HMI paints positive picture of Downtown Manassas business, tourism

Slushy sidewalks and streets were left behind in Old Town Manassas after a winter ice storm moved across Northern Virginia on Dec. 9, 2013. [Photo: Daniel Foose]

The Norfolk and Western “611” steam engine will return to Manassas for the annual Heritage Railway Festival in 2016.

The 65-year-old Class J steam engine was the centerpiece of the 2015 annual Heritage Railway Festival. The engine was fresh off of a restoration and on a statewide viewing tour when it rolled into Downtown Manassas.

“[The engineers] were just so excited to be here,” said Historic Manassas Inc. Director Debbie Haight. “They loved that everyone came out to see the steam engine.”

The “611” is a rolling museum that serves as a window back in time that showcases the technology that was used to transport people and goods via the railroads. The 611 also gave festival goers an excursion ride from Manassas to Front Royal, and back.

Dates for the 2016 Heritage Railway Festival have yet to be announced.

News of the 611’s imminent return to the city came has Haight, and Historic Manassas Inc. President Charles Patullo told Manassas City Council members that things were looking up in Downtown.

“The total overall occupancy rate is about 99%,” Haight told Councilman Ian Lovejoy.

HMI hosts the farmer’s market in Downtown twice a week and hosts several signature events, from the city’s annual wine and jazz, railway, and bands and brews festivals, as well as the city’s “First Friday” celebrations held on the first Friday of each month.

“First Friday has taken hold,” said Haight. “We’ve heard back from all the merchants, and they’re pleasd with an uptick in sales and additional foot traffic in their stores.”

One of the most successful First Friday events came last winter when each participating merchant passed out cups of soup.

“We were out of soup after an hour and a half.” added Haight.

It’s estimated 180,000 people attended the city’s festivals in the past year. Those visitors shop and dine in the city, and that brings in additional sales tax revenue for city coffers.

One of the vendors at the city’s farmer’s market has been so successful that they are transitioning from space at the market into a brick and mortar retail location in Downtown, said Haight. HMI staff attended 11 ribbon cuttings in 2015, including the opening of Paradise Donuts where Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe chowed down on some power rings.

HMI will work to rebrand its logo and its mission statement over the winter. A new logo and mission statement could come by April.

“A lot of people don’t know what we do,” said Patullo. “They think we’re a part of the [Manassas] Museum.”

HMI contracts with the city to operate the visitors center inside the train station / Virginia Railway Express station in Downtown. The organization recently turned 30 years old.

Manassas Mayor Hal Parrish, and Councilman Jonathan Way praised HMI for its work.

“It’s very important that the nucleus of the city is a healthy place to be. If the center of the city isn’t doing well, the rest of it isn’t either,” said Parrish.

Parades, pancakes, ornaments, & Santa pet photos: Don’t miss holiday fun at the Manassas Park Community Center

manassas park holiday 1


‘Tis the Season at the Manassas Park Community Center!

There’s just something about the holiday season that makes it one of my favorite times of the year. Maybe it’s because this is the season for spreading happiness, togetherness, and well-wishes to everybody you meet. To help you get into the spirit of the season the Manassas Park Community Center has lots of special events lined up!

The festivities kick off on Thursday, December 3 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. where you and your family can decorate dough ornaments for only $3 a person. You can literally create a lifelong memory to include on your Christmas tree or to keep at your desk all year round.

As a baking enthusiast, nothing brings me more holiday cheer than gingerbread houses! You and your family can decorate your own gingerbread houses Thursday, December 10 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. for just $5 per participant. We’ll supply everything but feel free to bring your own special candy to make your houses extra unique.

Holiday fun at the Manassas Park Community Center.
Holiday fun at the Manassas Park Community Center.
Holiday fun at the Manassas Park Community Center.
Holiday fun at the Manassas Park Community Center.

Our popular 10th Annual Light Parade is on Saturday, December 12 starting at 5:45 p.m. There’s a new route this year! It will start at the General’s Ridge Golf Course and follow Manassas Drive to the Manassas Park Community Center. There’s still time to have your vehicle be a part of the parade. Contact Tony Thomas at for more details.

Santa will be visiting the Manassas Park Community Center for a pancake breakfast on Saturday, December 19 from 9 to 11 a.m. It’s only $5 per person for Breakfast with Santa and kids 2 years old and under can join us for free. Make sure to bring your wishlist!

Your pups can meet Santa on December 19 as well! From 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. bring your dogs to take pictures with Santa during our Santa Paws special event! It’s only $5 per dog and you’ll get a high quality digital photo to keep for years to come.

In addition to all of our special events, our monthly promotion gets in on the holiday action! Get 12% off an annual Basic or All-Access membership or 12% off any rental you book during the month of December! For more details on memberships and rentals you can visit our website at or call the front desk at 703-335-8872.

We hope to see you soon here at the Manassas Park Community Center!

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Davis charged with stabbing Triangle man


A man is charged with malicious wounding after a 23-year-old was stabbed.

Here’s more in a police press release:

Malicious Wounding – On November 28th at 8:30PM, officers responded to the 16700 block of Harwood Oaks Ct in Dumfries (22026) to investigate a stabbing. The victim, a 23 year old man of Triangle, reported to police that he was in the area of Harwood Oaks Ct when he was involved in a verbal altercation with an unknown individual. During the argument, the suspect who was later identified as the accused, produced a knife and stabbed the victim in the abdominal area. The accused left the scene prior to police arrival but was later located in his residence nearby and arrested without incident. The victim was flown to a nearby hospital for non-life threatening injuries.

Arrested on November 28th:

John Elkannah Davis Mead IV, 24, 16680 Harwood Oaks Ct in Dumfries

Charged with malicious wounding 

Court Date: Pending| Bond: Held WITHOUT Bond 

Quantico to use scanners for security screenings at base gates

Quantico gate

Those coming aboard Quantico Marine Corps Base will have their IDs scanned beginning in January.

The new security measure comes as Quantico upgrades the equipment and processes used at the base’s entrance gates. A new system called RAPIDGate will be installed, and everyone entering the base — including visitors to Quantico Town — will have their IDs scanned with electronic security scanners.

Once scanned, the information on the ID is entered into a computer system and then reviewed in the RAPIDGate database. The security check will alert guards at the gate if the person is on a terrorist watchlist, a debarment list, or if they’ve had their privileges revoked.

The types of IDs that will be accepted at the gate include include common access cards, transportation worker identification card, TESLIN brand ID cards, and state drivers licenses.

“These changes to our access control procedures will improve the installation’s overall security posture, though the process will require additional time at the gates to scan each credential. Consequently, there may be minor delays associated with the implementation of this system.” said Lance Hunziker, Quantico Marine Corps Base critical infrastructure protection manager.

The new system cannot solve all of the base’s securtiy challenges.

“Automated access control systems are not new to the Marine Corps. Marine Corps Installations Command chose to deploy RAPIDGate as an interim solution, because until recently, the technology had not been developed that met all DoD guidelines,” said Pete Russett, director installation protection branch, Marine Corps Installations National Capital Region.

“Though not the final solution for automated access control, this system fills a gap in security and provides us with more capabilities than we currently have.”

Vendors, especially those who makes deliveries to the base, can enroll in the RAPIDGate program.

Here’s more in a press release:

Rollout of the RAPIDGate program and equipment has been funded through Marine Corps Installations Command. Contractors, venders, and service providers interested in using the RAPIDGate system are responsible for registration and signup cost. The base policy states that all commercial vehicles (box-truck size and larger), not enrolled in RAPIDGate, shall continue to utilize a one-time pass granted to each vehicle after completing a security inspection.

Contractors who choose to participate in the voluntary program will receive a CAC-like (Personal Identity Verification Interoperable, PIV-I) credential. This credential will allow them to be instantly checked at the gates and granted access, while avoiding the requirement for a vehicle inspection. The cost associated with enrollment and participation in the RAPIDGate program will be borne by the contractor.

Vendors, suppliers and service providers are a large part of traffic coming aboard the base. Those who regularly access the base will receive a letter explaining the details about use and enrollment into RAPIDGate.

Access control procedures and inspections for large commercial vehicles currently take place at the commercial vehicle inspection lot adjacent to the Ponderosa-Y Gate. Operators of commercial vehicles can voluntarily apply for a RAPIDGate long-term access pass to streamline the inspection process and speed access onto the installation.

The new RAPIDGate system is expected to be in place Jan. 11, 2016.

Sentara to host info meeting for Junior Volunteer program


Information Session for the 201
6 Junior Volunteer Program

Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center Auxiliary will be conducting an information session about the Junior Volunteer program on Saturday December 12, 2015 at 10:00 am at the Hylton Education Center located inside the hospital’s garden level.

Every year in January, the Auxiliary opens its doors to new applicants. It is a competitive process into the program and once in, volunteering can be demanding if not well managed as many high school students are taxed with so many other commitments.

The purpose of the information session is to provide an opportunity for parents and their high school age students to come and learn more about the program before investing in the application process.

Attendees are asked to park in the Visitor Parking lot located in the back of the hospital. The Information session will start promptly at 10a.m. and will last approximately one hour.

Junior Volunteer Information Session

2300 Opitz Blvd

Woodbridge, VA 22191

Hylton Education Center


10:00-11:00 am

For additional information, please contact Phim Gilberry, (703) 523-1345 or visit our webpage.


Utility lines break in Woodbridge neighborhood


A neighborhood street is closed in Woodbridge this morning due to two unity line breaks.

Kentucky Avenue, between Maryland Avenue and Alaska Road is closed to a water main and gas main break, according to Prince William police.

Crews from the Prince William Service Authority are on the scene to repair the water main break. Crews from Washington Gas are here to repair their utility line.

The water main break is not related to the gas main break, and was reported at 5:24 a.m. Monday, stated Prince William Service Authority Spokesman Kennan Howell. Customers in the are without water in their homes at this time. Howell said he did not have information on what caused the break or how long it would take to repair it. 

We’re working to find out what caused the gas break and to learn how many customers are affected at this time.

Students must decide by Dec. 1 if they want to attend Colgan High School next fall

(Photo: Prince William County Public Schools)

Some students who now attend Brentsville, Forest Park, Hylton, and Osbourn Park high schools must decide if they want to stay at their schools, or attend the new Colgan High School opening next year.

For affected students, Colgan High School will become their “base” school because they live within the boundaries of the new school. 

Students must make their decision and notify Prince William County Public Schools by December 1. 

Here’s more in a press release: 

Facing December 1 deadline: 

Current HS sophomores living inside the Colgan boundaries have a one-time choice of whether to accept their boundary-based assignment to Colgan as their new “base school,” or stay with their current “base school.”

• Indicate the “base school” decision by turning in the signed bottom portion of the “decision letter” to the student’s current PWCS high school before its office closes for the day on December 1. No further action is needed if the form was already submitted. Decision letters were sent to eligible students in October.

Print a decision form for submission if the original letter is unavailable.

• All students may apply for admission to PWCS Specialty Programs regardless of their “base school” decision. Specialty Program admission is subject to separate PWCS regulations.

Not Facing December 1 deadline:

Current freshmen living inside the Colgan boundaries do not have a “base school” decision to make. Except for the sophomores identified above, all base school assignments are determined by enrollment boundaries and are not subject to choice.

• Previous letters to freshmen were intended only to confirm their boundarybased assignment and specialty program options.

• All students may apply for admission to Specialty Programs subject to PWCS regulations.

• Acceptance in a Specialty Program does not change the “base school” designations.

Colgan High School is located on Route 234 near Hoadly Road and includes the county’s first aquatics facility to be built inside a county school.

Treat and release: What Dominion wants to do with toxic water at Possum Point


The Possum Point Power Station opened in 1948 as a coal-burning facility, generating electricity for the region.

Coal, when burnt, leaves behind coal ash — a fine powdery, toxic substance. That ash was placed in five ash ponds surrounding the power plant.

Dominion Virginia Power owns and operates Possum Point Power Stations on the banks of the Potomac River outside Dumfries, but it hasn’t burnt coal since 2003. It now uses natural gas and oil to generate electricity.

The plant is in the process of capping those ash ponds. Water from a final pond will treated and drained into the Quantico Creek and then will flow into the Potomac River. Only two of the five coal ash ponds remain — three have been dry since the 1960s.

A 2013 permit allowed Dominion to dig up coal ash from the three old dry ponds and move it to the largest of the five ponds on the site, D-Pond. Some coal ash from E Pond was also moved to D-Pond, as allowed by the permit.

The coal ash movement took place between June and Octobert of this year. Now, Dominion wants to treat the water in D-Pond, scrub it of deadly toxins contained in the ash, and release the water into Quantico Creek where it will flow into the Potomac River.

The utility behemoth will need a permit to do so, and Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality is now taking public comments about Dominion’s request to treat the ash water and eventually flow it — about 2.53 million gallons of water per day — into the river. If approved, DEQ will add an amendment to Dominion’s 2013 permit that allows it to move the coal ash.

If all goes to plan, water in the ponds will be treated and drained, and the ponds “capped” and closed, and filled with dirt.

“Once the final permit conditions are finalized, a waste water treatment system will be selected. The discharge will be routed through the treatment system prior to discharge. DEQ will develop limits for specific constituents that are associated with discharges. These limits are developed using conservative EPA and DEQ procedures that will ensure that the receiving stream and human health are protected. Monitoring of the discharges will occur to ensure that these limits are met,” said Dominion spokesman Dan Genest.

Virginia’s Water Control Board will meet Jan. 14, 2016 to decide whether or not to allow Dominion to drain the water. The change would amend a permit issued in 2013 that allowed Dominion to consolidate ash from all five ponds into one, and then drain treated water from the final pond into the Potomac River.

Written public comments are being accepted by Virginia DEQ until December 14. A public hearing at the DEQ Northern Virginia Regional Office, located at 13901 Crown Court in Woodbridge, will be held at 6 p.m. December 8.

How the coal ash is being moved

Coal ash is grey and dark. It turns to sludge when placed into a ash pond, said Bryant Thomas, with the Virginia DEQ Northern Virginia Regional Office.

There are five ponds at the Possum Point site. All of them are identified by letter: A, B, C, D, and E.

Ponds A, B, and C haven’t been used since the mid-1960s. Coal ash was buried in the ponds, and then dirt was used to cover, or cap the ponds. Trees and bushes now grow on the land, and power lines were strung overhead.

Between June and mid-October, crews at Possum Point have been digging up dirt and coal ash from ponds A through C and moving the ash into Pond D — the largest of two remaining ash ponds at the site. Some ash from Pond E — located next to Pond D, and easily seen from Possum Point Road — is being moved into Pond D.

A 2013 permit allows Dominion to consolidate the coal ash into one pond. The ash is toxic, and chemicals contained in the ash have been linked to causing cancer, neurological disease, respiratory illness, and organ disease. 

Treating the water

Waters from ponds D and E is largely contained by earthen berms. Some water from the ponds drains into Quantico Creek from two small toe drains or outfalls.

The water and sediment from around the toe drains are consistently monitored by DEQ, said Thomas. The sediment in the water contains elevated levels of copper, nickel, and zinc. However, elevated levels of those elements are not detected in the water.

“A domino effect is possible, where the detected elements in sediment could affect the water column, but we’re just not seeing that,” said Thomas.

Dominion says it has the experience to do the job correctly.

“We have benchmarked with other companies that are closing ash ponds and are applying best practices. Firms to complete the work were evaluated and a firm selected based on experience and performance in conducting similar work. We have project oversight to ensure the project is completed in compliance, focusing on safety and according to the design,” said Genest.

DEQ is now taking public comments on defines appropriate levels of metals are allowed in the waters of Quantico Creek and the Potomac River near Possum Point. DEQ would require Dominion to test regularly the waters for as long as it deems necessary, and then report their findings to the state.

Such self-reporting requirements are common in cases like these as Dominion could rack up several penalties that could lead to major fines if incorrect information on water contaminants is given to state authorities, said Thomas.

A large “Brita like” filter would be used to treat the water that would eventually flow into the creek.

“It could take months to drain,” added Thomas.

Coats for Syrian and Iraqi refugees collected at Dumfries Town Hall

043012 Dumfries Town Hall

You can drop off of a coat to Dumfries to help refugees from Syria and Iraq. 

Here’s more in a press release from Dumfries Mayor Jerry Foreman: 

Northern Virginia elected officials, religious groups and aid organizations have partnered for a blanket and coat drive aimed at assisting Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Turkey.

Coordinated through the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, the drive accepts new or lightly-used blankets & coats as well as monetary donations that can be dropped off at Dumfries Town Hall until December 4.

Stop by Dumfries Town Hall and drop off your blanket(s). Staff will put it in the Mayor’s office. Last year we collected over 200 blankets.

Turkey is home to more than four million refugees who have fled from Syria and Iraq to escape war and violence caused by ISIL.

Trump will rally voters in Manassas


Donald Trump will rally the vote in Manassas on Wednesday.

The Republican will come to the Prince William County Fairgrounds at 7 p.m. to tell voters why he should be elected the next U.S. President.

The gates to the fairground will open at 5 p.m. Attendees should plan to arrive early, and parking at the event will be free.

Trump is the second presidential candidate to rally at the Prince William County Fairgrounds for the 2016 Election. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders rallied at the fairgrounds in September.

“All of the presidential candidates’ visits here in Prince William County show that they recognize the political importance of Prince William County as not only a bellwether County for Virginia but also for the national race for the Presidency. The road to the White House runs through Prince William County,” said Prince William County Republican Committe Chairman Bill Card. “For more than a decade now, this electoral track record has proven to be true. I’m confident that we’ll see many more candidates come through Prince William between now and Election Day.” -Bill Card, Chairman, Prince William County Republican Committee

Trump is coming out of a November that saw hin host Saturday Night Live and debate his fellow Republicans at a GOP debate in Milwaukee. Trump continues to have high name recognition, but a Gallup Poll showed he has a higher than average unfavorability rating among fellow Republicans.

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