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Manassas First Friday February: It’s the ‘Souper Bowl’

  • Historic Manassas, Inc.
  • Address: 9431 West Street, Manassas, Virginia
  • Phone: 703-361-6599
  • Website: http://visitmanassas.org/
manassas, souper bowl, festival

Historic Downtown Manassas is putting on the Soup for First Friday February.

On Feb. 6 from 6 to 9 p.m., city restaurants are pairing up with downtown merchants to offer a soup for sampling. Five-dollar wristbands allow participants to sample the soups from each location and vote to name a champion of the “Souper Bowl.”

A list of participating merchants for Manassas First Friday is available at visitmanassas.org.

Inspired by the success of the monthly event concept held in other localities, First Friday in Historic Downtown was created by the Historic Manassas, Inc. promotions committee to enhance tourism and entertainment offerings in the City of Manassas. The initial First Friday event was held in February 2014 and has grown and evolved. Some months feature roving musicians and caricature artists, while other months feature sidewalk art or special foods, like this month.

The preceding promoted post was written by the City of Manassas.

News
Region to readying to welcome 12,000 athletes for Fairfax World Police & Fire Games

Prince William County is getting in on the action during the Fairfax 2015 World Police and Fire Games.

Dubbed the Olympics of public safety personnel, the games will take place June 26 to July 5. More than 12,000 firefighters and police officers currently serving or retired, from all over the globe, are expected to descend apron the area. They’re expected to bring with them some 30,000 spectators, according to Fairfax 2015.

Of the 53 venues where the games will take place, to include baseball, basketball, cycling, clay shooting, motor cross racing, tennis, and karate just to name a few nine will be held on the Fairfax campus of George Mason University.

In Prince William, here’s a list of competitions being held in the county:

  • Prince William Forest Park – Cycling time trials
  • Prince William Ice Center in Dale City – Ice hockey 35+
  • Quantico – Rifle range bore

Other venues are scatted throughout Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia. Participants will register for the competition and will gather during the competition week at an athletes village in Reston.

Unlike Olympic athletes who have travel expenses paid for, athletes in these games must pay the cost of their own travel. At an information meeting for the games earlier this month, organizers asked area businesses to offer discounted items and special offers for athletes to entice more to come.

Country Inns and Suites off Prince William Parkway in Woodbridge will serve as the official transportation hub for athletes who stay in the county. Eight buses will take athletes to competition areas each morning and return them at night

Fairfax 2015 officials said they expected 55,000 hotel nights to be booked at area hotels. The Country Inn in Woodbridge is offering a special room rate for athletes, but no rooms have been booked yet.

“We haven’t seen a whole lot picking up yet, but it’s still a little early,” said Rebecca Anderson, who handles group sales for the hotel.

These latest games will take place following the most recent World Police and Fire Games that were held in Belfast, Ireland, and drew 7,000 athletes to the games.

For this year’s games, volunteers will also be needed to assist the athletes and spectators. “We need volunteers for parking, helping familes, we need ambassadors of Fairfax County and this whole region,” said Kim Palmese, director of workforce for Fairfax 2015.

News
Would closing Prince William schools in zones mean fewer snow days?

It’s been a rough start to the New Year for the Prince William County Public School division.

On Jan. 6, it snowed heavily across portions of Prince William and Fairfax counties as a clipper system “over performed” and peppered frozen precipitation across the area, resulting in more snow than forecasters originally thought the storm would bring.

Schools in Prince William and Fairfax were not canceled, and that led to delays and children being stuck on buses en route to school. It led to outrage among parents and students who took to social media to denounce the school division’s decision not to close schools.

Prince William County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Steven Walts issued a public apology for not closing schools.

On Wednesday, snow fell again, accumulating more this time in our region’s southern counties like Stafford and Spotsylvania. Prince William picked up a dusting of snow, and this time school was canceled. Canceling school for a dusting of snow drew the ire of some, proving once again that you cannot (especially the school division) please everyone.

Last night at a meeting of the Prince William Committee of 100 at the Northern Virginia Community College’s Woodbridge Campus, the question was asked “would it be better for Prince William County to divide the county into a western, central, and eastern zones,” and then close schools by zones in the event of inclement weather?

The question was directed to David Cline, associate superintendent for finance at Prince William schools.

Cline said other schools systems, neighboring Loudoun County, tried to split that county into zones, but it didn’t work. A similar plan in Prince William, he said, probably wouldn’t work, either.

“Two days ago, there was snow in Dumfries on the I-95 corridor and there was nothing on Bull Run Mountain,” said Cline.

During a usual snow storm, the mountain in the western portion of the county sees more snow than the east side of the county.

It would be easy to close schools in zones if all schools offered the same programs at each campus. However, since different language, arts, and technical classes are offered at specific school sites, and because some school buses transport children to their respective schools throughout the county, Cline said closing schools by zones wouldn’t make much sense in the long run.

After McDonalds robbery, young mom shown path to a degree

degree, credit, mcdonalds

Amercian National University (ANU) student Jazmin Lopez works toward her medical associates degree.

ANU provides young mother flexibility, path to medical assisting degree     

Jazmin Lopez, 20, of Manassas, knew that she needed to make a change in her life, and ANU offered her an opportunity to work toward her degree in a growing field.
Her neighbor was the first to recommend American National University, which has a campus in Manassas located on Liberia Avenue.

“They were promoting the school [at Gold’s Gym], when [my neighbor] met a recruiter from ANU,” Lopez said, continuing, “She was giving me information, but I wasn’t so sure about going to school.”

Lopez had made an appointment to meet with the recruiters on the campus, but still wasn’t sold about pursuing her degree.

Then, one night while working at a McDonalds, she was robbed.

“I wasn’t  speaking at the moment,” Lopez said of the experience, which traumatized her. “I thought it was time to change, and turn my life around,” Lopez said, prompting her motivation to get out of the fast food industry and earn her degree.

A few days after the incident, Lopez did meet with an ANU ad visor about the school’s opportunities for her. The robbery proved to be a turning point in her life that made her want to seek new opportunity and a higher education.

“The recruiter asked me why it took me so long to finally decide to go back to school. And I enrolled that same day…I thought it was really a great idea, because it’s only five minutes away from my house. And it caught my eye because they have really small classes, which means more attention for us as students,” said Lopez.

For her, the flexibility of the classes and assistance that the school has provided her, have allowed her to continue her education as a working young mother.

While still working at McDonalds, Lopez is currently obtaining her Medical Assistant degree, as a member of the class of 2016.

credit, mcdonalds, degree

This Manassas woman was robbed while working at a McDonalds. It was then she decided she need to change her life. She went to ANU in Manassas for a better opportunity.

Used tires are mysterious. New Cooper Starfire Tires cost about the same

starfire-tire-3starfire-tiretoyo-tiresstarfire-tire-2

Cooper Starfire Tires offer superior life and performance for just a few dollars more than the cost of a used tire

Instead of buying a used tire that you might have to replace sooner than later, consider a new Cooper Starfire Tire.

It’s a great option for someone looking for an inexpensive tire that will help keep their vehicle on the road longer and their occupants of the car safe.

Cooper Starfire Tires are available for multiple makes and models of vehicles. They’re manufactured in Asia and designed in the U.S. to compete with premium brands without the higher price tag of comparable tires.

The tire offers high-performance ability, improved grip and road handling, with an improved overall tire life.

Cooper Starfire Tires are great for drivers who may have purchased a vehicle that is more costly to maintain than first thought, but are still looking for a quality tire that delivers great handling and a quiet performance on the road. With the Starfire option available, drivers should think before purchasing a used tire.

Typically, drivers have no idea what type of life the used tire had before they obtain it. Used tires could be six to eight years old, perhaps older, and have spent the majority of their life as a used tire strapped to a vehicle. While used tires may look good, the rubber can be worn down or degraded after years of sitting idle. Some used tires may also be missing tread and show signs of wear.

Purchasing a Starfire Tire costs about $30 more than what a used tire might cost, but a new tire, on average, will provide three times the life of a single used tire. The price of a Starfire Tire is up to 30% less than other newer tires.  There are many Starfire Tires produced for SUVs, trucks, and the popular Honda Civic and Toyota Camry models.

Hometowne Auto Repair and Tire in Woodbridge, Virginia is now an authorized Cooper Tire dealer and offers a full line of Starfire Tires.

Teen wins NYC trip with “Say I Won’t” video with Manassas City Police Department

#SayIWont, manassas city police department

Captain Trey Lawler and Chief Doug Keen stand behind Mark Johnson.

In December, City of Manassas resident Mark Johnson had an idea for the #SayIWont video contest put on by Grammy Award winner Lecrae Moore and Reach Records. The video contest asked participants to make a 15 second video showing how “you’re not scared to be different.” Mark’s video featured members of the Manassas City Police Department.

Mark Johnson had the idea, in light of current happenings in other areas of the country, to show a positive relationship between the Manassas City Police Department and a City resident. His video shows him coming into MCPD Roll Call and encouraging the officers about to go out in the field.

Mark went to Osbourn High School in the City of Manassas. After a rocky start, including being expelled from school, Mark went back to Osbourn to finish high school with an advanced diploma. When asked why he chose the Manassas City Police Department to feature in his video, Mark said he remembered the great conversations he had in high school with Officer Cahill and he used that contact to make the video happen. 

On Dec. 12, while attending the Manassas City Police Department holiday luncheon, Mark received a phone call from Reach Records saying he had won the national video contest and had won a trip to New York City to accompany Lecrae Moore to a Brooklyn Nets game.

“We are honored that Mark chose the MCPD to feature in his video,” said Chief Doug Keen from the Manassas City Police Department. “Mark Johnson’s video sheds a positive light on relationships with police officers and those relationships are something we want to promote in the City of Manassas. We congratulate Mark on his award winning video.”

Johnson traveled to New York City in December.

The preceding promoted post was written by the City of Manassas.

News
Candland seeks reelection for Prince William’s Gainesville seat, not Chairman

Peter Candland will seek reelection as the Gainesville District Supervisor on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. He won’t run for the At-large Chairman of the Board position as once thought held by Corey Stewart, who is seeking reelection.

Candland’s decision comes as all of the seats on the Board of Supervisors are up for reelection in 2015. Voters will go to the polls in November.

“It has been gratifying to receive the outpouring of support by so many citizens across the County encouraging me to run for Chairman of the Board. I believe it’s an affirmation of the work that I have done so far to restrain the growth in county spending, reduce taxes to provide relief for families, increase transparency on the Board, and to work to improve the quality of life for every family in Prince William County,” Candland penned in statement to press.

The Republican came charging onto the Board of Supervisors after he was elected in 2011. He’s branded himself as a tax-cutting conservative who’s looking to rope in what he says is excessive spending within the halls of Prince William County Government. He’s currently taking county officials, as well as members of his own Board to task over the December 2013 decision to spend $12 million to bury power lines on Route 1 in Woodbridge in conjunction with a project to widen the road to six lanes.

Candland crafted a resolution to rescind the funds for the project, and the Board is expected to vote on the measure Tuesday.

The Republican has also vowed to endorse other candidates in other races whom he believes would best do the job.

“While I will be running for re-election to represent the citizens of the Gainesville District, I will be working across the county to elect good candidates to serve on the Board of County Supervisors to build that coalition that is so desperately needed to protect and preserve the future of Prince William County. I will be endorsing and actively campaigning for candidates in races, even if it means against a sitting Supervisor,” stated Candland.

Candland lives in Gainesville with his wife and four children. He is the executive vice president at Quality Business Engineering in Haymarket. The firm occupies the former PACE West school.

Picture your art here to win

Winning artwork to be featured on light poles in Manassas

Have you seen the banners that hang on the light poles in the Historic Downtown area of the City of Manassas and in other cities? If you are an artist or aspiring to be one, the art you create could be hanging on one of those light poles.

Historic Manassas, Inc. and the City of Manassas have launched an art contest to fill the banners in Historic Downtown with original pieces of art. The contest will be juried so that one artist will be awarded a grand prize of $1,000 and there will also be “people’s choice award” of $500. The contest deadline has been extended to Feb. 1, 2015.

This contest is part of an effort to promote art and tourism in the City of Manassas. The winning 50 pieces will be featured on the light pole banners and in a walking tour brochure that includes information on the piece and the artist. Information about the contest can be found at visitmanassas.org/banner-art-project.

The preceding promoted post was written by the City of Manassas.

City of Manassas Citizen Satisfaction Survey results are in

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Manassas ranks above average in 8 Citizen Satisfaction categories surveyed

In a survey conducted by one of the nation’s leading community-based market research firms, results showed that citizen satisfaction in the City of Manassas is significantly above national and regional benchmarks in a number of service areas. Overall, three categories stood out: the overall quality of citizen services provided; the overall quality of water and sewer utilities; and the effectiveness of communication with the public.

Categories where the City of Manassas scored significantly higher than the national and regional benchmarks include:

  • Maintenance of streets
  • Sidewalks and infrastructure
  • How safe residents feel in their neighborhood at night, in commercial/business areas of the City and in City parks
  • Maintenance of neighborhood streets
  • Cleanliness of City streets
  • Access to information about City services
  • Opportunities to participate in local government 
  • Satisfaction with residential garbage collection and residential curbside recycling

The percentage of residents satisfied with customer service is 15 percent higher than the national average. Survey participants responded more than 20 percent above the national average when asked how satisfied they were with customer service in regards to response time and customer service experience.

“Having worked with City staff for the last year, I know how our dedicated staff goes above and beyond to provide services to the community,” said City Manager W. Patrick Pate. “I am extremely proud that resident opinions show that City of Manassas staff are significantly above the nation in customer service.”

City Council and staff are pleased with the results, not only because they highlight what the City is doing right, but because the survey shows what priorities the community has in coming years. Major services that were recommended as top priorities for investment over the next few years include: overall flow of traffic and ease of getting around; overall quality of public education; and overall quality of economic development.

ETC Institute used a random sample of households within the City of Manassas for this survey. They had a goal of 400 completed surveys being returned to provide this data and received 405 surveys from all areas of the City of Manassas. To read the survey results presented by ETC Institute, visit manassascity.org/CSS.

The preceding promoted post was written by the City of Manassas.

News
Lawson wins Brentsville seat, headed to Prince William Board of Supervisors

Campaign supporters surround Brentsville Supervisor-elect Jeanine Lawson at a campaign victory party in Gainesville. [Submitted]

Campaign supporters surround Brentsville Supervisor-elect Jeanine Lawson at a campaign victory party in Gainesville. [Submitted]

Lawson successfully linked over development with overcrowding in county schools  

Jeanine Lawson won her bid to be the next supervisor in Prince William County’s hotly contested Brentsville District.

Lawson will replace former supervisor turned county judge Wally S. Covington after a grueling 9-month campaign in the district.

Lawson ran a campaign promising to limit growth in Prince William County’s most rural district. She successfully linked overdevelopment to the continual overcrowding issues facing the county’s public schools.

She ran against Republican turned independent Scott Jacobs and Democrat Eric Young. Election results were posted to the Prince William County website.

Lawson will head to the Board of Supervisors when they meet next at their first meeting of the New Year on Jan. 6.

She won’t be comfortable in her seat for long. Lawson was elected to complete the remainder of Covington’s term which expires in November. She’ll have to go once again into campaign mode in 2015 if she wants to keep the seat.

For voters in the district Tuesday, it came down to streetlight issues.

Muhammad Khan, of Gainesville, has watched more and more houses popup in the area and has seen a greater influx of Muslims like himself move into the Brentsville District. Now, he said it’s time to build a place for them to worship.

“The Muslims need to see a mosque built in this area,” said Khan, who cast his vote for Scott Jacobs. “The Muslim population is growing. Not as much as it is in Fairfax County, but it is growing in Prince William.”

A neighborhood meeting addressed the building a mosque in Nokesville in August. Residents were concerned the mosque would bring additional traffic to the rural crescent portion of the county.

The thought of more development in the Brentsville District also weighted heavily on some voters’ minds. The controversial Stone Haven development project would put more homes on land located between Linton Hall and Wellington roads if approved next month by the Board of Supervisors.

“It seems the county does a good job building new schools, but as soon as they do the schools fill to capacity with students,” said Dan Grinnell, of Gainesville, a Lawson voter. “We need a better mix of residential and business development, and these local elections can make a big difference.”

Samantha Fulda also voted for Lawson. She likes the a campaign promise Lawson made to limit growth in the area.

“I’ve got one in school now and one about enter. My son’s lunch periods end late and many of the students are in trailers for classrooms,” said Fulda.

Scott Jacobs developed a reputation as the “developers” candidate. Outside his old stomping grounds at Brentsville District High School, he was also known as the land rights candidate.

Kevin, who did not give his last name, said many who live on land in the district that is or was once used for farming have difficulties selling their properties at market value due to historic preservation efforts by the county.

“We need complete property rights, and we should have the right to sell our property and move somewhere else if that is what we want to do,” said Kevin.

News
Will Prince William Chamber’s new button campaign work to build pride, awareness?

i belongIf you’re a member of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce, they you want to tell the world.

As part of the organization’s continuing effort to rebrand itself as a business-focused, community-minded organization, the chamber adopted a new advertising campaign.

The “I belong” campaign invites chamber members to wear a button with the “I belong” slogan printed on them. The Manassas-based organization also encourages its members to post photos of themselves wearing the badge to Twitter using a #pwchamber hashtag. The chamber will also award prizes twice a month for the most creative posts on Twitter using the #pwchamber tag.

“Show your Chamber pride and gain visibility and recognition from January 1 – May 31, 2015,” stated an email to chamber members. Potomac Local is a member of the chamber, so we got the email, too.

This is an advertising campaign that appears to rely heavily upon social media. Many companies, especially small businesses, tend to go to social media first because of the low barrier to entry cost.

But does it work?

“The jury is largely still out,” said Katherine Carlson, managing director of Pulsar Advertising in Washington, D.C. “Going to social is not only cheaper, but it’s easy, fast.”

Carlson’s firm just won the bid to handle marketing efforts for Virginia Railway Express and has worked with other clients like Amtrak and Virginia Megaprojects’ 495 Express Lanes.

With so many ways to send and receive messages, and so many ways on the web for users to be marketed to, having a consistent message is vital.

“With the proliferation with media and messages available to anyone, branding is more important now than it was before social media,” said Carlson.

If the right audience sees the chamber’s message, recognizes its value and adopts it as its own, the “I belong” campaign could be on its way to success.

“Think of it as a Good Housekeeping seal. It’s just another moniker to say we’re apart of this community in a real way, and we’re not just here to make money off of you,” said Carlson.

The Prince William Chamber formed in 2010 with the merger of the Greater Manassas – Prince William Chamber of Commerce and the Region’s Chamber based in Woodbridge. With the February exit of former CEO Rob Clapper, Debbie Jones was promoted from within to President and CEO.

News
Expect freezing rain today

Drivers and pedestrians should be on the look out for freezing rain today.

The National Weather Service issued a freezing rain advisory for our area. It will remain in effect until 6 p.m.

Here’s the details:

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON HASISSUED A FREEZING RAIN ADVISORY…WHICH IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 6 PMEST THIS EVENING. 

* PRECIPITATION TYPE…FREEZING RAIN. PRECIPITATION MAY START OFF  AS SLEET AT THE ONSET. 

* ACCUMULATIONS…A TRACE OF ICE ACCUMULATION…ESPECIALLY ON  ELEVATED SURFACES. 

* TIMING…DEVELOPING BETWEEN 9 AM AND 11 AM THIS MORNING AND  CONTINUING THROUGH THE DAY. PRECIPITATION WILL CHANGE TO RAIN BY  EARLY THIS EVENING. 

* TEMPERATURES…LOWER 30S THIS MORNING SLOWLY RISING INTO THE  MIDDLE 30S BY EARLY THIS EVENING. 

* WINDS…NORTHEAST 5 TO 10 MPH. 

* IMPACTS…ELEVATED SURFACES MAY BECOME SLIPPERY…WHICH WILL  RESULT IN HAZARDOUS CONDITIONS. 

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… A FREEZING RAIN ADVISORY MEANS THAT PERIODS OF FREEZING RAIN ORFREEZING DRIZZLE WILL CAUSE TRAVEL DIFFICULTIES. BE PREPARED FORSLIPPERY ROADS. SLOW DOWN AND USE CAUTION WHILE DRIVING.

It’s important to note freezing rain is rain that freezes on contact with a cold surface. Sleet is icy pellets that fall from the sky, and sleet is not in today’s forecast.

News
Would evening meetings equal more interaction with Prince William Board?

The Prince William County Board of Supervisors is about to set their meeting schedule for 2015.

The Board currently meets at 2 p.m. Tuesdays and tackles the business of running the county government. Whether making decisions about what gets built where, what road improvements are needed, or what the property tax rate should be – the county’s main source of revenue — these and many other items are all decided at the regular meetings.

The Board has the option of holding a Tuesday evening session beginning at 7:30 p.m. It usually does in light of a public hearing or if the business of the day couldn’t have been taken care of during the afternoon session.

Some, like Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland, unsuccessfully argued earlier this year that the Board should only hold votes during evening sessions when more people can attend the meetings or can watch them on TV or online. Night meetings would also promote more civic engagement, and it would allow more people to attend the after hours sessions, said Candland.

Potomac Local emailed each member of the Board of Supervisors asking why the meetings are held on Tuesdays. Coles District Supervisor Marty Nohe responded.

“The times for the meetings predate my time on the Board, so I cannot say why those times were chosen.  I suspect that, like so many things, the time was chosen because it felt right at the time, and it never changed because there was never a compelling reason to change,” stated Nohe.

Several counties comparable in size to Prince William, like Loudoun County, Fairfax County, and Henrico County outside Richmond, all have different meeting schedules and times. Loudoun’s Board of Supervisors meets the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month. Fairfax starts their meetings at 9 a.m. on Wednesdays and meets all day long. Henrico holds only evening sessions starting at 7 p.m.

“I think everyone is pretty sensitive to the fact that we have a working population, at the same time we can’t put off all of the county business until the evening because the amount of business that needs to be covered, it would put the supervisors there into the very late hours of the night,” said Virginia Association of Counties spokesman James Campbell.

Officials know that not everyone can attend the Board of Supervisors meetings. In Loudoun County, the Board uses an e-commenting system that allows residents to submit their comments to the Board using technology.  The audio and video comments used are played for the members of the Board.

“The only issue we had with public comment was with e-comment: a system the prior board established to allow senior citizens to video or audio comments to the Board.  It was killed for a year, and then I initiated re-establishing it in 2013, but we do not play the comments live at the Board meeting.  This way Board members can review these videos and audios at their own time,” stated Loudoun County Leesburg District Supervisor Ken Reid in an email to Potomac Local.

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors allows public comment on issues during the 6 p.m. sessions. Due to multiple requests from senior citizens, the Board now allows seniors to be heard during the earlier 4 p.m. session.

No one has complained to Reid about the time and date of the Loudoun meetings, he added.

The Prince William County Board of Supervisors will set their schedule at the first meeting of the New Year on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. The meeting begins at 2 p.m.

Traffic
John Jenkins will have a locomotive named after him

All aboard the John Jenkins Express.

Jenkins, the longest currently serving Prince William County Board of Supervisors, is recognized for his participation on the Virginia Railway Express Operations Board. He and eight other VRE Board members who played key roles in the development of the commuter railroad since its founding in 1992 will have their names affixed to the front of VRE locomotives.

Here’s a full list of names that will soon appear on commuter trains:

  • Edwin King – Prince William County (Original Member)
  • James Hugh Payne Sr. – City of Manassas (First Elected City of Manassas Member)
  • Bernard Cohen – VA House of Delegates (Original Member)
  • Bob Gibbons – Stafford County (First Elected Stafford Member)
  • Sally H. Cooper – VDOT (Original Member)
  • Sharon Bulova – Fairfax County (Original and Continuously Serving Member)
  • John Jenkins – Prince William County (Long Serving Member)
  • Hilda Barg – Prince William County (Long Serving Member)
  • Elaine McConnell – Fairfax County (Long Serving Member – previously recognized)

The operations board approved adding the names to the locomotives at their monthly meeting this morning.

“Naming locomotives to honor those who helped establish or ensure the success of VRE is a small token of the appreciation we have for the foresight and public service these Board Members have provided in creating VRE,” said  VRE Operations Board Chairman Paul Milde in a press release.

The names that will be affixed to the locomotives belong to those who “played a key role in establishing VRE service, were early or long-tenured members, or whose extraordinary efforts contributed to its success, will be honored by having their names placed on the front of VRE locomotives.”

Virginia Railway Express trains carried more than 320,000 riders in November. Over the past year, the commuter railroad carried 2 million riders.

News
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.”

News
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.

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No VRE service Dec. 26

Virginia Railway Express will not operate service the day after Christmas.

Federal workers were granted leave for that day.

The commuter railroad issued the following statement about their adjusted holiday schedule:

December 24, 2014 – “S” Schedule

December 25, 2014 – No VRE service in observance of Christmas

December 26, 2014 – No VRE service

December 29-31, 2014 – “S” Schedule

January 1, 2015 – No VRE service in observance of New Year’s Day

January 2, 2015 – “S” Schedule

January 19, 2014 – No VRE service in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

“No VRE service” is easy enough to figure out but if you are new to our service, we operate an “S” Schedule on certain days. The only trains that will operate on those days are those that are marked with as “S” next to its train number on the schedule. (We also implement this reduced schedule when inclement weather warrants it.) 

News
Gas leak closes Buffalo Wild Wings in Gainesville

A Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant closed this morning at 11:20.

A gas leak was reported at the restaurant in Gainesville, according to a woman who answered the phone

Fire and rescue crews were spotted outside the building shortly after the restaurant closed.

Those who work at the restaurant did not know how long it would take crews to repair the gas leak, or when the eatery would reopen for business. 

No injuries have been reported. 

News
Jacobs served with GOP chairman long before being tossed out

Scott Jacobs [Photo: Mary Davidson]

Scott Jacobs [Photo: Mary Davidson]

Scott Jacobs is no longer a member of the Prince William County Republican Committee.

The group dropped him from their member list on Tuesday prior to debate featuring Jacobs and two other candidates hoping to fill the position of Brentsville District Supervisor.

Jeanine Lawson is the official Republican candidate in the race, unanimously chosen to run for the seat at a mass meeting of Republicans earlier this fall. Jacobs failed to meet proper filing deadlines imposed by the committee and was not able to seek the nomination of the party.

Prince William Republican Committee Chairman Bill Card on Thursday described Jacobs as a man who wasn’t active in the county Republican committee prior to his campaign, and as someone who was seeking to take advantage of Republican branding.

Here’s a portion of the story that appeared on Bristow Beat:

…Chairman Bill Card defended the committee’s decision when speaking with Bristow Beat Thursday. He said the decision was appropriate because Jacobs, “violated our trust, and he violated the letter and the spirit of the agreement in which he joined us.”

Card said that although Jacobs lived in Brentsville almost his entire life, he only joined the Prince William Republican Committee this year.

“I didn’t even know Scott Jacobs until January. He came to us seeking our brand. He came to us because he wanted an R by his name,” Card said.

In addition to not meeting the application deadline, Card said the committee was concerned with some of Jacob’s other behaviors such as posting campaign signs before the election board sanctioned such forms of political campaigning.

And, while Jacobs said he embodies Republican ideals, Card disagrees.

“We believe in following our word, and keeping our word, and being honest and upfront with everyone,” Card said.

Documents on file with Prince William County Government state both Card and Jacobs served on the 2012 committee that formulated the county’s strategic plan to guide the community over the next five years in areas like economic development, public safety, and transportation. Those committee meetings took place more than a year before January 2014, the time Card told a reporter he had first met Jacobs.

When asked about his participation in the strategic plan meetings, Card emailed the following statement to Potomac Local:

I went to the initial meeting and one other meeting of that committee.  They determined to hold the meetings on Monday evenings.  Our Monthly Prince William County Republican Committee meetings are generally held on the fourth Monday of each Month and my Executive Committee Meetings (of the Prince William County Republican Committee) are held on Monday evenings as well. 

After missing so many of the initial meetings when I did return for one I found that I was hopelessly behind, and I didn’t return.   

If I did meet Jacobs, he didn’t make an impression as I don’t recall.

Jacobs said he sat beside Card at the very first strategic planning committee meeting, and he corroborated the claim that Card missed some meetings.

“We did meet one another there, and he was there for more than one meeting,” said Jacobs.

The Republicans issued a statement to the press Tuesday about Jacobs’s removal from the GOP committee. While he continues to run as an independent, Jacobs said he remains a deeply rooted conservative.

The committee took issue when an audio recording surfaced of a campaign worker making a phone call to a voter in who lives in the district and described Jacobs as a Republican. It was the impetus for his removal from the group.

“This is a company that our campaign called and hired to make phone calls for us,” said Jacobs. “I listened to the phone calls on couple different occasions, they say I’m a Republican, and I am. “We certainly asked [the hired company] to clearly state that I am an independent candidate.”

Voters will go to the polls to decide on who the next Brentsville District Supervisor will be during a Special Election Dec. 23.

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Brentsville candidates differ on Bi-County Parkway, oppose Metro expansion

brentsvillecandidatedebateVirginia Railway Express extension, commuter bus expansion popular 

Metro to western Prince William County doesn’t appear to be a popular idea.

The three candidates seeking to be the next Brentsville District Supervisor said bringing the heavy commuter rail service west from Vienna is a non-starter.

“I don’t know why we’re talking about metro; It’s not in the strategic plan so I don’t think it’s a good use of time to even talk about it,” said Eric Young, a Democrat.

His Republican opponent Jeanine Lawson agreed.

““I do not want metro to Prince William County,’ said Lawson to an applauding audience. “We have better transportation solutions than Metro.”

A better idea is to expand Virginia Railway Express service to Gainesville, as well as increase the number of commuter buses on Interstate 66, the candidates said.

“If we can put more buses on the road, that is a great solution before extending VRE to Gainesville,” said Scott Jacobs, an independent.

All three candidates spoke about improving transportation in western Prince William at Tuesday night’s Brentsville District Candidates Debate, organized by this news organization in partnership with Bristow Beat. Each seeks a seat on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors vacated by Wally Covington, who is now a county judge.

The Bi-County Parkway, a skeleton of a hotly-debated road project in 2013 that would link Interstate 95 in Dumfries to Dulles Airport via Manassas, was once again a part of the discussion.

“Brining high paying jobs to district, if we’re really going to make that happen, we need to provide thoroughfares that don’t exist,” said Jacobs, who called the parkway a “value proposition and said businesses outside Prince William are watching and waiting to see if the highway will be built before deciding to relocate to Prince William.

The highway as it’s proposed would use the existing roadway of Route 234 from where it begins I-95 and ends at I-66. The road would be extended through a portion of Manassas National Battlefield Park, and also would connect drivers to Dulles Airport.

Lawson called the proposed highway a “developers road” and said there “is no study to prove the Bi-County Parkway would bring economic development.”

Lawson said a better use of regional transportation dollars would be to improve the interchange at I-66 and Route 28 in Centreville.

“Study after study does show the congestion is still east-west. If you fix that Route 28 interchange on the curve, that will alleviate a lot of the north-south traffic on Route 28,” said Lawson.

There are plans to add two new express toll lanes in each direction on I-66 similar to what will open on I-95 in Fairfax, Prince William, and Stafford counties next week. The plan also includes express bus service.

Young claims traffic at Dulles Airport is diminishing, however, does say the airport is important to the region’s economic growth.

“If we want Dulles Airport to be a part of our economic growth engine we’ve got to tie in somewhere…soon,” said Young.

Voters who live in Prince William County’s Brentsivlle District will head to the polls Dec. 23 for a Speical Election to decide who will win the open seat. Click here for more information about the election, if you are eligible to vote, and where to vote.

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Brentsville candidates differ on development, want larger businesses in Prince William

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Brentsville District Board of Supervisors candidates debate

The candidates differentiated themselves early on the in the debate. However, on the issue of broadening Prince William County’s light commercial tax base, it was easy to see how much all three agreed.

brentsvillecandidatedebateJeanine Lawson, Eric Young, and Scott Jacobs submitted to questioning Tuesday night at the first and only scheduled Brentsville District Candidates Debate organized by this news organization, in partnership with Bristow Beat, and hosted at Linton Hall School

Voters who live in the district will head to the polls Dec. 23 for a special election to choose a new county supervisor following former supervisor Wally Covington’s resignation from the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.

Development 

Young, a Democrat and political newcomer, said he had not and will not accept any money from commercial or home developers. Many blame developers for overcrowded classrooms and clogged roadways.

“I don’t work for them,” said Young.

Jacobs, an independent, disagreed, and has accepted money from real estate developers.

“The developers are the real risk takers in the community. I don’t know why everybody frowns on that. Just because you take a contribution from someone in the development issue doesn’t mean that you’re their patsy,” said Jacobs.

The Republican Lawson said she accepted campaign donations from two developers. If elected, she said she would work to roll back developers’ influence in local government.

“The developers are not these evil people – they’re business people. They deserve a seat at the table in the dialogue of development, but they certainly don’t deserve to be the chair at the table of discussion, and that where they’ve been,” said Lawson.

Schools

Prince William County has the largest number of students per classroom in the Washington, D.C. region. Packing so many students into one room inhibits learning, said Young.

Lawson placed blame on developers for overcrowded schools.

“The overzealous development has created the crowding problem in our schools. We need more managed growth and to stop rubber-stamping all development that comes down the road,” she said.

Jacobs said paying teachers a higher salary is the most effective tool to not only decrease class sizes, but to attract and retain high-quality educators to the region.

‘Economic development is not working’

Where the candidates had their differences, all agreed the county needs to attract more large commercial businesses. The place for them, all agreed, is the Innovation Business Park in the Brentsville District.

“Economic development is important, but what we’ve been doing to attract new business in the targeted industries…it’s not working,” said Young. “We’re going after businesses that don’t want to be here because we don’t have a value proposition for them.”

Jacobs called for more involvement from the Board of Supervisors in the county’s office of economic development.

“We need to out there an incentive these large businesses… we need somebody that can get in there and get these business centers on the right side of the fence and deal make with these folks,” said Jacobs.

Prince William has been largely successful in luring retail businesses, including a new Cabelas store that is slated to open soon in Gainesville.

“Retail growth is not going to pay the mortgage bills. It’s not going to get you off 66. We’ve got make better efforts for high-paying job growth in the Innovation Business Park,” said Lawson.

The polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 23. Click here to get more information to see if you are eligible to vote in this Special Election and where your polling place is located.

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