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Dumfries Local

News
Weems-Botts Museum Free to Military Families

The Weems-Botts Museum in Dumfries. (KJ Mushung/PotomacLocal.com)

By KJ Mushung

Dumfries, Va. –– Historic Weems-Botts Museum in Dumfries has joined the league of Blue Star Museums, which allows free admission to active-duty personnel and up to five immediate family members each year from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day.

The service member must be present and have proper identification, according to museum officials.

The museum also altered its hours for the summer. It’s now open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Before the change, it was closed on Sundays and open on Tuesdays.

On July 9 at Merchant Park, there will be a presentation on the history of Dumfries at 7 p.m.

You can visit the museum’s website for more information.

News
Town Manager Search Underway

Dumfries, Va. –– The search for a new Dumfries Town Manager began Tuesday night.

That’s when Kimberly Alexander, who’s held the position since 2009, announced she has accepted a similar position in Culpeper.

Alexander is the eighth person to hold the job in Dumfries in 17 years.

Dumfries Mayor Fred Yohey praised Alexander and said she’s moving on to bigger and better things, and noted that she’s leaving on the job on amicable terms.

“I can’t think of a more capable local government employee. She’s helped us through a lot in the 25 months she’s been here. Were operating on a surplus budget surplus and things have improved since she’s came,” said Yohey.

The town has hired a private staffing agency to replace Alexander, and hopes to have the position filled by Sept. 1.

Yohey says they are looking for someone who can “hit the ground running” and be able to assist the town’s economic development manager in luring new business to the town.

Culpeper is a larger town with more than 13,500 residents, a stark contrast to Dumfries’ nearly 5,000.

She will make $19,000 per year more than what she did in Dumfries, with her salary in Culpeper listed as $122,000 per year.

News
Alexander to Bid Adios to Dumfries

Dumfries, Va. –– Dumfries’ Town Manager has accepted a similar position in Culpeper.

Kimberley Alexander, 33, was chosen out of 51 applicants who applied to be Culpeper’s new town manager.

“She proved to be the top candidate in a field of very talented people who applied,” said Mayor Chip Coleman in a press release. “She has faced some tough issues in her previous position and handled them well.”

Alexander has served as Dumfries Town Manager since 2009. During her tenure, she oversaw saw an extensive investigation into the town’s police department. During the probe, the town’s police chief of 15-years, Calvin Johnson, was placed on administrative leave. He had spent a total of 27-years on the force and was eventually replaced in September with current Police Chief Daniel Taber.

Alexander lives in Spotsylvania, but her mother owns 15 acres of farmland in Culpeper County, according to the town’s press release announcing her hire, which remains contingent on a background check and a final decision by that town’s governing council.

Alexander holds a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs and graduating cum laude from James Madison University in 2000.

Prior to heading to Dumfries, she worked in her college town of Harrisonburg, serving as the assistant to the city manager for more than a year. Before that promotion, she served as the city’s director of Special Projects and Grants Management.

News
Boys & Girls Club Reopens

Dumfries, Va. –– The Boys and Girls Club in Dumfries is ready to reopen its doors for the first time in more than two years. 

On Monday, the facility was set to welcome 27 children into a nine-week summer camp, which offers children access to the gym, basketball courts, game rooms and computers. Children will also enjoy a field trip once per week.

“It’s good to be back here at the General Heiser Branch [of the Boys and Girls Club]. I’ve worked at the Manassas branch and at the Hylton Branch in Dale City, but I started here and it’s good to have it back open” said Camp Director Judy Moore.

Budget cuts forced the closure of the facility which was scheduled to reopen for the first time Monday.

Children will also have access to a math and reading center that will allow them to keep up with learning while school is out.

The cost of the summer camp is $120 per week per child.

The General Heiser Branch of the Boys and Girls Club is located 17565 Old Stagecoach Road in Dumfries.

News
Emails, Cell Phone Safety Messages Win Award

Fire and rescue officials in Prince William County were honored for their work on broadcasting safety messages.

The Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue was honored with a Governor’s Transportation Safety Award for sending safety messages twice a day to all personnel through cell phones and email, reinforcing the county’s safety policies –– including the dangers of distracted and impaired driving.

“This is a dangerous job, but by sending out these messages is just one more tool in our toolbox to help a safer workplace,” said Prince William County Fire and Rescue Department Assistant Chief Hadden Culp.

The awards ceremony was held Wednesday in Richmond, and is an annual event that identifies and recognizes those working to make transportation safer in Virginia.

News
Schools Get New Start Times

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus
Schools and Education Reporter

Prince William County, Va. –– Some Prince William County Schools will be starting and ending their day at a different time next year.  Prince William County uses a three-tier approach when busing children to school which allows drivers to serve multiple routes.

High schools will begin between 7:20 and 7:30 a.m.  Middle school start times range from 8:10 to 8:20 a.m., and elementary schools have the widest range, with schools beginning their day anywhere from 8:15 to 9:20 a.m.

This year three schools will be beginning and ending at a new time. Antietam Elementary is one of three schools in Prince William County that will begin the day at 8:15 a.m., with 2:40 p.m. marking the end of the school day.

“It is typical that a couple of schools’ bell times have to be adjusted each year, particularly when we have additional schools coming online”, said Ken Blackstone for PWCS.

Patriot High School in Nokesville (opening this fall) and Marsteller Middle School in Bristow are the two other schools that will experience schedule changes.

Parents at the affected schools should have received notification via website about the changes.  The full schedule of start and end times for Prince William County Schools is available online.

News
Dumfries.com Transfer on Hold

Dumfries, Va. –– Dumfries’ website is getting a makeover, but it won’t immediately be known as Dumfries.com.

The town plans to have its newly redesigned website up and running by July.

The new site will allow residents to pay their taxes and to purchase special permits, offer more information about the town’s government, town ordinances and will offer a newly redesigned calendar of events that will list happenings inside the town and around the area.

But the Dumfries.com domain name belongs to Prince William County Supervisor Maureen Caddigan. She, prior to April, was the Dumfries Magisterial District Supervisor, an area separate from the actual Town of Dumfries.

The Dumfries District was changed to the Potomac District as part of Prince William County’s decennial redistricting process.

“We have already spoken with Supervisor Caddigan’s office about having the dumfries.com domain. They have graciously agreed to allow the town to have the domain after there has been enough time for the residents that have been using this domain for so many years the time to adjust to the new domain being, www.potomacdistrict.com,” said Dumfries Director of Economic Development and Marketing Debi Sandlin.

Dumfries’ website will also have a new domain, changing from dumfriesvirginia.org to dumfriesva.gov.

Visitors that still type in dumfriesvirginia.org will be redirected to the new site for at least 12 months after the new site is launched.

News
Parents Must Re-Register for Schools Info

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus
Schools and Education Reporter

Prince William County, Va. –– In an ongoing effort to keep parents involved and informed in their child’s education, Prince William County Schools will be switching to Parent Portal, an online interface for parents.

Previously, PWCS has used EduLink, which was essentially a product that interfaced between SchoolFusion, which hosts individual county school’s websites.

This change comes along with an upgrade to a new student information system a sort of “mainframe” that holds all critical student information, a project that is a year in process.

“It has been many years since we have made such a change so the upgraded ability this will give us is significant in many ways.  Unfortunately, these abilities come with a price for parents, who will need to re-register their SchoolFusion accounts in order to keep receiving updates or log into their school’s website.  New accounts may be requested and passwords and login will be available from schools this fall,” said Blackstone.

In the meantime, Blackstone recommends parents follow the same procedure as in years past.

“Parents will need to back up any documents that they may have saved as part of their SchoolFusion classroom account…at the end of the year, the old classroom data, including these saved documents, are deleted in preparation for the next year’s data. We’ve posted directions on how to save the files, which is extremely easy to do,” he added.

News
If Kids Play, Parents Must Learn About Concussions

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus

Woodbridge, Va. –– Following concussion-related deaths and students who committed suicide last year, a new policy affecting student athletes in Prince William County will begin in September.

Prince William County Public Schools announced Monday beginning with the 2011-12 school year, all athletes and their parents or guardians will be required to attend a concussion education session before being allowed to participate in sports try-outs.

The decision to adopt a concussion policy was made in April 2011 and brings the county up to new Virginia Code Standards requiring concussion training. Virginia law now requires parents and their students to sign a form attesting they received training on concussions prior to student athletic participation.  The bill was championed by Virginia State Senator Ralph Northam (D-6th, Norfolk) who is also a pediatric neurologist, and won unanimous approval from the Virginia House and Senate.

“Prince William County Public Schools supports the need to ensure that its staff, students, and the community are aware of the seriousness of brain injuries and concussions and how they can affect the student’s abilities in the educational setting,” stated a press release from Prince William schools.

While concussions are obviously not a regional issue, Prince William County was particularly affected last September when school board member Gil Trenum’s son, Austin, committed suicide in September after a concussion on the football field.

Presentation dates and times for each middle and high school will be provided by the schools after July 1, according to the school system. Parents are encouraged to contact their child’s school for an up-to-date presentation schedule during July.

News
Feds Approve Prince William Redistricting

Map of approved voting precincts in eastern Prince William County.

Prince William County, Va. –– The federal government has approved Prince William County’s decennial redistricting plan.

The plan, which transformed the Dumfries Magisterial District to the Potomac District, was passed by the county’s Board of Supervisors in April. Afterward, it was forwarded by law to the U.S. Department of Justice for final approval.

“The approval of the County’s redistricting plan is the culmination of a process that involved the entire community. The Board heard input from the Human Rights Commission, the NAACP, various community groups and many individuals, said Prince William Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart. “Clearly this Board worked diligently to make certain we had district lines that were fair and equitable to the demographics and population of Prince William County, and the Department of Justice agreed.”

The plan modified the counties seven magisterial districts — which help to define polling places — to account for population growth over the past 10 years.  Prince William’s population grew 43 percent since 2000, from 289,000 to 404,000 residents, according to U.S. Census data.

Traffic
HOV Violators Targeted

Taking the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes on Interstate 95 Tuesday? Make sure your car has three or more occupants.

Virginia State Police along with other agencies are cracking down on those who violate the HOV laws as part of a stepped up enforcement effort, Capital HOV Awareness Day.

Police will be out in force during both the morning and evening rush hours driving the length of the lanes as well as sitting along the highway trying to spot violators, said Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller.

The enforcement methods will shift throughout the morning and evening to avoid traffic backups.

While vehicles on HOV lanes on I-95 and 395 must have three or more occupants, vehicles on I-66 must have two occupants to use the lanes.

Police in Maryland will also step up enforcement on their HOV lanes, on I-270 and the John Hanson Highway (U.S. 50).

During the special HOV enforcement last year, police issued 2,300 summons and arrests over the two-day enforcement period, said Geller.

News
Storms Possible Tonight

A severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for Prince William County until 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

It comes as a large area of storms is moving east from the Charlottesville area into the Potomac Communities.

Temperatures have been hovering the in the high 80s and low 90s today, with periods of bright sunshine, making conditions ripe for scattered thunderstorms.

The forecast calls for more storms into the evening hours and throughout the day Sunday.

Temperatures are forecasted to drop significantly on Monday and Tuesday, as temps on Tuesday should hover in the mid-70s, according to the National Weather Service.

News
Special Olympics Torch Passed on U.S. 1

Prince William police help run the torch that will be used at Virginia’s Special Olympics Summer Games through Dumfries on Thursday. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Dumfries, Va. –– The torch that heralds the beginning of Virginia’s Special Olympics Summer Games passed through the Potomac Communities.

Area law enforcement help the athletes run the torch down Jefferson Davis Highway (U.S. 1) in Woodbridge about 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

Runners again picked up the torch Friday morning and ran it through Stafford County.

The torch is headed to Richmond for the annual summer games, which begin today and will run through Saturday.

More than 1,200 athletes and 3,000 volunteers are expected to pack University of Richmond, where they event is held each year.

It took teamwork to carry the Virginia Special Olympics Torch across the Falmouth Bridge this morning. Stafford Special Olympians passed the torch to the Fredericksburg Police Department at the city line. Stafford Sheriff's join other law enforcement agencies each year to escort the relay runners as they carry the torch to the Special Olympics Virginia Summer Games in Richmond. (Marty van Duyne/PotomacLocal.com)

News
Video: Large Hail, Strong Storms Hit Area

Woodbridge, Va. –– A line of severe thunderstorms moved through the Potomac Communities late Thursday night bringing reports of ping pong-ball size hail in Woodbridge.

Much of the area was placed under a severe thunderstorm warning by the National Weather Service shortly after 11 p.m. The slow-moving storms brought heavy rain, high winds and dangerous lightning.

Large hail was also reported, according to the weather service.

The storms came after the region saw nearly record-breaking temperatures on Thursday.

Reagan Washington National Airport flirted with the 100 degree mark for much of the afternoon, and by 3:52 p.m. the mercury had reached 101 degrees. Add four to five degrees to that temperature for the heat index and that’s what people felt when they ventured out of the air conditioning.

A heat advisory was in effect throughout the day, expiring at 8 p.m. Thursday.

Temperatures will fall back into the lower 90s on Friday and into the high 80s for the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

The possibility of showers and thunderstorms remain in the forecast over the next three days.

Unedited video of lightning rolling through Lake Ridge just before midnight Thursday.

News
Dumfries’ Budget Increases with Saved Funds

Dumfries, Va. –– Virginia’s oldest chartered town will spend $4.3 million in operating costs over the next year.

Town officials Tuesday night approved its fiscal year 2012 operating budget, which is $382,000 higher than the previous year’s budget, according to town documents.

The budget increase comes as property values in the town have declined, but Dumfries Town Manager Kimberley Alexander said the budget is higher this year because officials injected monies into the budget that had been in reserve.

“There was an actual decrease in the overall budget, as the money that we’ve used to increase the budget has for years been in escrow accounts. The majority of it is state grant funds,” said Alexander.

Prior to the vote, a public meeting was held to discuss the next year’s budget but no one spoke, said Alexander.

The new budget didn’t pass unanimously, as Councilwoman Kristin Forrester and Councilman Gerald Foreman voted against the measure.

In a budget proposed by Forrester, she says her plan would have reduced the town’s tax rate by 4 cents and still would have funded a new park project and would have initiated a night shift differential for town police.

The approved budget reduces the tax rate by 2 cents, said Forrester.

“Our tax rates were raised significantly, and when that happened the council and town staff told citizens it would be raised for two cycles.  Instead of lowering it after two cycles, we have found other priorities to spend money on,” she added.

A newly redesigned website for the town was also discussed at Tuesday’s meeting. Officials did not say when they plan to launch the new site.

News
Heat Advisory Issued for Wednesday

The heat and humidity will make a return to the Potomac Communities on Wednesday.

Temperatures are expected to climb into the mid 90s, and heat index values will make it fell as hot as 105 degrees outside, according to the National Weather Service.

That has prompted a heat advisory for the area from noon until 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Residents are urged to stay indoors in air conditioning, put off strenuous activity until the late evening or do it during the early morning hours, know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and to wear light-colored clothing.

Traffic
Drowsy, Unsafe Drivers Targeted

Virginia State Police Sgt. Terry Licklieder inspects a passenger along Interstate 95 in Dumfries. (Uriah Kiser/PotomacLocal.com)

Dumfries, Va. –– Virginia State Police over the next 72 hours are getting tough on commercial vehicle safety.

The increased enforcement is part of Road Check 2011, an annual, national effort to draw attention to safety issues on trucks and passenger buses.

“It couldn’t happen during a more appropriate time. One week ago today, families up and down the east coast were wondering what happened to their family members when a passenger bus crashed on Interstate 95 in Caroline County,” said Virginia State Police Col. W. Stephen Flaherty. “It was the worst kinds of crash, in terms of tragedy, the worst kind because it was preventable.”

Four females were killed when that bus carrying 58 passengers from North Carolina to New York City overturned.

The driver, 37-year-old Kin Yiu Cheung, is charged with involuntary manslaughter. Police say driver fatigue led to the crash, and at least one person onboard the bus told a Washington TV station she saw him drinking several energy drinks while stopped at a gas station prior to the crash.

Officials during Safety Check 2011 will turn their attention to defective equipment, proper vehicle registrations, and will examine driver logs to make sure those behind the wheel are not exceeding federal limits on how long they can drive without stopping for rest.

“In 2010 there were 4,646 commercial motor vehicle-related crashes in Virginia. These crashes resulted in 86 deaths and other 3,184 being injured on Virginia’s roadways,” said Virginia Highway Safety Services Director John Saunders. “These are not just numbers; they are moms, dads, brothers and sisters, children, grandchildren, friends and neighbors who were needlessly killed.”

Following the announcement about the increased enforcement, police held a public inspection of a passenger bus similar to the one which crashed last week.

News
Blaze Burns Deck, Attic

Fire and rescue crews were called to a blaze in the 17000 block of Cusack Lane in Dumfries. (Uriah Kiser/PotomacLocal.com)

Dumfries, Va. –– Two dogs were pulled from a burning home in Dumfries this morning.

Flames broke out at a townhouse at 17383 Cusack Lane, just off River Heritage Boulevard about 11 a.m.

Fire crews arrived to find flames shooting from the rear deck and working their way up the rear of the house into the attic.

The two dogs –– one in a portable kennel and the other tied to a leash –– firefighters removed from the basement of the home. No one else was home at the time of the fire, said Prince William fire and rescue Lt. Shawn Crispin. No one or the dogs was injured.

The fire does not appear to be suspicious, but investigators are still looking into what caused the fire.

The blaze comes nearly a month after improperly discarded smoking materials were blamed for a major fire that ripped through a Lake Ridge apartment complex.

That fire also started on a rear balcony, caused $1.5 million in damage and displaced more than 30 residents and pets.

News
Caddigan Keeps Vision for Triangle

Potomac District Supervisor Maureen Caddigan speaks with supporters during her campaign kick-off event Sunday in Montclair. (Uriah Kiser/PotomacLocal.com)

Dumfries, Va. –– Maureen Caddigan in her fifth bid for the Prince William County Board of Supervisors set her top campaign priorities Sunday.

Education, public safety, transportation and economic development –– in that order –– are at the top of the list as the Republican who currently represents the newly renamed Potomac District held her campaign kick-off at Georgio’s Restaurant in Montclair to a standing-room only crowd.

Caddigan told her supporters that promises made during her campaigns are promises kept, and touted the ongoing $68 million project to widen U.S. 1 at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle.

Since Prince William County purchased the areas alongside the highway and razed many of the gas stations, fast food restaurants and other businesses for a wider U.S. 1, the area has garnered a reputation as a desolate construction site.

“I know it’s been an inconvenience for many of you, but [the widening] should be completed by next spring and it will be lovely,” said Caddigan. The project slowed when crews encountered difficulty relocating underground utility lines in the area.

Hoping to mirror the success of nearby Occoquan, a developer originally planned to build a village-like neighborhood on Brady’s Hill Road in Triangle near the Marine museum. That developer is now selling the land, Caddigan explained, and she added whoever buys the land must develop it to the county’s specifications of street lined shops and large, attractive buildings.

Caddigan also touted a new library that will be built in Montclair 25 years after its inception. It will be located behind the Lake Montclair shopping center and will include an historic barn once used to house slaves.

The new library will be built with funds included in the recently approved FY 2012 budget, which also included cost of living raises for Prince William Government employees –– a move Caddigan defended despite hard economic times.

“Some people say there are a lot of people who aren’t getting a pay raise. [County employees] haven’t had a pay raise in three years, and for our public safety employees; we don’t want them moving to Fairfax or some other area,” said Caddigan.

The raises are aimed at helping county employees offset the new retirement rules for the Virginia Retirement System set forth by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, where employees will now have to put five percent of their salary into the system to be eligible to participate in the retirement program.

“We thought of our employees and sometimes we are criticized about that, and I’m sorry that is the case,” added Caddigan.

Caddigan is currently running unopposed, and voters will have a chance to voice their opinions at the polls November 8.

News
Dumfries Proposes $4.3 Million Budget

Dumfries, Va. –– Dumfries residents will have a chance to chime in on the town’s $4.3 million proposed budget increase on Tuesday.

The Dumfries Town Council will hold public hearing at 7 p.m. at Town Hall on Main Street (U.S. 1).

This year’s proposed operating budget is $382,000 higher than the previous year’s budget, according to town documents.

To make the FY2012 budget, town officials were required to temporarily reduce the number of employees in the town.

According to the town’s website, the new budget will provide “nearly the same level of services to the town’s citizens without increasing the tax burden.”

Town officials go on to write administrators are wrangling with a $500,000 budget shortfall.

In addition to no tax raises, there are also no fee increases in the budget, according to the town’s website.

A copy of the full budget is available for public review weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.

News
Around Town

A tree fell on a house in Stafford late last month, prompting officials to condemn the house. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Will grant money go to hire teachers for hard-to-staff schools?
Teachers who want to take grant money from Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and put it toward pay incentives to hire teachers for hard-to-staff schools in Prince William County, reports Insidenova.com.

Where’s Virginia’s high-speed rail?
A prominent Virginia businessman says Virginia just doesn’t get the big picture when it comes to high-speed rail, and that’s he’s disappointed in Gov. Robert F. McDonnell for not doing more to bring faster trains to the state, reports the Washington Post.

Roads with route numbers above 600 may be out of luck
If the route numbers are above 600, they may not be widened for some time, reports My Piece of the Planet.

Stuart wins award for helping to protect the Chesapeake
When it comes to protecting the Chesapeake Bay, Sen. Richard Stuart (R, 28th –– Stafford, Prince William) has won an award for his efforts, reports Fredericksburg.com.

Groupon loses, so what does that mean for another popular coupon site
The Washington Business Journal asks what do losses for social coupon site Groupon say about Washington-based competitor Living Social?

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