Hiram Court in Manassas.

According to Prince William fire and rescue release, crews that arrived on scene were informed that occupants in the home had been evacuated safely. They also observed that a townhouse – mid-row – was fully engulfed in flame.

Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire without incident, with only minor siding damage done to a nearby townhouse unit, said Prince William fire and rescue.

There were three residents within the home that were evacuated prior to the fire and rescue unit’s arrival, and one resident was treated for minor injuries. The individual was transported to a local medical facility for treatment, said a Prince William fire and rescue release.

The Red Cross was called to the scene to assist the two adults and three children that were displaced by the fire, Prince William fire and rescue stated.

According to the Fire Marshal’s Office, the assessed property damage totaled $180,000.

A Prince William fire and rescue release stated that a building official was on the scene and has posted the property as unsafe.

Prince William fire and rescue were able to determine that the origin of the fire was the kitchen stove, and was determined as accidental.

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Discount store opens across from Potomac Mills Mall


The new location is one of many coming to the Prince William Square Shopping Center.
A new discount chain store has opened in Woodbridge.
The chain does have more than 200 locations in the U.S.
They offer clothing for men, women, girls, boys and juniors, as well as home decor.
Fallas opened its first location in Los Angeles.

Fallas Discount Stores, an off-price retail chain, has opened a new location in the Prince William Square Shopping Center, across from Potomac Mills Mall.

According to their website, the store chain was established in 1962 in Los Angeles, and now currently has more than 200 locations in the United States.

The new location offers a selection of clothing for men, women, boys, girls and juniors, along with luggage and home furnishings.

Fallas is one of several new stores to move in to the shopping center in the past few months.

A Ross Stores location is also set to be coming to the shopping center.

Fire engulfs waterfront house in Stafford



A home in Aquia Creek caught fire yesterday.
The area does not have hydrant service.
A fire boat was called in, but didn't make it in time.
Dominion Power had to come out and disconnect the power.
The cause of the fire is still being investigated.

A fire of unknown origin destroyed much of a home situated on a wide section of Aquia Creek in Stafford on April 16. 

Stafford County fire and rescue crews got the call at 11:22 a.m., for a fire in the Hidden Springs neighborhood. That area doesn’t have hydrant service, so a tanker team of three tanker trucks was also called in, as was a fire boat. The fire boat never made it. 

There was a problem with the fire boat that was called in from Quantico, Virginia, so one was requested from Charles County, Maryland. But that boat took so long that the fire was extinguished before it arrived.

Dominion Virginia Power also had to come out and disconnect the power to the house for the safety of the firefighters who had to fight the fire from inside. 

Several real estate websites say the home was built in 1918. 

The cause of the fire is being investigated. 

Two men wanted for armed robbery of pizza deliveryman in Woodbridge


Late yesterday night, Prince William police responded to a call to investigate a robbery that was reported on Westminster Lane in Woodbridge.

According to Prince William police, the victim – a 52-year old Woodbridge man – stated that he was delivering pizza in the area when two unknown individuals approached him.

One of the individuals showed the victim a handgun and demanded his property, said a Prince William police release.

The Prince William police stated that the two individuals took his money and pizzas before fleeing on foot.

A Prince William police K-9 unit was used to search for the two individuals. No injuries were reported.

A Prince William police release stated that the two individuals were described as black males, from 18 to 25 years of age, 5’6” to 5’8” with medium builds, dark complexions and black hair.

One individual was described as wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans, and the second was described as wearing a red jacket and blue jeans, stated Prince William police.

Wildlife federation to host habitat workshop in Nokesville May 1


The Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation is hosting a workshop May 1.
The workshop will show landowners how to create wildlife habitats.
A panel of landowners that have done habitat work will be present.
There are still 25 to 30 slots left.

On May 1, the Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation and the Virginia Quail Recovery Initiative are hosting a workshop in Nokesville, to help residents learn about what they can do to create wildlife habitats in their backyards. 

“Our goal is trying to spread the word about wildlife habitat work that can be done even on a small scale…what we’re trying to do with this workshop is try and give folks some options. For example, converting [their land] into a wildlife meadow for continual bloom and beauty from May to October, while also providing a great habitat for songbirds and pollinators, monarchs as well as other species,” said David Bryan, a private lands wildlife biologist for the USDA-NRCS.

The workshop runs from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and includes free food.

“What we’re going to do at the workshop is we’re going to have an outdoor walk and talk, on the farm where we’re hosting it – which has done some habitat work – and talk about the types of things you can consider doing in your backyard,” commented Bryan.

After a walk on the property, participants will be able to engage in a conversation about landowner options and hear from a panel of landowners from surrounding counties about the habitat work they’ve done on their land.

According to Bryan, the program still has room for 25 to 30 people, and registration is required. 

Residents can register by emailing nicoleethier@pwswcd.org.

Supervisor Principi to run on his record for a third term


Supervisor Frank Principi, the incumbent on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors for the Woodbridge district, has announced his campaign to run for re-election.

Principi has been on the board for eight years and is currently finishing his second term.

In the race for the seat, there are two Republican candidates, Steve Chapman and Lee Price, that will face each other in a Republican primary. Antonio Merrick, an Independent candidate, will also be a part of the three-way race.

A Master’s candidate at the University of Maryland College Park, Principi has worked as the Executive Director of the Greater Prince William Community Health Center for the past seven years. master’s candidate at UMD

According to Principi, he is planning to run on his record, and what he has accomplished during his 8-years as Woodbridge Supervisor.

“I’m running on my record. My record of not just the vision of a new Woodbridge, but the fact that we’ve got a billion dollars in public and private investment over the last four years in Woodbridge. I think we have a lot to be proud of. We have five different smart growth projects at various different stages – coming up out of the ground in eastern Prince William…we’ve achieved a lot, but we still have a long way to go. If the 62 to 64,000 residents of Woodbridge will have me back, I’ll be happy to serve another four years,” said Principi.

Principi lives in Woodbridge with his wife and twin daughters.

Woodbridge native Joey Cook eliminated from ‘American Idol’


American Idol contestant Joey Cook was voted off the show last night.

A “#SaveJoey” campaign on Twitter was not enough to save the Woodbridge native from elimination from the nationally televised singing competition. “Somebody to love” by Jefferson Airplane was the last song the 24-year-old singer performed on the show.

Cook took to Twitter following her elimination with a positive attitude.   

Cook also received accolades via Twitter from performer Boy George.   


Cook is a native of Woodbridge and attended Woodbridge Senior High School. She now lives in New Orleans.

Virginia Serious Game Institute launches their first online game



Virginia Serious Game Institute is based in Prince William County

The Virginia Serious Game Institute has announced their first game title – ‘Mimycx’ – a multi-player online game meant to help those in the healthcare industry.

The game institute, based out of Prince William, is releasing the title in partnership with one of the startups it has incubated – Professions Quest, LLC.

Virginia Serious Game Institute started in October 2013, after a $32,000 investment from the Prince William County Board of Supervisors to fund the effort, which was a partnership with the county’s economic development department and George Mason University, a release said.

According to a release, the game is meant to help students and workers in osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, nursing, dentistry, public health, allied health and veterinary care by working together on an interactive game that will teach them how to deal with real-life healthcare scenarios.

The Mimycx game will be debuted at the upcoming IPEC Institute conference in Herndon later this month, said a release.

“A key goal in the design of Mimycx is the development of a new approach to interprofessional education learning that creates benefits not yet discovered through any other virtual or e-learning educational vehicle.” said Dr. Scott M. Martin, Founding Director, Virginia Serious Game Institute, in a release.

Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman At-Large Corey Stewart spoke about how the game institute, and other high-tech projects in the county are driving growth and economic development.

“Prince William County encourages technological innovation, growth and expansion. The Virginia Serious Game Institute captures our shared vision to help small businesses realize their market potential and growth opportunities,” said Stewart in a release.

A release stated that the game is set in a futuristic environment, and they can either play on their own or interactively with five members or go on different missions within the game together. During the gameplay students in the healthcare field will be evaluated on their performance.

Following the launch of Mimycx, Professions Quest will be releasing a new scenario for gamplay every six weeks, stated a release.

Look up, see great art in Historic Downtown Manassas

PL 5

manassas art streetlight 3If you are walking or driving through Historic Downtown Manassas, make sure to look up at the light poles that line the city streets. There are 60 original pieces of art hanging from the downtown light poles.

Over the winter months, Historic Manassas, Inc. in partnership with the City of Manassas, held a Banner Art Competition. This competition was for artists from Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. to create original art that, if selected, would hang from the City of Manassas’ light poles. The competition was the brainchild of Debbie Haight from Historic Manassas, Inc. who formed a small committee to make the dream a reality.

manassas art streetlight 2More than 130 pieces of art were submitted for the competition. In February, members of the community gathered to select the 60 pieces of art that would hang on the light poles. This gathering included City Council members, students, business leaders, and community members. From the 60 selected pieces of art, one grand prize winner, who will receive $1,000, will be announced at an awards presentation during the spring gallery walk on May 1, 2015.

manassas art streetlightAll summer long residents and visitors are invited to look at the banners and select their favorite for the “people’s choice” winner. In the fall, the artist who painted the people’s favorite piece will receive $500. A walking tour brochure of the banners will be available after May 1. This will have information about each piece and information on how to vote in the “people’s choice” competition.

So, the next time you are in Historic Downtown Manassas, make sure to take the time to look up and appreciate the art.

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