Two Democrats debate for supervisor seat in Dumfries

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Last week, two Democratic primary candidates for the Potomac district – Andrea Bailey and Dumfries Town Councilman Derrick Wood –  met for a debate.

The debate was an opportunity for voters to meet the candidate and learn their stances prior to the upcoming primary, which is on June 9.

Commercial tax base

Bailey and Wood first spoke about what needs to happen in order to expand the commercial tax base.

Bailey stated that promoting small businesses was an important piece of growing the commercial tax base.

“We live in the third most affluent environment in Virginia – and I think that’s a wonderful thing… I think that one of the things we need to really focus on is how we manage the budget, as it reflects the tax rate. There is 83% of the tax rate that comes into the county, and it’s coming from residential taxes…we really need to focus on bringing in more commercial businesses into this environment, as well as supporting and shoring up the small businesses in this community,” said Bailey.

Wood recalled a time when Fairfax was in a similar situation with a lower commercial to residential tax rate – stating that diversification is the way to go.

“When you look at the economy – to me – that’s as important as overcrowding in the schools…we need to find a way to diversify and to really growth…at one time Fairfax was in the same exact situation [as Prince William]. They had a low commercial tax base, and they began to diversify. One of the things I’ve done as a Town Councilman, consistently every year I’ve been in, I’ve been voting to reduce the BPOL (Business/Professional/Occupational Licensure) [tax] and I’ve voted to reduce property taxes,” said Wood.

Extending Metro into the county

Expanding the Metro line into Prince William County has been a widely contested issue over the years, and while both candidates stated that it would be a long term solution – both expressed their support for Metro rail.

“When I think about transportation, I think our system here currently in the county is just a commuter system…transportation needs to allow for a lot of commercial development to come in. And my plan is to look at ways to study [this]. We need to do a whole comprehensive study on what’s feasible…if we do nothing, imagine what our transportation’s going to look like 5-years from now,” Wood said.

Bailey put a focus on the PRTC (Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission) bus line, when addressing transportation.

“I support bringing the Metro from Springfield to Richmond. And I say that because I think that the opportunity is well overdue. But as you know, we have to work with those at the state level and federal level to make that happen…[Metro] would ease the burden of those of us who travel from this area to the [Washington] D.C. area. But I know that’s a long-term goal…and I think for the short term goal, we need to look at the bus systems,” said Bailey.

Overcrowding in schools

When it comes to overcrowding in schools, Bailey stated there needs to be collaboration between the board and the school board to handle the issue.

“I think that there needs to be an understanding of what the needs are in the school system, and the way that we do that is collaboration between the school board and the county board of supervisors…I think that there’s an opportunity for us to pull back a minute – look how the economic situation is within our county and to look at what the needs are,” Bailey commented.

Wood said that by bringing in more income is the way to make more room for classrooms in the county.

“Neighborhood schools is the most important issue here…I would support us looking at comprehensive ways to bring in some additional revenue – through smart growth and development. I don’t think it’s a revenue type issue – we need to get more income – we need to bring in more and balance out,” said Wood.

The homelessness issue

One of the final topics discussed in the debate was the growing number of homeless individuals in the county.

In Wood’s opinion, he feels that partnering with churches and finding the homeless population resources will alleviate the issues.

“Homelessness is often one of those silent problems in our communities, that too many times we take a blind eye to…I think it’s a partnership with the churches. And the problem is bigger than the homelessness. As you begin to talk them, and you begin to see – they need resources. Resources to jobs, some of them are convicted felons. They need their restored,” Wood said.

Bailey pointed out the large veteran’s community in the homeless population.

“There are 7 to 10 [tent cities] in our community…we need to provide programs within the county system and enhance the programs that we have – but provide more programs…we need more shelters within the county. To really look at the issue, and provide those kinds of provisions…30% of the people who live in the tent cities are veterans – the majority of them are female,” said Bailey.

On June 9, the winning candidate will begin work on their general election campaign against incumbent Supervisor Maureen Caddigan.

Five-star hotel, resort and spa may be coming to Potomac Shores

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Potoamc shores, dumfries, virginia

Residents in the Potomac Shores development may soon see a multi-million dollar spa and resort.

According to Potomac Supervisor Maureen Caddigan, there has been talk of being a resort and spa within the development, to help boost economic development in the area.

“That is our future – this is what our community is about. We want it to be first class,” said Caddigan.

Caddigan stated that the goal was to have a five-star hotel on the water, and a spa.

In order to move the project forward, there will need to be 50 more houses built in the development, and a hotel will need to sign a contract to build on the site, said Caddigan.

“We’ve been pushing this. The community really needs it,” said Caddigan.

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Library Foundation, Potomac Local partner on little libraries project

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Preservation Station has their own free little library.
Library Foundation president Bryanna Altman and Earnie Porta in Occoquan.
HomeTowne Auto & Tire Repair has their own little free library.
Earnie Porta is creating his own pagoda themed library.
ST Billingsley works on his little free library.

The Prince William Library Foundation and Potomac Local have come together to support a literacy initiative to create little libraries in the area.

The project, titled “Prince William (PW) Little Free Libraries” is part of a larger global push for literacy, run by the organization “Little Free Libraries.”

PW Little Free Libraries will be dotted across Prince William, Manassas and Manassas Park.

What the project is about?

According to Bryanna Altman, president of the Library Foundation, the project is all getting people in the community reading.

“It’s about promoting childhood reading and adult literacy, so we don’t expect anybody to spend any money on this, other than a creative way to offer a book exchange – it’s give a book, take a book. We have tons of enthusiasm going with this project,” said Altman.

How do I get involved?

There are many ways to get involved with the project. If you have a space of your own that you’d like to use – then create your own free library and let us know.

If you know of a perfect location, but don’t have access, then ask the person that owns the property or area if they’d be willing to become involved in the project.

The books for this project are all meant to be donated – so if you have extra books and you’d like to help support literacy in the community – then donate your books to one of the many locations, so other people can enjoy them.

Potomac Local will be tracking the progress of the project, and will take information and photos of all of the little library locations that pop up across the area. All of the libraries will be placed on an interactive map on our site, so that residents can find their closest PW Little Free Library.

Participants are encouraged to take part in the global initiative by registering their library on the Little Free Library site, but are not required to do so.

“If [people] want to participate in the global initiative, then that’s when they go to the [Little Free Libraries] website, and they have to register. They’re paying to this organization…and basically what you’re getting is [a label] for people to easily locate and identify it,” said Altman.

How do I make a PW Little Free Library?

Making a PW Little Free Library can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be.

There are some people that would prefer to buy a cabinet or container that is premade, while others want to be very creative and draft and build their own design. There are even kits for sale online.

Regardless of how you make your PW Little Free Library, it is important that it be accessible, and that it is moderately weather proof, so that the books are not water damaged.

A lot of individuals choose to use recycled or repurposed materials to create their libraries. The ReStore in Manassas, run by Habitat for Humanity, sells lower cost building materials that are left over from their projects.

A quick online search will give you plenty ideas on how you can find a creative concept for your own PW Little Free Library. 

Who has already created a PW Little Free Library?

Several community leaders have already committed to the project, and have constructed their own libraries.

In Occoquan, there is a library on Union Street and another at the Preservation Station location. Additionally, former Occoquan mayor Earnie Porta is building his own “Porta Pagoda” little library, which will sit in front of his home.

“I first read about these free box libraries a year or so ago and they struck me as markers of positive, welcoming communities, so I decided to build one for our front yard. Guided by the article and its online references, I tried to use mostly scrap materials I had lying around the garage, supplemented by some hardware I bought at Pitkins.  Our front yard has a modest Asian theme with local, native plants, so I decided to build the box library in the shape of a pagoda,” said Porta.

In Lake Ridge, the Westminster assisted living community has their own library.

And in Woodbridge, ST Billingsley – owner of HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire – was the first partner in the project from the auto industry. There is a PW Little Free Library located outside of his location off of Route 1.

“We know that promoting literacy in the community is one of the most important things anyone can do. The HomeTowne Auto Repair and Tire team enjoyed working on this project  to create this little free library in order to give residents the chance to read a great book. Being on route 1 with many people walking by we thought it would be a great place to put one up,” said Billingsley.

Let us know where you’re putting your own PW Little Free Library! Be sure to include the name, street address, town name, and zip code! 

Also, post pictures of your library on the Library Foundation’s Facebook page.

19 arrested following teen-focused narcotics operation

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On May 28, the Prince 1395799_854707271245374_8902747334903685448_nWilliam, Manassas City and Manassas Park Narcotics Task Force finished a four month narcotics investigation called “Growing Pains”, leading to the arrest of several individuals.

According to Prince William police, the focus of the operation was to find individuals that were providing illegal narcotics to teens and young adults.

The “Growing Pains” operation began in February.

Prince William police stated that during the investigation, undercover detectives conducted deals with individuals involving cocaine, LSD, pharmaceuticals, marijuana and marijuana “wax”.

Because of these deals, detectives were able to obtain warrants for 26 individuals. 19 of the individuals are now in custody, Prince William police stated.

Homes were searched in Bristow, Woodbridge, Manassas and Gainesville, in relation to the arrests.

Prince William police also stated that a handgun, money, marijuana, Xanax and marijuana “wax” were taken from the homes during the searches.

Here is a list of the suspects that have been arrested, or are still wanted by the police.

Walk not only important for us, but for our community

My name isScreen Shot 2015-05-29 at 10.51.15 AM Camille VanSkiver, and I was one of the AP students that helped create the Spriggs United Suicide Awareness Walk that happened last Saturday.
 
I would just like to sincerely thank you on behalf on my entire class and everyone involved for giving us extra coverage from Potomac Local and helping to spread the word on our powerful movement.
 
This may have been one of many final projects that we had to do, but it truly doesn’t do it justice to say that this walk was incredibly important not only to us, but for our entire community. Your support was invaluable in helping us to make this as big as possible, and to raise more awareness for such a massive and yet massively ignored issue.
 
Thank you so much for all that you do and all that you have done for us, and we hope to have your continued support next year if we can find a way to host this project again!
 
Sincerest of thanks from Mrs. Geraghty’s AP Government classes
 
*This letter was sent to our editor on May 29.

Serious Games Institute expanding, Mason Enterprise Center closing

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mason prince william

It’s time to find new office space.

The Mason Enterprise Center, a business incubator at the Science and Technology Campus of George Mason University, will close June 30. In its place will be an expanded Virginia Serious Games Institute, which is currently located in the campus’ business incubator.

In addition to the gaming institute, the center housed eight clients, known as residents, and all have relocated to new office spaces. The center’s virtual clients – those who claim the center’s street address as their own and use the center’s conference room space for up to eight hours per month – have been offered space at other Mason Enterprise Centers in Leesburg, Warrenton, Springfield, and Fairfax.

“We’re working with our partner, George Mason University, to define what the next step is for the Mason Enterprise Center in Manassas or Prince William County,” said center director Renne Younes.

It’s not yet clear where, or if, the center will relocate in the region. Manassas Economic Development Director Patrick Small says such a business incubator would benefit Downtown Manassas, but would not say if he or anyone from the city is in talks with the university to relocate the center to the city.

The closing campus business incubator is located inside Innovation Park, a developing center for bio science and technology firms. In the future, another incubator catering to these types of firms could pop up.

“You can see the future opportunities when you see these kinds of incubators mature.  Firms like life sciences and serious online games incubate and then move out into their own space.  So you can really see how the industries start to prosper,” said Prince William County Economic Development spokeswoman Ginny Person.

Once companies graduate from the incubator, the hope is they acquire office or lab space in Innovation Park and spur economic development.   However, there are no plans currently in the works to create a third incubator at Innovation Park, added Person.

A Mason Enterprise Center once located in Woodbridge closed in 2013. Some of the most successful centers, such as the university’s business incubator in downtown Leesburg, are located in walkable neighborhoods, added Younes.

The Serious Game Institute, known as SGI, recently released new training simulators for those work in the healthcare and firefighting fields. 

George Mason University last month changed the name of its campus outside Manassas from “Prince William Campus” to “Science and Technology Campus of George Mason University.”

My day with the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office

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A ride along with the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office.
A ride along with the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office.
A ride along with the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office.
A ride along with the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office.

Our regional editor Stephanie Tipple spent the day with Sgt. Chris Truslow of the Stafford sheriff’s office to learn more about the work law enforcement does each day.

Roll call

My day with members of the Stafford sheriff’s office began bright and early, at their 5:30 a.m. roll call meeting.

I was greeted by a room full of officers and deputies, who watched me shuffle into the room with my bulletproof vest.

During roll call, the officers watched footage of an incident where force was used, and had a serious discussion about the most appropriate and respectful ways to handle the situation.

Ride along

After roll call, I got into Truslow’s patrol car, and we began to patrol his area. During that time, I got to speak with him about his job and his life.

“My main job is to monitor what’s going on – to make sure people are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, to see what calls are going on and monitoring the calls to make sure they’re doing their jobs…I do a little bit of everything,” said Truslow.

Truslow has been in law enforcement for 10 years – 5 of which have been in Stafford. He lives in Spotsylvania with his wife and two children.

Our first stop of the day

When going through a residential 25 mph zone, we had our first stop of the day. A man, on the way to his first day of a new job, was going 40 mph in the 25 mph zone.

Truslow stated that he always tries to consider the residents during stops, and if he can give them a lesser fine, or offer advice, he does so.

The flat tire incident

Our first call of the day was for a disabled vehicle on Inez Way, near the intersection of Andrew Chapel Drive. The driver’s rear tire had loose lugnuts and couldn’t move down the two-lane road.

Truslow was able to redirect traffic, so drivers could safely surpass the blocked lane.

The driver of the vehicle immediately got to work, as his wife handed him what appeared to be professional car tools, and he had his tire fixed in less than three minutes. It reminded us of a NASCAR pit station.

After this incident, Truslow and I got back on the road, and I continued to talk with him about why he wanted to work in law enforcement.

“I just always wanted to be a cop, since I was four or five years old. My dad was a special deputy [as a volunteer]…so since I was a little kid, he’s been [involved]. I always wanted to do it, always had an interest in it and I went to college and got a criminal justice degree. I interned my last semester with Christiansburg Police,” Truslow said.

Truslow recalled stories over his years with the Stafford sheriff’s office, and spoke about how difficult it is to use force against an individual.

“It’s very difficult, because you know you need to quell the situation, but you also know that the backlash that’s going to come from [using force],” said Truslow.

He specifically recalled a situation where a man was being uncooperative, after being caught shoplifting.

“He starts screaming that I’m using excessive force, and I’m not even touching him. So I can’t get him under control – so I’ve got this guy in handcuffs, and I don’t know if he has a weapon on him, and I don’t know if his friend’s going to come in and assault me. There’s a whole lot going on – I’m by myself…so [using force] is a very difficult situation,” said Truslow.

Truslow went on to talk about how being in law enforcement and using force in situations has been made more difficult by unrealistic depictions of shootings in entertainment.

“There’s a decent amount of people that think that we should be like the police in the movies – that we should be shot at first, before we shoot back. That even a guy with a gun pointed at us isn’t enough for us to shoot somebody…when you watch a movie and somebody get’s shot, there’s always this dramatic falling over and people are flying through glass…and it’s just not like that at all. It’s not every day that you see a real person get shot, but people watch movies where people get shot all the time, so that becomes the reality for people,” Truslow said.

Accidents and moped chases

Toward the end of my time with Sgt. Truslow, we were on the scene of a car accident on Garrisonville Road and Onville Road, where K-9 and traffic officers were also on the scene. A person had run a red light and struck another car, which then hit an electrical box. 

One of the most exhilarating moments was when we rushed to the scene of a moped theft which was done by a teenager. We were able to call a “code one” and put the lights on in the vehicle to quickly arrive. I bruised my knee in the process, but the excitement was well worth it.

On our way back to the station, Truslow and I talked some more about national events with the police in recent months – like Ferguson and the Baltimore riots.

Truslow stated that he feels that residents in the community appreciate the work that the officers and deputies do now more than ever, and it put a positive spin on a negative situation.

My takeaways

Prior to this experience, I had never had close interaction with law enforcement. It really opened my eyes to see the work that they do isn’t glamorous, and they have tough decisions they have to make at a moment’s notice – including life or death situations. The care that I saw exhibited by Truslow was one I didn’t expect, but I am happy to know that individuals like him are helping to protect our community.

Manassas City businesses rise and shine at appreciation breakfast

B. Hayes Framme addresses the crowd.

Close to 100 people gathered at the Center for the Arts for the inaugural Manassas Business Appreciation Breakfast where they celebrated the City’s entrepreneurial spirit and thriving business community. The City of Manassas and the Prince William Chamber of Commerce hosted the event to recognize local businesses.

In his opening remarks, Mayor Harry J. Parrish II thanked the audience for choosing Manassas and “for all that you bring to the community.” Beyond creating jobs and boosting the local economy, he acknowledged the many business leaders who serve on boards and commissions and participate in the robust calendar of events.

See photos from the event

Those in the room took a moment to welcome the newcomers to downtown, which include Amy’s Bridal, Totally Vintage Designs, and Scatter Seeds as well as the soon-to-open Cut Rate Barbershop and Jitterbug ice cream shop. H Mart and Firehouse Subs, which recently opened on Liberia Avenue, were recognized as well. Dalena Kanouse, the CEO of MTCI Management and Training Consultants, Inc., and incoming chair of the Prince William Chamber, pointed out that her well-established company was once a newcomer to the City of Manassas. She told the tight-knit business community that MTCI moved from Dumfries to take advantage of the opportunities in Manassas and are happy to be here.

Existing businesses in the City are flourishing, too. Fauquier Bank relocated within the City to accommodate its anticipated expansion. Malone’s opened a second floor to accommodate their growing business. Another expansion in the City is Aurora Flight Science who are sub-leasing the airport’s FlightWorks hanger and envision creating 50 new jobs over the next several years. B. Hayes Framme, advisor for infrastructure and development for the Commonwealth of Virginia, acknowledged that most businesses have “Chief ‘Everything’ Officers.” He also identified high-growth opportunities in Virginia like cyber security and biotechnology and discussed incentives and policies that support job creation.

The City strives to create a business-friendly environment and is always interested in speaking to prospective business owners who wish to join this supportive community. For more information, call the economic development department at 703-257-8881.

There’s a new principal in Manassas

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The City of Manassas school board has appointed Kimberly Buckeit as the new principal of Metz Middle School in Manassas.

Buckheit is currently principal at a middle school in Maine – where she has worked since 2004, said a release.

More on Buckheit’s background from Manassas City Public Schools:

Prior to her current position, she served as an elementary school principal for five years. Additionally, she has experience as director of the Gifted and Talented program and an Affirmative Action Officer for the school district. Buckheit also has eight years’ experience as a behavior specialist in Baltimore, MD, and a behavior resource teacher for two years for Baltimore County Public Schools. She also has experience as an adjunct graduate professor at Goucher and New England colleges.

“I am excited to have Mrs. Buckheit join the Manassas City Public Schools family as the new principal at Metz. Her solid leadership background and focus on school improvement and student success will be an asset to our school community,” said Superintendent Catherine Magouyrk in a release.

Buckheit will begin working in her new role in July.

Changes coming to Stafford commuter lot

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The Virginia Departmevdotlogo600pixelsnt of Transportation (VDOT) is proposing that new signs and a pickup area for HOV carpooling be added to the Staffordboro commuter lot in Stafford.

According to VDOT, the lot was observed and there was a survey given to users of the lot that slug using the HOV lanes that helped them to determine that changes needed to be made.

Here are the improvements proposed by VDOT:

Destination signs for the Pentagon, Crystal City, and Rosslyn lines

New, separate HOV carpooling pickup area for Rosslyn sluggers

Crosswalks spanning the lot’s central access road

View an online map of the proposed changes 

“We received more than 60 responses to our online survey about slugging and congestion near the HOV carpooling area. Many commuters requested better signage to identify HOV carpooling destinations, and suggested space for an additional HOV carpooling pickup area in the Staffordboro lot. We have proposed these changes to provide better direction in the lot, and to reduce minor congestion in the HOV carpooling pickup line,” said Sean Nelson, VDOT Fredericksburg Residency Administrator, in a release.

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