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Four VDOT projects to improve congestion for Prince William residents

There are currently four projects being worked on by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) that will help the flow of traffic and improve congestion in the western end of Prince William.

The projects – the Linton Hall Road Interchange, I-66 Widening project, Interstate 66/Route 15 Interchange, and Transform 66 project were all discussed at a recent town hall meeting in Haymarket.

The Linton Hall Road Interchange project began back in 2011 and is projected to conclude this summer. It’s budgeted for $230 million, according to the VDOT website. It includes four new bridges, a traffic signal removal, a concrete sidewalk, shared-use path, ten retaining walls, and new roadway lighting.

The Interstate 66/Route 15 Interchange project’s design process began back in 2014 and is set to cost $59 million, according to the VDOT website. Construction on the project began this spring and will be completed in 2017. The interchange improvements include ramp improvements, two longer bridges with crossover intersections, wider intersections at Heathcote Boulevard and Route 55, as well as a shared use path, according to the VDOT website.

For the I-66 Widening Project, there is work being done from Route 15 in Haymarket to Route 29 in Gainesville, which began in 2014. The project, according to the VDOT website, is budgeted at $73.5 million and will add one HOV lane and one regular in each direction of the road on that stretch.

The Transform 66 project will add two Express Lanes to the I-66 corridor, with a tolling system similar to the 495 and 95 Expressway, according to Director of Megaprojects, Susan Shaw. (more…)

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OmniRide funding crisis not on Prince William officials’ radar screens

This week,two public hearings to announce the 2016 budget that included an increase in OmniRide and OmniLink fares, as well as the elimination of OmniRide’s Route One bus. 

Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission Executive Director Alfred Harf said all of the changes were necessary, including the elimination of the Route 1 bus.  

“Its ridership has always been very low,” Harf said. 

The trip carries an average of 15 people in the morning and six in the afternoon. Harf added that the route had survived for as long as it had because the nature of the route allowed for more federal funds. 

Recent changes in funding meant that the route had to be evaluated on its own merits.  In addition to it being the least productive route, there are also other options available, including the South Route 1 bus. 

Riders of OmniLink and OmniRide using SmarTrip will see an almost 8% increase in fares, while MetroDirect will see a 6.90% increase.  Reduced fares have similar hikes in prices, with OmniLink jumping 7.69%, OmniRide 7.79%, and MetroDirect 5.56%.  Cash fares hold similar spikes in price.  

Most citizens at the public heari’sngs had more questions rather than concerns. 

“It’s been very muted,” Harf said about reactions to the fare jumps.  “Everyone’s been accepting of the fact that everything on the table for the fiscal year of 2016 was well reasoned.” 

Concerned citizen Walter Carter said, “I don’t stand in opposition to what is being done, I’m a long standing supporter of the transportation system in this city but I’m trying to get a handle on this thing.”
(more…)

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Crawford to primary board Chairman At-Large Stewart for ‘lack of leadership’

Chris Crawford, a data scientist in the counter-terrorism industry, will be running against the current Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman At-Large Corey Stewart, for the Republican nomination for the board seat.

According to Crawford, there’s a lack of real leadership on the board.

“I have nothing against Corey [Stewart] personally – I just look at the results…we’ve been promised jobs here for a while…I hear talk about fiscally conservative values, but I see the taxes going up. I hear talk about how we should pull back the residential housing developments until our infrastructure can catch up and our schools, and I see people [on the board] still championing those initiatives…and I see that as a lack of leadership from the board of county supervisors. I feel like I can get us back on track,” Crawford stated.

Crawford, who currently works in Tyson’s Corner as a data scientist, graduated with his M.B.A. from Auburn University, and made the decision to move from business management to counter-terrorism after the events of 9/11. 

“After watching all of the things that were going on after [9/11], I decided I wanted to get in the fight. So I left Accenture and joined a defense contractor working for the Navy. And now for a little over 10 years I’ve been doing counter-terrorism work,” Crawford said. 

Currently Crawford serves as the Vice-Chair for the Brentsville district of the Prince William County GOP committee, a member of the Glenkirk Teacher Parent Advisory Council, as a representative to the Superintendent Advisory Council on Instruction, and as a member of the Nokesville Ruritan Club.

Crawford stated that his motivation to run came from seeing his family and other families in the community dealing with difficult issues, like overcrowding in schools and a lack of growth in the local economy.

“I’ve been living here in the county for a few years now, and my family – we really like living here…and I feel like this county has so much potential, but as I’ve gotten more involved with different groups…I’ve just started to notice some of the problems that were affecting me, were actually affecting a lot of people,” Crawford commented.

During his campaign, Crawford hopes to address several issues including economic development, expansion in education support, and a closer look at tax rate increases. To do this, Crawford has proposed going back to actively using the county’s strategic plan, which according to him, has fallen by the wayside. 

Crawford currently lives in Brentsville with his wife and three children.

It was recently announced that the Chairman of the county GOP committee forgot to file the paperwork for a state-run Republican primary race, and the format for this year’s Republican primaries are being determined, according to Crawford.

 

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Transit buses will use I-66 shoulders for faster commute

If you’re a bus rider on Interstate 66, get ready the possibility of a faster commute at 25 mph.

If you’re a driver on I-66, get ready to see transit buses passing you on the shoulder.

A new pilot project called I-66 Bus On Shoulder starting March 23 will allow OmniRide commuter buses to use the shoulder lanes of I-66 when highway speeds drop below 35 mph. When these buses hit congestion, bus drivers will be allowed to pull onto the highway shoulders at certain sections and continue past traffic congestion at 25 mph.

Bus drivers will be able to utilize about six miles of a shoulder lane along I-66, and just over a mile of shoulder on a portion of the road that connects to Dulles Toll Road.

Here’s a complete breakdown of segments of highway transit bus drivers will able to use:

  • Extension of the existing shoulder use on the eastbound Dulles Connector Road where it ends at the West Falls Church Metro station to the merge onto eastbound I-66 near the Great Falls Street overpass
  • Eastbound I-66 from the US 29 overpass near Spout Run Parkway to N. Quinn Street
  • Westbound I-66 from beyond the Rosslyn Tunnel (N. Nash Street) to the US 29 overpass near Spout Run Parkway
  • Westbound I-66 from the N. Quincy Street underpass to the auxiliary lane beyond North Fairfax Drive

The I-66 On Shoulder project is a $600,000 pilot program that will test how allowing buses to use the shoulder lane to skirt traffic congestion will work. Later this year, more transit providers will be allowed to use the shoulders after agreements are formed by the Virginia Department of Transportation and the respective transit companies.

The shoulder traffic pattern was put in place on the Dulles Connector Road since 2000, according to officials. The program is modeled after a similar bus-on-shoulder traffic patter in Minnesota, which has about 300 shoulder lane miles open for transit bus use.

The get the highway ready for the new program, crews spent the better part of the past year trimming trees, relocating mileposts, placing new signs, and widening portions of the shoulders than needed them, according to officials.

The bus on shoulder program announcement comes after state officials announced they want to place express toll lanes in I-66, similar to the E-ZPass Express Lanes that opened on I-95 late last year

Manassas City Hall art exhibit: Water, water everywhere

manassas, virginia, art

Have you ever watched the Ebb & Flow of water as it laps against the bank, whether it is a river or the ocean? Photographer Hannele Lahti explores the visual fabric of life that is water in the next exhibit at The Hall at Manassas City Hall. Ebb & Flow is a photo exhibit capturing the fleeting moment when all of the variables meld together and are stilled. The exhibit opens on March 17 and runs through April 24 at City Hall, 9027 Center Street in Manassas, Virginia.

Hannele Lhati is a nationally-recognized documentary and fine art photographer who creates images that explore the wonder and fragility of the natural world. She is the owner of Hannele Lahti Photography and a contract photographer for National Geographic. As a child, Lahti grew up on a lake and learned to respect the natural world, to honor its beauty as she sat by the water’s edge with her grandfather.

Exhibits in The Hall rotate on a monthly basis and include different forms of visual art.   Visiting The Hall is free and open to the public from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and later when evening meetings are held in the building.

manassas, virginia, art

The Occoquan Reservoir depicted in the Ebb & Flow art exhibit will be held at Manassas, Virginia’s City Hall

manassas, virginia, art

Lake Champlain depicted at the Ebb & Flow art exhibit will be held at Manassas, Virginia City Hall

News
Corey Stewart: ‘Budget needs to be something the community will accept, as close to perfect as possible’

stewart, prince william, supervisor

In a room full of differing opinions, wants, and needs Corey Stewart says his job is to broker a deal.

As the At-large Chairman of the Prince William County Board of  Supervisors, Stewart is in the middle of a nearly four-month effort to find common ground with taxpayers that want certain county services funded. He  also must bridge gaps with fellow Republicans and Democrats on his Board in the second largest county in Virginia who will decide in late April what will be funded in the upcoming fiscal 2016 budget — and what won’t be.

The Supervisors began talking about the budget in December, and ordered County Executive Melissa Peacor to create a proposed budget that contained for funding cuts in everything from new sports fields, parks, as well as for freezing county government employees’ salaries. Just days after Peacor presented the austere financial plan, it became clear the cuts and wage freezes weren’t going to happen, and many of the programs on the chopping block were restored.

The Board adopted an advertised tax rate of $1.122 of $100 of assessed property value on March 2. If it sticks when the budget is adopted April 21, the average tax bill will increase 3.88%. That will be about enough to fund the county’s five-year plan, but officials still search for savings.

“I’m a Republican, and I want low taxes, but we have to pay for high-quality schools, parks, and infrastructure,” said Stewart. “It’s a balancing act, but if we can provide the highest quality education, parks, and infrastructure, which is going to attract business.”

In other words, a little investment now will lead to a big payoff later. If the county invests, heads of major corporations could take notice relocate to Prince William, become familiar with it, and wish to relocate their businesses here, said Stewart. (more…)

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Facing funding cliff, PRTC sets public hearings on bus fare increases, route elimination

Bus riders could soon pay more on OmniRide and OmniLink buses, and an OmniRide route faces elimination.

The agency that operates the buses, the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, will hold two public hearing this week on its “austere” $68.2 million fiscal year 2016 budget. The transit agency states there are “major funding uncertainties” in the coming years, especially in 2017, such as 10% decline in state funding and flat federal funds.

Under the plan, SmartTrip users on OmniRide commuter buses who pay $5.75 for a one-way fare will see a nearly 8% increase to $6.20. A reduced fare would increase to $4.15.

Those who pay with cash on OmniRide would pay $8.30 for a one-way trip, up from $7.70.

OmniLink customers would see a 10 cent jump in the cost of a one-way fare to $1.40, and reduced fares would increase 5 cents to $.70 per fare.

Those who ride Metro Direct buses from Prince William County would see one-way SmartTrip fares increase to $3.10, up from $2.90, and cash users would pay $3.85, up from $3.60.

If fares escalate, it will mark the first increase since 2013, according to agency spokeswoman Christine Rodrigo. PRTC plans for fare increases every two years, so this one isn’t tied to the austere budget.

Route 1 bus elimination

A proposal to eliminate the Route 1 OmniRide bus is, however. The bus is “the least productive OmniRide route” with an average daily ridership of 21.5 trips. The bus has carried as few as 15 people on a morning trip as few as six on an afternoon trip.

If Route 1 service ends, riders could choose to use the South Route 1 bus or buses that serve a park and ride lot at Route 123 near Occoquan.

Prince William County is the largest jurisdictional funding source of PRTC and is slated to contribute $15.7 million in funds next year. The county uses a 2.1% motors fuels tax collected at the gas pump when drivers fill up their tanks to fund the transit service.

Gas tax funds running out

That fund is shrinking, in part, due to lower fuel prices. The county has also paid more into PRTC than what the motor fuels tax collected. Until 2008, the county had provided additional funding from the county’s general fund to supplement the motors fuels tax funding. The supplemental funding created a reserve fund that was tapped to cover the shortfall, according to PRTC documents.

PRTC officials warn that if a supplement is not reinstated, PRTC riders face major service cuts in 2017 when the motor fuels tax fund is expected to be depleted creating a $7 million shortfall. Those cuts have yet to be outlined.

The first public hearing will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday at PRTC headquarters in Woodbridge 14700 Potomac Mills Road. A second will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday at Manassas City Hall, at 9027 Center Street in Manassas.

News
Prince William students running out of snow days

Thursday’s snowfall broke records, and classes in Prince William County Public Schools were canceled yesterday and today.

Now, with spring on the doorstep and summer not far behind, many parents wonder how if their children will need to make up school days missed due to inclement weather.

This statement was sent out by Prince William County Public Schools on Wednesday afternoon:

As of March 5, we will have closed school 8 times and opened late 9 times. Given that PWCS began the school year with time above the state requirements, about 15.6 hours or just over 2.6 days remain available for weather closing/delay time before we fall short of Virginia’s 990 hour minimum requirement for instructional time.

The reason PWCS has additional time this year is because the School Board approved the addition of 10 minutes to the instructional day for the 2014-15 school year and beyond. This added an additional 30 hours to the 2014-15 calendar compared to previous years. If PWCS had maintained the previous instructional day, we would currently be more than two full day’s worth of hours below the state minimum and would already require make-up time.

The calendar has two remaining built-in make-up days: Monday, April 6—the Monday at the end of Spring Break—is designated on the calendar as a make-up day, as is June 19, the day after school ends, should these become necessary.

Bottom line: If  students don’t want to begin making up school days, they better start thinking spring.

News
Snow storm breaks records at airports, brings several inches to area neighborhoods

Thursday’s snow was record breaking at all three Washington, D.C. area airports.

At total of 9.5 inches of snow fell at Washington Dulles International Airport, breaking the daily snowfall total at that airport set in 2001.

At Regan National Airport, 4.8 inches of snow was recorded breaking the old daily record of 4.4 inches set in 1888.

In Baltimore, 6.2 inches of snow fell breaking a the old record set in 1902, according to the National Weather Service.

The Washington area has recorded above average snowfall this winter. While winter was slow to bring snow to the area, 15.4 inches of snow have been measured at Reagan National and 22 inches of snow has fallen at Washington Dulles, according to the weather service.

Here’s a look at some local snow total as reported by the National Weather Service:

…CITY OF MANASSAS…
1 SW MANASSAS PARK 6.0 1022 PM 3/05 TRAINED SPOTTER
1 NE MANASSAS 5.4 445 PM 3/05 TRAINED SPOTTER

…FAIRFAX COUNTY…
HERNDON 9.0 525 PM 3/05 PUBLIC
1 NNE HERNDON 9.0 435 PM 3/05 NWS EMPLOYEE
1 NW FALLS CHURCH 8.7 630 PM 3/05 TRAINED SPOTTER
1 NNE RESTON 8.6 830 PM 3/05 TRAINED SPOTTER
2 N RESTON 8.0 509 PM 3/05 NWS EMPLOYEE

…KING GEORGE COUNTY…
JERSEY 6.0 900 PM 3/05 TRAINED SPOTTER
1 SSE SHILOH 6.0 710 PM 3/05 TRAINED SPOTTER

…PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY…
3 NNW WOOLSEY 7.3 557 PM 3/05 TRAINED SPOTTER
1 ENE DUMFRIES 6.1 538 PM 3/05 TRAINED SPOTTER
GAINESVILLE 6.0 559 PM 3/05 PUBLIC
1 W DALE CITY 5.8 725 PM 3/05 TRAINED SPOTTER
3 WNW DALE CITY 5.3 804 PM 3/05 TRAINED SPOTTER
2 ESE INDEPENDENT HI 4.8 850 PM 3/05 TRAINED SPOTTER

…STAFFORD COUNTY…
2 WNW ARKENDALE 5.5 738 PM 3/05 TRAINED SPOTTER
1 WSW SEALSTON 5.3 707 PM 3/05 OTHER FEDERAL
HARTWOOD 5.0 538 PM 3/05 NWS EMPLOYEE
STAFFORD 4.5 539 PM 3/05 TRAINED SPOTTER

Bundle up today as high temperatures are expected to only climb into the high 20s, but we’ll have some sun. Tonight, temperatures will fall back down into the mid teens with clear skies.

Saturday will bring partly cloudy skies with a high of 46 degrees and light winds increasing throughout the morning hours. On Saturday night, expect partly cloudy skies with low near 31 degrees.  

News
Closings and delays for Friday, March 6, 2015

Check back for the latest in closings and delays from Potomac Local.

Need to be added to the list? Let us know if you’re organization is closed or delayed by sending us a Tweet.

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Volunteer fire chiefs uneasy over plan to use fire levy to pay career firefighter salaries

Volunteer fire chiefs weighed in a on plan to use $4 million from the county’s fire levy to pay the salaries of some career firefighters.

The majority of the volunteer chiefs who spoke to the Executive Committee of the Prince William County Fire Rescue Association. It’s the organization that binds and governs the county’s volunteer and career fire services, headed by the County Fire Chief Kevin McGee,

The majority of the volunteer chiefs expressed fears that county officials will raid the fire levy, traditionally used to pay for daily operations and equipment purchases at the county’s 12 volunteer fire stations and one rescue squad.

The fire levy is expected to generate $34.4 million in fiscal 2016. About $30 million of the fire levy revenues generated in 2016 will go to fund fire and rescue operations costs.

The fire levy has a fund balance of $77.8 million and has been used to cash fund county fire and rescue projects such as building new stations and buying new apparatus.

 

Chiefs fear county could become dependent on funds 

County officials say that shifting $4 million from the levy is a needed move to help pay the salaries of career firefighters, more of which are being added to staff stations during what are traditionally volunteer hours, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and holidays, because volunteer companies cannot staff them.

“The [Prince William County Board of Supervisors] feels that when there’s an emergency, citizens want someone to respond to the call, and they don’t care whether or not it is a volunteer or career firefighter,” Prince William Deputy County Executive Christopher Martino told the volunteer chiefs.

The volunteer chiefs agreed.  They also warned that a reliance on levy funds to pay for salaries could lead to a growing dependence on the fund. That could mean having the needed number of career firefighters to respond to calls but not having the cash on hand to replace aging equipment.

(more…)

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Closings and delays for March 5, 2015

Check back for the latest in closings and delays from Potomac Local.

Need to be added to the list? Let us know if you’re organization is closed or delayed by sending us a Tweet. 

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4 to 8 inches expected, snow heaviest Thursday morning

11:15 a.m.

Here’s a weather forecast from the National Weather Service for projected accumulation in the next few hours.

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 11.14.21 AM

 

11:08 a.m.

The snow is coming down hard in the Manassas area right now. Video submitted by one of our reporters, Amber Champ. 

 

10:53 a.m.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is ready to clear roads as the winter storm continues to move across the area this afternoon. They have advised against non-essential travel on roads today.

More from a VDOT release:

Virginia Department of Transportation crews with nearly 900 pieces of available equipment are ready to treat and clear roads this afternoon as a winter storm moves across the 14-county Fredericksburg District. 

Road conditions are currently clear in most of the Fredericksburg area, with ice beginning to appear on primary roads in Stafford County, which is experiencing sleet and freezing rain.

Road conditions are clear and wet in the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula.

Conditions are expected to change quickly as rain changes to sleet, freezing rain and snow this afternoon, and driving could quickly become hazardous.

 Before starting a trip, travelers should check real-time road conditions at 511Virginia.org, by calling 511, or downloading VDOT’s free mobile 511 app. While snow is falling, motorists are advised to stay off the roads and delay nonessential travel.

VDOT has tree removal contactors on standby to assist the agency with removing trees and other debris that may obstruct travel lanes. 

Temperatures are expected to fall below freezing Thursday evening into Friday morning, which could lead to icy, slippery road conditions. VDOT crews will apply salt to melt ice and snow, and sand to improve traction for motorists.

What Motorists Should Know: 

While snow is falling, VDOT crews will make repeated passes on Interstate 95, primary roads, and key secondary roads to keep travel lanes clear.

VDOT’s goal is to have all roads passable within 48 hours of a storm’s end.

Motorists are encouraged to delay any nonessential travel.

VDOT’s Customer Service Center is open 24 hours a day to answer questions and take reports of roadway hazards at 1-800-FOR-ROAD (800-367-7623).

Shovel snow from your driveway to the right as you face the street. This will minimize the snow pushed into your driveway by plows clearing the road. Consider waiting to shovel the last several feet closest to the street until after plows have passed.

 

8:53 p.m.

The National Weather Service has released a Dense Fog Advisory, in effect until 10 p.m. tonight.

7:07 p.m.

Wondering if you have work or school tomorrow? Take a look at our closings page.

4:18 p.m.

The City of Manassas has declared a snow emergency, effective starting 8 a.m. tomorrow.

More from a city release:

On March 4, 2015, the City of Manassas is declaring a Snow Emergency effective at 8 a.m. on March 5, 2015 due to the impending snow event. This means that cars parked along designated snow emergency routes are subject to towing and fines.

Snow emergency routes in the City of Manassas are as follows:  Dumfries Road/Route 234, Hastings Drive, Godwin Drive, Liberia Avenue, Richmond Avenue, Fairview Avenue, Grant Avenue, Wellington Road, Ashton Avenue, Cockrell Road, Nokesville Road/Route 28, Center Street, Prescott Avenue, Sudley Road/Route 234, Church Street, Zebedee Street, Centreville Road/Route 28, Mathis Avenue, Portner Avenue and Euclid Avenue.

Once the snow event is over, the City will issue a termination of the snow emergency and will reopen these streets to parking.

1:41 p.m.

The Service Authority is asking residents to help keep fire hydrants free of snow during the storm, in case of incidents where fire and rescue need access.

winter warning1:30p.m.

Expect more snow – and lots of it.

The National Weather Service has issues a Winter Storm Warning, in effect from midnight to 9p.m. on Thursday.

There is a wintry mix expected, with between 4 to 8 inches of snow accumulation and additional ice accumulation.

The snow is expected to be heaviest during late Thursday morning, and continue on through Thursday afternoon.

If you’re still planning to commute into work on Thursday morning, VDOT is urging caution, and has also issued a release about difficulties traveling during the storm. 

Potomac Local will keep you updated on the latest in closings, delays and outages.

More from a National Weather Service alert:

…WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT TONIGHT

TO 9 PM EST THURSDAY… 

* PRECIPITATION TYPES…WINTRY MIX…THEN ALL SNOW…HEAVY AT

TIMES. 

* ACCUMULATIONS…SNOW ACCUMULATION OF 4 TO 8 INCHES…ALONG

WITH AROUND A TRACE OF ICE.

* TIMING…RAIN CHANGES TO WINTRY MIX AROUND MIDNIGHT THEN ALL

SNOW THURSDAY. SNOW HEAVIEST THURSDAY LATE MORNING INTO THE

AFTERNOON. 

* TEMPERATURES…IN THE UPPER 20S.

* WINDS…NORTH 10 TO 15 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 25 MPH.

* IMPACTS…ROADS WILL BE SNOW COVERED…VISIBILITIES WILL DROP

TO AROUND A QUARTER-MILE AT TIMES…MAKING TRAVEL DANGEROUS. 

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

A WINTER STORM WARNING FOR HEAVY SNOW MEANS SEVERE WINTER WEATHER

CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF SNOW

ARE FORECAST THAT WILL MAKE TRAVEL DANGEROUS. ONLY TRAVEL IN AN

EMERGENCY. IF YOU MUST TRAVEL…KEEP AN EXTRA FLASHLIGHT…

FOOD…AND WATER IN YOUR VEHICLE IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY. 

(more…)

News
Prince William property tax bills to increase by $139 under advertised tax rate, county jobs still on chopping block

Prince William leaders set an advertised tax rate Tuesday night.

It’s lower than the 4% increase agreed upon last year in the county’s five-year budget plan, but it’s higher than an earlier 1.3% rate increase that would have meant multiple cuts in county services, and pay freezes for county employees.

The Board of Supervisors set the advertised property tax rate at $1.122 per $100 of assessed value (property taxes are the main source of revenue for county governments in Virginia). That’s a 3.88% increase over last year’s tax rate. The rate would generate an average tax bill of $3,722 per household, an increase of $139 per year, $12 more per month than last year.

Since the county government gives about 57% of its total budget to the schools, the $1.122 rate will mean $8.4 million than what the school division expected to receive under the 1.3% increase batted about when budget talks began in earnest last month. The school division would is still short about $8 million of what it needs to fully funded, according to officials.

For about $40 more per household, the schools would have been fully funded if the county adopted a tax rate of $1.135, raising the average property tax bill by 5.11%, according to officials.

Since the Board of Supervisors set the advertised tax rate at $1.122, they cannot go higher at budget adoption time April 21. The option to fully fund the schools is now off the table.

Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland  proposed the 1.3% increase, which would have set a property tax rate of of $1.094 per $100 of assessed value. It would have capped the growth of the average tax bill at $47. That proposal would have also meant slashing community services, supplemental funding for Magistrates at the county’s courthouse, funding for libraries, funding for criminal gang education and awareness efforts, as well as cuts in funded healthcare services.

As of Feb. 21, funding to many of these programs was restored by the Board of Supervisors, with the exception of a portion of funding to the county’s capital park bond projects, a program for juvenile drug offenders, $175,000 in funding to Healthy Families prevention program, and $319,000 in funding for the county’s in-house print shop.

Discover Prince William / Manassas, the agency that promotes tourism in the county and Greater Manassas areas, could also see $92,000 of its funding shifted into the county’s Historic Preservation department.  (more…)

First Friday March Madness in Downtown Manassas

  • Historic Manassas Inc.
  • Address: 9431 West Street Manassas, Virginia 20110
  • Website: visitmanassas.org
first friday, manassas, shop, city

Historic Downtown Manassas is going a little “mad” for First Friday. On March 6 from 6 to 9 p.m., City restaurants, retailers and the Manassas Museum are offering specials and special entertainment.

The list participating merchants is growing and can be viewed at .visitmanassas.org.

Each store and restaurant is selecting their own way to celebrate March with either a Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day or other March theme.

The Manassas Museum will offer free admission and 10% off at Echoes, their gift store.

The Osbourn High School String Quartet will serenade museum visitors.

There will be book signings, drink specials and much more around the Historic Downtown of the City of Manassas. Come for dinner and stay to shop and explore.

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, games or special foods.

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Closings and delays Sunday, Mar. 1, 2015

Potomac Local will keep you up to date on the latest in closings and delays.

 

News
Wintry mix today, into tomorrow morning

5:53p.m.

The Stafford County Fire and Rescue Department were called to the scene of another collision, at Shelton Shop and Courthouse Road. According to the department, one of the individuals in the crash was injured.

1:05 p.m. 

winter strom warn

A winter storm warning is in effect for Prnce William and Stafford counties, and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park until 3 a.m. Monday.
Here’s the latest from the National Weather Service:

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON HAS
ISSUED A WINTER STORM WARNING FOR FREEZING RAIN…WHICH IS IN
EFFECT UNTIL 3 AM EST MONDAY. THE WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IS NO
LONGER IN EFFECT.

* LOCATIONS…WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA…CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN
MARYLAND.

* HAZARD TYPES…SNOW…SLEET…AND FREEZING RAIN.

* ACCUMULATIONS…A COATING TO AN INCH OF SNOW AND SLEET. 1 TO 2
INCHES OF SNOW AND SLEET NEAR THE MASON-DIXON LINE. ICE
ACCUMULATION AROUND ONE QUARTER INCH.

* TIMING…SNOW AND SLEET WILL CHANGE TO FREEZING RAIN BETWEEN 11
AM AND 1 PM THIS AFTERNOON. THE HEAVIEST ICE ACCRETION FROM FROM
FREEZING RAIN IS EXPECTED THIS AFTERNOON AND EARLY EVENING.
PRECIPITATION WILL END THIS EVENING.

* IMPACTS…ROADS WILL BE SNOW AND ICE COVERED THROUGH TONIGHT.
TRAVELLING WILL BE DANGEROUS.

* WINDS…SOUTH AROUND 5 TO 10 MPH.

* TEMPERATURES…RISING THROUGH THE 20S THIS AFTERNOON.
TEMPERATURES WILL RISE INTO THE LOWER 30S

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Under new plan, $4 million from Prince William fire levy used to fund career firefighters

Can county officials take funds from the fire levy to fund career firefighters?

Virginia law does allow it, said Prince William County Attorney Angela Horan.

Now, under a new proposal, $4 million of Prince William County’s $35.2 million fire levy — money traditionally goes to pay for the cost of new fire stations, new fire engines and equipment, as well as to fund operations at the county’s various volunteer fire houses — and use it to offset costs of county fire and rescue operations.

Shifting the funds will lessen the burden on the county’s general fund, of which $10.6 million was used to fund volunteer fire operations, according to county government spokesman Jason Grant.  

The current proposal aims to provide an additional  $4 million in fire levy revenue to the general fund, bringing about $8 million to cover some of the cost of career staffing during traditional volunteer times.

The In this next year’s budget nearly $8 million will be needed to fund those salaries.

“Four million dollars is a big change,” said County Executive Melissa Peacor. “I’m sure the volunteers would tell you that.”

The Prince William County Board of Supervisors spent Saturday looking for budget cuts. They also looked at moving monies from reserve funds to the general fund in an effort to cap a planned property tax increase to no more than 4% in next year’s budget.

The fire levy  collects $35 million per year, and is directly tied to property tax bills. The levy revenue has grown too large at the expense of the county general fund, according to Prince William Board of Supervisors Chairman At-large Corey Stewart, who said it should be tapped to help lessen the burden tax burden on residents.

Volunteers fear, however, that if county officials dip into the reserve fund to pay for new career firefighters now it’ll mean less money to purchase new equipment, and funds to train new volunteers, and operations costs down the road.

“If you continue to take increased funds from the fire levy over the next five years, the fund becomes stagnant,” said Nokesville Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brian Hickerson.

Hickerson added that he suspects the county will funnel even more funds from the levy in 2017 and ‘18 to meet the growing demands of the county’s career fire staff.

Peacor and County officials dispute that claim and say they will only take $4 million from the fund each year for the next five years.

Career firefighters are on duty from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Prince William Fire Chief Kevin McGee said his department will spend $10.6 million funding career staff during traditional volunteer hours – nights, weekends, and holidays.

The fire levy will also go to fund construction of the planned $11 million Bacon Race Fire station on the corner of Prince William Parkway and Hoadly Road near Dale City.

McGee said volunteer fire chiefs will meet on Wednesday to get a first look at the proposal to shift $4 million away from the fire levy to the general fund.

*This story has been corrected

News
Prince William resident to leaders over $96 tax difference: ‘They can buy back their souls with it’

The Prince William County Board of Supervisors will be meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday for another budget work session, to discuss potential cuts and what programs to retain. The ceiling property tax rate — the county’s largest source of revenue — must be advertised as of March 3, only giving the board members a few more days to work out an initial tax rate number.

County Executive Melissa Peacor presented the first draft of the budget at the board meeting earlier this month.

The board took a vote in December and directed Peacor to create a budget with a 1.3% tax increase, which reflects the CPI inflation rate. It was not the 4% increase written in the county’s 5-year plan, decided upon last year. Peacor was given additional restrictions on segments of the budget that had to be fully funded, including public safety and the libraries.

Many of the community programs that had been on the chopping block saw their funding restored. But now leaders must decide what else to cut to ensure taxes do not rise beyond the planned 4% increase. 

“I wasn’t on this board when the direction was given but had I been on the board – I think it’s fair to say that I would have voted for [the 1.3%],” said  newly elected Brenstville Distirct Supervisor Jeanine Lawson.

Occoquan District Supervisor Michael May was not present for the vote, but also stated he was in favor of looking at a budget using the inflation rate.

Gainesville District Supervisor Candland also voiced his support for the 1.3%.

Coles District Supervisor Marty Nohe was against the 1.3% vote, as was Potomac Supervisor Maureen Caddigan, who favored the original 4%.

“My belief then, was that we would end up with a budget that was far too detrimental to our school system’s budget. That the amount of rollbacks that the school board would have to do in order to implement that budget would be more than our community is willing to swallow,” Nohe said.

Corey Stewart, Chairman At-large stated that the vote for the 1.3% was meant only to serve as an exercise to get the county thinking about the types of cuts that could be implemented.

“The vote that the board took in December was the guidance to the County Executive to prepare a budget at the 1.3%, but that is not the rate that the board is ultimately going to adopt, and it’s not even going to be the one we advertise. The purpose of requiring the County Executive to develop the budget at such a low level was to force the county government and the schools into the exercise of looking for cost savings, and trying to identify things we could cut in order to keep tax bills as low as possible,” Stewart said. (more…)

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Closings and delays Friday, Feb. 27, 2015

Public schools 

News
Prince William Police Seeking Help for 2014 Murder

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – According to Prince William police, homicide detectives are still seeking any information that can lead to the arrest and conviction of the individuals connected to the murder of Glenda Marisol Coca-Romero.

The murder occurred at Platanillos Grocery and Jewelry in Woodbridge, VA on February 21, 2014.

The local police and the FBI Washington Field Office are working together to offer a reward of $20,000 for information that can lead to the arrests and convictions of these individuals. Additionally, there is a $1,000 reward being offered by the Prince William County Crime Solvers.

Glenda Coca-Romero was one of two victims (both employees) caught in the shooting at Platanillos Grocery and Jewelry, located in Woodbridge on 14342 Jefferson Davis Highway. The second victim was a 42-year-old store clerk who had also been shot and wounded. According to the police, the murder happened before 9:00 pm when three males entered the store in dark clothing and covered faces caught by the surveillance video footage. Following the shooting, the men fled the scene, most likely on foot.

Another employee, as well as a customer, was also inside the store when the murder happened but were unharmed. Prince William police also reported that no money or property was taken from the scene. Prince William police have released the surveillance footage from the night, and it is available for anyone to watch. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Prince William County Crime Solvers anonymously.

Below is the latest from Prince William police;

Reward increased to $21,000 in the 2014 Murder of Glenda Marisol Coca-Romero

Prince William County, Va. — Prince William County Police Homicide Detectives continue to seek any information related to the murder of Glenda Marisol Coca-Romero, which occurred on February 21, 2014 at the Platanillos Grocery and Jewelry in Woodbridge, Va.

The FBI Washington Field Office partnered with the Prince William County Police Department to offer a reward for the arrest and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for the murder of Coca-Romero. On February 20, 2015, the reward amount was increased to $20,000. This reward is still being offered in conjunction with a reward of up to $1,000 from the Prince William County Crime Solvers.

Anyone who has information regarding this case is asked to call Crime Solvers at 703-670-3700 or 1-866-411-TIPS. You do not have to give your name, just the information.

Glenda Coca-Romero was murdered at the Platanillos Grocery and Jewelry located at 14342 Jefferson Davis Highway in the Woodbridge area of Prince William County on February 21, shortly before 9:00p.m. A second store clerk, a 42-year old woman, was also shot and wounded during the attack.

Three male suspects wearing dark clothing with their faces covered were seen on surveillance entering the store. The suspects immediately fled the business following the shooting, possibly on foot. Two additional individuals, a customer, and another employee, were also inside the store at the time of the incident and were unharmed. No property or money was taken during the incident. Both victims were identified as being employees of the business.

The FBI and Prince William County Police encourage the public to continue viewing the video surveillance taken during the attack.

The Prince William County Police Department is the lead agency for this investigation. The FBI has been providing investigative assistance.

FBI Bulletin seeking information: http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info/glenda-marisol-coca-romero/view

Surveillance footage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i07VFaj8RL8

 

Glenda Marisol Coca-RomeroGlenda Marisol Coca-Romero

 

 

 
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