Covering the Greater Prince William County, Virginia Area

Lake Ridge

News
Emails, Cell Phone Safety Messages Win Award

Fire and rescue officials in Prince William County were honored for their work on broadcasting safety messages.

The Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue was honored with a Governor’s Transportation Safety Award for sending safety messages twice a day to all personnel through cell phones and email, reinforcing the county’s safety policies –– including the dangers of distracted and impaired driving.

“This is a dangerous job, but by sending out these messages is just one more tool in our toolbox to help a safer workplace,” said Prince William County Fire and Rescue Department Assistant Chief Hadden Culp.

The awards ceremony was held Wednesday in Richmond, and is an annual event that identifies and recognizes those working to make transportation safer in Virginia.

News
Schools Get New Start Times

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus
Schools and Education Reporter

Prince William County, Va. –– Some Prince William County Schools will be starting and ending their day at a different time next year.  Prince William County uses a three-tier approach when busing children to school which allows drivers to serve multiple routes.

High schools will begin between 7:20 and 7:30 a.m.  Middle school start times range from 8:10 to 8:20 a.m., and elementary schools have the widest range, with schools beginning their day anywhere from 8:15 to 9:20 a.m.

This year three schools will be beginning and ending at a new time. Antietam Elementary is one of three schools in Prince William County that will begin the day at 8:15 a.m., with 2:40 p.m. marking the end of the school day.

“It is typical that a couple of schools’ bell times have to be adjusted each year, particularly when we have additional schools coming online”, said Ken Blackstone for PWCS.

Patriot High School in Nokesville (opening this fall) and Marsteller Middle School in Bristow are the two other schools that will experience schedule changes.

Parents at the affected schools should have received notification via website about the changes.  The full schedule of start and end times for Prince William County Schools is available online.

News
Parents Must Re-Register for Schools Info

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus
Schools and Education Reporter

Prince William County, Va. –– In an ongoing effort to keep parents involved and informed in their child’s education, Prince William County Schools will be switching to Parent Portal, an online interface for parents.

Previously, PWCS has used EduLink, which was essentially a product that interfaced between SchoolFusion, which hosts individual county school’s websites.

This change comes along with an upgrade to a new student information system a sort of “mainframe” that holds all critical student information, a project that is a year in process.

“It has been many years since we have made such a change so the upgraded ability this will give us is significant in many ways.  Unfortunately, these abilities come with a price for parents, who will need to re-register their SchoolFusion accounts in order to keep receiving updates or log into their school’s website.  New accounts may be requested and passwords and login will be available from schools this fall,” said Blackstone.

In the meantime, Blackstone recommends parents follow the same procedure as in years past.

“Parents will need to back up any documents that they may have saved as part of their SchoolFusion classroom account…at the end of the year, the old classroom data, including these saved documents, are deleted in preparation for the next year’s data. We’ve posted directions on how to save the files, which is extremely easy to do,” he added.

Traffic
HOT Lanes Contractor Threatens to Pull Out

Photo: Mary Davidson

Photo: Mary Davidson

Commuters use a busy Interstate 95 near Woodbridge on a weekday morning. (Mary Davidson)

The Australian company vying to build High Occupancy Toll lanes on Interstate 95 and 395 is getting impatient.

The CEO of Transurban, one of the two contractors that has won the bid to build toll lanes between North Stafford and Edsall Road, told an Australian newspaper the company intends to pull out if the project is delayed once more due to a lengthy environmental review process, the Washington Examiner reports.

The project was delayed some 18 months while County Supervisors sued the state and federal governments citing a categorical exemption that allowed the lanes to be built without a proper environmental review.

In February, officials scrapped plans to build HOT lanes on I-395 in Arlington, and reduced the scope of the project to include I-395 only to Edsall Road.

A environmental review process currently underway should be finished by the fall, Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton told the Examiner.

Transurban’s announcement comes less than a week after Connaugton announced the state’s new Office of Public-Private Transportation Partnerships headquartered in Richmond.

The office was established to help officials speed up the delivery of PPTA projects within the laws, while improving transparency and accountability, according to a press release.

News
Crime Watch: Taser Used in Chase

Taser used in arrest
A taser weapon was used to apprehend a man who attempted to steal a catalytic converter, police say.

Two deputies on patrol early Saturday morning on Frasier Road in the Sky Terrace neighborhood in Stafford County saw a man underneath a 1994 Ford Explorer. The deputies stopped their cars and the man pulled himself out from under the SUV and began running toward an area of townhouses, said Stafford sheriff’s Maj. David Decatur.

The deputies got out of their cars and chased the man, and during the pursuit one of them used their taser weapon causing the suspect to fall to the ground, said Decatur.

The suspect was not seriously injured and was arrested. Deputies later found a hacksaw and evidence the man was attempting to cut the catalytic converter from the car, added Decatur.

Abwain Vincent George Sharrier, 27, of Stafford, is charged with attempted grand larceny, obstruction of justice, tampering with an auto and vandalism, said Decatur.

Man attacked at Lake Ridge home
A Dumfries man who was standing in the front yard of a home in Lake Ridge was assaulted, police say.

Officers were called to the 12800 block of Hunterbrook Road at 1:16 a.m. Saturday after the victim told them someone he knew came to the house and struck him in the face after he told them to leave, police said.

A fight occurred, but the victim was able to get inside the home and lock the door. But the attacker kicked in the door and walked inside the house, said Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok.

The two fought again and the victim fell through a sliding glass door.

Both men separated before police arrived, and the victim was taken to a local hospital with injuries that did not appear to be life threatening, said Perok.

The alleged attacker, Noble Drew Ali, 26, of Woodbridge, is charged with breaking and entering into an occupied residence and assault and battery, said Perok.

He is expected to appear in court August 12 and was held without bond.

Handgun brandished in front of woman
A man faces charges after a woman said he brandished a handgun.

Police were called to the 4500 block of Eaton Court in Woodbridge after 22-year-old woman and 51-year-old man got into an argument with another man, said Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Peork.

The argument escalated and the man now facing charges pointed a gun toward the woman, said Perok.

No one was injured in the incident.

Miguel Antonio Saucedo Jaimes, 19, of Woodbridge, is charged with brandishing a firearm, said Perok.

Traffic
Add a Turn Lane, Ease Traffic

Another turn lane will be added at Springwoods Drive and Old Bridge Road in Lake Ridge will be widened to improve traffic flow. (Uriah Kiser/PotomacLocal.com)

Lake Ridge, Va. –– The organization that runs parks in Lake Ridge will get $9,662 for a piece of their property.

The Prince William Board of Supervisors ordered transportation officials to authorize “quick take” powers to purchase a 21, 878 square foot tract of land owned by the Lake Ridge Parks and Recreation Association to add a third turn lane on Springwoods Drive at Old Bridge Road.

Currently, drivers waiting to turn left or right onto Old Bridge Road from Springwoods Drive have two lanes –– a dedicated left-turn lane and a multi-directional turn lane that allows drivers to turn left or right. A new dedicated right turn lane will be built on the acquired property, which is aimed at improving traffic flow.

“The benefit of authorizing “quick take” is that it allows the county to move forward immediately on the project.  It will begin construction next week, and the additional lane will be completed and open to traffic in August.  This project will improve traffic flow in this area, and will come as particularly good news for people who want to head west-bound onto Old Bridge in the morning, as they will now have a dedicated right turn lane,” said Occoquan District Supervisor Michael May.

The county paid “fair market value” for the property, and the purchase includes public right-of-way, permanent, utility and temporary construction easements, May added.

News
If Kids Play, Parents Must Learn About Concussions

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus

Woodbridge, Va. –– Following concussion-related deaths and students who committed suicide last year, a new policy affecting student athletes in Prince William County will begin in September.

Prince William County Public Schools announced Monday beginning with the 2011-12 school year, all athletes and their parents or guardians will be required to attend a concussion education session before being allowed to participate in sports try-outs.

The decision to adopt a concussion policy was made in April 2011 and brings the county up to new Virginia Code Standards requiring concussion training. Virginia law now requires parents and their students to sign a form attesting they received training on concussions prior to student athletic participation.  The bill was championed by Virginia State Senator Ralph Northam (D-6th, Norfolk) who is also a pediatric neurologist, and won unanimous approval from the Virginia House and Senate.

“Prince William County Public Schools supports the need to ensure that its staff, students, and the community are aware of the seriousness of brain injuries and concussions and how they can affect the student’s abilities in the educational setting,” stated a press release from Prince William schools.

While concussions are obviously not a regional issue, Prince William County was particularly affected last September when school board member Gil Trenum’s son, Austin, committed suicide in September after a concussion on the football field.

Presentation dates and times for each middle and high school will be provided by the schools after July 1, according to the school system. Parents are encouraged to contact their child’s school for an up-to-date presentation schedule during July.

News
Feds Approve Prince William Redistricting

Map of approved voting precincts in eastern Prince William County.

Prince William County, Va. –– The federal government has approved Prince William County’s decennial redistricting plan.

The plan, which transformed the Dumfries Magisterial District to the Potomac District, was passed by the county’s Board of Supervisors in April. Afterward, it was forwarded by law to the U.S. Department of Justice for final approval.

“The approval of the County’s redistricting plan is the culmination of a process that involved the entire community. The Board heard input from the Human Rights Commission, the NAACP, various community groups and many individuals, said Prince William Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart. “Clearly this Board worked diligently to make certain we had district lines that were fair and equitable to the demographics and population of Prince William County, and the Department of Justice agreed.”

The plan modified the counties seven magisterial districts — which help to define polling places — to account for population growth over the past 10 years.  Prince William’s population grew 43 percent since 2000, from 289,000 to 404,000 residents, according to U.S. Census data.

Traffic
HOV Violators Targeted

Taking the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes on Interstate 95 Tuesday? Make sure your car has three or more occupants.

Virginia State Police along with other agencies are cracking down on those who violate the HOV laws as part of a stepped up enforcement effort, Capital HOV Awareness Day.

Police will be out in force during both the morning and evening rush hours driving the length of the lanes as well as sitting along the highway trying to spot violators, said Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller.

The enforcement methods will shift throughout the morning and evening to avoid traffic backups.

While vehicles on HOV lanes on I-95 and 395 must have three or more occupants, vehicles on I-66 must have two occupants to use the lanes.

Police in Maryland will also step up enforcement on their HOV lanes, on I-270 and the John Hanson Highway (U.S. 50).

During the special HOV enforcement last year, police issued 2,300 summons and arrests over the two-day enforcement period, said Geller.

News
Storms Possible Tonight

A severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for Prince William County until 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

It comes as a large area of storms is moving east from the Charlottesville area into the Potomac Communities.

Temperatures have been hovering the in the high 80s and low 90s today, with periods of bright sunshine, making conditions ripe for scattered thunderstorms.

The forecast calls for more storms into the evening hours and throughout the day Sunday.

Temperatures are forecasted to drop significantly on Monday and Tuesday, as temps on Tuesday should hover in the mid-70s, according to the National Weather Service.

News
Unemployment Lowest in Northern Virginia

Prince

Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart.

Prince William County, Va. –– The unemployment rate for jurisdictions along the Potomac River continues to fall.

Stafford County’s unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent in April, down from 5.6 percent in April 2010.

Prince William County also posted a 4.9 percent unemployment number, down from 5.7 one-year ago.

While the two jurisdictions aren’t leading the region in job creation, officials in Prince William County this week credited the federal government and private sector jobs for the rise in the recent employments statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, which are well below the national unemployment average of 9.1 percent in May.

“Prince William County is located at the center of Northern Virginia, and our residents provide the highly skilled workforce needed to fill the jobs created throughout the Northern Virginia region,” said Prince William Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart in a press release. “We are committed to providing solutions for the federal government and private sector industries – particularly with regard to BRAC, the life sciences, data centers and government contractors – which continue to bring quality jobs to Prince William County and the rest of the Northern Virginia region.”

Arlington leads the area with the lowest unemployment rate of 3.4 percent, while Loudoun County comes in second with 3.9 percent, according to the Labor Department.

Fairfax County shows an unemployment rate of 4.0 percent.

Virginia localities still struggling to regain ground the economy is Martinsville, with an unemployment rate of 20.6 percent –– the lowest unemployment rate in the state.

Williamsburg has the second-worst unemployment rate in the state at 15.6 percent.

News
Video: Large Hail, Strong Storms Hit Area

Woodbridge, Va. –– A line of severe thunderstorms moved through the Potomac Communities late Thursday night bringing reports of ping pong-ball size hail in Woodbridge.

Much of the area was placed under a severe thunderstorm warning by the National Weather Service shortly after 11 p.m. The slow-moving storms brought heavy rain, high winds and dangerous lightning.

Large hail was also reported, according to the weather service.

The storms came after the region saw nearly record-breaking temperatures on Thursday.

Reagan Washington National Airport flirted with the 100 degree mark for much of the afternoon, and by 3:52 p.m. the mercury had reached 101 degrees. Add four to five degrees to that temperature for the heat index and that’s what people felt when they ventured out of the air conditioning.

A heat advisory was in effect throughout the day, expiring at 8 p.m. Thursday.

Temperatures will fall back into the lower 90s on Friday and into the high 80s for the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

The possibility of showers and thunderstorms remain in the forecast over the next three days.

Unedited video of lightning rolling through Lake Ridge just before midnight Thursday.

Traffic
Officials Want Metro to Woodbridge on New Map

Washington Metro System (Courtesy: Planet Ware)

Woodbridge, Va. –– Officials want Metro to show riders they plan to someday extend system to the Potomac Communities.

In a letter to the Washington Metropolitan Transportation Authority today, Virginia State Sen. Toddy Puller (D-36, Prince William, Stafford), Del. Luke Torian (D-52, Dumfires, Woodbridge) and Del. Scott Surrovel (D-44, South Fairfax) urged the agency to include an extension of the system’s Blue Line to Woodbridge and Yellow Line to Fort Belvoir on a newly redesigned subway system map that will be used by riders.

The politicians say residents along the Richmond Highway (U.S. 1) corridor are crying out for an extension of the Yellow Line because of the military’s BRAC relocation of personnel to Fort Belvoir, which is expected to bring at least 19,000 new employees to the garrison.

A Blue Line extension would allow employees who are being relocated from the National Geospatial Defense Facility in Rosslyn to the Engineering Proving Grounds on Fort Belvoir to use the rail instead of being forced to drive on Interstate 95, the letter stated.

“It would serve the fastest growing part of Fairfax County over the last 10 years around the former Lorton Prison site. Extending the Blue Line to Woodbridge and Dale City would spur revitalization to the Route 1 corridor, bring relief to people with some of the longest commutes in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and take cars off the constantly clogged Interstate I-95,” the letter stated.

A $2 million transit study approved by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell will examine transportation improvements in the area between the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and Quantico Marine Corps Base. These three officials hope a Metro rail extension will be largely considered during this study.

The letter comes as Metro announced it would redesign it’s 40-year-old system map to reflect the addition of the system’s new Silver Line to Tysons Corner, and eventually Dulles Airport.

An extension of Metro’s Blue Line to Woodbridge quickly became a campaign issue in 2009, but officials never said how they would fund such an extension.

The idea was supported by then Delegate Paul Nichols, but he went onto lose to Del. Richard Anderson (R-51, Lake Ridge) who said he supported providing additional funding to Virginia Railway Express rather than Washington’s Metro system.

As the Metro map is set for a redesign, Greater Greater Washington has invited its readers to submit their ideas for a newly redesigned map. You can see those designs here.

News
Heat Advisory Issued for Wednesday

The heat and humidity will make a return to the Potomac Communities on Wednesday.

Temperatures are expected to climb into the mid 90s, and heat index values will make it fell as hot as 105 degrees outside, according to the National Weather Service.

That has prompted a heat advisory for the area from noon until 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Residents are urged to stay indoors in air conditioning, put off strenuous activity until the late evening or do it during the early morning hours, know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and to wear light-colored clothing.

News
Around Town

A tree fell on a house in Stafford late last month, prompting officials to condemn the house. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Will grant money go to hire teachers for hard-to-staff schools?
Teachers who want to take grant money from Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and put it toward pay incentives to hire teachers for hard-to-staff schools in Prince William County, reports Insidenova.com.

Where’s Virginia’s high-speed rail?
A prominent Virginia businessman says Virginia just doesn’t get the big picture when it comes to high-speed rail, and that’s he’s disappointed in Gov. Robert F. McDonnell for not doing more to bring faster trains to the state, reports the Washington Post.

Roads with route numbers above 600 may be out of luck
If the route numbers are above 600, they may not be widened for some time, reports My Piece of the Planet.

Stuart wins award for helping to protect the Chesapeake
When it comes to protecting the Chesapeake Bay, Sen. Richard Stuart (R, 28th –– Stafford, Prince William) has won an award for his efforts, reports Fredericksburg.com.

Groupon loses, so what does that mean for another popular coupon site
The Washington Business Journal asks what do losses for social coupon site Groupon say about Washington-based competitor Living Social?

News
Around Town

Bus driver in fatal crash has NOVA traffic violations
The driver charged in a fatal bus crash that occurred earlier this week in Caroline County has a record of other traffic violations in Northern Virginia, reports the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Hylton’s principal leaving
Hylton’s High School’s beloved administrator is moving onto another challenge, reports Dale City Patch.

10 dead on Va. roads over holiday weekend
10 people died in crashes on Virginia roads over the Memorial Day holiday, reports Fredericksburg.com.

Betts murder accomplice gets 30 years
An accomplice in the Brian Betts slaying, the D.C. school principal from Manassas who was murdered inside his Maryland home last year, gets 30 years in prison, reports NBCWashington.com.

News
Around Town

Woodbridge child eliminated from National Spelling Bee
A contestant in the National Spelling Bee from Woodbridge was eliminated Wednesday, reports Insidenova.com.

Tito the Builder gets his primary
Tito the Builder gets what he wants: A Republican Primary to decide the next GOP candidate for Virginia’s 36th Senate District, reports The Washington Post.

Bus crash stats released
Following the deadly bus crash earlier this week on Interstate 95, AAA has released stats on bus crashes on roads across the nation, Fredericksburg.com reports.

Lotto ticket giveaway
A man who had 10 winning lottery tickets is now helping to give some lottery tickets away, reports NBCWashington.com.

A little help to find your way around campus
George Mason University will begin using names like Aquia and Rappahannock to help guide visitors and new students to the college around campus, reports Connect2Mason.

Restrictions tightening for area for-profit colleges
The government wants to shut down for-profit colleges that have large amounts of students who cannot pay back their student loans because of unsuccessful career placement programs, reports the Washington Business Journal.

News
Hot Today, Storms Forecasted Tonight

Update 2:30 p.m.
A severe thunderstorm watch has been issued for the Potomac Communities until 10 p.m.

The National Weather Service has forecasted strong storms to move through the region this afternoon and tonight. Some may contain strong winds, heavy downpours and large hail.

Original Post 1: 30 p.m.
This afternoon’s hot temperatures should give way to a round of severe thunderstorms this afternoon.

A heat advisory remains in effect for the Washington area until 8 p.m., but those thunderstorms could begin moving through the area this afternoon and lasting through tonight.

Some of them could contain heavy downpours, high winds and large hail, according to the National Weather Service.

The temperature at Reagan Washington National Airport at 1:30 p.m. was 94 degrees, but heat index values made it feel like 100 or more degrees outside.

Despite the hotter than normal temperatures, officials in Prince William County say they have not responded to a higher than normal amount of calls for people suffering heat exhaustion.

But that doesn’t mean the hot weather doesn’t take a toll on the body.

Stafford County Department of Fire and Rescue spokesman Mark Doyle says people should drink more water in this hot weather, and not to wait until your body feels thirsty. He also warned against drinking alcohol or sugary drinks, and very cold drinks as they may cause stomach cramps.

If without air conditioning and using a fan, fans may not prevent heat-related illness, said Doyle.

Taking a cold shower or bath, or moving in a place that has air conditioning is a better way to cool off.

It’s also important to never leave any person or a pet in a closed, parked car, he added.

Those who must venture outside should limit their activity, keep to shaded areas and wear protective sunscreen with an SPF rating of 15 or higher, wear a brimmed hat and sunglasses to add further protection from the sun.

News
Around Town

Teen who assaulted sheriff’s deputy gets a reduced sentence
An autistic teenager from Stafford County who assaulted a sheriff’s deputy outside a high school last year had eight years shaved off of his prison sentence Tuesday, reports Fredericksburg.com.

Company that operated fatal bus shut down
The company that operates the bus that crashed on Interstate 95 on Tuesday killing four people has been shut down after various violations against the company were noted, reports NBCWashington.com.

New way to pay to ride Metro
Taking Washington’s Metro system can be confusing for tourists and first-time riders. Greater Greater Washington suggests a new way to pay to ride the nation’s subway.

Virginia to open new India office
The number of offices Virginia has overseas to lure business to the state is growing. The state will open a new office for trade in India this summer, reports The Washington Business Journal.

Washington area home prices continue to buck trend
While home prices across the nation fell in March, causing some to say this will be a double-dip recession for home prices, home sellers in the Washington area enjoyed a slight increase in prices, reports The Washington Business Journal.

News
Around Town

Volunteers needed for Civil War festivities
The Prince William Convention and Visitors Bureau has called for volunteers to assist with parking, hand out brochures as well as tackle a wide range of other tasks during this year’s 150th Civil War Celebration, reports NOVA Fortnighlty.

Police search alleged killer’s cell phone
Fairfax County police have recently searched the cell phone of the man charged with killing another man in the county’s Belle View area April 13, Kingstowne Patch reports.

Snapping the right nature photo
Something just in time for getting outdoors this summer: picking the right camera to capture all of your outdoor nature shots. Area blog Your Piece of the Planet has posted some tips for budding photographers.

Residents asked to conserve water
From the nearby news file: Officials in Caroline County have asked residents to conserve water after a water pump that provides H20 to residents and businesses failed, reports Fredericksburg.com.

D.C.’s dumbest drivers
A new survey finds Washington, D.C. has the dumbest drivers on the road, according to results of drivers exams, reports NBCWashington.com.

Traffic
Teen Bus Pass Also Great for Baseball Fans

OmniLink switch riders buses at the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Center in Woodbridge.

Woodbridge, Va. — It’s a teenager’s annual pass to getting around town, and it goes on sale Tuesday.

The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission is once again selling its OmniLink Teen Summer Pass.

The bus pass is good for unlimited rides on local buses that run along U.S. 1 in Woodbridge, on Dale Boulevard in Dale City, Old Bridge Road in Lake Ridge, on OmniRide’s Cross-County Connector between Woodbridge and Manassas, as well on local buses in Manassas.

The pass costs $30 and is good for rides on OmniLink buses between June 1 and Sept. 3, said PRTC spokeswoman Christine Rodrigo.

In addition to unlimited rides, it also guarantees $1 off Potomac Nationals tickets on Friday nights beginning June 10. Riders must show their passes at the ticket window before the game, said Rodrigo.

Teen passes are available at the following locations:

PRTC Transit Center, 14700 Potomac Mills Road, Woodbridge (next to Hylton Chapel)
-Mondays through Fridays, June 1 to August 5, 2011, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Potomac Mills Mall food court
-Saturday, June 11, 12-4 p.m.
-Saturday, June 25, 12-4 p.m.

Manassas Mall food court
-Saturday, June 18, 12-4 p.m.
-Saturday, July 9, 12-4 p.m.

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