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‘Dog walk’ in Lake Ridge Apr. 26

Prince William County Dogs, the Prince William Parks & Recreation Department, the Prince William Trails and Streams Coalition and the Lake Ridge Parks & Recreation Association will be hosting a ‘dog walk’ fundraiser in Lake Ridge Park.

The 3-mile walk will take place on April 26 at 12 p.m at 12350 Cotton Mill Drive.

The Prince William County Dogs group is partnering with local organizations for this fundraiser, as a way of funding improvements to the K9 Gunner Memorial Dog Park, which is located on 13000 Minnieville Road in Dale City.

Residents can register online, or before the walk begins, for $10 per dog.

News
Why this Occoquan home daycare won’t be allowed to expand

Neighbor complaints, citations lead to unanimous vote against family day home  

The number of children allowed at a home daycare in Occoquan will continue to be limited to five.

Sammy’s Home Child Daycare at 1613 Mount High Street wanted to care legally for up to 12 children. After it had been denied the request twice before, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors on Monday denied them a third time.

The decision comes after county and state inspectors, recently as March 19, noted the center’s owners Max and Maria Miller were caring for seven children, and were cited by Virginia Social Services for failing to maintain a proper attendance log of children at the day home.

Rebecca Horner, with the Prince William County Planning Office, told the Board of Supervisors that inspectors do not count a family day home’s owners’ children as part of the five-child cap.

Prior to the county getting involved, the state also denied the couples’ request to expand.

A change in state law, however, allowed the Millers to appeal to the county’s zoning department.  It polled neighbors, asking if they had concerns about the family day home.

They did and said too many cars had been coming to the home located on a dead end street causing unwanted congestion. They also cited a lack of parking on the street.

County zoning officials drivers dropping off and picking up children could not safely enter and exit the driveway due to a hill on Mount High Street.

Prior to the denial, the Millers’ on Monday night told the Board of Supervisors they had never been cited by state inspectors for exceeding the five-child limit. Citing county inspection reports, some on the Board, and those in the audience who spoke said the couple violated zoning laws several times.

“I congratulate Mr. and Mrs. Miller on their persistent purist of the American dream. My hat’s off to you,” said Ed Arnold, who lives across from the Millers’ family day home. “We have stood in your path for what we think are valid and viable reasons and, not withstanding, it is viable to see how persistent you are and that you’re not going to allow anything to come between you and your American dream — not even the laws.” (more…)

News
Futrell, Qarni and McPike to meet for Prince William Primary Debates

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 11.26.47 AMThree candidates in the Democratic primary for the 29th district Senate seat will meet for a primary debate on Monday, May 18 at 7 p.m.

The three candidates – Jeremy McPike, Delegate Michael Futrell and Atif Qarni – are hoping to fill the long held seat of Senator Chuck Colgan, will debate local issues concerning governance in the district, which includes Prince William County and Manassas.

The candidates will take part in a state-run primary on June 9, which will decide who will go against Republican challenger Hal Parrish, Mayor for the City of Manassas, in November.

You may submit questions for the Democratic Senate primary debate. 

The debate will be held in the auditorium at the Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo Building at 15941 Donald Curtis Drive in Woodbridge. 

Potomac Local is sponsoring the event, in partnership with the Prince William County Democratic Committee. 

 

The candidates were briefed on the format of the debate as follows:

— Candidates will be introduced to the audience
— Short bios for each candidate will be read
— A candidate will be asked a specific question
— The candidate will have two minutes to respond
— An opposing candidate will have one minute for rebuttal
— A new question is asked of different candidate and process repeats

Stephanie Tipple, Prince William Regional Editor for Potomac Local, will moderate the debate. 

Bob Gibson, Executive Director for the Sorensen Institute of Political Leadership at the University of Virginia, and Stephen Farnsworth, author and professor at the University of Mary Washington, will be the panelists for the debate.

Potomac Local will accept reader-submitted questions that may be asked of the candidates during the debates.

The event is open to the public.

Campaign literature and signs are permitted outside of the Ferlazzo building and must be removed upon event conclusion.

RELATED: Stewart, Crawford; Nohe, O’Meara to meet for Prince William Primary Debates

News
Stewart, Crawford; Nohe, O’Meara to meet for Prince William Primary Debates

Four candidates for elected office in Prince William County will meet for two separate debates Saturday, April 11.

First at 5:30 p.m., incumbent Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman, At-large Corey Stewart will meet his Republican challenger Chris Crawford to debate local issues concerning governance of Prince William County and the task of leading its Board of Supervisors. Both men are candidates in an April 25 party canvass, also known as a “firehouse” primary where Republican voters will decide who will go on to face Democrat challenger Rick Smith in November.

You may submit questions for the Chairman’s Primary Debate.

At 6:30 p.m., incumbent Prince William County Coles District Supervisor Marty Nohe will meet with Republican challenger Paul O’Meara to discuss streetlight issues facing voters in the Coles District, which spans from the mid-county area to neighborhoods around Manassas.

To date, no Democrat seeks the Coles District seat, so this could be the debate that helps voters decide who will become the next Coles District Supervisor.

You may submit questions for the Coles District Primary Debate.

The debates will be held at the Dar AlNoor Islamic Community Center on Hoadly Road in Woodbridge. The event is co-sponsored by the Coles District Civic Association and Potomac Local.

The candidates were briefed on the format of the debate as follows:

  • Candidates will be introduced to the audience
  • Short bios for each candidate will be read
  • A candidate will be asked a specific question
  • The candidate will have two minutes to respond
  • An opposing candidate will have one minute for rebuttal
  • A new question is asked of different candidate and process repeats

Potomac Local Publisher Uriah Kiser will moderate the debates. The local online news organization will accept reader-submitted questions that may be asked of the candidates during the debates.

The candidates, audience members, and all those involved in the debates are asked to adhere to the following rules:

  • Occupants of the Dar AlNoor Islamic Community Center must remove their footwear at the door and place footwear in a storage area inside the center.
  • Campaign literature and signs are permitted outside of the community center and must be removed upon event conclusion

RELATED:  Futrell, Qarni and McPike to meet for Prince William Primary Debates

Manassas celebrates Founders’ Day on First Friday, April 3

Manassas, virginia, city, visit

When you say the words “Founders’ Day” it brings back images of a kinder, gentler time when people shared stories on front porches. The City of Manassas is celebrating Founders’ Day on First Friday, April 3, with restaurant specials, shops staying open late and, of course, birthday cake.

Stores and restaurants will be focusing on the history of the city and the buildings they inhabit.

This celebration is the brainchild of Councilman Ian Lovejoy. He was curious about the actual date the town was founded and in researching that date, found that the City was recognized as a town on April 2, 1873 by the General Assembly. The area was known as Tudor Hall, prior to that, until William S. Fewell, who owned the land, laid out the first six blocks and began selling lots.

The first official council meeting was held on May 17, 1873. Due to the town’s growth over the years, the town submitted a request to the General Assembly and in 1975 officially became the City of Manassas. From humble beginnings in 1873 as a half mile town concentrated along the railroad tracks, the City of Manassas grew to 10 square miles of homes, schools, shops and restaurants and more than 40,000 residents.

This Founders’ Day, come celebrate with the City of Manassas in Historic Downtown from 6 to 9 p.m. The Manassas Museum will host a City of Manassas trivia contest and a book signing. Love, Charley will offer cake, The Bone will have a beer garden and City Square Café is offering a three course dinner special and encouraging diners to dress in period attire. These are just a few of the offerings for First Friday. For more offerings and information, visit visitmanassas.org.

Cardinal Forest has 1,000 apartments and trusts JTC with IT infrastructure

Vanessa Zambrana is the On-Site Community Manager at Cardinal Forest, located in Springfield, Virginia.

Cardinal Forest is a large condominium association and community that manages over 1,000 condo units for its owners within Fairfax County.

Zambrana has worked at Cardinal Forest for nine years and during all of those years, Cardinal Forest has “always used” Jewell Technical Consulting, Inc. (JTC, Inc.) for their services.
Recently, JTC, Inc. deployed a new server for Cardinal Forest. Zambrana was able to explain how the experience turned out for them.

“They do our monitoring of our server behind the scenes and everything and we got a notification from them that the current server we had, the software that runs the machine wasn’t going to be supported by Microsoft any longer,” said Zambrana. “So they basically told us we could use it up until the time that the support expires by Microsoft, or we could replace it, so we planned the replacement, I would say less than a year ago.”

“Our board of directors funded it through this year’s budget and then we decided, January 1, that we were going through the process to get it started.” I think Microsoft stopped supporting sometime in the summer, and we just wanted to be ahead of the game,” added Zambrana.

Cardinal Forest is professionally managed by Cardinal Management Group Inc. which also oversees residential association property management.

Cardinal Forest’s chose JTC, Inc. over other companies to an existing relationship it’s parent company had with the firm, so JTC was a natural fit.

Prior to replacing the old server, Zambrana, as well as the other staff at Cardinal Forest had to deal with slow Internet and an even slower server.

“Our old server was 10 plus years old, so everything was really slow. It would take the longest time just to open a file,” said Zambrana, “Now things are a lot faster.”

Thankfully, the process of JTC, Inc. going in and replacing the old server and transitioning to the new one, was efficient and painless to business operations.

JTC is a Microsoft Certified Partner and a Dell Authorized Partner and utilizes Microsoft and Dell technology.

News
Judge rules against Prince William Republicans, Primary Election not likely

Updated with new information at 4 p.m. 

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In keeping with what it calls the “status quo,” the Prince William Electoral Board will not allow local Republicans to hold Primary races in June.

The Prince William Electoral Board decided not to allow a Republican Primary Election after the Prince William Republican Party chairman missed a filing deadline on Feb. 24 to request the Primary Election. The Primary vote would have decided which GOP candidates would move on to face Democrats in November’s General Election.

Republicans filed a writ of mandamus asking for a judge to step in and allow a Primary Election. Arlington Circuit Court Judge Paul Sheridan, who is retired but agreed to hear the case in Prince William court, ruled against Republicans on Friday saying that it is up to the Prince William County Electoral Board to allow a Primary, and that a “mandamus is not the right way to proceed.”

Republicans argued state law allows incumbent candidates who have won a previous Primary Elections to automatically be allowed another Primary. The judge didn’t see it that way and said state law mandates a Primary Election must be requested by a party or candidate in advance.

Sheridan also denied a request to issue a declaratory judgement that could have ordered the local electoral board to a Primary.

“It is not for a judge, in light of all this, to tell [political] parties, state, or local organizations how to proceed,” said Sheridan.

Several incumbent Republicans are up for election this year. Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman, At-large Corey Stewart, and Coles District Supervisor Marty Nohe, each face challengers. Incumbents Potomac District Supervisor Maureen Caddigan and Sheriff Glen Hill are also Republicans on the ballot.

After missing the filing deadline, Prince William Republicans appealed to the State Board of Elections in Richmond to allow them to hold a Primary. That agency deferred to the Prince William Board of Elections and said it was the only agency that had the had the authority to allow such a Primary. 

That Board in 2-1 vote, comprised of two Democrats and one Republican, ruled that it didn’t the authority to allow the Primary.

Republicans are now unsure how they’ll pick who will be on the ballot for local races in November. They now have options of holding a convention, or a “firehouse canvass” in instead of a Primary Election where voters would head to their regular polling places, or cast absentee ballots.

“This is an attempt by the Democratic Party to disenfranchise members of our military, the disabled, and those who will not be able to participate in this electoral process,” said Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman, At-large Corey Stewart.

Stewart added the Electoral Board has historically been non-partisan, but added that it is no more. He also voiced confidence that his fellow incumbent Republicans will win the local races.

Prince William County Electoral Board member Keith Scarborough said Republicans failed those who serve in the military overseas, or those who might not be able to participate in a nominating convention or firehouse canvass.  

“This was something that was forced on us by the failure of the republican committee to file paper work to request a primary,” said Scarborough. “We have enough to do we’re not going out to look to meddle in someone’s Primary process.”

Scarborough maintains the local electoral board doesn’t have the legal authority to allow for a Primary Election.

“If the situation was different and a Democrat missed these deadlines, I would feel the same way. Following the rule of law should not be a partisan thing,” added Scarborough.

It’s not clear if Republicans will appeal Sheridan’s decision. Stewart said the hearing was “fair.” 

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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…)

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…)

News
Volunteer fire department responds to house fire in Woodbridge

Last night, the Occoquan Woodbridge Lorton Volunteer Fire Department responded to a call for a fire at a town home on Pohick Creek Court in Woodbridge. 

Responders noted heavy smoke coming from the home on the scene, and had the fire under control in 20 minutes.

One family has been displaced, but no injuries have been reported.

More from a media release:

Occoquan Woodbridge Lorton VFD responds to Town House Fire.  

Woodbridge, VA February 28, 2015 9:05p.m. – Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton Volunteer Firefighters responded to the report of a townhouse fire at 1910 Pohick Creek Ct. Initial units arrived on scene within minutes and reported heavy smoke coming from the second floor of the townhouse. Upon entering the building, crews found significant fire from the kitchen extending into the second floor.  The fire was under control within 20 minutes. Crews remained on scene for several hours.

One family was displaced. The cause of the fire is under investigation from the Fire Marshalls office. Fire and Rescue units from OWL VFD, Dale City VFD, PWCDF&R and Fairfax responded to the incident.

OWL VFD is one of the largest and busiest volunteer fire departments in the United States with over 300 members. OWL VFD provides fire suppression, EMS care, and rescue services to 80,000 residents in our 27 square mile area through the operation of three fire stations. OWL volunteer Firefighters and EMTs work the 6 pm to 6 am shift, five days a week, plus 24/7 holidays and weekends. 

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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
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

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