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Declining birth rate no big deal for Prince William region


Fewer women in the U.S. are having babies.

The national birth rate declined in 2013 to 3.93 million births, continuing a six-year drop off. Women between the ages of 15 and 44 last year bore  an average of 1.86 babies, and that’s below the 2.1 average the National Center for Health Statistics said is necessary for a stable population.

Locally, the number of live births at Novant Prince William Medical Center in Manassas fluctuated over the past five years. The hospital was the only local medical center in Prince William and Stafford counties to respond to our records request. The hospital  averaged nearly 2,040.8 babies born over the past five years.

Over time, the numbers have remained steady with the exception of this year’s number, which accounts only for the first 11 months of 2014. Take a look at the numbers the hospital submitted to Potomac Local:

  • 2010=2,177
  • 2011=2,305
  • 2012=2,135
  • 2013=2,015
  • 2014 (through November) =1,572

The down economy is to blame for the decrease in the birth rate. Many millennials are trying to find work or move up at their current job, and that, for some, means putting off starting a family.

In other parts of the U.S., a declining birth rate spells trouble for city populations, as well as companies looking to find workers to fill jobs. In the Washington, D.C. area, things are a bit different. People keep moving here and that, at least for now, offsets any the effect of any population decrease.

“In the last two years, we’ve seen changes in what drives population growth in our metro area,” said Jeannette Chapman, with the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis.

Domestic migration in the Washington area – people moving here from other places in the U.S. – has dropped off while international migration to the area has increased.

Locally, Prince William County and Manassas City has seen more cases of international migration over the past two years while Stafford County to the south has seen more cases of domestic relocation. A number of factors could play into Stafford’s case, including home prices and housing inventory, said Chapman.

The Center for Regional Analysis compares the Washington, D.C. to Houston, Phoenix, and Seattle. In Virginia, military bases have been impacted by sequestration and thousands of jobs have been lost due to federal cutbacks. 

Historically, when the economy tanks federal agencies here ramp up to find a solution to the problem, and that brings in more workers and people.

So, that declining birth rate?

“It’s not a big deal for us; that’s only part of the story,” said Chapman. “If in the longer term things continue to decline, that will change the national narrative, and that could have an effect on our economy here.”

Panhandling call leads police to tent in Woodbridge

It’s a story we first told you about on our Facebook page Tuesday afternoon. Police swarmed the area around Ashdale Plaza and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission bus terminal about 3 p.m. after an officer was assaulted, according to police.

Here’s an account from Prince William police addressing what happened:

Assault & Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer [LEO] – On December 16th at 3:20PM, a Prince William County police officer stopped a man in the median area on Dale Blvd near Gideon Dr in Woodbridge (22193) for suspected panhandling.

During the encounter, the man provided the officer with a false identity and began to flee on foot. The officer attempted to stop the man and was assaulted. The suspect continued to flee and, at one point, stopped and reengaged the officer.

The suspect assaulted the officer a second time before continuing to flee into a wooded area where officers lost sight of him. No injuries were reported. A police K-9 was used to search for the suspect. During the investigation, officers were able identity the suspect as the accused and further learned that he was actively being sought on multiple warrants.

On December 17th, officers conducted another search of the wooded area on Dale Blvd near I-95 for the accused. After an extensive search, the accused was located in a tent and arrested without further incident.

Arrested on December 17th:

Andre Solmon PATTERSON, 48, of no fixed address

Charged with 2 counts of assault & battery on a LEO, 1 count of resisting arrest, 1 count of providing a false identity to law enforcement and 1 count of panhandling

*Additional unrelated warrants also served

Court date: pending | Bond: held WITHOUT bond

Candland’s proposal to be used to craft 2016 budget

The average property tax bill in Prince William County may not increase next year as much as planned.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a plan from Gainesville Supervisor Peter Candland that directs County Executive Melissa Peacor to develop a 2016 budget where the average property tax bill increases no more than 1.7%. That number is down from an annual projected 4% tax bill increase approved by the Board of County Supervisors last April. The average tax bill was to increase by at least 4% per year, every year under the old 5-year plan.

Peacor is expected to a budget to the Board of Supervisors next month. The board will approve the fiscal year 2016 budget in April.

Candland said a staggering economy and job losses throughout Virginia are just some of the reasons to keep taxes lower.

“Can we continue to sustain this level of spending?” asked Candland. “We need to balance the economic realities we see in the county, state, and the nation.”

While the average tax bill in Prince William is lower than neighboring Fairfax and Loudoun counties, Candland said average earned wages of Prince William County residents are 10% lower than Fairfax residents’ income.

County leaders in April passed a $989 million budget with an assessed tax rate of $1.148 of every $100 of assessed property value. New property assessments are due within the next few months, and that will give officials some idea of how much revenue will be coming into county coffers.

With last year’s tax increase, the county funded 25 new police officers, funded improvements to sports fields, and provided money for new libraries in Montclair and Gainesville.

“I did vote for the 4% last year for higher tax bill because someone told me you’re not going to get your library if you don’t vote for the tax increase,” said Potomac District Supervisor Maureen Caddigan, who on Tuesday voted in favor of the lower 1.7% average tax bill budget guidance.

Supervisors Marty Nohe, John Jenkins, and Frank Principi all voted against the 1.7% budget guidance.

“We were with the school board less than a week ago, and we heard them asking for some consistency, and this does not provide that,” said Nohe.

The Board of Supervisors sets the tax rate, and the county’s public school division will receive about 57% of the next year’s budget and. It it will could be substantially less than what the school division was banking on prior to Tuesday’s vote. 

“The schools and Board of County Supervisors will have to look at budgets. The school board might have to go back and reevaluate the price tag of the new high school and not build the two swimming pools, and we might have to go back and look at the $11 million price tag to bury power lines [on Route 1 in Woodbridge] and spend that money on our schools,” said Candland.

“There will be some very critical needs that, at 1.7%, will go unmet, said Principi.

The Woodbridge District Supervisor cited the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission – operators of OmniRide commuter and OmniLink local buses – which is facing a massive budget reduction that could lead to service cuts starting in 2017. Children who need mental healthcare and substance abuse patients may also go without care, added Principi.

*This story was corrected.

Someone is robbing cabbies near Manassas

[Image: Prince William police]

[Image: Prince William police]

Police are investigating a series of robberies involving taxi cabs near Manassas. Five cabbies have been robbed since Dec. 9.

The most recent robbery was at 3:21 a.m. in the area of Vernon Street and Tower Place. On Monday, police were called to a Walmart at Manassas Mall after a cabbie was robbed nearby.

In each robbery, police said cabbies pick up a fare and are asked to drive to a certain location, but are robbed before they arrive.

Here’s more in a police press release:

Armed Robberies – On December 15th at 2:57PM, officers responded to the 10700 block of Sudley Manor Dr in Manassas (20109) to investigate a robbery. The victim, a 62 year old man of Manassas, reported to police that he was a cab driver and had picked up a fare at the Wal-Mart located in Manassas Mall. After picking up the suspect, the victim drove him to the above area. Once stopped, the suspect pulled out a knife and took an undisclosed amount of money from the victim before fleeing on foot.

Early the next morning on December 16th at 3:21AM, officers responded to the area of Vernon St and Tower Pl in Manassas (20109) to investigate another robbery involving a cab driver. The victim, a 48 year old man of Fort Royal, reported to police that he picked up a fare and drove to the above area where the suspect displayed a knife and robbed him of an undisclosed amount of money. Following the incident, the suspect fled on foot.

No injuries were reported in either incident.

A police K-9 was also used in the December 16th incident to search for the suspect. Both incidents are believed to be related to one another, as well as, two other similar robberies reported on December 14th. The suspect in all reported incidents matched similar descriptions provided by the victims in those cases.

Suspect Description:

Black male, between 20 & 25 years of age, 6’0”, 160-170lbs with short black hair

Last seen wearing a gray sweatshirt and blue jeans

Car deliberately set on fire in Manassas neighborhood

The Manassas Fire Marshal’s Office wants to know who burned a car parked in the city’s Georgetown South neighborhood.

The car was set ablaze about 2 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 11. It was parked in the 9200 block of Taney Road.

A police officer on patrol in the area found burning car, a 2006 Lexus LS. The officer used a fire extinguisher to prevent the fire from spreading to other vehicles, said city spokeswoman Patty Prince.

The fire was deliberately set, an investigation found. The total damage to the car is $20,000 and the vehicle is considered to be a total loss. 

No injuries were reported. 

Anyone with information on this case is encouraged to call  Crime Solvers of Manassas City / Manassas Park.

Harrover, Randolph say goodbye to Manassas City Council

Photo: City of Manassas


Steven J. Randolph came to his 651st regular meeting of the Manassas City Council on Monday night. It was the last meeting held in which he was required to be there.

Randolph and Vice Mayor Andrew Harrover said their goodbyes as both are leaving the council. Voters have already chosen Their replacements, and the new City Council members will take their seats on the dais come January.



Randolph spent 28 years on the council.

“I never thought I’d serve one term much less seven,” he said.

The retiring official said he was happy to have some small role in many of the changes that took place in the city during his term. The addition of the Manassas Museum, Harris Pavilion, and Metz Middle School were all “big battles.”

Other projects noted were the reopening of the city’s train station, now home to a Virginia Railway Express station, and the Center for the Arts at the Candy Factory.

“Both were a home for pigeons,” said Randolph.

Harrover thanked his family for supporting him during his eight years on the Council. He also thanked his colleagues on the Council for working with him.

“There are two or three things I’ve learned over the years: You can get anything done you want to as long as you’re not worried about who gets the credit,” said Harrover.

Manassas Next,” a series of videos outlining produced to share Harrover’s plan to improve city services, was one of his biggest accomplishments while serving on the Council, he added.

Harrover spent six years as the city’s Vice Mayor.

Residents are invited to a reception honoring both retiring men beginning at 5 p.m. Friday at the Center for Arts at the Candy Factory on Battle Street.

Garage burns at Manassas home after accelerant used to start fire


Manassas City officials warn against using accelerants to start fires inside your home. Fire and rescue crews were recently called to a home on Zimbro Avenue for a fire incident involving the use of accelerants. Here’s more in a press release:

On Thursday, Dec. 11 at 5:30 p.m., City of Manassas Fire & Rescue units were dispatched to a garage fire on Zimbro Avenue. Units arrived to find a significant fire and were able to suppress the fire quickly.

There was fire damage to the contents in the garage and smoke damage to the interior of the home totaling about $50,000. The Red Cross provided temporary housing assistance to the three adults and three children residing in the home.

The fire was caused when the homeowner was attempting to light a fire for the fireplace by using an accelerant.

Please remember the following safety tips when heating your house this winter:

  • Only burn dry, cured wood and please don’t use an accelerant. Remember to store flammable materials at least three feet away from a fire. ·
  • Have your chimney inspected annually and cleaned as necessary.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher on hand. Never burn garbage, rolled newspapers, charcoal or plastic in the fireplace.
  • Never use gasoline or any liquid accelerant to help start a fire. Keep small children and pets away from the fireplace. Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Don’t close the damper until the embers have completely stopped burning. Make sure the fire is completely out before going to bed or leaving the house.
  • When cleaning the fireplace, store ashes in a non-combustible container with a tightly fitting lid and place the container away from the house.
  • Never burn a Christmas tree in the fireplace.

Man beaten with baton at Manassas McDonalds

Police said a man at a McDonalds restaurant was beaten during an altercation that started in a bathroom.

Here’s more in a police report:

Aggravated Assault

At approximately 2:10AM on December 13, 2014 Manassas City Police responded to McDonald’s, located at 9001 Centreville Rd, for an assault that had just occurred.  The victim, a 31-year-old male of Manassas Park, told officers that following what he interpreted to be an insignificant run-in near the restrooms inside, he was verbally provoked upon exiting the restaurant by the same individual he encountered inside, who was now in the parking lot.  A second suspect approached and the three actively engaged in a physical altercation, during which the victim was struck multiple times and beaten by the suspects with a baton.  According the victim, the suspects fled the scene in separate vehicles heading north on Centreville Rd; one in a white Chevrolet truck and the other in a dark red four-door sedan.  The victim sustained non-life-threatening injuries.  This is an ongoing investigation.

                Description of suspects: 2 black males in their 40s, with black and grey hair


Crash closes portion of Prince William Parkway

7:45 a.m.

Police will re-open a closed portion of Prince William Parkway near the Prince William County Government Center in Woodbridge.

The crash that closed the roadway earlier has been cleared from the roadway, according to initial reports. 

7:23 a.m.

A portion of Prince William Parkway is closed now after a crash.

One person is critically injured after a crash at Prince William Parkway and Ridgefield Road in Woodbridge.

Police will close a portion of eastbound Prince William Parkway at Hoadly Road just prior to the crash scene, near the Prince William County Government Center.

Fire crews pulled two people from vehicles involved in what is described as a t-bone crash.

A helicopter was called to land at nearby Penn Elementary School to take at least one patient to an area hospital, but declined to come due to weather conditions.

Near the crash scene? Be safe and send camera phone photos to news@potomaclocal.com .

This situation is still developing. We’ll updated this story more as we have it.

New homes on the way as city leaders approve Manassas Station rezoning

A rendering of what Manassas Station condos would look like from Prince William Street.

105 new condo homes to be built in Downtown Manassas 

A total of 105 new condominiums will be built on the edge of Manassas City’s historic district.

The City Council on Monday night approved a rezoning request that clears the way for the Manassas Station condo complex on Prince William Street, in front of Osbourn High School. The complex will be 35 units short of what the developer originally proposed to build.

City leaders, especially Mayor Harry J. Parrish II, took their time on deciding whether or not to approve the new housing complex. A split decision vote by the council in late November meant Parrish would need to cast the deciding vote to approve or deny the rezoning request.

“I pocket vetoed the measure because I was hearing from staff there was further action on the issue,” said Parrish. “I try to be a process person that allows the process to take place. I can easily describe voting for either side of this issue, but I allowed this process to continue.”

Parrish described the process as going back to the developer and asking for a reduction in the number of homes built. Residents said the complex would change Old Town Manassas and would give it a more urban feel if built.

“Folks in Old Town have been very vocal about this, and they aren’t shy,” said Manassas Vice Mayor Andrew Harrover. “The majority of concerns were about size of the project, and it has been reduced by a fair number.”

The old ABC Photo building will be demolished to make way for the new condos. City leaders needed to rezone the land it sits on from industrial to residential before the condos could be built.

Manassas Station will be built on what city leaders called an “extraordinary piece of land” near the city’s downtown. The property is along the railroad, near a school, and is in walking distance of small shops, restaurants, and a Virginia Railway Express station.

The same developers who built Historic Courts of Manassas are betting that more millennials who can’t afford a single family home and empty nesters will choose to live at Manassas Station.

Councilmen Marc Aveni and Mark Wolfe voted against the rezoning.



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