HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire receives Boy Scouts award

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire and other area businesses were given an award for their involvement and continued support of the Boy Scouts.

The award was part of the Boy Scout’s 2015 Community Friends for Scouting campaign, which raises money for Boy Scout programs throughout the year.

During the ceremony, HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire was recognized for their continued involvement and for their silver sponsorship.

“At HomeTowne we’re proud that we can support local organizations like the Boy Scouts that help children and the community we live and work in,” said ST Billingsley, owner of HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire.

Among the silver sponsors for the program were the Management and Training Consultants, Inc. and the Rotary Club of Lake Ridge, Virginia.

*This promoted post was sponsored by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire.

Sterling Women group provides business women with networking, opportunities

News

11539005_730080840447405_7482248177901374553_oThe Sterling Women of Prince William want to help you network and grow your business.

The group, which was founded in 2008 in Reston by Kristina Bouweiri – president of Reston Limousine – started as a way for business women to meet and has grown to include chapters all over Northern Virginia.

“When you’re a business owner, you’re running around and you’re running to all of these events and if you’re the kind of owner where your hands are in everything…your time limit is very small, on events you can attend. So for her, she wanted something where she could take a lunch once a month, have it close to her workplace, network with a bunch of women and then go back to work,” said Shateaa Holmes, head of the Sterling Women Prince William group and president of Excelsior Pay Group.

According to Holmes, the Sterling Women’s group filled a void in the community for business women.

“Kristina’s business is a huge business – it’s over $20 million in revenue, and she has more than 300 employees. And for a woman owned business to have that kind of success is rare. So she wanted to market to other women because you don’t really have that type of networking event. We have the fun and fluff [in the community], but we don’t have the get down to business – where you’re coming in and networking, and your purpose is to make connections and grow your business,” Holmes said.

The group got so popular, they began to expand and add locations.

“It’s turned into this huge networking event and late last year, [Bouweiri] started allowing people to open up different locations,” said Holmes.

Holmes started the Prince William chapter in November, which meets the third Wednesday of every month in Woodbridge. Women are able to see vendors, network with one another and hear from a speaker.

Holmes decided to open her own chapter of Sterling Women, following her own positive experience with the group.

“I went to my first Sterling Women event in February 2013. I started my business in July 2012, at the same time I was working a full time job…and from July to February, I had no success in my business. I was about to close my business. Someone told me about Sterling Women, and told me I needed to go…and after all of the connections I had made…there was no way I could close my business. And I want to pass that on to other people…You’ve got a room full of women, and you’re starting out, or you’re on the spectrum where you’ve got a multi-million dollar business, and you can walk up to any of these women, and connect with them…and learn from them. I wanted to bring that to Prince William County, because I didn’t see anything like that in the county,” said Holmes.

By March 2014, Holmes was able to quit her full time job to focus on her business and currently has 7 employees.

While the group is targeted towards women, Holmes stated that men are welcome to join.

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$100K winning Virginia lottery ticket bought in Manassas, still unclaimed

News

According to the Virginia Lottery, an individual who purchased a winning lottery ticket in Manassas has not come forward to claim their winnings – and the ticket is about to expire.

The ticket was purchased on January 12 for a Cash 5 night drawing from a 7-Eleven location on Cockrell Road in Manassas, said Virginia Lottery.

The ticket was a winner and is valued at $100,000. Virginia Lottery stated that the winning numbers were 3-7-10-20-25 and that the ticket matched all five numbers.

But the owner of that ticket has not come forward to claim their prize.

More on lottery ticket expiration and unclaimed prizes from the Virginia Lottery:

By law, winning tickets in Virginia expire 180 days after the drawing. In this case, since the 180-day period ends on a Saturday, the winner has until close of business the next business day, which is 5:00 p.m. on Monday, July 13. If it’s not claimed by then, this $100,000 ticket will become worthless.

All Virginia Lottery unclaimed prize money goes to the state Literary Fund. The Literary Fund is used solely for educational purposes, such as upgrading technology in schools and teacher retirement funding. Since its inception in 1988, the Lottery has transferred more than $244 million in unclaimed prizes to Virginia’s Literary Fund.

Cash 5 drawings are held daily at 1:59 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. The chances of winning the $100,000 top prize are 1 in 278,256.

The owner must reach out to the Virginia Lottery in order to claim their prize.

Haymarket woman charged with entering stranger’s home

News

In the afternoon on June 22, Haymarket police were called to a home on Gap Way for a call for unlawful entry of a residence.

According to Haymarket police, the homeowner stated that he saw a female open the rear door of his home and partially enter. When the homeowner confronted the woman, she asked to use the telephone.

Haymarket police stated that the female had no connections to the home.

After an investigation, Haymarket police identified the female as 22-year old Chelsey Davis.

Davis was located at her residence on Washington Street and has been charged with unlawful entry.

County supervisors talk on how to address $9M PRTC shortfall

News
Many riders begin and end their commutes, or transfer to other PRTC buses at the agency’s Transit Center in Woodbridge.

County supervisors are talking about ways to handle the Potomac and Rapphannock Transportation Commission’s (PRTC) $9 million dollar annual shortfall.

PRTC provides bus and rail service for residents in Prince William, Manassas and Stafford, including commuter, cross-county and local bus service.

According to PRTC’s Interim Executive Director Eric Marx, the organization is facing this large shortfall and may have to make some drastic cuts to service – including eliminating all local service or severely limiting commuter service – unless additional funding can be found.

Currently PRTC’s revenue sources include some federal and state funds, and a 2.1% motor fuels tax. Previously, the board of county supervisors chipped in money from the general fund, but stopped doing so after the recession hit the county in 2008.

An independent audit, and more talks

Marx has met with the supervisors to discuss the shortfall, and the board’s first step has been to call for an independent audit of PRTC and their budget, to see if efficiencies and cost savings can be found.

“There is an audit that Prince William County is planning, to have their independent auditing firm perform on PRTC, regarding our performance…it will be a way that the county can sort of independently determine how well we are doing. We can say everything we want about how efficient we are, and how productive we are…but having and independent process [provides] verification,” said Marx.

The audit will take place this fall, according to Marx.

While Marx stated that the three scenarios that PRTC has offered to address the shortfall are very real, they were meant to be broad and will receive much tweaking from the board.

 “I’ve spoken with most of the [supervisors]…and all of them have listened attentively and asked some questions. But [we’re] really not at a point that people are making declarations one way or the other. There are three very broad scenarios, developed to illustrate what the extremes would be in terms of how many cuts would need to be made in order to achieve [certain] levels of savings. I suspect that none of those will be implemented exactly as they are…I suspect there will be a fair amount of give or take, with the policy guidance from the elected officials and the board of county supervisors and the county finance staff,” said Marx.

Supervisors share their thoughts

Potomac Local reached out to the county board of supervisors for their thoughts on how to handle the PRTC shortfall.

For Supervisor Mike May, addressing the board’s previous general fund contribution is on the table.

“It’s a significant amount of money and I don’t think the board is going to be able to be in a position to completely backfill a $9 million shortfall. There is a history of using general fund monies to supplement PRTC, and that probably makes some amount of sense – depending on of course, the amount. Historically, it’s been $1 to $1.5 million dollars, and so there’s a significant difference between that and the $9 million shortfall,” said May.

Additionally, May stated that none of the scenarios to cut service that PRTC has put forward would seriously be considered.

“All three scenarios are essentially non-starters. But those all assume a $9 million shortfall, and PRTC resolving it with some level of reductions. I don’t think any of the three will be met with a whole lot of support from the board,” said May.

Supervisor Maureen Caddigan stated that many of her constituents rely on PRTC and that not finding funding sources for PRTC’s shortfall would have a major impact on transit in the area.

 “We need transportation, obviously. If you look at Route 1, and [Interstate] 95 and certainly [Route] 66 – where the jobs are…and the traffic is horrendous, so we need [public] transportation to get people around. The OmniRide is doing wonderful, people are really happy…the concern with some of the money now that is needed is for OmniLink. And OmniLink does take care of our neediest people – the people that don’t have cars…it’s expensive to run the buses, so we are taking a look at it…Route 1 – that is my greatest concern. People get off of 95 and they get onto Route 1, and the traffic is terrible, so I would not cut out any kind of transportation to get people around,” said Caddigan.

According to Supervisor John Jenkins, the General Assembly should play a role in solving the shortfall by putting a floor on the motor fuels tax – one of PRTC’s major funding sources.

“We have a corporate responsibility, with other jurisdictions, and so it’s not one of these things where you can just say, ‘You know, we’re not going to fund it.’ There are two or three options we’re going to look at in the future. We have, over the years, in Prince William County, funded from the general fund, a little bit of the operation of the transportation systems, but I don’t think we can continue to do that in the current scenario. The General Assembly could put a floor on the amount of [motor fuels] tax that’s being cut. One of the things I would like to see done would be for the state General Assembly to come in there and come and give us some real, meaningful revenues to help operate this transit system,” Jenkins said.

May also mentioned seeking outside funding sources, including the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA), but that ultimately there would have to be some cuts at PRTC.

“I’m open to working with my colleagues to try and identify funding to help with some of that. I also think we should probably take a look at the possibility of using NVTA funds for a portion of that as well, but there’s probably going to have to be some reductions made on the PRTC side as well,” May commented.

Marx stated that public hearings could be held in the future to hear from county residents, as to how to address the $9 million shortfall.

Man arrested following shooting in Triangle home

News

On June 25, the U.S. Marshals’ Fugitive Task Force arrested 23-year old Triangle man Terrance Henderson for a shooting incident on Old Triangle Road on June 23.

Prince William police responded to a call at 2:27 a.m. that morning to investigate the shooting.

Their investigation revealed that the victim – a 21-year old Triangle man – was inside the residence when Henderson, who knew the victim, showed him a rifle which discharged, striking the victim in the leg, stated Prince William police.

After the incident, Henderson carried the victim outside and fled the area, said Prince William police.

When officers arrived on the scene, they located the victim outside near the home. The victim was transported to a nearby hospital with non-life threatening injuries, according to Prince William police.

Henderson was located in Fredericksburg, and was arrested without incident.

Prince William police stated that Henderson is being charged with unlawful wounding, shooting within an occupied dwelling and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He is being held without bond.

NoVA Scanner is one website with all Northern Virginia news

screenshot-novascanner.com 2015-06-29 09-24-07NoVA Scanner is a new website dedicated to highlighting news across the Northern Virginia region. Stories flow to the site automatically and are presented in an easy-to-scan format.

The site first began as a side project of Fairfax resident Chris LeCompte. With numerous news sites dotted throughout the area, LeCompte found it challenging to quickly access geographically organized news content. NoVA Scanner solves this problem by placing Northern Virginia news on a single page. LeCompte also curates the content, filtering out as many non-news items as possible.

“My goal was to provide a hub for Northern Virginia news,” LeCompte said. “More importantly, I wanted to create a site that’s easy to access for people who don’t have the time to check dozens of local sources independently.”

NoVA Scanner is currently divided into seven categories: Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William, Reston & Herndon, Tysons Corner & McLean, Loudoun, and Alexandria.

Access NoVA Scanner by visiting novascanner.com on your phone, tablet or computer.

Endangered Woodbridge man goes missing from his home

News

Update

According to Prince William police, Bechtold was located in New York and is safe.

Original post

Prince William police are looking for 23-year old Woodbridge man Albert Bradley Bechtold.

According to Prince William police, an investigation showed that Bechtold left his home on Bayside Avenue around 12:45 a.m. on June 29.

Bechtold was believed to have left his home voluntarily, and may need assistance. Prince William police have classified him as endangered.

He may be driving a black 2009 Toyota Matrix hatchback with Virginia license plate tag VGF-3326, according to Prince William police. Additionally, he may have ties to the New York area.

Bechtold is described as a white male, 6’0” and 180 pounds with brown hair, blue eyes and tattoos on his neck, left hand, and right wrist, said Prince William police.

Free admission at Manassas Museum, starting July 1

News

On July 1, the Manassas Museum will be offering free admission.

The decision to provide free admission to the museum came from the Manassas Historic Resources Board and the Manassas City Council, in order to give residents the opportunity to visit the museum.

The museum first opened in 1973, after residents created an exhibit to celebrate the city’s Centennial. Due to the popularity of that exhibit, the museum was created – located originally on Main Street – in 1991.

The Manassas Museum is currently on Prince William Street.

 “The City of Manassas has a historic heart. We want to share this history with our residents and visitors at no cost,” stated City Manager W. Patrick Pate in a release.

According to a city release, some of the city’s programs including Spirits of Manassas and the Liberia Holiday tours will still have an admission charge, and the museum will still be accepting donations.

Any programs run by the museum are free for residents with a Manassas Museum Associates members, said a release.

The museum is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Labor Day.

Predatory lending continues its March through Virginia and U.S. 1

Opinion

The Virginia’s State Corporation Commission latest annual report says that predatory car title lending is thriving in Virginia .  With nearly three dozen car title lenders between Alexandria and Quantico on U.S. 1, this is troubling news, except to the lenders out to make big profits.    You can read the full report on my online newsletter –The Dixie Pig – at scottsurovell.blogspot.com

Car title lending began in our state in 2010 after Virginia limited interest rates on payday loans and predatory lenders argued that a new option was needed.  Virginia law authorizes lenders to lend money at rates up to 30% per month which equates to around a 297% annual percentage rate (APR).  A consumer can  borrow up to 50% of their vehicle’s equity and the loan term is limited.   

First, the good news from the report.  The total amount lent declined from $206 million to around $162 million and the total number of loans dropped from 177,775 to 155,128.  This reduction could have resulted from several factors such as more cautious lenders, more informed consumers and an improved economy. 

However, the largest lender in Virginia, Title Max,co-located a second business in their car title loan stores and licensed them as relatively lightly regulated “consumer finance companies.”  Title Max has been promoting these alternate loans, which have higher interest rates, longer terms and marginally smaller monthly payments.  I introduced legislation  to ban evasion of consumer protections by co-location illegal, but it was killed in committee. 

Given the SCC’s reporting methods, it is impossible to determine whether predatory lending is really up or down.

But there is clearly bad news.  The interest rates charged on these 177,775 loans ranged from 84% to 268% and the average APR was 222%.  Those are not typos.

The number of Virginians who failed to make a monthly payment rose from 33,387 to 38,286.  That’s about 400 people per state delegate or nearly 1,000 people per state senator.  This means in Fairfax County’s U.S. 1 Corridor, there were probably about 1,000 people in default and probably another 1,000 to 1,500 in eastern Prince William and Stafford Counties. 

Out of those 38,286 defaults, 19,368 cars were repossessed and 14,949 were sold at public auction. Court judgments rendered totaled $150,593; the bulk of amounts owed were covered by repossession sales or debt collection tactics. 

If you convert those defaults to raw dollars (multiply the number of defaults against the average loan) it equates to about $40 million of defaulted loans or about 25% of the total loans made.   For comparison, Experian reports that loans to finance car purchases (not car title loans) have a default rate of 0.62%.  Predatory car title loans default forty times more often than traditional vehicle purchase loans.

The small amount of judgments against the lenders also tells me is that this is a very profitable business.  If a title loan shop sells only one $1,000 loan per week and has $52,000 under management at the state-sanctioned 30% per month interest rate then the business is projected to earn $187,200 per year before expenses.  Given that loans cannot exceed 50% of the vehicle value, there is little risk to lenders if a consumer defaults, thus the tiny amount of reported judgments.  These profits are being made off people who are typically in extreme credit distress before they ever borrow the money. 

All of these statistics underscore the need for Virginia to step up and short of an absolute repeal of the law that allows these practices, to take action. 

The state legislature should pass(1) my legislation to prohibit title lenders from co-locating consumer finance companies in title loan shops and (2) legislation to reduce maximum interest rates from a 297% APR. 

Also, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is actively considering my suggestion to prohibit new car title lenders from locating in revitalization districts.  Chesterfield County enacted this two years ago.  Prince William and Stafford Counties needs to take action as well. 

However, more is needed.  Localities should also be able to prohibit these businesses from locating near clusters of their favorite targets – active duty military and low-income residents.    

With these steps, we can begin to limit the financial destruction and heartbreak that this industry is causing in Virginia.

It is an honor to serve as your state delegate.  If you have any feedback, please contact me at scott@scottsurovell.org. 

*Surovell is a candidate for state senate in Virginia’s 36th district.

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