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Teen’s Dressing Room Decision Leads to Mom’s Fashion Verdict

Mom on the Run


I’m in Kohl’s. In the dressing room. Looking. Thinking. Hard.

My sneakers are on the floor and my jeans are crumpled on top of my purse on that little corner seat. I’ve got two hangered black skirts on the hook, and a third on my body. I turn here and there, back and forth, assessing the image in the mirror. Hmmm.

Maybe a longer mirror would help, if I could stand farther back? Get a different angle,012113 Freedom center_edited-1 with a different light? Something to help me picture the skirt as I would actually wear it, with heels, instead of with my cheerful but so-wrong striped socks. So out I go, in search of a communal mirror, one that hopefully will reflect the perfect black pencil skirt.

Except … there’s no communal mirror in this dressing room. There are four little rooms in this alcove, each with its own full-length mirror, but no hallway mirror, nowhere else to stand without going out into the actual store. And I’m not sure this skirt has that much potential, really, to warrant all that.

Just as I turn to go back a young lady enters, looking for a dressing room of her own. She’s got an armful of jeans, and she looks to be in her late teens, with her long hair and her Coach sneakers. Aha!

“Excuse me,” I say, and she freezes and looks at me.

“What do you think of this skirt?”

Because this skirt, it’s from the Juniors section. The two from my own women’s section were wrong; one was too big, and there weren’t any in my size, and the other had a big waist panel and belt loops. I’m no longer buying and keeping in my closet any clothes that don’t make me look fabulous – no more cheap, “it’ll do” stuff for me, I have moved on in life and I’m not just Mom anymore, I want to look good – so those skirts, well, they just weren’t cutting it.

This skirt might do it, though. It’s got a great, flattering cut, and trendy but not wild little angled seaming at the waist. It doesn’t puff out in the front, and it’s all stretchy and elastic and very, very comfortable. And it’s a Juniors size!

A part of me giggles with joy. But … it’s tight. Every-curve, derriere-hugging tight. Much tighter and more revealing than anything I’ve worn in, oh, 20 years. And I’m pretty sure that’s the way this skirt is supposed to look – that’s the point of spandex, after all – but I’m also thinking that this skirt probably goes too far, especially in for my office.

So. Young lady in dressing room. A junior herself, obviously, who will make a pronouncement and help me decide. “What do you think of this skirt?”

“Umm .…” She looks at me uncertainly. She seems surprised that someone her mother’s age is asking her opinion. Finally she looks down at the skirt. I lift up my t-shirt so she can see the waist. I turn, left, right, let her see the whole thing. And, “It looks great,” she says.

“Really? It’s not too tight?”

“Oh, ah, no,” she says, with heavy, obvious hesitation. “Uh, that’s the way it’s supposed to look.”

And now I know. Yes, the skirt fits. Yes, it’s a good style. And yes, oh yes, this teenager clearly expressed that I’m too old for it, and that I cannot wear it in public. I thank the girl for her help, then go back into the dressing room, peel off the skirt, put it back on the hanger.

Well – a Juniors skirt! That was fun while it lasted, anyway. And back I go to the women’s section.

For Budget Watchers, Prince William’s Casciato Explains the Process


Contributing Editor

Occasionally I have a question about the budget. When I do, I usually look to the Office of Management’s Budget Questions Database to see if it’s already been asked and answered.

Quite a few of those questions in the database are mine. When I get a “complicated” question, I send an email to Michelle Casciato, Prince William County’s Budget Director. I always get a quick response.

My latest questions were about carryover funds. I’ve been watching this process for some time. Casciato recognized my question might get complicated if answered in an email chain, so she invited me to her office to chat. As one of Prince William County’s budding budget watchers, that’s an offer I couldn’t refuse.

To make sure our conversation was grounded in correct assumptions, I started our conversation by asking for clarification of the categories of money left over at the end of the year.

Casciato explained that there are really two kinds of end of year funds that Prince William County has to deal with. The first is carryovers. Not everything ends neatly at the end of the fiscal year. Carryovers extend previously approved appropriations from one fiscal year to the next.

The second is turnbacks. These are excess funds at year-end that are returned to the general fund by individual departments.

The public has come to lump these two funds together as “carryover funds”, or money of any flavor left over at the end of the year. I do believe that lumping turnbacks and carryovers into the same conversation has perhaps confused the public.

A look at the typical General Fund – Attachment D, Carryover recommendations, demonstrates that both flavors of money are addressed under the heading of “carryover recommendations”. This might contribute to the public’s confusion.

Ms. Casciato did mention that a lot of Prince William County’s budget process is based upon customs developed over the years.

Some issues weren’t “issues” in the past because little public attention was given to the details of the budget process. Of course, the discretionary fund issue changed all that.

This year’s more transparent budget process is actually a response to increased public scrutiny. I suspect this same level of transparency and awareness will also be applied to the annual carry-over process.

The flavor of money really does matter. I doubt anyone who understands carryovers really have an issue with them, and the normal practice for both Government and Industry.

Turnbacks are the focus of the budget watchers in our community. Addressing this issue, Casciato pointed out that budgets are built to fund the programs to succeed – no more, no less.

“To the extent that funding is left over at turnback, we build that turnback as a resource into the next year’s budget to return that funding to the taxpayers,” she said.

I understand intentionally collecting more than is perhaps really required to buy down risk; however, my real interest is in what happens to these “leftovers” at the end of the year.

I reviewed the last five years of carryover recommendations and noticed that many of them looked like things that should be part of the normal budget process, not an end of year leftovers subject.

Budget watchers such as me would prefer to see the movement of all budget items into the formal budget for public review and comment during the budget process.

An example would be the annual funding of Prince William County’s Technology Improvement Plan every year for the past five years (FY2008-FY2012) for exactly $5.5 million dollars (General Fund – Attachment D, Carryover recommendations, FY 2008-2013). I mentioned this to Casciato. She assured me this was in the nformation Technology and Improvements Section of the FY2013-2018 Capital Improvement Plan. Casciato did recognize my skepticism at the same recurring amount every year, funding for something as strategic as IT coming out of turnbacks, and the suggestion that perhaps something as dependable as this should be addressed up front as part of the budget process.

I was impressed when she responded that perhaps I was correct, and she would revisit just where funding for Technology Improvements are reflected in the upcoming budget. I only share this story because it demonstrates the two-way value of citizen interest and participation in County Government. Occasionally, we might even have a good idea.

As for my fellow budget watchers, the next Community Budget Meeting is scheduled for Saturday, February 16 at 9 a.m. in the Board Chambers at the McCoart Administration Building in Woodbridge. Bring your questions. After all, it’s our money.

Woodbridge Cub Scout Pack Enters ‘The Beast’ on Innaugration Day

Woodbridge Cub Scout Pack 501 salutes the President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as they pass by during the Inaugural Parade. [Submitted photo]

Submitted News 

By Justin Youtz
Cubmaster, Pack 501

I am very proud to report the outstanding job that the boys from Cub Scout Pack 501 did during the Presidential Inauguration Parade.

We had three Web IIs, four Web I’s and two Bears along with our Cubmaster, Bear Den Leader and our first Den Chief supporting.

When the National Capital Area Council (NCAC) for the Boy Scouts of America sent out a request for Boy Scouts interested in serving as volunteers for the activities surrounding the Presidential Inauguration, thousands of Boy Scouts and Scout Leaders volunteered, and so did Cub Scout Pack 501. Their leader submitted an application with a note asking that Cub Scouts (the younger boys) not be excluded and that the boys of Pack 501 in Woodbridge would do an outstanding job representing the Boy Scouts of America.

In a lottery that followed, only 700 leaders and scouts were selected for the honor. Ten boys and two adult leaders were selected from Cub Scout Pack 501 in those numbers.

The boys were up early, leaving from the parking lot of St. Thomas Aquinas at 4:30 a.m. in order to catch the Metro to get to our check in by 6 a.m.

We were assigned to support the Crossover at 7th and Constitution streets in Zone 2 (refered to by the Presidential Inauguration Committee as “The Beast” due to the large number of people that will be pass through the area.)

While we started out slow with just providing some basic directions, we soon got into the thick of things when the Army special officers in charge of the crossover asked for some help as they were soon to be overwhelmed by hundreds of people standing on either side of the street, waiting for the barrier to come down and the crosswalks to reopen after a series of motorcades came through.

The boys jumped into the crowd and formed a human row of cones. We got all of the north going traffic on the right, opening up the left for the south bound pedestrians.

Our Bear Leader kept everyone on the south side going in the right direction, while our Cubmaster used his day camp shouting ability (people believe that he was a drill sergeant in a former life) to keep directing the southbound crowd out of security and to the Mall for the inauguration.

We provided directions to lost travellers to get to their ticketed security points all over the Mall and advice on how to get past some of the closures due to security.

The pack kept this up all morning, keep things going through the stopping and starting as the Secret Service closed the crossovers to allow motorcades through.

After the Inauguration, and a quick eight block round trip hike for lunch, the boys jumped in again to create two lines of human cones from the barricades to sidewalks, keeping the crossing area clear, pedestrians moving and providing directions.

When the crosswalk permanently closed, we closed ranks some, but kept a secure lane open to allow military, police officers and secret service members access through the crowd from the barricades to the rear staging and warming areas.

Additional good deeds that I witnessed from the boys included supporting one another when tired, cold and hungry; picking up litter; being kind and courteous to the attendees. We provided directions on how to get around with the closures and tried to keep up to date by questioning others in the crowd as they came through on surrounding conditions, receiving news text updates and the like. Our Cubmaster even provided some basic first aid from handing out TUMs and IMMODIUM, to getting fruit and chocolates to two diabetics whose blood sugar was crashing.

Throughout the day, comments like “Yeah, Boy Scouts!”, “Thank you, Boy Scouts!” and “It’s so great to see the Scouts here helping!” kept us going through the long hours and cold.

We made friends with the Army Special Officers, the Minnesota State Police and the Secret Service.

At about 7:30pm, fifteen hours later, we returned the Scouts to their parents at the St. Thomas Aquinas parking lot again. We shared with the parents how well the boys behaved and all that they did.

Some of us saw the President as he drove to the Capitol and many were able to see the First Lady as they drove by in the parade. (We missed them walking by about a block!)

They stood tall and saluted each time. They listened to the President’s speech over the loud speakers. They got to participate in a piece of history.

At the end of the day, they were tired but proud, and I am the proudest of them all. The boys went above and beyond what could have been expected from any CubScout Pack.

It was an honor to be allowed to be part of it all. Thank you NCAC for that.

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It’s So Cold Outside, Boiling Water Evaporates

As temperatures hovered in the low teens in Stafford on Jan. 23, 2013, boiling water tossed off the side of a deck evaporated immediately. [Photo: Mary Davidson/Potomac Local News]


Boiling water can freeze in two seconds.

I have seen this done in places like Wisconsin where the temperature can easily dip down to 17 degrees below zero, but I wasn’t sure it could be done in our area.

This morning the temperature was 13 degrees, so I thought I’d boil some water and give it a try. I took a container of boiling water outside and tossed it over the railing of my deck.

The phenomena is called, by some, as the Mpemba Effect.

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[Photo: Mary Davidson/Potomac Local News]

Potomac Nationals Unveil Renderings of New Stadium Planned for 2015

The view of the front gate depicted in a rendering of a new 6,000 stadium for the Potomac Nationals. [Image;; Potomac Nationals]

For Potomac Local News

On Sunday night the Potomac Nationals celebrated their 18th annual Hot Stove Banquet and Silent Auction with 131 employees and fans in attendance. The Hyatt at Fair Lakes was the site for the event.

“Our Hot Stove Banquet is a popular event with the fans,” said team owner Art Silber, “It’s really the unofficial start to a new season and this year, I’m excited to show everyone the plans for the new park.”

Fans greeted Silber’s grandchildren with hugs and smiles during the evening. The Silbers have owned the Nationals for 21 years and the overall feeling for the evening was like a large family reunion.

The evening kicked off with an open cocktail hour and bidding on a silent auction, prizes included everything from a night at the Hyatt to baseball memorabilia. All proceeds benefit the Prince William County Public Schools SPARK program, which allows middle school children in the county to attend a Nationals game during the school year.

“This is our fifth year supporting the SPARK program,” said Nationals General Manager Josh Olerud. “By the end of the year, 25,000 students will have seen a game. The program covers all the transportation, ticket cost and food. We’re very proud of it.”

MORE to the STORY: Potomac Nationals Stadium plans bring traffic concerns

Along with the continued support of the SPARK program, in 2013 fans can look forward to 17 fireworks nights, 5 celebrity appearances, and lots of giveaways during the games.

Finally, the evening ended with the presentation of plans for the new stadium. Fans cheered at images of a stadium that would include over 400 parking spaces, easy access to Interstate 95, a large beer garden, a new playground, several new concession stands and views of the Potomac River on three levels.

“We worked hard to make the design of the new stadium harkens back to the days of Griffith Field,” Silber said during the presentation. “There will be a large presidential box just like the old Senator Stadium had and the complex is designed with the same asymmetrical style in mind.”

Currently, plans for the new stadium are going trough the permitting process in Prince William County. Silber said that the project would be fast tracked once the initial paperwork is complete. The team is expected to be in its new home by 2015.

“I understand there are some concerns as there will be with any new project,” Silber said after the presentation. “But it’s my money, not the county’s and I want to build a new stadium. I think once people see the new stadium and appreciate the amenities it offers the community, they will be pleased,” said Silber.

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[Image: Potomac Nationals]

Inaugural Weekend Kicked off at Kids Ball

Singer, Katy Perry, performs at the 2013 Kids Inaugural Ball. [KJ Mushung / Potomac Local News]


WASHINGTON, D.C. – One of the first events to kick off inaugural weekend in Washington was the 2013 Kids Ball, which served as a chance for President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their two daughters, Malia and Sasha.

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Singer, Usher, performs at the 2013 Kids Inaugural Ball. [KJ Mushung / Potomac Local News]



Merrimac Farm Once a Sought-After Haven for Religious Freedom

Merrimac Farm in Prince William County, Va. [Sumbitted photo]

Prince William Conservation Alliance

As reported in a previous article, the history of the Merrimac Farm Wildlife Management Area in southeastern Prince William County is being revealed through the collaborative efforts of volunteers. This search for the past began with the investigation and improvement of a forgotten little cemetery in the woods.

Merrimac Farm was known by a different name for several generations, extending back into the 18th century. It was called Green Level, a plantation that was part of a rural agrarian community of farms that formed in the backwoods of Prince William around the time of the Revolution. The area had been targeted as a potential religious haven in a late 1687 land grant, wherein King James II granted 30,000 acres to a handful of men to establish a Bent Town.

Nearly a century later the town had failed to materialize and the land was divided. Several small plantations emerged in southeastern Prince William County, between the little crossroad of Aden and Cedar Run creek. These plantations included Effingham (ca. 1777), Fleetwood (ca. 1775) and Green Level (ca. 1770).

Lynaugh Helm developed Green Level first. Probate and property records suggest a substantial estate in the late 1700s. Helm owned 1000 acres of land, a large amount of livestock (53 horses, 63 sheep, 47 hogs), and a long list of furniture, tools and household items that undoubtedly filled a large farm house. In addition to the Helm family, fifteen slaves lived and worked at Green Level. Some of their names are recorded, including Old James, David, Moses, Ephraim, and Jenny.

After Helm’s death, the farm changed hands a couple of times, ultimately being acquired by Helm’s grandson, William French ca.1818. The Helm and French families not only shared a common interest in Green Level, they were also connected through marriage. Lynaugh Helm’s daughter Elizabeth married Stephen French, William’s father, and the two were married at Green Level in 1790. Stephen French lived nearby on his own estate. Enough French family lived in the area to warrant the location of “Frenchville” on some birth records.

What was Green Level like? While little evidence of structures remains, we can surmise some things from the existing records and nearby estates that lasted into the 20th century. The plantation likely included a large two story wood frame main house with brick chimneys, farm fields and pastures, slave quarters, a barn and possibly additional structures, e.g. a blacksmith shop. In the late 1700s, tobacco was likely the dominant crop but it was quickly replaced by grains and livestock.

By the time of the French family, if not earlier, a cemetery was established. The restricted area and limited number of stones that survive today suggest a small family plot, however the Helm tenure and the presence of slaves for decades makes one wonder if there is more than we currently see.

One tantalizing reminder of our limited knowledge came when a mysterious marker was discovered in recent work at the cemetery. In addition to the French gravestones, which are clearly the commercial product of skilled masons, a small fragmented red fieldstone marker was found with the initials “CTT” only. The identity and connection of this individual to the French family remains unknown.

Through the rediscovery of a small, forgotten cemetery, Merrimac Farm is better recognized as a place of history. A handful of graves serve as direct tribute to the lives of a few persons, but as indirect clues to the lives of many, the history of a historic plantation. As Merrimac Farm is appreciated by the public in its new role for recreation and conservation, its part of Prince William County history can be valued as well.

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No-Tag Traveler Intrudes on Neighborhood Adventure


“No, no, stay!” I call out, then hold my breath as the dog dashes across the dark street, just in front of the oncoming car. The driver sees him, though, and brakes, and the dog makes it, much to my relief. And now, here he comes. Straight toward me.

Reflexively, I grip my dogs’ leashes tight, try to pull them closer. They’re having none of it, though, Janie and Mixie are straining, pulling, desperate to meet the dog trotting toward them. I tuck my elbows into my sides, pull my fists – with leashes wrapped and wrapped around – close to my body, trying to keep 130 pounds of dog under control.

In seconds, the loose dog is here. All three dogs stop hard and greet one another stiffly, tails in the air. While they sniff around – Janie, Mixie, dog, Mixie, dog, Janie – I listen, hard, hoping to hear someone in the background, huffing up, calling.

The dogs are doing well, relaxing with each other, and I begin to relax, too. Whatever happens next, a fight doesn’t seem to be on the agenda. I transfer Mixie’s leash from my right hand and grasp it with Janie’s leash in my left, wrapping both leashes tightly around my still-flexed fist. Now, right hand freed, I bend down, and coo to the strange dog: “Come here, come here, let me see your tag.”

The dog, what looks like a short-haired yellow lab mix, isn’t afraid of me, but he isn’t helping, either. And my dogs’ heads are in the way, it’s a close-knit chaos of noses and ears. Every time I get close to the dog’s collar and his shiny tag, he moves his head away, teasing.

Finally the dog holds still, all the dogs hold still, and I read the tag, grateful that we happen to be in the circle of streetlight. But, dang it, it’s just the rabies vaccination tag. What good is that? I need this dog’s address, his owner’s phone number, something that will help me get him home, not the confirmation that he’s got his rabies shot. I mean, that’s reassuring, but it’s not the most useful information right now.

So there I stand, pondering. The dog is dragging a long clothesline-type rope behind him. He clearly was tied up outside, and broke away. It’s dark. It’s cold. It’s very, very early. He ran across the street to get to us, nearly getting squished, clearly unfamiliar with traffic and cars. And with the way he’s wagging and panting at my dogs, I’m sure he’ll follow if we leave.

There’s nothing for it. I can’t just leave him here.

“OK, dog, you’re coming with us.” I pull off my glove and stuff it in my pocket, then reach down and grab the thin cord. It’s slick, and I wind it around my hand several times to keep a good grip. “Let’s go,” and I start to move.

The three dogs, excited, surge forward. The cord cuts into my hand, and, “Wait, wait, wait!” Janie and Mixie, veterans of daily walks, stop on command, looking back at me. The yellow dog doesn’t, he yanks and pulls, trying to keep moving. “Aaahh!” Quickly I loosen the cord from around my hand, then take it up and wrap it around my shoulder, under my armpit, over my coat. The dog tugs, the cable tightens, but it holds around my shoulder, and I grip it tightly with my hand to control the dog’s speed and direction.

Haltingly we head toward home, the yellow dog yanking and pulling and veering, cutting into my armpit and hand, my dogs confused and frustrated by their unnaturally short and close leashes. I stop every house or two to loosen the cord and pant with pain and rearrange dogs, who are going left and right and backwards. And at some point, on my fourth or fifth or sixth stop, I think ahead and realize that this is probably the easy part of this particular adventure.


More in Prince William Want to Know How ‘Government Sausage’ is Made


Contributing Editor

While most folks are generally worried about the weather this time of year, the real storm usually occurs in the McCoart Administration Building. I’m referring to the annual budget process for Prince William County. This is the battle of wills between the fiscal conservatives, the liberal right, and the center-leaning members of the county’s Board of Supervisors over just how little or much of our money they plan to take to run Prince William County during Fiscal Year 2014 starting July 1.

Historically, few people have participated in the annual budget process. That’s changed a bit since the discretionary fund issue that came to light in 2012. There are a lot more of us paying attention to just how our money is spent.

If you really want to understand how Prince William County Government works, you might want to check out the Code of Virginia, Title 15.2 – COUNTIES, CITIES AND TOWNS. Chapter 5 covers the County Executive Form of Government.

Here’s a fun fact – Prince William County and Albemarle are the only Counties in the Commonwealth that have a County Executive form of Government. Fairfax County has an Urban County Executive form of Government. There’s a difference.

The budget in Prince William County starts with our County Executive, Melissa Peacor. The duties of the County Executive are spelled out clearly in the Code of Virginia.

§ 15.2-539. Submission of budget by executive; hearings; notice; adoption.

Each year at least two weeks before the board must prepare its proposed annual budget, the county executive shall prepare and submit to the board a budget presenting a financial plan for conducting the county’s affairs for the ensuing year. The budget shall be set up in the manner prescribed by general law. Hearings thereon shall be held and notice thereof given and the budget adopted in accordance with general law.

Prince William’s budget is really the ultimate discretionary fund. It is important to understand that our elected officials, Chairman Stewart and the seven Supervisors, have broad discretion and sole responsibility for the decisions regarding how Prince William County spends our tax dollars. That being said, the County Executive frames the budget discussions with her proposal. She knows the math.

Government is a messy business. In the past, we never saw how the sausage was made. We only tasted the final product (which is usually not that bad). During the past year, we have started to wander around the butcher shop and noticed that perhaps the process in Prince William County isn’t quite as perfect as we would like. Lots of tasty tidbits are tossed in the grinder to make a lot of “connected folks” happy leaving some perhaps “good stuff” on the butcher shop floor.

Our real estate tax rate is actually driven up a penny here and there at a time, often on little things that add up. It’s easy to ignore a million or two in scraps here and there when they are lost in two billion dollars worth of sausage. We need to keep an eye on those scraps.

More people wandering around the kitchen is how we will finally get to a “better, leaner sausage” with less fat and scraps thrown in so everyone gets a taste they like.

Most people don’t mind paying taxes. They just don’t want to pay too much in taxes. That’s where paying attention to exactly what gets thrown into the sausage grinder comes into play.

There are some things our Board does to fulfill their vision of government’s responsibility. The Board tasked citizens such as myself to develop a Strategic Plan, a tool that helps drive the budget process, to reflect the people’s will regarding what should be funded. Once it’s done, the Board must approve it.

And then there’s “the rest of us,” the majority of the 410,000 people who live, work and play in Prince William County and are simply too busy to ask for anything.

At the end of the day, everybody wants something out of our elected officials. How they respond is really the driving force in how much we all pay in taxes and fees.

Perhaps the biggest decision, the decision that impacts every business, every family, every pocketbook in Prince William is how much revenue they collect in real estate tax revenue each Fiscal Year, or what percentage of the value of your home you must give to the government to pay for the police, firefighters, EMT’s, roads, schools, and other services in your community.

Our Supervisors all come with a Party affiliation, personal brand, or individual vision of what government is and how it should serve the Community. They are generally elected by some majority that buys into these individual visions.

Republican Chairman Corey Stewart, At-Large, and Supervisor Peter Candland have staked our the fiscal conservative point of view. Republican Supervisors Mike May and Wally Covington are leaning toward lower tax rates.

Republican Supervisors Marty Nohe and Maureen Caddigan strike me as center-right Republicans perhaps not as inclined toward the draconian positions laid out by their fiscal conservative Republican brethren.

Democrat Supervisors Frank Principi and John Jenkins are lobbying for higher tax rates and more government Services.

They are all correct from their point of view. As with all things, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. They need to hear your point of view to develop their position for the upcoming budget discussions. Talk to them.

If you want to engage in the budget process, here are some tools you may use.

If you are curious just where your money is going, check out the Office of Management and Budget’s website.

The FY2013 budget documents give you a pretty good idea of where your money went last year, and perhaps a flavor for previous years.

The FY2014 Budget Choices presentation lays out the County Executive’s point of view regarding the tough decisions ahead in determining Prince William County’s tax rate.

If you have any questions about the budget, or want to see what others are asking go to the FY14 Budget Questions Database.

The Prince William County School System gets 56.75 percent of your real estate taxes. If you care about where your education dollars are being spent, check out the School Board’s preliminary budget.

Some dates you might want to watch:

Strategic Plan Public Hearing 22 January 2013

CXO FY 14 Proposed Budget 12 February 2012

Authorize Tax Rate Advertisement 26 February 2013

Establish Property Tax Rate 1 May 201

Artist Rayhart at the Center for the Arts

Artist, Rayhart, will be featured at the Center for the Arts at the Candy Factory in Manassas. [Submitted photo]

MANASSAS, Va. – The Center for the Arts, Caton Merchant Family Gallery will exhibit the works of regional artist Rayhart, February 6 through March 16. A closing meet-the-artist reception will be held from 1 to 3 p.m.

Ray Hart, the artist who became “Rayhart”, says painting for him is “nothing short of the abandonment of reality.” He began painting professionally in 1997, nurturing his calling as an artist and poet, with college basketball scholarship days and a sociology degree becoming history in his now wizened journey.

From his beginnings with simple line doodling and ink drawings for his poems, Rayhart now exercises color and abandonment to the fullest.

“The Musician”, by Rayhart, Acrylic on Canvas, 17.5 x 13.5. [Submitted]

“The Musician”, by Rayhart, Acrylic on Canvas, 17.5 x 13.5. [Submitted]

“Most of my paintings start out with a simple line that becomes a journey,” he said. “I’m overwhelmed until I’m finished,” … and that’s what’s good.”

The loose, free-style results don’t tell a story of having been overwhelmed; the paintings claim exuberance and joy in having come to be from an idea or single seed set in Rayhart’s consciousness.

To abandon working photographs or setting up a life study is the uniqueness of this artist to his practice. The uniqueness becomes palpable when experiencing his sinuous lines and swirls of intense colors; this style has gained Rayhart the compliment: “I feel your art before I see it.” There’s no mistaking the artist knows how to invoke feeling and mood — and he works the color — he gets color right with complementary, contrasting and eye-popping palettes.

The work, mostly created in acrylic or oils, Ray describes as “original, abstract and somewhat surreal.” It shows that he also paints to music, the love he has for music transcends the canvas. It’s an exceptional pleasure to accept this artist’s gifts — in subject matter ranging from the figurative: women and men in solitude; music; and abstract landscapes — and as he says, “my aim is to share as I have been given.”

Rayhart’s work is displayed every Father’s Day at the popular Wine and Jazz fest in Manassas. He shows at Artscape Artists’ Market in Baltimore; the Cleveland Fine Arts Expo; the Philadelphia International Art Expo, the New Harlem Renaissance Art Show in Indianapolis. He is represented in local and regional art galleries as well as Papp Gallery in New York; and Gallery 13 in Denver.

The Rayhart exhibit is free and open to the community to view. The Center for the Arts, Caton Merchant Family Gallery is located at 9419 Battle Street, Manassas, with hours 10 a.m. to 5 pm weekdays and 1 to 5 pm on Saturdays. To find out more about the exhibit, contact the Center for the Arts at 703 330-ARTS or visit the website at center-for-the-arts.org.


Day of Service to Bring Improvements to Prince William Health Center

Greater Prince William Health Center Director Frank J. Principi (left) presents Rep. Gerry Connolly (right) with a national healthcare advocacy award. (Submitted)


WOODBRIDGE, Va. – The Greater Prince William Community Health Center is participating in the National Day of Service on Saturday, January 19, with a special volunteer project in the Health Center’s Prenatal Practice.

This Saturday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., community volunteers will paint, add wall paper and create a welcoming environment for expectant mothers and children at the Health Center. Each year, the center’s Prenatal Practice serves more than 500 pregnant women—including low-income, uninsured, Medicaid and private insurance patients—and completes more than 8,000 patient visits.

“At the Health Center, we think it is important for every expectant mother to feel welcomed, comfortable and relaxed during their prenatal visits,” said Prenatal Director Lisa Wiener. “We recently relocated our prenatal space within the Health Center, and this weekend’s volunteer effort will create a warmer, more nurturing environment for our patients and their families.”

President Obama and the first family began the National Day of Service four years ago as a way of honoring the life and legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The focus of the day is community service—whether it is at the school, city, state or national level.

“The President is encouraging Americans to spend some time this Saturday giving back to their community,” said Health Center Executive Director Frank J. Principi. “The Health Center is thrilled to be part of this grassroots campaign. We welcome this volunteer initiative and the positive impact it will have on our patients.”

The Health Center provides integrated and coordinated primary, prenatal, dental and behavioral health care under one roof. A 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, the Health Center serves patients from all walks of life—regardless of age, income or insurance status. For more information, visit www.GPWHealthCenter.org or like “Greater Prince William Community Health Center” on Facebook.


Belvoir Commander Urges Businesses to Help Vets Transition into Workforce

Driving home the importance of helping veterans transition from the military into the workforce, Col. Gregory D. Gadsen, commander at Ft. Belvoir, said a country owes its all-volunteer military more than just a simple thank you. [Photo: Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]


WOODBRIDGE, Va. – Veterans who have served in this nation’s all-volunteer military are owed more than just a handshake a thank you – they deserve a chance to continue serving country and community.

That was the message delivered by Col. Gregory D. Gadson on Wednesday. The commander of Ft. Belvoir Army Base spoke to members of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce at its annual salute to the military luncheon in Woodbridge. Soldiers and Marines were represented at the event, and the community’s gratitude was bestowed upon them for their service.

As the nation’s military faces deep cuts in services and spending, now the transition from the military to civilian life is top of mind for many in the armed forces.

“Qauntico and Ft. Belvoir are not islands. We are apart of the Northern Virginia community. In many ways, we are all teammates. Every one of us who puts on this uniform eventually takes it off and comes back to a community and looks for a way to make a difference,” said Gadson.

The colonel said the many who have seen combat and were apart of the military’s ramp-up over the past decade are now leaving the military, coming home, and looking for work, and that business owners – many of whom do not have direct contact or experience working with the nation’s military – should realize the value American veterans can bring to their companies.

Gadson, himself, was also given a second chance of sorts. He lost both legs after an IED exploded in Iraq in May 2007. In the past, the Army would have simply given him a honorable discharge. Today he’s leading Ft. Belvoir, and Gadson said the U.S. knows members of its all-volunteer Army deserve better than to be tossed away.

Touting an office at Ft. Belvoir dedicated to helping vets transition into the workforce, Gadson invited those in the business community to become involved in the Army’s efforts to put all transitioning veterans to work on the home front.

In addition to Gadson, Quantico Commander Col. David W. Maxwell also spoke and honored some Marines whom serve on his base. Soldiers who also spoke commended the Army for helping them become the people they are today, and the Chamber of Commerce awarded each Marine and Soldier who spoke was honored with a small gift.

The event was held at the Harbor View conference center in front of a crowd of at least 200 people. Lunch was provided, Quantico’s color guard was on hand to present the flag, and a bugler played taps to honor those who paid the ultimate price and could not attend the ceremony. The first major event of 2013 for the Prince William Chamber of Commerce, it is one of several planned throughout the year.

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Students Honored in ‘Off the Wall’ Art Exhibit at Manassas’ Candy Factory

MANASSAS, Va – There are budding artists all across Prince William County, and many of them walked away with top honors in the “Off the Wall” art exhibit at Manassas’ Center for the Arts at the Candy Factory.

Many of the winners include students from Battlefield and Woodbridge high schools, but students from across the county participated the event. More in a press release from Prince William County Public Schools:

3rd place: Savannah Wichman,”The Boy”,Woodbridge

3rd place: Savannah Wichman,”The Boy”,Woodbridge

The award-winning work of budding young authors and aspiring artists is on display at the Caton Merchant Family Art Gallery in Old Town Manassas. Hundreds of high school students in Prince William, Manassas City, and Manassas Park Public Schools recently submitted entries in the juried “Off the Wall” Student Art and Poetry Festival.

Encouraged by their teachers, many of whom are professional artists, students put forth their best effort to create works for this competition. Hard work paid off with first, second, and third place in both categories awarded to students enrolled in the Woodbridge High School Center for Fine and Performing Arts and an additional nine honorable mentions to PWCS students.

The “Off the Wall” Student Art and Poetry Festival, now in its ninth year, is sponsored

1st place: Dara Merritt, “A Private Space”,Woodbridge

1st place: Dara Merritt, “A Private Space”,Woodbridge

by Lockheed Martin and the Center for the Arts/Caton Merchant Family Gallery.

“The arts programs in Prince William County Public Schools offer students many diverse and rich opportunities to develop and showcase their talents,” said Joyce Zsembery, curriculum supervisor of Arts. “Community support for students through juried shows such as “Off the Wall” provides students with additional recognition for their talents, and are appreciated by those of us involved in arts education. Community support for the arts is invaluable.”

PWCS students who were recognized for their achievement in the visual arts and poetry at the festival’s January 5 award ceremony are listed below.

Poetry Contest

1st Place: Brittany Crow,Woodbridge High School (second consecutive year)

2nd Place: Neil Hailey, Woodbridge High School

3rd Place: Mary DesJardin, Woodbridge High School

Visual Arts Contest

1st Place: Dara Merritt, Woodbridge High School

2nd Place: Catherine Winings, Woodbridge High School

3rd Place: Savannah Wichman, Woodbridge High School

Honorable Mention in poetry and art categories:

Brianna Washington, Woodbridge High School

Katie Vanderveldt, Battlefield High School

Bryan Simmons, Battlefield High School

Brooke Short, Battlefield High School

Kaitlyn Reeves, Patriot High School

Mary Kim, Battlefield High School

Jacqueline Javier, Battlefield High School

Genesis Flores-Aguilar, Woodbridge High School

Niklavs Barbars, Battlefield High School

Anna Mish, gallery director at the Center for the Arts, said this group of students and thier submitted artwork has been some of the best yet:

I am hearing from our visitors how this, so far, is the best overall exhibit of “Off the Wall” artwork we have had. The students truly raised the bar this year. After speaking to many of the students at the Open House on Saturday, I learned quite a few of them are seniors, so they have had past experience in preparing for the level of competition this exhibit brings. The sponsor, Lockheed Martin, and the Center for the Arts look forward each year to celebrating the achievements of a each new mix of artists.


NOVA Commute Has Nothing on a Post-Sandy New York City Trek


Of all the things I worried about in preparation of Hurricane Sandy, my commute was not something I thought would be changed. Sure, I’ve whined and complained about commuting from the suburbs of Northern Virginia to Downtown Washington, D.C. I thought that was bad. Nope. That was nothing.

And then I found myself in New York City, helping in the aftermath of the notorious “Superstorm Sandy,” among many other things, learning to appreciate my regular commute. Oh, and my regular job. There was a point where I began missing that, too.

Learn more about PRTCWhen I had the opportunity to help the citizens of New York City who were affected, I couldn’t say no. Though I was born and raised in Northern Virginia, my entire family is from New York and New Jersey. And with many of my family members living in the impacted areas, without power, heat and even cell service for days, even weeks, Sandy really hit home for me.

After arriving in Manhattan, I learned that my assignment would be located in Staten Island – the one borough I had never really visited. And since I didn’t drive a car there and downright refuse to drive in New York City, I wasn’t sure how I’d get back and forth from Manhattan, where I managed to find one of the few available hotel rooms. Between displaced families and first responders in the area to help, the hotels were all packed.

Commuting won’t be a problem, I was told. There are plenty of options for public transportation.

Under normal circumstances, yes, there are many options in New York City for transportation. There’s the subway system, taxis, buses… of course, these were not normal circumstances. Imagine every possible logistical nightmare – the tunnels were flooded, same with the subway stations, power outages all over lower Manhattan. Navigating the city was tricky, to say the least.

My hotel in Manhattan was located a little less than two miles from the Staten Island Ferry Station, a bit far to walk, especially while carrying my equipment back and forth and returning sometimes very late at night. There was a subway station conveniently located right outside of the ferry station, on a line that I could access from a block away from my hotel; however, that station, being so close to the water, was badly flooded and remained closed for most of my time there.

In the meantime, my only other option was to use taxis, making my commute very unpredictable. It would sometimes take as long as 25-30 minutes to travel less than two miles, depending on traffic! Not to mention, hailing a cab on my street wasn’t always easy so early in the morning.

On a typical morning, I was rushing to the ferry station, hoping for as little traffic as possible on the way. The ferry only leaves about every half hour, so any delay could potentially throw off my entire commute. The ferry ride was around 25 minutes, and once in Staten Island, I’d have to board a train for another 30 minute ride. All in all, the commute took anywhere from an hour and half, sometimes closer to two hours. It was exhausting!

At first, I somewhat enjoyed the ferry experience. I loved being able to see the Statue of Liberty every morning, and lit up every evening. It was inspiring. I couldn’t help but stare in awe sometimes, knowing what Lady Liberty represents. On the days where I felt myself becoming cranky, tired and burned out, I had to remind myself why I was there. I had no choice but to keep going.

Ultimately, I spent a month in New York City, commuting six or sometimes seven days a week. Those days were long and the work was tough – perhaps the only thing more heart wrenching than seeing the stories in the news was reading the casework or actually meeting the people who had lost what little they may have had before the storm hit. While I had a safe, warm hotel room to return to every night, I felt almost guilty knowing there were so many people without that luxury.

As anxious as I was to return home to my own loved ones, I miss the work I did in New York City. I had the opportunity to meet and work with some amazing people, and I came back with an incredible experience and a whole new outlook in so many aspects.

Sure, there are days like last Thursday, where traffic is so backed up that it takes two hours to commute home, and I’m mad that I missed my favorite class at the gym. I hate those days. But I try to keep in mind all of the good things in my life, all that I get to come home to, the fact that I have a comfortable home and so much to be thankful for (like not having to catch a boat back and forth to work every day!)

Sometimes, I just have to take a deep breath, close my eyes and enjoy the ride.

Laura Cirillo works for the federal government and lives in Prince William County.


Second Cake Try Ends with Smoke, Dripping Dollops


I am already disgusted with myself as I slide the cake into the oven. I haven’t had such difficulty baking a cake since the 6th grade, when my first solo cake broke coming out of the pan and I covered the whole thing with mini marshmallows to make it look decent.

Today’s cake is a gift for a sick friend. I pulled out my tried and true chocolate poundcake recipe, a surefire hit that is delicious and freezes well. I collected my ingredients, dug out my ancient tube pan – I mean really ancient, it was my mom’s, I used it as a teenager and appropriated it when I got married 24 years ago – measured the cocoa and separated the eggs. Oh, the batter was delicious.

But apparently the thermometer on my oven is off, because on minute 45 of the 70-minute recipe my husband called upstairs, “This cake is smelling pretty done.” I trotted downstairs, though it was way early, and was horrified to smell, yes, a pretty done chocolate poundcake. Seriously? Dang it. And since the situation wasn’t already bad enough, I accidentally dropped the whole thing as I went to remove the cooled cake from the pan. I was very relieved when it came out looking OK despite the crash-landing.

Until this morning, when, after worrying about it all night, I decided I was just going to have to try the cake. I could give it to my friend in individually wrapped slices, and one missing slice wouldn’t be noticed, but I couldn’t give it to her if it was overbaked. So, “Hey, you want to do me a favor?” My 17-year-old son was happy to help. I cut him a slab, and a thin piece for myself, and … “Yeah,” he said, two bites in, confirming my own conclusion. “This is too dry.”

So, dang it, I’m making another cake. I can’t believe it, I overbaked a cake! It’s been … decades! I shook my head, made a mental note to pick up an oven thermometer – and, until I get one, bake everything at, oh, 20 degrees lower – and pulled out the eggs and flour and sugar and cocoa and vanilla. Again.

I barely needed to look at the recipe the second time around. I had just made it! I creamed the butter and brown sugar, added the separated eggs, measured out the vanilla … and was just getting ready to pour it into the greased tube pan when I happened to lick my fingers. Ugh! What? I took another taste, looked at the recipe. Oh! I added the brown sugar, but not the granulated sugar! Whew, I caught that in the nick of time! I almost ruined the cake – again! Unbelievable! Hastily I added the sugar, poured the batter into the pan, and slid the pan into the oven.

And I felt good.

Until now, a mere five minutes later. When I hear a sizzle. And smell smoke. I flip on the oven light, and … no way. No, no way. Batter is leaking from the pan, dropping and burning in big dollops on the hot oven floor. Shoot! Dropping the tube pan must have dented the bottom, and now the inner piece and the outer piece are gapping. What can I do about this now? Shoot shoot shoot.

I grab oven mitts and my big long barbecue spatula. I open the oven door and lean in, scrape the batter off the bottom. One, two, three, four long reaches, my arm tingling from the heat, to scrape the burning blobs off the oven floor and – whack! – dump it into the sink. Finally I pull out a cookie sheet, long and wide, and slide it beneath the pan to catch the dripping batter.

The baking cake will solidify soon, I think, and I’ll lose some, but it’ll still be OK, I console myself. This second cake will still be fine. It’ll just be a little smaller. No one will notice.

But the batter … it doesn’t solidify quickly. It keeps oozing, dropping and mounding on the cookie sheet. Glumly I watch it drip and drip and drip.

A half-hour later, the cake smells done. Already. I shake my head, pull it out. The cake is maybe half the height of its overbaked predecessor, with the right side lower than the left. The cookie sheet underneath has a big heap of semi-burned cake, baked droppings from the pan above. And I got most of it out, but still – cough, cough! – there’s a good amount of smoke lingering in the kitchen.

Stupid darned annoying ridiculous cake, I think as I plop the pan onto the cooling rack. Tried and true surefire recipe my foot! Hey, maybe if I cover it with mini marshmallows ….

In Memoriam: Scott Welch

Scott R. Welch, age 53, passed away peacefully with his loved ones by his side on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Scott was born on Sept. 5, 1959, to William Welch, Jr. and Doris (nee Manthe) Welch at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. Having enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps’ delayed entry program two days after his 17th birthday, Scott decided to graduate early from Madison East High School in January 1977, and in February entered the active duty ranks of the Marine Corps.

Scott served numerous overseas assignments, primarily in the Western Pacific region and served in the Atlantic on sea duty, onboard various ships. His last Marine Corps duty station assignment was at Headquarters, Marine Corps serving as the Occupational Field Sponsor for over 12,000 data-communicators. He retired from the Marine Corps as a Master Gunnery Sergeant in July 2001. He is a life-time member of the VFW and an avid fan and proud shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.

In spring of 1998, as a single parent of two girls, Scott met Michele Gillette, another single parent via the internet, while he was in the Republic of Korea on assignment and she was in San Jose, California. All this before, eHarmony, match.com, etc. Over the next two years, and a reassignment to the Virginia, both families became acquainted with each other traveling coast to coast.

On May 5, 2000, Scott and Michele were united in marriage and made their home in Manassas, Virginia. After his retirement from the Marine Corps, Scott was employed with the Department of Homeland Security with his last assignment as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Liaison to INTERPOL’s United States National Central Bureau in Washington, D.C. This was truly his finest assignment in which he enjoyed every day going to work at such an interesting law enforcement agency. Diagnosed with a Stage 4 Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain tumor in December 2010, he was subsequently retired from the federal government.

In order to honor and connect with his fellow brethren of the Marine Corps, Scott became a contributor on the TogetherWeServed website. Within a year, he was asked and accepted to be a volunteer staff member on the website.

Survivors include his wife, Michele; their children, Sara of Norfolk, Virginia, Leah of Quantico, Virginia, Melissa, Jessica and Daniel of Manassas, Virginia; his brothers, Timothy (Ranee) of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin and Robert (Deborah) of Henrietta, Texas; and his three grandsons, Leo, William and Elijah; along with numerous relatives and friends. Scott was preceded in death by his parents; and sister, Laurel Lee.

Funeral services will be held at GUNDERSON EAST FUNERAL HOME, 5203 Monona Drive, Madison, at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, with the Rev. Mark Bartels presiding. Burial will be held at Roselawn Memorial Park with military honors being conducted. Visitation will be held at the funeral home from 4:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, and also from 9 p.m. until the time of service on Tuesday. In lieu of flowers, Scott has requested any memorials be sent to the Wounded Warrior Project P.O. Box 758517 Topeka, Kansas 66675 or on-line at https://support.woundedwarriorproject.org/Default.aspx?tsid=66. Online condolences may be made at gundersonfh.com.

Gunderson East

Funeral & Cremation Care

5203 Monona Drive

(608) 221-5420


Old Rules No Longer Apply As Northern Virginia Job Market Faces Major Changes


Contributing Editor

The Northern Virginia Telework Council announced its focus project for 2013: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.

The new jobs initiative comes after the Telework Task Force at the Prince William Chamber of Commerce held its final meeting on Friday. In its place is now the NVTC, and it’s new leader is intelligencecareers.com CEO Bill Golden.

“My focus for my 2013 is to pursue an agenda of jobs, jobs, jobs. How do we make this relate to money in someone’s pocket,” said Golden.

His company uses technology to connect people with careers all over the world. He is considered a subject matter expert on the defense industry, and travels around the U.S. and internationally to lead seminars on the subject.

Sequestration, the debt ceiling, and today’s announcement that Defense Secretary Panetta directed the Department of Defense to start implementing immediate spending cuts, have all been forefront on his mind. Golden said Prince William County depends heavily on the federal government for much of its wealth and success, and is very interested in exploring how people work during a time of economic change.

As the job market in Northern Virginia is about to change, Golden said residents in Prince William and Stafford counties need to prepare to lead the labor market into a new world of virtual jobs, free agent employees, and to help foster new relationships between employees and employers.

The old rules just don’t apply anymore.

Golden plans to establish a diverse board of advisors representing education, industry, government and technology to be represented on NVTC. In May, Golden plans to hold a “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” summit to share information with the public and “deep dive” into the issues. He looks forward to working with George Mason University, the Prince William Chamber of Commerce, Prince William County Government and it’s leader Chairman Corey A. Stewart, state and federal government, and other stakeholders to grow jobs, and to connect the region’s intellectual capital with the global marketplace.

Among other things, Golden owns internet radio and TV outlets and produces several live-stream programs. He does business within the virtual world he advocates, and said he knows where the NVTC’s meetings will be held.

“Online, of course! We plan to ‘eat our own dog food.’ No one will have to drive to attend a NVTC meeting,” said Golden.

If you would learn more about NVTC’s 2013 jobs, jobs, jobs project, just go to  usateleworkjobs.com. If you would like to participate in this initiative, just contact Bill Golden at golden[at]usajobzoo.com.

Celebrating a Big Year


Potomac Local News celebrated a big year for our small hometown news operation last night.

All of those who attributed to our success over the past year came to Georgios Restaurant near Dumfries to bask in the glow of 2012, to look forward to new opportunities in 2013, and to eat things like cheese, pasta, and bread — my three favorite food groups.

In the past year we’ve seen our continuing commitment to bringing you stories that impacted your lives, your commutes, and your pocketbook. We have added columns like Slug Tales, Al Alborn, and Mom on the Run — all of which offer a unique insight to to life in our community.

So far in 2013, I hope you’ve noticed coverage about parks and wildlife areas brought to you by some dedicated people working to preserve them — the Prince William Conservation Alliance. We’ll look closer at the state of parks as the year progresses as they are a cherished resource for residents and visitors alike.

And not that it’s a big deal but we also  modified the name of our website to Potomac Local News to reflect just what we’re trying to to do — put the “local” back in news with a group of writers who live in work in their community, who are published on an independent news site not backed by corporate dollars, but is sponsored by area businesses and by supported by the its readers.

In the coming months we’ll have a lot more to to look forward to as Potomac Local News turns three-years-old. We’ll also take a more active role in Virginia’s Press Association and the newly formed Local Independent Online News organization.

With all of this, and continuing continuing commitment to bring you local news and events, we’ll just have to have another party — and this time you’ll be invited.

Chick-fil-A Offers Free Breakfast

Road delineator posts erected in the drive-through lane at the Chick-fil-A restaurant in Woodbridge forces drivers to circle the building before they can enter the lane to order food from their vehicles.

Chick-fil-A restaurants are offering a free breakfast to their customers this month.

More in a press release from the restaurant that specializes in the chicken sandwich:

The Chick-fil-A Cows are sending word to customers to “Eat Mor Chikin 4 Brekfust.” From now until Tuesday, Jan. 29, customers are invited to reserve a date, time and restaurant location to pick up a FREE Chick-fil-A breakfast entrée. Reservations can be made by visiting  chick-fil-aforbreakfast.com, and printed reservation confirmations will be redeemed each Wednesday morning until Jan. 30 at the 49 Washington, D.C. area Chick-fil-A restaurants.

Customers are being asked to go online to the web address provided let them know when they would like their free breakfast entree.

Unearthed Headstones at Merrimac Farm Offer Glimpse into Prince William’s Buried Past

[Submitted photo]

Prince William Conservation Alliance

The rapid development and modernization of Prince William County can challenge even the most astute observer’s sense of history. Shopping plazas, crowded roads and sprawling housing developments dominate the landscape. Stories of ancient Indian settlement, colonization and frontier communities, slavery and war, early industry and intensive farming permeate our local history, but the past is sometimes hard to see for the present.

At the Merrimac Farm Wildlife Management Area, one rich story could be easily overlooked, were it not for the survival and rebirth of a little graveyard in the woods.

The cemetery was all but forgotten until 2003, when a county-funded project to record hundreds of historic cemeteries led to a visit by a local man named Ron Turner. Turner was guided by the property owner to a small spot in the woods where graves were known to exist though none were clearly visible.

In a subsequent visit a few headstones bearing the surname French were found just below the duff layer of soil. Three massive marble tablet style markers, all broken, were lying flat and buried, oriented at odd angles, clearly misplaced from their original rows. Dates indicated graves from before the Civil War.

Since those early visits by Turner many changes have occurred at and around the cemetery. The property has transferred owners and purpose. The new landowner is the state of Virginia, specifically the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. They have conservation partners – Prince William Conservation Alliance, which provides wildlife watching and habitat improvement projects, and Marine Corps Base Quantico, which manages a conservation easement on the property.

The partners have supported an effort to search for additional headstones, record the cemetery with the state, and improve the cemetery’s condition. This effort has been led by a local man, Bill Olson, who is widely known and respected for his unique and tireless passion and dedication to historic cemetery preservation.

With professional volunteer archaeological support and the blessing of another state agency, the Department of Historic Resources, new stones have been unearthed from their shallow periwinkle and thin soil blanket. Five graves have been clearly defined, including William French, his wife Martha, and their daughters Elizabeth, Susan and Maria, their deaths ranging from 1823-1854.

Fragmented headstones have been unearthed and set in wooden frames that are aligned with their footstones. Several of the latter have been erected in their original positions, and overgrown vegetation has been removed from the area. Visitors walking the Cedar Run trail at Merrimac may now glimpse into the woods and notice the signs of an old, sacred place and the air of history.

Who were the French? The name French and the graves hidden in the woods mark one fascinating chapter in Merrimac history dating to the Early Republic and antebellum eras. Efforts to re-discover the cemetery have been matched by research using documents from county and state archives. As this information is pieced together, a plantation and area called Green Level is being revealed. Next week look for more on the story of Merrimac and Green Level.

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