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The Prince William K-9 Unit: Ready at a moment’s notice

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1st Sgt. Michael Blake and K-9 partner Luke make a great team. Blake has been with the Prince William Police Department for almost twenty years. Luke is a German shepherd rookie – he will only be two in March. But Blake has already said when it’s time, he wants to retire with Luke.

The Journey and Training Begin

The Prince William County Police Department doesn’t buy dogs like Luke at the local pet store. They bring these intelligent animals from the Netherlands, Slovakia, Czech Republic and parts of Eastern and Western Europe. The male dogs bought from this region are worth the $7,000 price tag because there is less chance of them having inherited conditions like hip dysplasia. Since German Shepherds are active dogs, a condition like hip dysplasia could limit their mobility early in life.

The dogs have an average lifespan of ten to twelve years. This means that K-9 German Shepherds are career dogs because they typically work until they are nine to ten years old unless they get hurt.

Dogs that work in the K-9 unit undergo training to go out “on the job.” Luke completed fourteen weeks of full-time training to graduate to support the patrol officers. Luke continues to attend reinforcement training two days per month.”

Home Life

K-9 officers get to bunk with their handlers. The dogs do best if they are integrated with the family, Blake said, so Luke lives at home with Blake and his family. Blake and Luke bond over playing in the backyard, and tummy rubs. But when it’s time to work, Luke can be at attention and sprint off in a matter of seconds.

“The bond you create with these guys is incredible,” Blake said. “We’re inseparable at home.”

Luke loves to play with his toys. His favorite toy is a “Kong,” a kind of rubber ball. “He’ll do anything and everything for that ball,” said Blake, “but he has to do what I ask him to do first.”

In this way, Luke learns discipline in both work and play.

On the Job Experience

On and off the job, Luke follows verbal commands like “heel.” He also follows hand signals to sit and stay.

But a police K-9 isn’t there to do tricks. Police dogs are trained to sniff out different things. Luke supports the Patrol Unit by sniffing out the human scent to help locate suspects and items a suspect might have touched. And when it comes to apprehending a suspect, dogs like Luke are taught to bite.

Like most police dogs, Luke is trained on a “bite sleeve,” a special padded sleeve that protects an officer’s arm during training. During the interview, Luke demonstrated some of his bite sleeve skills.

Sgt. Heath Oyler volunteered to wear a bite sleeve. Luke first started on a lead when he lunged and bit onto the sleeve. After he was let off the lead, he sprinted towards Oyler, bit the sleeve hard and would not let go. Blake encouraged Luke, saying, “Hold him, buddy!”

Then Oyler let the sleeve slip off while Luke held on to it. When the dogs bite, they bite to hold, not to tear, Blake said.

In another practice drill, a credit card was thrown into the field at the Manassas Western District Station, and Luke ran around the field, sniffing and hunting. When he found the card, he didn’t pick it up in his mouth – he laid down next to it, waiting for Blake.

Even though Luke must stay alert, be prepared and ready to go, Blake said the department is only allowed to use dogs in certain circumstances.

When they do, they must announce to the suspect that they are releasing the dog. They give the warning in English and Spanish. Blake said most suspects are smart enough to stop and put their hands in the air once they know the dog has been released.

A Popular Unit

The K-9 Unit is often coveted by recruits eager to work with the dogs. However, not all on the waiting list will be eligible for the position. First, officers must serve two to three years in the Patrol Unit before applying.

Then, they must pass a specific agility test. Those with tactical experience are preferred. They must also live in the county in order to be ready at a moment’s notice.

The greater lead time a suspect has to get away, the harder it is for the dogs to find the suspect’s scent or items the suspect has left behind, so K-9 Unit officers must be local.

See more about the Prince William Police Department K-9 unit.

Read about last year’s K-9 graduates.

For more information and to apply online, go to joinpwcpd.org

Read more from our series

Prince William County Police detectives chosen to work for a higher cause

Prince William on patrol: ‘This Job is About Integrity’

Prince William County Police Digital Forensics team puts heart, soul, and mind into solving cases

How a love for animals and a vet degree spawned a career as a Prince William County Police officer

 



Historic Manassas reveals new logo

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Featured photos in slideshow: New logo, old logo

Over the last year, Historic Manassas, Inc. (HMI) has worked endlessly on their rebranding efforts and are excited to announce the release of their new logo. The new logo features a streetscape of Main Street as well as the welcoming historic water tower. To represent Historic Manassas’ close partnership with the City, their new tag line ‘Historic Heart. Modern Beat.’ was also incorporated into the logo.

Patrick King, CEO of Imagine, worked to create the perfect logo.

“We are humbled to be a part of this rebrand, excited that Manassas is undergoing a wonderful amount of growth and change, while still staying true to its history. We felt it was fitting to create a logo that married a vibrant energy to its beautiful architecture, and we are very proud of the result,” said King.

HMI began their rebranding efforts within the community by creating a survey last spring to determine who the community thought HMI was. The former logo, the downtown train depot, gave many the impression that HMI was just those who ran the train station or a committee involved with the museum and historic preservation within the City. Very few realized the involvement HMI has in the community including the numerous events that take over the streets of downtown each year.

Historic Manassas, Inc. was formed to promote a positive image of Historic Downtown Manassas and to perpetuate its revitalization. HMI feels this new logo helps to push forth its mission statement to engage the community in promotion, preservation, and enhancement of our vibrant Historic Downtown. Those interested in learning more about HMI’s four committees can find information here on their website.

Keep an eye out for the new logo and be sure to check out all of the events coming up in downtown. Next up is First Friday – March Madness on March 3!

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More than 1,000 high school students expected to Battlefield HS robotics tournament

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From First Chesapeake: 

“More than 1,000 high school students will converge on Battlefield High School to test their teamwork and ingenuity during the FIRST Chesapeake District Northern Virginia Competition Sponsored by Bechtel on March 4-5.  This competition will bring together some of the best and brightest robotics teams from Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

Free and open to the public 9am-6pm both days. Battlefield High School, 15000 Graduation Drive, Haymarket, VA 20169 FIRST Robotics Competition teams from Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia will face off

Forty FIRST Robotics Competition teams from Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia will face off at the FIRST Chesapeake District Northern Virginia Competition Sponsored by Bechtel. This is just one of seven district qualifying competitions hosted by FIRST Chesapeake, culminating in the FIRST Chesapeake District Championship Sponsored by Booz Allen Hamilton, April 7-8 at the Stuart C. Siegel Center at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. In

In addition to watching high school teams compete at this event, families are encouraged to the visit the FIRST LEGO League Jr. in Washington, DC and Virginia Expo on Saturday, March 5, from 10am-1pm, to see how some of our youngest future technology leaders are solving real world problems.”

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Fire crews douse fires in Gainesville, Dale City over weekend

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From Prince William fire and rescue: 

On Sunday, February 12th at 7:45 p.m., fire and rescue units were dispatched to a structure fire located at Sams Junk Yard in the 14500 block of Lee Highway in Gainesville.

Upon arrival, firefighters observed a mobile home fully involved. Fire and rescue crews initiated attack and extinguishment of the fire.

No injuries reported.

A Building Official has posted the trailer unsafe.

According to the Fire Marshal’s Office, preliminary damages are estimated at $25,000, a total loss.

The fire is currently under investigation by the Fire Marshal’s Office.

(more…)

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Cook in Tuscany, of Haymarket, donates culinary tours

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Submitted: 

Cook in Tuscany, of Haymarket, Va. donated two Tuscan culinary tours for the Comfort Cases, based in Silver Spring, Md. The live and silent auctions offered several trips and luxury packages. 

The winners of the Cook in Tuscany culinary tours will be able treat themselves in the Tuscan lifestyle and discover the region’s passion for food and fun. The tour provides daily cooking lessons from local “Nonnas”, first class accommodations in the medieval hill-top village of Montefollonico, visits to regional wineries and cheese makers, tours of local and historic sites and many recreational activities. (more…)

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School closings and delays for Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017

Here’s today’s OPM status. 

 

The Twitter list below will show closings, delays, and updates from Prince William County Public Schools, Stafford County Public Schools, Manassas City Public Schools, Manassas Park City Public Schools, Northern Virginia Community College, Germanna Community College, George Mason University, Mary Washington University. 

This Twitter list below will show closings, delays, and updates posted by local governments in Prince William County, Stafford County, Manassas City, Manassas Park, Dumfries Town, Haymarket Town, Quantico Marine Corps Base, Fort Belvoir. 

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Found photos illustrate Prince William County’s past

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Photos by Ed Stallknecht

Pictured: NOVA Woodbridge Campus, Gordon Plaza at Route 123 and Horner Road in Woodbridge, Manassas Train Station in Old Town Manassas, Pilot House restaurant on Neabsco Creek (destroyed by Hurricane Isabel in 2003), the old Holiday Inn in Dumfries.

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Last fall, we saw some images of Prince William County taken more than 40 years ago appeared on Facebook. 

We wondered who took them, and how the photos wound up on social media so many years later.

Today, we have that story. 

From Historic Prince William President David Cuff: 

After a career in the Marines, Edward S. Stallknecht became a realtor based in Dumfries in the late 1960s through the mid-1980s. Ed learned to fly while in the Marines and would rent airplanes from the Flying Club based at Quantico.

Besides just a love of flying, Ed used the flights to take pictures of the fast changing landscape below. He used the images in a slideshow presentation he would give to other realtors, associations, and clients looking for large tracts of land to develop.

I serve as the current president of Historic Prince William, and on a warm afternoon last May, I noticed an aerial image on the wall of Aden Grocery while getting a drink and e BLT sandwich. The image was an aerial photo of the store taken in 1972 and was signed “Ed Stallknecht, Flying Realtor.” Intrigued, I searched the internet for more information.

(more…)

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‘The occupants…heard a sparking noise from the kitchen’

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From Prince William fire and rescue: 

On Monday, February 6 th , at 2:48 a.m., fire and rescue units were dispatched to vehicle fire located in the 14200 block of Gardner Manor in Gainesville. Upon arrival, firefighters were informed all occupants were safely out of the RV. As fire and rescue crews made entry, they observed fire in the subfloor of the trailer that had extended to an interior bathroom. Firefighters initiated fire attack and extinguished the fire. No injuries reported.

The occupants, home at the time of the fire, heard a sparking noise from the kitchen and discovered sparks emitting from an outlet in which the refrigerator was plugged. One of the occupants attempted to locate the access point of the fire but was unable to locate and called 911. Red Cross was on scene to assist the family, 2 adults and 1 child, displaced by the fire.


Request for community support in honoring local superheroes

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On March 23 from 2:00-4:30 p.m. the members of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce and Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center, together with the police, fire and rescue communities serving Prince William County and the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, will gather for the 31st Annual Prince William Valor Awards.

The event, which is open to the public, is held annually to recognize the men and women in uniform who go above and beyond the call of duty in keeping our community and its people safe and secure: the local superheroes. For the third year in a row, the event will be held at the Hylton Performing Arts Center, located at 10960 George Mason Circle in Manassas.

“This year we are hoping to fill the auditorium of the Hylton Performing Arts Center with the people of this community who appreciate the sacrifices made by public safety officials,” says Chamber Chairman C.C. Bartholomew, a local realtor and Prince William County Resident. “In a year when the climate on social media and across the country has been charged with fear and uncertainty, the Prince William region has been blessed to be served by forward-thinking and fair-minded public servants who also put their lives on the line in ways that we almost never hear about. Our Valor Awards shine the light on these brave and selfless individuals. I am asking that if you are at all able to attend the 2017 event, that you would strongly consider buying a ticket and joining us to show your appreciation.”

What should you expect when you attend the Valor Awards event?

(more…)

News
Prince William gains 596 new jobs from economic development projects

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The Prince William County Department of Economic Development today announced it logged $1.3 billion capital investment, added 596 new jobs and retained 80 existing jobs from 23 economic development projects in 2016.

From an agency press release: 

The 23 projects consisted of 18 new business attractions, 3 expansions of existing businesses and 2 business retentions. The projects spanned a range of industries (information technology, life sciences, data centers, distribution, recreation, federal contracting and manufacturing) – representative of the diversity of the underlying Prince William County economy.  Of the 596 new jobs to be created from these projects, approximately 70% will be in industry sectors targeted by the County.

In the last five calendar years [2012-2016], projects closed by the Prince William County Department of Economic Development alone intend to invest a record of nearly $4.0 billion and create approximately 2,600 new jobs

(more…)

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VDOT’s take on the new Haymarket DDI at I-66

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Photo by VDOT Northern Virginia

From VDOT spokeswoman Ellen Kamilakis:

I’ve loved working on this project because it has so many up sides. Safer, faster, cheaper! We knew we would have to fight the misconceptions of it being dangerous, and how people wouldn’t understand, but so far they have. Since it is not completely done (still need to open third lane, finish multi-use path, overhead signs, mast arm signals, concrete islands) it’s hard for people to conceptualize the finished product. I for one didn’t grasp that I was on temporary pavement, and when it was complete in the spring, the intersection lines would be longer and leaner that what is there now.

I have followed the news articles and read the comments (looking for misconceptions that I can address), and all we have left are people that claim, despite all of the studies, that this will somehow be a dangerous intersection. The only thing to refute that is time, so we watch and wait.

I found this to be an interesting exchange on Twitter: https://twitter.com/VaDOTNOVA/status/82552774911269274

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Prince William strategic plan: ‘Does it reflect the needs and wants of our citizens?’

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Submitted: 
 
For 25 years, Prince William County has produced a citizen-driven Strategic Plan, aimed at guiding the course of our budget and local legislation.  
 
The Board of Supervisors determines the issues important to our community’s success, then appoints two citizen volunteers per supervisor to study those issues.  
 
For the better part of 2016, the Strategic Plan Team explored and studied five topics: Transportation, Economic Development, Human Services, Education & Public Safety.
 
The result? The 2017-2020 Strategic Plan, unanimously adopted by the Board.  
 
But what does this Plan really do?   (more…)

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A busy day for police at the new Haymarket DDI intersection

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Photo: VDOT Northern Virginia

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HAYMARKET, Va. — The first Diverging Diamond Interchange in Northern Virginia opened Saturday at Route 15 and Interstate 66 in Haymarket.

The interchange is unlike others in the state because it removes the need for drivers to make dangerous left turns across oncoming traffic. It also puts traffic on the opposite side of the street as drivers pass through the interchange. 

The new interchange is quickly becoming the standard in the state with another one planned at Interstate 95 and Courthouse Road in Stafford.

The new street configuration and traffic pattern changes today in Haymarket led to some confusion today, and police want drivers to be aware of the changes.

From Haymarket Chief of Police Kevin Lands: 

Here are some observations the Haymarket Police Department observed and handled during today’s rush hour traffic at the DDI. Any help getting the word out would be helpful. Thanks. 
 
VDOT detail- monitored A.M. rush traffic at the diversion diamond interchange. No crashes to report at this time. However other items of note were observed.
 
1) Incorrect use of the traffic pattern-
Three motorists claimed to be confused while entering or exiting the diamond on the Heathcote side. Two drivers stayed to the right while attempting to travel south on Rt.15 on a northbound portion. They were stopped prior to the I-66 eastbound ramps. Both drivers claimed to be confused and attempted to just stay right. The third driver was traveling north on Rt.15 and attempted to exit the diamond and ended up in the southbound lanes but was then able to correct.

(more…)



Discover the area’s best-kept secret when planning your wedding

Banquet Hall rentals at the Manassas Park Community center include tables and chairs, but renters can also rent their own chairs as Sandara did to better coordinate with her wedding theme

You’ve heard it before: planning a wedding can be expensive. According to  costofwedding.com, the average cost of a wedding is $26,645. Most couples plan to spend less than $10,000 for their big day, but the cost of everything associated with planning weddings adds up – and guess what, this price does NOT include the cost of the honeymoon!

So what money saving tips are out there for couples on a budget? How can they keep costs down and quality high? In other words, are there any corners you can cut while providing a top-notch, well presented, beautiful day for yourselves, your friends, and your families?

“After looking at between 15 and 20 venues, we chose the Manassas Park Community Center (MPCC) Banquet Hall because the price was good,” says newlywed Anna Sandara. “The MPCC Banquet Hall fit into our budget, and although there was a limited amount of reviews on renting the Banquet Hall, we took a chance, and boy am I happy we did,” Sandra exclaimed.

“I really think the Manassas Park Community Center Banquet Hall is the best kept secret in our area,” stated Sandara, “Couples planning a wedding should really check it out because they will be pleasantly surprised just like we were.”

When you rent the MPCC Banquet Hall space, the price also includes access to a caterer’s kitchen and pre-function and patio areas.   (more…)

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School closings and delays for Monday, Jan. 30, 2017

Here’s today’s OPM status. 

School divisions in Prince William and Stafford counties already have modified schedules today. 

Prince William County Public Schools — Teacher Workday today, NO School.

Stafford County Public School — Early release day for all grades /end of semester.

The Twitter list below will show closings, delays, and updates from Prince William County Public Schools, Stafford County Public Schools, Manassas City Public Schools, Manassas Park City Public Schools, Northern Virginia Community College, Germanna Community College, George Mason University, Mary Washington University. 

This Twitter list below will show closings, delays, and updates posted by local governments in Prince William County, Stafford County, Manassas City, Manassas Park, Dumfries Town, Haymarket Town, Quantico Marine Corps Base, Fort Belvoir. 


Souper Bowl is Back in Manassas for a third year

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First Friday is back and it is time for the Third Annual “Souper Bowl!”

On Friday, February 3, from 6 to 9 p.m., merchants in Historic Downtown Manassas will be hosting restaurants and serving up soup. This year, 10 locations will feature soups, ranging from chili to gumbo and more.

Tickets can be purchased for $10 at any participating merchant location and will entitle attendees to unlimited soup samplings. Once you have sampled the wide assortment of soup, you’ll be asked to vote for your favorite to crown the winning restaurant “Souper Bowl Champion.”

Last year, downtown’s newest restaurant, Mariachi’s, took home the crown with their Tortilla Soup. After being open for about a month, they also took home second place with their Spinach and Chorizo soup.

February kicks off the first First Friday of 2017. Souper Bowl is a great kick off for the year and gets the community excited about what is to come for future First Fridays. Street closures for First Friday will begin in April and run through October to allow pedestrian traffic in the streets.

The event is a great way for people to get a little sample of what each restaurant has to offer. A list of participating merchants and restaurants for Souper Bowl can be found at visitmanassas.org. This event will be held rain or shine. Don’t forget to also stop by Ameriprise while on your tasting tour and sign up for a $25 membership with HMI! Memberships entitle cardholders to a discount at your favorite downtown restaurant and shops!

If you are looking for something to do on a First Friday, or any other day of the week, be sure to check out Historic Downtown Manassas – you just may find your new favorite restaurant and shops!

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Haymarket DDI opens this weekend

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From VDOT: 

Northern Virginia’s first Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI) at Interstate 66 and Route 15 will open to traffic Saturday, Jan. 28, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The new [$59 million] DDI alignment is scheduled to open at 9 a.m. Jan. 28. The interchange will be closed overnight for final lane striping the night before beginning at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27. Detour information is available on the project page.

Traffic will shift onto the new bridge, with two out of the three lanes opening Saturday. Work will still continue on the multi-use path, overhead signs, and concrete islands until summer 2017, when the third lane will then open.

The DDI’s innovative design shifts vehicles to the opposite side of the road and eliminates left turns that cross oncoming traffic. Two-phase traffic signals at each end of the interchange reduce time spent at red lights and move twice the number of vehicles as a traditional diamond interchange. VDOT recently completed its first two DDIs in Louisa and Roanoke, and has two more in the works in Blacksburg and Stafford.

News
Countdown to Cabelas

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All is quiet outside Cabelas in Gainesville, but it won’t be that way for long. 

The outdoor retailer announced it will open its doors March 9

The store is located at 5291 Wellington Branch Drive, behind the Virginia Gateway shopping center. The storefront is an easy view from Interstate 66.

News
‘Little Library creators are reporting a large turnover of the books’

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How are Prince William County’s “Little Free Libraries” doing? 

From Prince William County Library Foundation Board member Candi Johnson: 

“First, let me say that the program is doing great. Many of our Little Library creators are reporting a large turnover of the books in their Little Libraries. Mom’s Organic Market is actually asking for book donations to fuel their ever-growing need. Earnie Porta is also reporting a big turnover in his Little Library in Occoquan and others are reporting the same thing. 
 
Right now the Foundation is doing a big push for Children’s books to get more of those available to the Greater Prince William Community Health Centers. It also needs to be noted that these Little Libraries are not, in any way, meant to replace our wonderful Prince William Public Library System – rather a way to improve literacy and get people reading books again. Hopefully, once adults remember how much fun it is to hold a book and read it, they will be using our brick and mortar Libraries more and more.” 
From Prince William County Library Board of Trustees member Patti Beattie:
“Though I have been a patron of the library system since becoming a Prince William County resident in 2000, I am a very recent appointee to the Library Board of Trustees and as such did not hear about the initiative originally.
 
I have seen one Free Little Library location around the community and it did not seem to be getting much use or traffic based upon appearances. The shop that was presenting it had it on the covered porch of their store which is housed in an old home in Occoquan. Though it was under cover of a porch, the elements did seem to be having an effect on the materials.
 
I also did not see any evidence of information about the public library system presented there and think that should be the case, thus offering this “free library” and encouraging use of our wonderful library system where access is free, too.”
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