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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.

News
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.

News
Brentsville District Debate Tonight

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Candidates for the Brentsville District Board of Supervisors seat will debate the issues tomorrow night.

The debate will be held Tuesday, Dec. 9 at the Linton Hall School on Linton Hall Road in Bristow beginning at 7 p.m. Candidates will each be faced with questions on the following topics:

  • Development and housing
  • Rural Crescent
  • Schools and education
  • Bi-County Parkway / transportation
  • Business and economy
  • County resources
  • Public safety
  • Transparency in government

All three candidates seeking the seat – Republican Jeanine Lawson, Democrat Eric Young, and independent Scott Jacobs – are expected to appear at the debate. It is the only debate schedule before the Dec. 23 special election.

The special election follows the resignation for former Supervisor Wally Covington on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. Covington was appointed a Prince William County judge and the new job precludes him from holding the Supervisor position.

The debate will be moderated by Stacy Shaw, executive editor of Bristow Beat, and Uriah Kiser, publisher of Potomac Local. The two independent news sites worked together to organize the gathering.

More than 30 individuals submitted questions for the candidates via the Potomac Local website. Those questions have been reviewed, and some added to the list of questions that will be asked directly to the candidates. Some of the reader-submitted questions were duplicates or similar to other questions asked so some were condensed into one question to be asked of the candidates.

The debate style will be similar to that of a presidential debate. Each candidate will be asked a specific question and will have three minutes to respond. The two other candidates will each have one minute a piece to rebut the candidate’s response.

The debate will be held inside Linton Hall School’s auditorium. Drivers coming to the debate will be directed to park their vehicles in the side parking lot outside the auditorium’s entrance.

News
Cost of living help dwindles for Prince William teachers

Prince William hit hardest by cost of living funding cuts, says Senator 

Prince William County officials told legislators cuts to the county’s school system have taken a toll over the last five years.

In total, Prince William Schools have lost $48.6 million in education funding from state sources, said Tracy Gordon, assistant to the county executive. Most of the cuts have been from raises provided to attract qualified teachers to work and live in the area, known as “cost to compete” or cost of living adjustments.  

State Senator George Barker (D-Fairfax, Prince William) noted cost to compete cuts have been widespread in areas like Winchester and Fredericksburg, but the $11.6 million removed from Prince William’s school budget accounts for a third of all total cost of competing cuts in the state.

“Is there a realistic shot of getting this money back this year?” asked Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, At-large.

“The sad reality is we’re hunting $500 million in the out years [of the state budget],” said Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-Fauquier, Prince William). “We’ll help the county the best we can. But we remain in a difficult climate. It would be improper for any of us to sit at this table to say we’ll go back, and find that pot of money, and bring it back to you.”

Lingamfelter said, “cost to compete” is a “sound” idea and has helped many teachers move to Northern Virginia, an area with much higher property values than other portions of the state.

At the meeting, Virginia legislators did their best to impress upon Prince William leaders that money is tight and that they shouldn’t expect any new or additional funding following January’s General Assembly session in Richmond. Compounding the problem is sales taxes are lower than expected, meaning people are spending less.

Officials have also looked at eliminating a statewide tax relief on vehicles to ease the burden on state residents. But Lingamfelter warned such a cut would leave localities looking for new sources of funding.

“If they got rid of the car tax relief guess what you would be doing here? Raising taxes,” he said.

*This story has been corrected

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Should Prince William raise taxes to fill $17.7 million bus budget gap?

Average tax bills could rise by $80 to offset budget shortfall

Commuter bus service in Prince William County is heading toward a fiscal cliff.

A budget deficit of $17.7 million is looming for OmniRide commuter buses and OmniLink local buses. The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission or PRTC — the agency that operates the buses — asked Prince William leaders to help make up a budget shortfall that could lead to 1/3 of all PRTC to be slashed, starting in 2018.

PRTC expects the state to provide 10% fewer dollars than it last year. Additionally, a surplus of monies collected in the 2.3% motor fuels tax — a tax on every gallon of fuel purchased in the county — is expected to run out by 2018.

With the drop in fuel prices, and newer cars getting more miles per gallon, gas tax revenues are expected to be flat over the next several years despite Prince William’s growing population, said PRTC Executive Director Al Harf.

Prince William County is the largest funder of PRTC, as 86% of riders live in the county. The county gave $15.2 million to both PRTC and Virginia Railway Express this year, while Virginia provided $16.2 million, and the Federal Government $2.7 million.

The bus system now wrangles with the costs of maintenance, purchasing new buses to replace old ones, and has seen fewer dollars than expected from last year’s landmark transportation bill that increased sales taxes to generate an estimated $880 million in new revenue for transportation and transit. Harf says the linger affects of the recession, the impact of sequestration, and lower fuel costs are all to blame for the lower funds.

Prince William leaders have the option of footing the entire $17.7 million bill, placing the tax burden on the backs of county taxpayers.

“We would need a significant amount of funding from the general fund to accomplish this,” Prince William County Budget Director Michelle Casciato told officials in September.

Total funding would lead to an $80 increase to the average property tax bill paid by county residents. Because of a revenue sharing agreement between the county government and its public school system, education funding would automatically be increased by the move.

County leaders also have the option of diverting monies already allocated toward traffic improvement projects, such as widening Minnieville, Balls Ford, Neabsco Mills, and Vint Hill roads, and using the dollars to fund the transit service. That option would push back construction completion dates on the road projects by up to 10 years and, due to inflation, would mean the projects could cost more in the long run.

If the county picks up only some of the cost, about $13 million, then PRTC warns local buses and buses that service Metro stations in Springfield and Vienna would run less frequently. Riders could also expect large annual fare increases, rising as much as 42%, beginning in 2016.

“Once you lose a rider, you’ve lost them,” said Harf. “More people would rely on family and friends, and they would be carpooling where they are not carpooling now.” 

The Prince William County Board of Supervisors will begin working on the fiscal year 2016 budget in earnest after the 1st of the year.

Manassas and Manassas Park residents also use the bus service, but those independent cities do not contribute funding to PRTC. If the cities did, it would help to close the budget gap by $2 million, said Harf.

News
License Plate Reader Limits Could Hamper Investigations

A Prince William County legislator is seeking statewide uniformity on how license plate readers collect and store data that has been linked to solving crimes.

Delegate Richard Anderson told the Prince William Committee of 100 that he and Virginia State Senator Chap Petersen will submit new legislation that would address how police agencies, like Prince William County’s, collect and store photos of license plates collected from cars in parking lots and from vehicles driving on county streets.

How LPRs work

Prince William police have 12 license plate readers, or LPRs, in use. Eleven are mounted to police cruisers, and a 12th is attached to a trailer that is moved to different locations in the county.

Each unit is a camera that quickly snaps photos of license plates and stores them on a computer inside the police car. If the computer matches the license plate number with a plate that has been reported stolen, officers know to pursue the stolen car immediately.

At the end of the day, the data is transferred to a database at the police department and is kept on file for six months. Prince William Police Chief Stephan Hudson said his ability to collect and store this data had allowed his investigators to use the data to help solve crimes. He said the data has also come in handy when police need to locate missing persons.

Fears of police tracking

Frank Knaack from the American Civil Liberties Union urges caution against using the machines. He said police can create a “digital fence” around a certain area to track drivers to determine travel patterns, giving authorities a clear idea of where a driver works, shops, as well as which groups he or she may associate with.

“Cars with license plates readers can drive through parking lots and can track cars at church, and police have a good idea that you go to that particular church every Sunday,” said Knaack.

Statewide limits would address privacy concerns

That’s where Anderson’s new legislation comes in. Earlier in the year, he, Petersen, and others formed the Ben Franklin Privacy Caucus in Richmond to address such privacy concerns. Anderson wants to impose a three month statewide limit on how long police may keep the license plate data on file.

“We need to tackle the issue of what triggers the [data] collection,” said Anderson. “It should be one of two things: It ought to be with a court order, or if a crime is in progress that requires law enforcement to spring into action in a given moment, so they have the intelligence they need to solve a crime.”

Historical data important to police chief

Chief Hudson said he’s “OK” with the three-month limit but prefers keeping the data on file for six months, as his department does now. He also said obtaining a court order each time data is collected could diminish the effectiveness of how LPRs are used today.

“My concern is that with such parameters we would have no historical data. And much of the benefit to having the historical data is going back to look at something days, weeks, even a couple months old and, if it was governed by that trigger, I wouldn’t even have that information,” said Hudson.

News
Hudson: Recent Prince William Murders Not a Trend

Chief praises police officers for hard work following murders

 

Two murders back to back, less than a week apart, has some Prince William County residents talking about safety.

On Nov. 10, a Woodbridge Senior High School student was shot and killed on a walking path just outside the school. Police said the victim was killed in a drug-related robbery. Five people, including a 16-year-old girl, were arrested and charged in connection to Williams’ death.

In the early hours of Nov. 16, Christopher Nathaniel Weaver, 19, and a 15-year-old boy were shot in Dale City. Both were taken to a hospital where Weaver died, and a 15-year-old suffered injuries that did not appear to be life threatening.

One shooting suspect was arrested the following day in Arlington, and the second was taken into custody last night in Manassas.

The two shootings were not related.

In an interview with Potomac Local, Prince William Police Department Chief Stephan Hudson says the county has seen some troubling incidents in recent days, but says crime in the community continues to be at historically low levels.

“Even with two recent murders that have occurred within five or six days of each other, we still are at a total of six murders for the entire year. Historically, over the past 30 plus years, [the number of] our murders vary every single year. They’ve gone from lows of one and two to a high of 16. So, I am not overly concerned that this represents some kind of a trend that we need to be concerned about,” said Hudson.

Statistically, Prince William is on par with having the same number of murders this year as last. A total of 16 people were murdered in Prince William in 2006, and 12 people were murder in the county in 2008. Those two years, out of the past 10, saw the most murders in the county.

The department’s policy of directing a massive amount of resources to the county’s most violent crimes immediately after they occur is what helped detectives to quickly track down suspects in the two most recent murders. (more…)

News
Beer Boon: Craft Brewers Now Welcome in Prince William

Restrictive zoning ordinance amended

It is now legal to open a craft brewery in a shopping center in Prince William County.

In what seemed like a happy hour session, that last call of the night for the County Board of Supervisors was to amend zoning laws that once prevented small craft breweries, like Bad Wolf Brewing in Manassas, from opening in commercial or retail district.

Unlike bars or restaurants, most craft breweries stick to serving only beer. New legislation signed earlier this year by Gov. Terry McAuliffe now allows these small breweries that were once banned under Virginia ABC laws.

“We’re always trying to catch up with the market,” said Nick Evers, with Prince William County’s planning office.

Like small wineries, craft breweries are growing in popularity and have sprung up in Manassas City and Stafford County. Recently, Bad Wolf Brewery in Manassas chose to expand its operation in that city. But not before exploring their options to expand at Tacketts Mill in Lake Ridge only to be told no due to the old zoning law.

“We’ve already lost potential business in this development area,” said Occoquan District Supervisor Mike May.

Small craft breweries allowed to make 10,000 barrels per year, and are no longer restricted to being located in industrial zones in Prince William. For brew masters that grow their ingredients for their beers on farms with two acres of land or more, those breweries can make 15,000 barrels of beer per year, said Evers.

But it’s not all Miller time yet for the Supervisors on this issue. As the Board voted to allow small craft breweries, they also voted to revisit the issue to refine the language that states exactly what types of alcoholic beverages may be brewed in the county.

Chairman Corey Stewart, At-large, said the language in the new law does not address breweries that make alcoholic cider, or Mead, a drink rooted in ancient history throughout Asia and Europe made by fermenting honey with water.

“Yeah, it’s coming up. They make Meade,” said Stewart.

Craft breweries will be allowed to host beer tastings at their facilities but will need to obtain a permit for events with more than 100 people in attendance.

News
Police Catch Burglar in Haymarket

HAYMARKET, Va. – On Nov. 11, a homeowner told police that they discovered that several crossbows and a firearm were missing from a detached shed and a parked car.

Here’s the latest from Prince William police:  

Residential Burglary – On November 11th at 8:31AM, officers responded to the 3700 block of Mountain Rd in Haymarket (20169) to investigate a burglary. The homeowner reported to police that the burglary occurred between 6:30PM on November 10th and 5:30AM on November 11th.

The investigation revealed that entry was made into a detached shed, as well as, the homeowner’s vehicles parked on the property. Multiple crossbows and a firearm were reported missing. Around the same time, officers responded to investigate a suspicious vehicle in the 3800 block of Delashmutt Dr. Officers arrived and located the vehicle unoccupied. A crossbow was observed in the vehicle similar to one reported in the burglary.

The caller further reported seeing the driver of the vehicle carry a large bag to a residence in the 4100 block of Crescent Hill Dr. Officers and detectives made contact at the home and identified the driver as the accused. Following the investigation, the accused was connected to the reported burglary and was subsequently arrested.

Arrested on November 11th:

Zachary Ryan ALLUE, 18, of 1509 Summit Dr in Haymarket

Charged with burglary, grand larceny and grand larceny of a firearm

Court date: December 10, 2014 | Bond: $7,500 secured

News
Youth Scouting Membership Declines

The number of Girl Scouts is on the decline nationally, but that isn’t the case in Prince William County.

The number of Girl Scouts “remained steady” in Prince William, while the numbers of girls joining the ranks of the scouts has declined 6% in the last year, down from 2.9 to 2.8 million Girl Scouts nationwide. Overall, the membership numbers have fallen 27% from its peak of 3.8 million in 2003.

There were 3,192 Girl Scouts in Prince William County last year supported by 1,000 adult volunteers. The 102-year-old organization prides itself on maintaining its core values while educating girls in the changing fields of science, technology, and math, commonly known as STEM.

“We remain committed to our mission: building girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place. Girls continue to learn new skills and earn badges, participate in the outdoors and provide service to their community,” Girl Scouts spokeswoman Nancy Wood told Potomac Local.

It’s not quite the same story for the Boy Scouts in Prince William. Their membership numbers fell nearly 2% last year, a bit lower number when compared to the 2.5% decline in membership seen in Boy Scout troops across the U.S.

The Boy Scouts have also embraced STEM education as part of their curriculum, but the Boy Scouts also knows activities for participants must also be fun.

“We have been working on a number of projects to bolster the numbers of young men and women in our program,” said Ben Hazekamp, a district executive for the Boy Scouts of America National Capital Region. “We are working on new units at schools that currently do not offer a scouting program, so that we can offer the scouting experience to every youth. We are also working on several strategic partnerships through our Explorer’s program, which offers young men and women the opportunity to explore potential careers from the ages of 14 to 21.”

Another program open to Boy Scouts came about from a partnership with Prince William police, where boys get to explore the field of community policing.

There are 4,774 active youth members in the Boy Scouts organization in Prince William. It’s an average of 2.5 children to every one adult, according to Hazekamp.

The Boys Scouts recently held a fundraiser dinner honoring two women in our community, Ernestine Jenkins and Melissa Robson, awarding them the “Good Scout” award. The dinner served to raise awareness of scouting and also raised $10,000 for the local organization.

News
Winter Warm-UP Drive Benefits Local Students

Withfall in full swing and early morning temperatures near freezing, the Prince William Chamber of Commerce would like to remind you that there are many children who need our help to stay warm this winter.

Michelle Rao, of Laser Quest Corporation, co-chair of the Chamber’s Education & Innovation Committee, said that while many coat drives are conducted over the holidays, often-times local children lack warm clothing underneath. To meet this need, each year the Committee organizes a Winter Warm-UP online clothing drive. For only $10, donors can purchase a “kit” containing a hat, gloves and fleece, and sweat shirt.

The Committee, with the help of students from Manassas Christian School, then distributes these warm clothing “kits” to Title I schools in Prince William County and the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park. The goal is to keep kids focused on learning by meeting one of their most basic needs; the need for warm clothing during cold weather months.

“We believe that strong business and strong community go hand in hand. These children are our future workforce, our future leaders. It is important that we let them know this is a community that values their education and stands ready to help them reach their full potential,” said Debbie Jones, President & CEO of the Prince William Chamber.

Last year, the Chamber raised enough money to purchase 501 kits through the program. This year, with the generous contributions from Lockheed Martin and the Prince William Education Association, the Education & Innovation Committee is hoping to exceed last year’s contributions for Winter Warm Up. All residents, community groups and businesses are invited to participate and help meet the goal and make a difference in the lives of local students.

Both long-time members of the Committee, Denyse Carroll, Prince William County Public Schools and Jamie McNealy, Invent Now, Inc, helped collect donations from attendees at the Chamber’s recent Cuisine de Commerce luncheon. They were pleased to report that in just over an hour, members of the local business community had given enough to purchase 10 kits just by pooling their pocket change.

To donate online, visit PWchamber.org and look for the Winter Warm-UP graphic in the homepage slider. Checks can also be mailed to the Chamber Headquarters at 9720 Capital Court, Suite 203, Manassas, VA, 20110, c/o Winter Warm-UP.

For questions about the Winter Warm-UP or other community outreach activities of the Prince William Chamber, visit PWchamber.org and click on the tab labeled “The Chamber” or call 703-368-6600.

News
Shops Inside Haymarket Town Center Getting Wet

HAYMARKET, Va. — The Haymarket Town Center has become a frequent site of flooding, but it’s more than just employees who work for the the tiny town’s government that is getting wet.

A real estate agency, a consulting firm, as well as a small shop called The Very Thing all rent space inside the Town Center located at 15000 Washington Street. The building is prone to flooding during moderate rain storms.

And that had a woman, who was identified by Town Manager Brian Henshaw only as an employee of The Very Thing, storming mad.

“If it was your business, you would want a quick fix,” said the woman to the Haymarket Town Council.

The building flooded when our area was drenched by several storms at the beginning of May, and again on May 16. No one was available from The Very Thing to provide comment for this story to tell us just how wet it got inside the shop.

The shop employee directed her comments at Town Councilman Jay Tobias who said he’s aware of the problem but would rather fix the flooding issues and improve the site overall.

“I’m not for putting a band aid…I’m not for doing temporary fixes…that’s a waste of money…it’s a slow moving process…it’s government,” said Tobias.

Officials said gravel was laid outside the building in an effort to curb the flooding but it didn’t work.

There is an overall Town Center Master Plan to, among other things, help stop the flooding. But it’s a costly one – to the tune of about $500,000, according to Henshaw.

A 2013 study prepared by J2 Egineers, of Chantilly, and Land Planning and Design Associates, of Sterling, outlined big improvements for the 12,300 square foot municipal complex at the center of town. Among them were improving traffic flow around the building as the area is known for vehicle congestion, and improving storm water runoff that causes the flooding.

“We’re in the process of deciding what our options are,” said Henshaw. “Some fixes have suggested we dig along the foundation, some have called for installing sump pumps, so we are really exploring options right now.”

Henshaw says its best if the town hold fund a big, overall fix rather than putting cash into small measures to mitigate only the flooding. A quick fix would only cause the water to go elsewhere to another site in town, he added.

Right now there is $250,000 in the town’s budget to design a fix for the problem based on solutions outlined in the Town Center Master Plan. It could also cover the start of construction that could begin as early as next spring, said Henshaw.

Tobis said perhaps members of the next elected Town Council could fast-track improvements to the Town Center.

‘Maybe the next council can work faster, in a more harmonious, a religious right way of doing things, its what the next council is preaching…” said Tobias, who said the the woman’s urge to fix the flooding problems was a “vested interest.”

News
Quist Only New Mayoral Face in Prince William’s Towns

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — In the wake of Tuesday’s town elections in Prince William County, much is still the same except in Occoquan.

That’s where Mayor-Elect Elizabeth A.C. “Liz” Quist will replace the retiring Mayor Earnie Porta, whose during his six-year term became the biggest cheerleader for the tiny town on the Occoquan River. He’ll most likely seek higher office during a later election.

Quist, a tax accountant, says she’ll champion issues like financial responsibility, as well as creating an operating budget that isn’t so dependent upon revenues generated from the town’s two highly attended spring and fall craft fairs.

“We’re a growing town, and we’ve got a great staff that’s put together, and it’s time we polish our procedures that we have in place to make sure they’re efficient,” said Quist.

Part of that new staff is Town Manager Kirstyn Barr who was hired earlier this year. And, serving as town crier over the past few years has been an email newsletter distributed by Porta – something Quist said she may try to replace but will never be able to duplicate.

“Earnie has done a lot of set us up… we’ve got a strong council, now…we have to make sure that we work together,” said Quist. “There will be some changes and people with feel that after having the same leader for six years, but I hope people won’t have to feel a huge shift.”

While Quist ran unopposed, the mayors of Prince William’s others towns of Dumfries, Haymarket, and Quantico all had candidates looking to unseat sitting mayors. All of the challengers failed.

Dumfries

In Dumfries, Gerald “Jerry” Foreman will hold onto his seat, after briefly dropping out of the race on April 1 before jumping back in, beating Vice-Mayor Willie J. Toney by 87 votes.

“This is a message from the voters telling the council members work with the mayor by saying ‘this is the mayor we want, you gave us a choice, and we’re telling you which mayor has the vision and which mayor which mayor is going to move us forward,’ and they’re telling the council move… and work with the mayor,” said Foreman.

All of the incumbent council members – Gwen Washington, Kristen Forrester, and Derrick Wood – will keep their seats after two write-in candidates – Cydny Neville and Christy Hart – failed to get enough votes to unseat them.

Quantico

Mayor Kevin Brown will keep his seat in Quantico, beating out former Mayor Isis Ross Tharpe by 46 votes of the 146 that were cast on Tuesday.

“I believe the outcome of the mayoral race shows that the people in town have recognized the progress made over the past two years and approve of the direction the town is headed in,” Brown wrote in a prepared statement.

Brown applauded residents for re-electing Vice Mayor Russell “Rusty” Kuhns, and noted he was surprised voters installed the husband and wife team of Councilwoman Peggy Alexander and Councilman-Elect Lucian G. “Alex” Alexander on the dais.

Haymarket

In Haymarket, Mayor David Leake will keep his seat despite being censured by his fellow councilmembers several times over an internal investigation involving the town’s police chief. He beat out challenger Josh Mattox by 68 of the 264 votes cast on Tuesday.

News
Police: Shaken Child Died, Father Charged

HAYMARKET, Va. –– A father is charged with murder in the death of his 3-month-old son last summer, according to police.

Here’s an unedited press release from Prince William police:

Murder | Felony Child Abuse – On August 5th [2013] at 2:18PM, officers responded to a residence located in the 14900 block of Keavy Pl in Haymarket (20169) to investigate an unconscious child. The caller, later identified as the accused, reported to police that his child, a 3 month old boy, was not breathing. The child was flown to an area hospital where it was discovered that he had sustained injuries consistent with being shaken. The child died on August 17th as a result of those injuries. Detectives from the Homicide Unit and Physical Abuse Unit conducted an extensive investigation into the victim’s death. Following the investigation, the accused was arrested on May 1st.

Arrested on May 1st:

David Michael SCHMIDT, 28, of 14959 Keavy Pl in Haymarket

Charged with murder and felony child abuse

Court date: unavailable | Bond: held WITHOUT bond

 

Identified:

The child was identified as Rhys SCHMIDT, 3 months (at the time of death)

 

 

News
2014 Town Elections Profiles: Kurtis Woods for Haymarket Town Council

Name: Kurtis Woods

Age: 26

Town of residence: Haymarket, Va.

Office seeking: Town Council

Campaign website: votehaymarket.com

Occupation: Systems Administrator

Education: Bachelor’s of Science in Information Systems from Cedarville University

Community involvement: Involved in service with McLean Bible Church including community programs, serving on Sunday mornings and as a member of a search committee for a new worship pastor.

Why should young people be excited to vote for you?

I bring a youthful perspective to the town council. I plan on living here for a long time and will endeavor to work for the good of the town’s future. I will respect the voice of every citizen, especially those with more experience and investment in the town.

In your opinion, what are the top three major issues facing the district you wish to represent? What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?

The town needs to take a look at it’s organization and find areas of duplication that can be removed. I support an organizational assessment to discover and tackle those issues.

There are several vacant properties in town, some of which are eyesores. Providing businesses with incentives and a friendly atmosphere could transform those vacant properties to be thriving and revenue creating locations.

The police department needs a serious look as well. We need to include it in the above mentioned organizational assessment to determined how it can be managed to serve the best interests of our town.

From your prospective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking? What expertise will you bring to the position?

A town council member’s job description is, in my opinion, to listen to the citizens of the town and make informed decisions based on their desires and needs. It is to manage the town’s affairs in the best interest of the people. I would be able to contribute a young family’s perspective, my expertise as an IT professional, and a listening ear.

Do you feel that the average citizen is well-informed and understands the workings of town government? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency?

I do not feel that the town is currently well informed. They need to make efforts to take advantage of more available avenues of communication to get the issues in front of the public. One proposed means of doing so is to personally visit the homes of the town residents during my term to talk with them about their needs and desires.

Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they effected you?

This is my first try at politics, and I have not yet had much chance to make public mistakes or be affected by them. However, in my personal life I always strive to own up to my mistakes and accept the consequences with grace.

Is there something that you are currently working to improve and develop within yourself to become a better leader?

There is nothing like experience. I believe that simply by serving on the town council will make me into a better leader. I am surrounding myself with other leaders that I look up to, and I continually seek their advice.

Editor’s note: Residents of Prince William County’s towns of Dumfries, Haymarket, Occoquan, and Quantico will head to the polls May 6. PotomacLocal.com emailed a questionnaire to all candidates seeking office in this year’s elections in . The responses we received will be posted to this website.

See more Project:Election 2014 Town Elections profiles

Novant Health Announces Opening of Haymarket Medical Center

 Novant Health Haymarket Medical Center opened its doors earlier this morning for care and services. The new four-story, 60-bed community hospital will serve the growing and diverse northern Virginia community. The 221,000-square-foot facility, designed to transform healthcare, houses a full complement of services, including emergency care, surgery, cancer care, women’s and children’s services, including maternity care, imaging, cardiac diagnostics, interventional radiology and critical care. Haymarket Medical Center strengthens Novant Health’s integrated healthcare network in northern Virginia complimenting its other acute care facility – Novant Health Prince William Medical Center, located in Manassas, Virginia.

Haymarket Medical Center, Novant Health’s fifteenth medical center and first prototypical hospital design, features all-private patient rooms with ample space to accommodate family and visitors. All rooms are equipped with computers for bedside documentation – thoughtfully designed to enable nurses to spend more time at the patient’s bedside. Patients are encouraged to play a role in their care with conversation and verification of information. The first floor has a 20-room emergency department, cardiac diagnostics, interventional radiology, a patient care unit, a café, a gift shop, conference rooms, an interfaith room of reflection, financial counseling and guest services. The second floor hosts surgical services with four state-of-the-art operating rooms and one procedure room on one end and women’s and children’s care on the other end with a labor and delivery unit, two dedicated cesarean section operating rooms, a well-baby nursery and postpartum unit. Again, thoughtfully designed to create efficiency for anesthesia services. The critical care unit, medical/surgical unit, inpatient rehabilitation and pharmacy are located on the third floor.

“We are fortunate to have had the vision of our board of trustees who had the foresight to bring care where it is needed – in western Prince William County,” said Melissa L. Robson, RN, BSN, MHA, president of Novant Health northern Virginia market. “Now, the communities we serve will no longer have to travel for high-quality care that is close to home.”

The hospital’s main entrance, at 15225 Heathcote Boulevard, provides ample space for vehicles to drop off and pick up patients. In addition, free valet service is offered Monday through Friday. Also located at the main entrance is a landscaped courtyard generously donated by the Novant Health Auxiliary. All entrances to the hospital, including the emergency room located at the rear of the facility facing Interstate 66, are located for easy patient access. A separate ambulance entrance nearest to the onsite helipad is away from the main entrance to provide patient privacy.

-Submitted by Novant Healhtcare

News
Haymarket Medical Center Set to Open

HAYMARKET, Va. — Novant Health’s $100 million hospital outside Haymarket on Heathcote Boulevard, aptly named the Haymaket Medical Center, is set to open.

This is the first new hospital to be built in Prince William, Loudoun, or Fairfax counties in the past 17 years.

The hospital has 60 beds, and staff recently held a ribbon cutting at the new facility to celebrate its grand opening.

More in a press release:

The four-story building, which employs a staff of nearly 300 is on-schedule to open to patients in March. During the event attendees enjoyed self-guided tours, free health screenings, information and educational tables, child-friendly activities, goodies, refreshments and more. Haymarket Medical Center is Novant Health’s first prototypical hospital design. The patient-focused, caregiver-driven design included input from patients, family members and the entire hospital care team. An innovative approach was used to return the nurse to direct patient care.

“Novant Health is striving to make the healthcare experience remarkable. One way we’re doing that is making it convenient by bringing healthcare to the communities we serve,” said Melissa L. Robson, RN, BSN, MHA, president of Novant Health northern Virginia market.”

Haymarket Medical Center will feature all-private patient rooms, including an emergency department with 20 rooms, a helipad, imaging, a multi-specialty cardiac and interventional radiology lab, a critical care unit with eight beds, a medical/surgical unit with 36 rooms, women’s health with 16 rooms and maternity care with seven labor and delivery suites and dedicated C-section operating rooms, a well-baby nursery with 16 bassinets, four operating suites and a separate procedure room, a Café, gift shop and an interfaith room of reflection.

Unique aspects of the facility include:

– Computers in every patient room for bedside documentation

– Supplies, medication and equipment are located at the bedside, which reduces travel distances for caregivers and promotes safety and quality

– Direct access elevator, which can take patients directly from the emergency room to the surgical floor or critical care

– High definition, digital and wireless video recording capabilities in the operating room

– Mini-refrigerators in post-partum rooms

North Carolina-based Novant Health purchased Prince William Hospital in Manassas in 2009 and, as of last year, operates it as Novant Health Prince William Medical Center.

 

News
Haymarket Mayor Censured, Withholds Information

Updated

HAYMARKET, Va. – Mayor David Leake was censured this morning in an special meeting of the Haymarket Town Council.

The censure stems from Leake withholding the names of two town employees. It appears those employees could be in trouble, though town officials are mum on who they are or what they might have done.

“Absolutely, It’s a very serious situation,” Leake told Potomac Local News when asked of the severity of the situation regarding the employees.

Prior to the Town Council’s vote to censure Leake for withholding the names, a special committee comprised of Vice Mayor Jay Tobias and Councilman Steven Aitken was formed and was charged with investigating personnel issues involving the two town employees.

Leake said the committee is not qualified to conduct such an investigation, and added he’ll only release the names of the town employees to a third-party investigator brought in on the council of the town’s hired attorneys. 

“Town council members handling the investigation…it’s out of their league and it’s out of their professionalism… it’s just not the right way to go,” said Leake.

Additionally, Leake said he is looking into overturning both motions made at today’s special town council meeting. The first: to create the investigative committee wtih Tobais and Aitken, and second: to reverse his censure. The Mayor said the town charter allows the mayor — who is not allowed to vote — to cast a veto by making his case in writing and presenting it within five days of the council’s vote.

Tobias made the motion Monday to censure Leake. When reached for comment, he said little about the investigation noting only that officials are looking into personnel maters, and added “it is certainly possible” the committee’s investigation could yield information on the good doings of the two town employees in question.

The censure comes after Mayor David Leake in October moved to censure and fine Tobias after he was charged with public intoxication at the town’s annual Haymarket Day.

News
Dumfries Parade Still on, Haymarket Holiday Festival Canceled

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — The 37th Annual Dumfries Christmas Holiday Parade will take place rain or shine.

The parade begins at noon in front of Town Hall on Main Street and will continue to the Dumfries Shopping Plaza. The theme for this year’s parade is “the sights and sounds of Christmas.”

In the Town of Haymarket in Western Prince William County, a holiday event planed for today became a casualty of the weather. A holiday festival that included a parade that was to start at 4 p.m., a tree lighting ceremony, a music stage, children’s activities, and Santa Claus, was canceled.

“Due to weather and resulting safety issues on Saturday, we have no choice to but to cancel the holiday party event,” according to the organizer, Haymarket Fun.

The event was originally billed as rain or shine, according to Haymarket Fun’s website.

 

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Pentagon’s SWAT Team Holds ‘Active Shooter’ Drill at Gainesville District School Building

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[Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

HAYMARKET, Va. — Dimly lit hallways, exposed brick, and shattered pieces of drywall and concrete lay on the floor at the Gainesville District School.

The building  built in 1935 and most recently served as Prince William County’s the PACE West School. After PACE West relocated, the building was sold last month to Quality Business Engineering, or QBE Global, a federal contracting and real estate firm.

And that’s when the Pentagon’s force protection SWAT team took interest. They, along with Prince William fire and rescue personnel, were training inside the building Tuesday for an “active shooter” scenario, inside a portion of the old school house that is being renovated and will later QBE’s corporate headquarters.

The SWAT team’s training scenario: someone inside the building is firing a gun, taking mass casualties and hostages. The force protection unit must go inside, immobilize the shooter, and afterward fire and rescue personnel will then be called into to remove and treat the shooting victims.

QBE employees donned in black projective masks and inoperable weapons were assigned to pose as victims, hostages, and bad guys.

“Fortunately, I have a large company with many employees who volunteered to be shot at,” said QBE owner Shawn Landry.

More like shooting paint ball than live fire, the Pentagon’s SWAT team was slated to use chalk projectiles that would leave a mark on their targets, said Landry. Several old chalkboards and whiteboards were cut up to create barriers to hide behind, creating an indoor maze among inside these dusty, dark, debris-filled corridors.

These training scenarios have become regular occurrences as of late at the Gainesville District School. Landy said he’s invited fire and rescue teams from the nearby Antioch and Nokesville fire departments to train here, utilizing a no-burning, artificial smoke approach to create real-life, hair raising scenarios that keep first responders on their toes.

“It’s not as easy to find places to train as it used to be,” said Lt. Jeff Howyshell, of the Prince William County Fire and Rescue Department.

There’s a moratorium in the county on burning old buildings that would create a smoky environment to train in. Other buildings that can be burned are riddled with asbestos, and fire departments must pay cumbersome costs to have the asbestos removed before they’re burned.

The Gainesville District School building is subdivided, with a preschool renting the rear of the building and a church renting the gymnasium and stage space. Landry said he plans to open a restaurant in the old cafeteria area that will be opened to the public once building renovations are complete.

The Pentagon’s Force Protection team is in place to protect some 35,000 employees housed at the world’s largest office building in Arlington. The team is often referred to as “ninjas” or “men in black,” and they are tasked with protecting more than 18 miles of hallways and corridors and the Pentagon Metro station and transit bus terminal.

News
Haymarket Vice Mayor Censured, Fined

HAYMARKET, Va. — Jay Tobias, Haymarket’s vice mayor, was censured and is now forced to pay a $250 fine for alleged misconduct stemming from public intoxication charges filed on the day of the town’s largest public celebration.

Town officials Monday voted 4-3 to force Tobias to pay the fine on our before Oct. 21. Officials also censured Planning Commission and former Town Council member Robert Wier after Mayor David Leake pressed charges on him, claiming he was standing on a public street in mid conversation when Wier walked up to him and began cursing at him.

Tobias, who on Monday questioned whether the town council had the legal authority to impose such a fine, was one of three dissenting votes on the measure.

Police said the charges stem from incidents that took place on Haymarket Day on Sept. 21, which is the largest annual event in the small western Prince William County town.

The town council will now review its code of conduct and ethics polices that elected officials need at adhere to, which have not been updated in many years, according to officials.

News of the arrests drew several comments from town residents who said the alleged incidents resulted in the black eye for the town.

“I don’t know the reasoning behind this kind of behavior but it’s an embarrassment to the town, it’s an embarrassment to us, and If we want to be represented in Prince William County and be taken seriously we need to start taking our town seriously,” said Pam Swinford.

She went on to say Tobias should be removed from office. Others said the arrest was bad for business.

“I’ve considered moving my business back to Haymarket, and moving me and my wife back to Haymarket. But recent events tell me this is not where we want to be…what is going on in Haymarket? We see this kind of thing in the capital, not Haymarket. We want some peace,” said Charlie DeGraw, of Manassas.

Ralph Ring, of Haymarket, said residents should wait until Tobias appears in court before making a judgment on his ability to lead.

“We should not be trying these things in the court of public opinion, we should wait until a court date happens, we should let all sides present their evidence, and let a judge determine it. Then, if you want to ask for dismissal based on what happens, go for it,” said Ring.

Tobias’ charge amounts to a misdemeanor. He is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 7.

 

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