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Dale City Local

Motorcycle Hits Tree, Kills Driver

Elijah Byrd

Prince William County, Va. –– A Dale City man was killed in a motorcycle crash Saturday on Joplin Road.

The victim was traveling on the two-lane road between Triangle and Independent Hill when he lost control of his bike and hit a tree about 2:53 p.m., said Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok.

The victim is identified as 59-year-old Elijah Alexander Byrd of the 4600 block of Kentwood Lane in Dale City.

He was taken to a local hospital following the crash and was pronounced dead.

Police say speed appears to be a factor in the crash.

Teen Bus Pass Also Great for Baseball Fans

OmniLink switch riders buses at the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Center in Woodbridge.

Woodbridge, Va. — It’s a teenager’s annual pass to getting around town, and it goes on sale Tuesday.

The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission is once again selling its OmniLink Teen Summer Pass.

The bus pass is good for unlimited rides on local buses that run along U.S. 1 in Woodbridge, on Dale Boulevard in Dale City, Old Bridge Road in Lake Ridge, on OmniRide’s Cross-County Connector between Woodbridge and Manassas, as well on local buses in Manassas.

The pass costs $30 and is good for rides on OmniLink buses between June 1 and Sept. 3, said PRTC spokeswoman Christine Rodrigo.

In addition to unlimited rides, it also guarantees $1 off Potomac Nationals tickets on Friday nights beginning June 10. Riders must show their passes at the ticket window before the game, said Rodrigo.

Teen passes are available at the following locations:

PRTC Transit Center, 14700 Potomac Mills Road, Woodbridge (next to Hylton Chapel)
-Mondays through Fridays, June 1 to August 5, 2011, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Potomac Mills Mall food court
-Saturday, June 11, 12-4 p.m.
-Saturday, June 25, 12-4 p.m.

Manassas Mall food court
-Saturday, June 18, 12-4 p.m.
-Saturday, July 9, 12-4 p.m.

Dangerous Temps Forecasted

Memorial Day weekend may be the unofficial start of summer, but the Mother Nature is giving sure signs the hottest season of the year has arrived.

A heat advisory goes into effect for the Washington area at noon Monday and will last until 8 p.m. Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

High temperatures on Monday will be in the low to mid 90s, and in the high 90s on Tuesday. But the humidity will drive up the heat index making it feel like 100 to 105 degrees outside.

The high temperatures can cause illness in those who are exposed to the high temperatures.

Those who don’t have to be out in the heat are urged to stay indoors. Those who do should drink plenty of water, and find shade and take frequent breaks.

The first heat wave of the season should last through Wednesday, when showers and thunderstorms could move through the area bringing with them lower temperatures with highs in the 80s for Thursday and Friday.

The first day of summer, or the summer solstice, is June 21.

Storms Bring Downed Trees, Power Outages

Update 7:48 p.m.
Dominion Virginia Power reports more than 4,300 customers without power in Burke area.

Update 7:30 p.m.
Dominion Virginia Power reports more than 2,500 customers without power in North Stafford following severe storm that just moved through area. Utility crews report an estimated repair time between 9 and 11 p.m.

Original Post 7:15 p.m.
Fire and rescue crews have fanned out across Stafford County inspecting downed trees and reports of auto accidents after a strong storm moved through the area tonight.

There have been multiple reports of downed trees across the county, said Stafford fire and rescue spokesman Mark Doyle.

That same storm is now moving its north through Woodbridge and is expected to impact the Lorton and Springfield areas within the hour.

A tornado warning for North Stafford and the Dale City expired at 7:15 p.m. A severe thunderstorm warning continues for Woodbridge and southern Fairfax County until 7:45 p.m.

Crime Watch: Woman Abducted, Shots Fired

Warrants issued after woman abducted, assaulted
A woman was abducted by an acquaintance after an argument, police say.

Officers were called to a home in the 1500 block of Walnut Street in Woodbridge after the 33-year-old victim said she was assaulted by a male acquaintance that held her against her will.

The victim was eventually able to leave the house and call police the following day, said Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok.

Police are unable to locate the man accused in the attack.

Investigators have issued warrants for Juan Carlos Ramirez, 24, of Woodbridge, charging him with abduction, intent to defile and malicious wounding, said Perok.

He’s described as Hispanic, between 5 feet 8 inches tall, with brown eyes and black hair.

Woman hears shots, finds bullet holes
A woman who was watching TV at her home Friday heard gunshots ring out, and then noticed a large hole in her bathroom window.

The shots were fired at 12:03 a.m. in the 3100 block of Chesapeake Drive in Woodbridge, just off Jefferson Davis Highway (U.S. 1).

After seeing the hole in her bathroom window, she noticed another one in an adjacent window, police said.

No one was injured.

Home burglarized, cash missing from safe
Cash was reported missing from a safe at a home in North Stafford on Thursday.

Police say a home on Park Road in the Windsor Forest neighborhood was broken into between 8 and 11 a.m. Thursday.

The homeowner told Stafford sheriff’s deputies when he returned home items in the house were out of place, and saw that a window had been opened, said Stafford sheriff’s spokesman Bill Kennedy.

Man robbed in Triangle
A 56-year-old man told police he was robbed in the 18200 block of Graham Court in Triangle at 12:50 a.m. Saturday.

The man was getting out of his vehicle when he was approached by a group of men that took his wallet, which had an undisclosed amount of money inside, said Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok.

The men fled on foot and the victim was not injured. The victim was not able to provide a description of any of the men, police say.

First Thunderstorms, Then Hot

The Memorial Day weekend starts in the Potomac Communities tonight with the region under a severe thunderstorm watch until 8 p.m.

According to the National Weather Service, there is a possibility of strong thunderstorms after 4 p.m.

If the weather turns severe, turn to us for updates.

Just after 1 p.m. Friday, the temperature at Regan Washington National Airport was 83 degrees. Temperatures were forecast to climb into the upper 80s on Friday, according to the weather service.

The forecast calls for much of the same weather on Saturday, with temperatures in the mid 80s and a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms.

Expect it to be hot on Sunday, as the threat of storms diminishes and the mercury is forecast to climb into the 90s.

On Memorial Day, it’ll be even hotter outside with temperatures with a forecast high of 95 degrees.

VRE Preps for Crowding Today

A Virginia Railway Express train pulls into the Woodbridge station. (File Photo: Mary Davidson)

As commuters get ready to head home for the long holiday weekend, Virginia Railway Express has added extra cars to trains to accommodate passengers.

The most crowded trains this afternoon are expected to be Fredericksburg line train #303 and Manassas line train #307.

Those two trains will be the longest VRE trains this afternoon, according to a VRE spokesman.

The transit system also reminds passengers there will be no service Monday in observance of the Memorial Day holiday.

The longer trains come after passengers on the railroad this week experience major delays Tuesday night, when a freight train broke down on the tracks in a critical junction point between VRE’s Fredericksburg and Manassas lines.

The disabled train delayed VRE trains for up to 70 minutes, forcing some passengers to take cab rides to get home.

The railroad offered to reimburse passengers for the cost of those rides in a apology statement sent to its riders Wednesday.

“We sincerely regret the inconvenience this unusual situation caused and will continue to work hard to avoid anything like it in the future,” VRE stated.

VRE says officials from Keolis, the company contracted to operate VRE trains and CSX, the owners of the railroad, were on the scene for hours Tuesday trying to get the train moving.

In the end, Amtrak was able to provide some additional equipment to get the train moving again.

Schools Unblock Gay and Lesbian Content

Prince William County, Va. –– Public school students in Prince William will no longer be denied access to Gay and Lesbian content on the internet.

The school division announced today filters that blocked such online content have been removed, and that the removal does not compromise mandatory state and federal obligations to block objectionable information, the school system says.

The students can now have access to the information, as long the content is “information based.”

“Internet filtering is difficult, sometimes imprecise, and constantly evolving. It is nearly impossible to find the perfect balance between the protection of students, freedom of speech, and equal access, said Keith Imon, associate superintendent for Communications and Technology Services. “However, the decision to discontinue the use of the LGBT filter is within this balance.”

The school system received a letter last month from the Virginia American Civil Liberties Union saying the school system’s blockage some LGBT websites also blocked them from accessing issues concerning the Gay and Lesbian communities.

The organization concluded it was against students’ first amendment rights to be denied access to such issues.

Highways to Fill with Holiday Travelers

Drivers travel north on Interstate 95 at Garrisonville Road (Va. 610) in North Stafford. (Mary Davidson/

Traveling by car this Memorial Day weekend? You’re not alone.

Nine out of 10 people in the Washington area are expected to pack the car and head to their vacation destination spot this weekend to herald the unofficial start of summer.

Many of them will travel more than 50 miles to their destinations, a break from the past when more people chose to stay home due to high gas prices and a troubled economy.

“Scrimp and save and still go. That’s the new travel reality and paradigm for Washington area travelers during the first holiday weekend of summer,” said AAA Mid Atlantic spokesman John B. Townsend II. “Amazingly, more Washington residents, nine out of ten, will travel by automobile this year than last, even with sky-high gasoline prices along the way. In fact, automobile travel continues to be the dominant mode of transportation for local residents this Memorial Day.”

More people from our area will be traveling this weekend than last Memorial Day, an expected 1.4 percent increase.

Room rates are nearby beaches, Virginia Beach and Ocean City, Md., are well over $200 per night and many have been sold out.

Travelers told AAA Mid Atlantic they will spend less while at their destination spots to compensate on fuel prices.

The automobile agency says auto travel is expected to be up this year slightly, by 0.7 percent, air travel up by 12.7 percent, and all other forms of travel down by 11.2 percent.

Gas prices are also higher this year than they were last year.  The average price for a gallon of gas in the Potomac Communities averages $3.87 per gallon, according to AAA Fuel Price Finder.

Last year, the average price for a gallon of gas in the same areas was $2.75.

Around Town

Fairfax County asks for delay of Mark Center opening
Now, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors have asked for a delay in opening the massive Mark Center building where thousands of federal employees will relocate, reports Mt. Vernon Patch.

House to vote on BRAC delay
And with that request, the U.S. House of Representatives are expected to vote on a bill that would delay the BRAC move and would give officials more time to prepare for the move, reports The Washington Business Journal.

Manassas gets new fire chief
At first he was hesitant, but now Brett Bowman says he’s ready to be the next fire chief for Manassas and took the job on Monday, reports

Kaine won’t commit on Obama budget
The president proposed his budget for 2012, but Senate contender and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, would not say how he would have voted on the proposed budget if he were serving in the senate chamber, reports The Washington Post.

Area jewelry shop makes charity a priority
One area jewelry shop has made charity a big part of their business, and now the Washington Post profiles the owner.

Colgan Considers Retirement, Again

Sen. Charles Colgan (D-29th, Manassas, Prince William)

Update: 11 a.m.
Sen. Chuck Colgan (D, 29 – Manassas, Prince William) says he will make an announcement next week as to whether or not he’ll retire as the President Pro Tempore of Virginia’s Senate.

He’s going to take the Memorial Day weekend to work out some family issues and spend time with his wife, who would like to see more of him, said Colgan.

“I’m 85-years-old, and about that time you begin to feel your age. I still think I would make a good offering to the commonwealth, but right now I am going to work out some family issues,” said Colgan.

Colgan says he has an obligation to speculation of his retirement behind him and make an official announcement sometime next week.

Colgan first considered retirement in 2003, but was asked by then Gov. Mark Warner to run for reelection to keep the seat in Democratic hands. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine during his term approached the verteran legislator and asked again if he would run.

“A campaign is long, hard hours, and that’s something that we are going to have to consider when we think about this next election season,” said Colgan.

The senator is up for reelection this fall.

Prince William County, Va. –– Prince William County and Manassas’ state senator, Charles Colgan, is going to retire, reports indicate.

The political blog, Not Larry Sabato, is reporting the President Pro Tempore of the Virginia Senate will retire this year.

An announcement has not been made as to who will replace the long-serving Democrat.

Colgan, 84, was elected to office in 1975 and has served ever since.

Colgan’s 29th District includes Manassas and much of Prince William County.

Among his list of legislative successes is the highway interchange at Prince William Parkway and Nokesville Road (Va. 28) outside Manassas.

Colgan help to found Colgan Air, a passenger airline based out of Manassas.

Comcast TV Customers told to Upgrade Equipment

The days of getting cable service by simply plugging a coaxial cable directly into the back of the TV set are coming to an end for many Comcast customers.

Beginning this week, the largest cable company in the nation began requiring customers in Prince William and Stafford counties to get digital set top boxes to continue receiving many of their regular channels.

Customers who haven’t already switched to digital service on Tuesday were greeted with a message on their TV screens stating upgrades to Comcast’s network would require customers to get additional equipment to continue receiving many of the Comcast’s channels they have come to expect.

Not all of the channels were taken away, but cable networks such as Bravo, TNT and others suddenly disappeared from the cable TV line up.

“Again, we’re calling the initiative “world of more” because it’s helping us keep our customers ahead of the digital curve and bring them access to more HD, more video on demand, faster Internet speeds and the ultimate in digital video and sound.  To make “world of more” possible, Comcast’s analog expanded basic cable channels will be delivered exclusively in digital format, and digital equipment will be needed to view those channels,” said Comcast spokeswoman Alisha Martin.

The change won’t affect the 85 percent of Comcast customers nationwide who already have cable TV converter boxes.

Comcast’s expanded basic customers without will be allowed one digital converter box and up to two smaller boxes for other TVs in the house for no additional charge. Existing digital customers will be allowed up to two free digital adapters for their homes, said Martin.

Those new boxes can be picked up at payment center, including one in Dale City and on Garrisonville Road (Va. 610), or can be ordered online and mailed to customers.

So many people have been affected by the change that a customer service center in Manassas ran out of the smaller digital adapters on Wednesday afternoon, but was still able to offer set up boxes.

Cable bills are not expected to rise as part of the change, but customers are promised more channels like Biography, Bloomberg, History International and Lifetime Movie Network.

Memorial Day Closings

It’s the annual, unofficial start to summer! Memorial Day weekend is here, the time where we take an extra day off of work to honor those who have served their country. Because it’s a holiday, it won’t be business as usual for many municipal agencies.

Fairfax County
Government offices – Closed Monday May 30

Courts – Closed Monday, May 30

Libraries – Closed Sunday, May 29 and Monday, May 30

Prince William County
Government offices – Closed Monday ,May 20, 2011

Courts – Closed Monday, May 30, 2011

Landfill – Closed Monday, May 20, 2011

Libraries – Closed Sunday, May 29 and Monday, May 30, 2011, neighborhood libraries closed Saturday, May 28 through May 20, 2011. All branches to reopen May 31, 2011.

Stafford County
Government offices – Closed Monday, May 30

Courts – Closed Monday, May 30

Landfill – Closed Monday, May 30. Will reopen Tuesday, May 31 for regular business hours 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Libraries – Closed Sunday, May 29 and Monday, May 30. Will reopen normal hours Tuesday, May 31.

Traffic and Transit

I-95 / 395 / 66 High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes
HOV Resrtrictions lifted Monday May 30, 2011

I-95/395 lanes to run southbound from 1 p.m. Friday, May 27 until 2 p.m. Saturday, May 28. Lanes will run northbound from 4 p.m. through the remainder of the weekend.
The lanes will CLOSE to regular traffic Sunday for the Rolling Thunder motorcycle event, between 7:30 and 11 a.m.

Fairfax Connector Bus – Sunday schedule on Monday, May 30, 2011

Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission – No service Monday, May 30, 2011

Virginia Railway Express – No Service Monday, May 30, 2011

Metrorail – Washington’s Metrorail will conduct track maintenance over the weekend. Riders are asked to plan ahead for delays.

Around Town

Teacher raises on the way
Teachers in Stafford County will get step raises during the next school year, reports

Unpopular commuter lot
Despite a shuttle bus and two new Slug lines, still too few people are using a commuter lot at the First Baptist Church of Woodbridge, reports

Bus fares raised
It’s going to cost you more to ride FRED buses in Stafford and Fredericksburg, reports Fredericksburg Patch.

Fairfax buses to change routes near Ft. Belvoir
Fairfax Connector bus service is expanding as the BRAC closure/open date draws near, reports Mt. Vernon Patch.

No Walmart for Wilderness
Walmart  won’t build a new store on the site of a Civil War battlefield in Wilderness, the Washington Business Journal reports.

Police Shatter Window to Make Arrest

Byron Christopher McCaskill-Bey, 42, faces charges after he tried to assault a police officer, police say.

Dale City, Va. –– One man is charged with assaulting a police officer during a traffic stop.

Police tried to stop a vehicle in the area of Minnieville and Delaney roads at 10:44 p.m. Monday. The male driver did not stop, and continued about a block west to Minnieville Road and Estate Drive.

When he did stop, the male driver rolled up the car windows, locked the doors and ignored the officer’s commands to identify himself, said Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok.

At one point, the driver cracked the driver’s side window wide enough for the officer to get his arm inside the vehicle so he could roll it down further. But the driver tried to roll up the window on the officer’s arm, said Perok.

The officer pulled his arm out of the window, and when the man again refused to comply with police demands they shattered the passenger side window of the car and took the male into custody without incident, said Perok.

Byron Christopher McCaskill-Bey, 42, of Portsmouth, is charged assault and battery on a law enforcement officer, obstruction of justice, resisting arrest, reckless driving and driving on a revoked license, said Perok.

He was held without bond and is scheduled to appear in court June 23.

Sport and Health Raises Funds and Heart rates

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus

Dale City Sport and Health Club’s second annual block party to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital had people’s hearts pumping on Saturday.

Rommel Bradley, manager, said that the event shows “We’re about taking care of people.  This isn’t just a health club, we’re about raising awareness, not just fitness.”

Bradley said this year’s outdoor Zumba and spin classes, along with food, a bake sale, moon bounces, face painting and cotton candy, would all help to raise a projected $2,000 for St. Jude.

“Two years ago we were able to raise just a few hundred dollars.  This year we really wanted to step it up for St. Jude’s”, shared Bradley.  “We have Capital One Bank doing $750 with members making up the rest of the $2,000.” he shared.

Dale City Sport and Health Club is located on Dale Boulevard in Dale City.  A second location in the nearby Stonebridge at Potomac Crossing shopping center will open in June.

Area High Schools Among Best in Region

Potomac Senior High School in Woodbridge ranked 40th overall on The Washington Post’s High School Challenge list of the area’s best schools.

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus

Several schools in the Potomac Communities have placed among the top 100 in the area according to the Washington Post’s “High School Challenge”.

The survey ranks high schools in the Washington area. C.D. Hylton High School in Woodbridge placed number 58 followed directly by Lorton’s South County Secondary School.  Gar-Field Senior High School in Woodbridge came in at number 84, Stafford’s Colonial Forge High School registered just behind that at 86, and Forest Park High School, also in Woodbridge, finished out at 99.

This year’s rankings featured some changes from the 2010 Challenge. Hylton’s position moved 10 places from last year’s 48th position.  South County also moved in the wrong direction from last year’s 44th.   Gar Field was in 77th position last year, although Colonial Forge held steady at 86th. Forest Park made a positive change, however, moving from 101 last year into the top 100 this year.

The annual challenge ratings are based on “a simple formula” according to The Washington Post, with rankings derived from dividing the number of college-level tests a school gave by the number of graduating seniors.  The Washington Post feels this rating “can reveal the level of a high school’s commitment to preparing average students for college.”

Potomac Senior High School in Woodbridge ranked 40th overall on The Washington Post’s High School Challenge list of the area’s best schools.

Cycling Commuters Treated to Coffee, Pastries

Jim Haugan of Village Skis and Bikes in Lake Ridge helps inspect a bicycle with Bike to Work Day Volunteers Marilyn Schultz and Mike Campbell.

Woodbridge, Va. –– It was Bike to Work Day across the Washington area today, and 29 people signed up to bike to work from the Chinn Fitness and Aquatics Center in Woodbridge.

This was one of 49 pit stops in Virginia, Maryland and Washington that had breakfast, coffee and t-shirts for those who traded in their cars for a pair of pedals.

“This is the first year we’ve done this, and we’ve had an awesome turn out this morning,” said Chinn Center General Manager Sally Wood.

Both pit stops in the Potomac Communities –– Chinn Aquatic Center and the Virginia Railway Express Rippon station –– were open from 6 until 9 a.m.

Jim Haugan owns Village Skis and Bikes in Lake Ridge, and says cycling has caught on among empty nesters (those whose children have moved out of the home) over the past 26 years he’s been in business.

“I wish we had more bike lanes and places to ride bikes in the area, but events like this help keep cycling the public eye,” said Haugan.

Bike to Work Day is a free event open to everyone, and riders are encouraged to sign up at the Washington Area Bicyclist Association’s website.

Everyone who registered received a free Bike to Work Day t-shirt.

Registrants for Bike to Work Day were also invited to make a weekend out of the event, and were offered discounts on participating in a larger group bike ride, Bike D.C. Day, to be held Sunday.

Arson Causes $20,000 in Damage

Woodbridge, Va. –– Police want to know who set someone’s front porch ablaze Monday.

Fire and rescue crews at 1:06 a.m. were called to a home in the 1700 block of Averet Street, off Blackburn Road, and found a resident dousing the fire with a garden hose.

Damage to the home is estimated to be at $20,000, and no one was injured, said Prince William fire and rescue spokeswoman Kim Hylander.

The Prince William Fire Marshall is actively investigating this case.

Prince William Crime Rate Falls Slightly

Prince William Police Chief Charlie T. Deane

Woodbridge, Va. –– Overall crime in Prince William County fell slightly in the past year, according to newly released crime statistics.

Falling slightly was the number of rapes that were reported, down four from the five-year high in 2009 of 57 reported rapes in Prince William.

Police heralded the capturing the notorious East Coast Rapist that terrorized women for 14 years, and in his most recent suspected attack, raping two of three girls behind in woods behind a shopping center at gunpoint in Dale City on Halloween night 2009.

“This was a case that we put a lot of effort into…this is truly a stranger abduction, rape of the worst kind,” said Prince William Police Chief Charlie T. Deane.

As the county population increased over the past year, the county’s overall crime rate slightly fell from 19.5 to 19.2 percent. That continues a trend of a falling crime rate over the past five years, when it was at a recent high of 21.6 percent in 2006, according to the crime stats report.

The number of murders in the county fell last year by one to nine, and all of which have been solved, said Deane.

There were some categories of crime that rose last year, including larcenies (virtually any type of theft), and cases of aggravated assault.

Of the 224 people charged with aggravated assault last year, at least 20 of them used a firearm, knife or some type of cutting instrument.

Several illegal immigrants were arrested last year, including 274 for not having a driver’s license, six for rape and three for murder.

Prince William began keeping track of illegal immigrants who were arrested after county officials passed an illegal immigration ordinance in 2008.

Jenkins Touts Transit, Sidewalks in Reelection Bid

Dale City, Va. –– John D. Jenkins will make another run at the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.

The Democrat has served the Neabsco District, which includes much of Dale City, for 28 years.

Though the average tax bill will go up over the next year, Jenkins says he’s worked over the years to lower taxes, built new schools, add officers to the county’s police department and helped to build sidewalks from his distort to Manassas.

“As you know, tax assessments went up in the county. Whenever you have a bigger base to assess you have to put things in proper perspective, knowing that one tax rate today a $1.20 [per $100 of the assessed real estate value] will raise one in which we are able improve the quality of life in the county,” said Jenkins.

The average tax bill is expected to rise $78, but county officials say taxes are lower when accounting for inflation.

Jenkins, a retired Army Lt. Colonel, has focused much of his attention over the years on transportation projects. He helped start the county’s successful road bond projects that saw the construction of Prince William Parkway, as well as other road improvements.

He helped found Virginia Railway Express, and he currently serves as Chairman of the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission.

“I’m going to run on my record, and I think my record is a good, solid example of my accomplishments,” said Jenkins.

His wife, Ernestine Jenkins, will once again serve as his campaign manager. For many years, she has been involved in the community and has worked to help make Dale City’s annual Fourth of July Parade one of the largest in the region.

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