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The most-read posts on Potomac Local in 2016

For all of you who wanted to know when 2016 will come to an end, here’s some news: 2017 begins on Sunday. 

We can’t let the old year pass without our annual look back at our most-read stories on Potomac Local for 2016. 

With 1.8 million page views from nearly 1 million readers, here are the most-read stories this year: 

10. Seven arrested in Prince William internet sting

On June 6, members of the Prince William County Police Departments’ Special Victim’s Bureau and Intel Unit began a week a long operation targeting offenders of crimes involving children.

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9. Fresh, hot, glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts coming to Manassas

The fascination with Krispy Kreme doughnuts continued in 2016 as a post we wrote in 2015 ranked as this year’s 9th most-read story on Potomac Local.

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8. Two Woodbridge men charged in connection to ISIS

Federal authorities said two men from Woodbridge intended to go to Syria to join ISIS.

One man was arrested at Richmond International Airport. The second man was arrested in Woodbridge after he returned from driving the first suspect to the airport. 

7. Grief counselors at Battlefield High School after student death

Grief counselors were sent to Battlefield High School in October after a student took his own life. 

6. Manassas student tells school board she was beaten in hallway

A 7th-grade student at Metz Middle School told school officials she was beaten and bloodied in a school hallway.

5. Body found in Powells Creek under Route 1 in Woodbridge

Police found a body underneath a bridge that carries traffic on Route 1 over Powells Creek in Woodbridge.

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4. Najee Mason killed in Woodbridge

On June 5, detectives from the Homicide Unit identified the suspect involved in the murder of Najee Mason which occurred in the 14900 block of Potomac Heights Place in Woodbridge.

3. Rookie Officer Ashley Guindon killed in domestic shooting

“It is with profound sadness that we announce that Prince William County Police Officer Ashley Guindon, one of the officers involved in this evening shooting on Lashmere Ct, has died as a result of her injuries sustained during the incident.”

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2. Fatal shooting outside Dale City Food Lion

One man was shot outside a Food Lion at the intersection of Dale Boulevard and Hoadly Road in late November. foodlionshooting

1. Suspected MS13 gang members rounded up, charged in murder of Edwin Chicas

“On November 9, detectives from the Prince William County Police Homicide Unit and Special Investigations Bureau, with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, the Manassas City Police Department and the City of Manassas Park Police Department, attempted to arrest several suspects involved in the murder of Edwin Ivan Chicas which occurred in the 7500 block of Quail Run Ln in Manassas on October 29.”

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More:

Top stories of 2015

Top stories of 2014

Top stories of 2013

Top stories of 2012

Top stories of 2011

Top stories of 2010

 

News
Sweeto Burrito adding two new locations in Prince William

LAKE RIDGE, Va. — Sweeto Burrito will expand in Prince William County.

Two new locations — one at Dillingham Square in Lake Ridge and the second at Potomac Festival in Woodbridge, across from Potomac Mills mall — should be open by February, said Sweeto Burrito Virginia Director of Operations Micheal Wetherill.

The new restaurants will be the second and third locations in Virginia. The fast-food chain opened its first store at Staples Mill shopping center at the intersection of Minnieville and Spriggs roads in 2015.

The company plans to open as many as 26 locations across the state within the next 10 years but doesn’t expect to open more in Prince William after February, according to Wetherill.

The Lake Ridge location will open where a Jerry’s Subs and Pizza was located. The Woodbridge location will open in a space once occupied by Golden Tech Computers, which relocated next to Outback Steakhouse. 

The North Dakota-based company began as a food truck in 2011 before franchise rights to the business were sold. Burritos on the menu feature meats like beef, chicken, steak, and bacon, and other ingredients like eggs, tater tots, onion rings, and siracha sauce.

The most popular item on the menu in Dale City is the Carnivore, a burrito with steak, chicken, bacon, pepper jack cheese, white rice, cilantro ranch, and siracha sauce, said Wetherill.

Update

Wetherill called us Thursday and told us the company could open more locations in Prince William County following the opening of its new stores in Lake Ridge and Woodbridge. 

News
Grant allows NOVA to develop Cybersecurity Career Pathways Project


Forest Park, Potomac high schools tapped to participate 

Updated

Two centers for higher learning in our area have announced new cyber security initiatives. 

Submitted by Prince William Department of Economic Development: 

Two Prince William County-based Higher Education Institutes – Northern Virginia Community College and ECPI University – have announced new programs to enhance expanded learning in the field of cybersecurity.

Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia, with two campuses located in Prince William County, received a $100,000 grant from Capital One Foundation to help develop the Cybersecurity Career Pathways Project that will inform and support middle and high school students in the Northern Virginia region who wish to explore and hopefully pursue a career in cybersecurity.  

ECPI University’s Northern Virginia campus has expanded its program offerings to include a Master of Science in Cybersecurity and a Bachelor of Science in Software Development.  The project aims to entice a future generation of cybersecurity workers and eventually fill a regional and national skills gap.

NOVA will be working as part of a cohort of 14 community colleges in D.C., Maryland, New York and Texas to develop some thematic areas of focus in relation to labor-market data and career pathways to create a pilot program with two Prince William County public high schools—Forest Park and Potomac—both chosen due to their high level of diversity and for the large number of students from underserved populations.

ECPI University’s decision to expand its offerings comes on the heels of Governor’s Terry McAuliffe’s recent call for a greater effort to draw more people towards careers in cyber and network security.  Both professions are in great demand, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with employment of software developers projected to grow 17 percent from 2014 to 2024 – much faster than the average for all occupations.  Demand for information security analysts is also on the rise. Consequently, the need for computer and information systems managers is growing as well, with employment of computer and information systems managers projected to grow 15 percent from 2014 to 2024.


Earn a Degree or Certificate in Less time with NOVA Weekend College @ the Woodbridge Campus

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Beginning in the spring 2017 semester, Northern Virginia Community College students can finish a semester’s worth of classes in only 14 weeks through the NOVA Weekend College @ the Woodbridge Campus.

NOVA Weekend College @ The Woodbridge Campus enables students to take an entire semester of classes in only two days. Adult learners who are busy balancing full-time jobs and family responsibilities can enroll in a 12-credit schedule of Friday and Saturday morning classes, with an option of selecting from a wide variety of classes needed to earn a degree or certification.

This new, innovative approach to accommodate those with busy schedules offers flexible, hybrid (half classroom & half online) courses that meet at 9 a.m. and/or 11 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with classes ending at 12:30 p.m. The rest of the work and class interaction is done at home using the internet.

“NOVA Weekend College @ the Woodbridge Campus offers a flexible schedule for busy working adults to take a full course load in only two mornings per week,” said Provost of the Woodbridge Campus, Dr. Sam Hill. “This new initiative provides an amazing opportunity for busy people in our region to earn a degree or certificate at a much faster pace, to advance and to become an expert in their chosen profession.”

Visit NVCC.EDU/WOODBRIDGEWEEKEND for more information. Online registration is open 24 hours a day at www.nvcc.edu/startstrong.

News
These new faces will help raise money for the Prince William Public Library

From the Prince William Library Foundation: 

The Board of Directors of the Prince William Public Library System Foundation is happy to welcome new board members Bethanne Kim, Marlo Watson, D’Andrea Wooten, Caroline Shaaber, Bennie Herron and Greg Wright. Bethanne, Marlo, D’Andrea, Caroline, Bennie, and Greg will support the board’s efforts in raising funds for the library’s special programs and events.

Bethanne Kim is a self-published author of seven books under the pen name Liz Long. She is a blogger and brings to the position fundraising experience, community experience as a Cub master for her two sons Cub Scout pack. Her passion for libraries is a result of living 30-45 minutes from a library growing up. She feels strongly about having libraries with physical and program resources that invite kids and teens into the library so that it becomes a natural part of their lives and routines. She is a strong advocate for the new Haymarket Gainesville Community Library.

Marlo Watson is presently the President and Chief Engagement Officer of the Marlo Company, Inc., a talent and community development firm. She received her Master’s in Public Administration from Central Michigan University and has a Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Management from Keller Graduate School of Management. Marlo brings to the Board more than 20 years of people and community development experience. She is very passionate about community and it is reflected in her service: Committee of 100 Secretary 2014-2015, graduate of Leadership Prince William 2015 and was awarded (one of five) Prince William County’s most influential women for 2016 and runner-up for 2015.

D’Andrea Wooten is currently on the Hylton Performing Arts Center Executive Board and the Tackett’s Mill/Clearbrook Foundation. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Santa Clara University. She has prior fiduciary responsibility for the operations of the Pohick Episcopal Church. She volunteers as the co-chair for the Education Commission at the Pohick Episcopal Church. She also volunteers with the Woodbridge Rotary Club and as Superintendent of Sunday Schools at Pohick Episcopal Church.

Caroline–Louise Shaaber is presently the Arts Recreation Specialist for Prince William County. She is the liaison between the County and the Prince William Arts Council. She has both an Interior Design and Architectural Drafting degree and various certifications in the Education field. She is the owner of Vision Finders, her design consulting company, and previously owned an Educational Franchise teaching young children language classes and camps; computer skills and STEM related camps. Raised in Europe, Caroline speaks five languages fluently. She has experience as a volunteer for numerous organizations in local and military communities. She is a member of Lake Ridge Rotary and a mother of two children.

Bennie Herron is presently an author and poet, and brings to the position a Master’s degree in Psychology from San Diego State University and a Master’s of Fine Arts degree in creative writing with an emphasis in contemporary poetry from National University. He participates in the poetry scene locally and regionally. His love for quality education allows him to be a part of the solution by raising funds for the Foundation’s special projects in the community.

Greg Wright is presently the Surgical Technology Program Director and a Health and Medical Science teacher at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, VA. He has served on the Virginia Department of Education Curriculum Writing Committee for Career and Technical Education. Greg graduated from the University of Montana with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Education. His prior work experience has been in the medical field and education. He lives in Dumfries, VA.

The six new members join a 21-member board that participates in the Foundation’s fundraising efforts.

News
Sheldon Levi retires as Occoquan Police Chief

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OCCOQUAN, Va. — Sheldon Levi, a familiar face in Occoquan, retired Tuesday night.

Levi had worked as the town’s Police Chief, Town Sargeant, and Acting Town Manager. He entered retirement during a ceremony at Occoquan Town Hall.

“I am one of the rare people who got to grow up and do the job he dreamt about as little boy,” Sheldon said at his send off.

Levi is the only police officer in the town. He is credited with expanding the department’s auxiliary force to save taxpayer money in the town of about 1,000 residents.

From Occoquan Town Manager Kirstyn Jovanovich:

“Levi began his law enforcement career in the City of Falls Church, VA as a Deputy Sheriff with the Falls Church Sheriff’s Office. Since that time, he has held law enforcement positions with the Towns of Haymarket and Quantico, before coming to Occoquan. In addition, Levi served as an Auxiliary Police Sergeant with the City of New York Police Department, served as a certified EMT, and provided and taught fire service photography.”

A replacement for Levi has not been named.

Traffic
Old Bridge Road crash snarls traffic in Lake Ridge, on Route 123

 

At least one crash on Old Bridge Road near the intersection of Tanyard Hill Road, prior to Clipper Drive, snarled traffic in eastern Prince William County.

Police and fire and rescue crews were working the crash scene about 6:30 p.m. 

Traffic on westbound Old Bridge Road was backed up for about two miles, from the crash scene to Route 123. Traffic headed south on Route 123 toward Interstate 95 was backed up 10 miles, from Old Bridge Road, across the Route 123 bridge into Fairfax County. 

We’re working to get info from Prince William police about the crash. 


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

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This is the fourth of six stories in our series that will examine the unique assignments within the Prince William County Police Department.

When Assistant Chief Dawn Harman was growing up in Prince William County, she imagined a very different career path. Harman majored in veterinary science in college and was once with the Animal Control Unit of the Prince William County Police Department. Now Harman’s days are filled with duties that help keep the Prince William County Police Department a well-oiled machine.

All in a Day

Harman’s day may start with a series of meetings or just a clearing of ongoing matters on the desk in her office. She may also be called to Roll Call to speak on issues affecting the department.

Currently, this means fielding concerns about the heightened dangers of police work.

“People never call us when they are having their best day,” explained Harman. “The only difference between a cop and someone else is they [the perpetrators] have made a bad decision or had something bad happen to them.”

Harman wants those that are considering law enforcement as a career to know that public perception is hyped by media.

“People have always been fascinated with law enforcement,” she said, noting that officers are scrutinized every day by people with cell phone cameras, written about on blogs, and featured on social media. It is important to keep a sense of balance, remembering that the people they serve are no different than they are.

Up in the Ranks

From hiring to patrol to promotion, there is a sense of dedication, thoroughness, and fraternity, Harman said. While some also call the career a passion or a calling, Harman noted, “I think this is like any other job. You need skills.” Academy for new recruits is held in January and July. Harman said that through that process you can see who has skills and who will make the cut.

Also needed is the ability to take on opportunity. There are always job openings in different units, leading to some great opportunities. Harman knows this firsthand. Starting as an animal control officer, she moved up through different positions and ranks while juggling family and career, working in crime prevention and as Western District Commander while with the department.

Meeting the challenges of the job can definitely mean promotion. Others pay attention to rank, and Harman can remember considering it a big deal. Promotions are completely elective and based on consideration of skills as well.

“We try to balance everything the best we can,” Harman said about the promotion process, noting that they work with several different evaluation styles adjusting for issues, such as test anxiety.

When asked about rank, Harman called sergeant the toughest. The sergeant is no longer just ‘one of the troops,’ and a friendly detachment becomes necessary.

“It’s not the same relationship. You have to hold people accountable now,” she said. “You have to be straight forward. Some people aren’t comfortable with it.”

Sacrifice, Communication

There are sacrifices, too. Officers work set shifts, but family events and holidays may be missed because there’s a need in the department. Many people forgo certain positions or promotions because of the demands of both family and career. Harman shared that, while she has a great support system, she chose not to work in Criminal Investigations so she was not on call in the evenings.

“Challenges had to coincide with where I was with my family at the time,” she said.

Communication was big on Harman’s list of skills for which the department seeks. Good listening skills and the ability to ask constructive questions are important. The goal is to serve the community well. A successful encounter with the public includes the feeling that everyone is treated as a human being.

“You absolutely have to be an effective communicator, or you’re part of the problem,” she said.
Harman pointed out that some people want to be in Law Enforcement for power. “We
don’t want that.”

In the Community

Harman said that the people of Prince William County are very supportive of their police department, some even bringing food to officers earlier in the year after a fatal shooting of an officer.

“It’s a little morale boost,” she said.

This positive relationship may be directly related to the professional attitude that is widespread through the Prince William County Police Department, including by Harman, who has found the career to be very rewarding.

“I’d encourage people to go into the profession.”

For more information on career opportunities with the Prince William County Police Department, visit  www.joinpwcpd.org

Read more from our series

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

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

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

 

News
The Force is strong with Boy Scout Troop 501: ‘Star Wars Days’ returning to Gar-Field High School

Submitted by Justin Youtz, of Boy Scout Troop 501 in Woodbridge: 

Friends of Boy Scout Troop 501 is hosting Star Wars Days on December 3 and 4, 2016, at Gar-Field High School, 14000 Smoketown Road in Woodbridge.

Star Wars Days is a family friendly, fan convention for all things Star Wars, science fiction, comics, anime, cosplay, scouting, art and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Boy Scout Troop 501 was named after the 501st Legion in the Star Wars universe. Scouts in Troop 501 are huge Star Wars and science fiction fans, as well as, being students interested in STEM subjects.

A fan convention is a perfect way to celebrate all of these areas, in addition to being the annual fundraiser for Troop 501. Boy Scouts from Troop 501, along with their families, are responsible for locating vendors, promoting the event and working as staff at the convention.

Any profit from the event is shared with scouts to fund their scouting trips and training materials, community service projects, equipment, and uniforms.

It is the second year for the Star Wars Days event. Fans of every age are expected to attend, including members of the 501st Legion (a local Star Wars cosplay group).

Vendors are from Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, and other states, and they will offer unique and fan items. New this year at the event are food trucks, including “Stay Cheesy,” a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich maker.

Winners of the Star Wars costume contest (adult and child) will receive cash prizes. There is a children’s area with theme craft items, artists will lead drawing activities, STEM area including 3D printers, demonstrations – from light saber fighting to rocket launches – and panel discussions. Boys Scouts may also sign up for specific merit badge classes and Cub Scouts can complete some advancement activities.

Advance tickets are available online at starwarsdays.com; click on the button at the top left of the page to pay by credit card. Advance tickets are $7 for Saturday or Sunday, or $12 for both days (plus service fee). Children age four and under are free. Tickets are $10 at the door. One-of-a-kind Star Wars Days t-shirts show posters and patches are also available for purchase.

Traffic
Traffic fixes for Old Bridge Road examined

LAKE RIDGE, Va. — Drivers at Old Bridge and Minnieville roads will soon get some relief ahead of the opening of a new grocery store.

The left turn lanes at the intersection that carry drivers from Old Bridge Road to Minnieville Road will be extended 100 feet toward Clipper Drive. The improvements, to be paid for by the developer of a new Lidl grocery store to be built nearby, will allow between eight and 10 more cars to queue in the lanes. That’s in addition to the queue that already exists during the peak weekday evening rush hour times.

Right now, left-turning traffic backs up and out into Old Bridge Road. The lane extension comes after county transportation crews doubled the number of left turn lanes here from one to two.

Drivers at Old Bridge Road and Prince William Parkway will also see the addition of a new sign urging drivers to take a shorter route to Interstate 95. Drivers headed east on the Parkway at Old Bridge Road will soon see a sign that states “To I-95” directing them to veer to the right to remain on the wider, faster Prince William Parkway and not to stay straight on Old Bridge Road.

These two fixes were some of 50 ideas on how to improve transportation along major commuter thoroughfare Old Bridge Road, discussed at Occoquan District Supervisor Ruth Anderson’s Old Bridge Road Think Tank that met over the course of four meetings, with nearly 50 residents in attendance.

“We have to step out and start somewhere to make a difference to fix transportation issues in the district,” said Anderson, as she thanked Think Tank participants for participating in the ongoing effort.

Other traffic improvement ideas are borne out of the meetings include:

Add “Don’t Block the Box” sign at Route 123 and Old Bridge Road 

Traffic at this intersection (better known as a mixing bowl) is marred with drivers exiting Interstate 95 and entering Route 123, mixing with drivers existing drivers on Route 123 headed toward Fairfax County, or those turning left onto Old Bridge Road.

The area is a nightmare for drivers in afternoons, and it can be hairy for commuters during morning hours, too. Drivers exiting I-95 quickly jet across five lanes of traffic, to include two signal lights, to turn left on Old Bridge Road

A “don’t block the box” sign could potentially improve traffic flow at the intersection, said Prince William County Transportation Director Rick Canizales.

But signs can’t fix everything.

“It really comes down to how much [police] enforcement you have at the intersection,” he added.

 Old Bridge Road and Oakwood Drive

The extension of a left turn lane from Old Bridge Road to Oakwood Drive is being studied. While transportation planners aren’t completely sold on the idea of extending the lane because they don’t know how much more queuing spaces would be gained, they say an extension could resolve a backup on Old Bridge Road during the evening hours.

Expanding or widening left turn lanes at Old Bridge Road and Westridge Drive

Just like the proposed project at Oakwood Drive, officials are not clear on how much more queueing space would be gained if the lanes were expanded. The project could resolve a backup that affects drivers at all times of the day.

Occoquan and Old Bridge roads

The majority of traffic complaint calls to Supervisor Anderson’s office are about the backup at a signal light at Occoquan and Old Bridge roads, said Alex Stanley, and aide to Anderson.

Drivers say they don’t appreciate the extended length of time they must wait at a signal light to turn onto Old Bridge Road. Becuase of the way the signal light is timed, drivers on the wider Old Bridge Road enjoy a longer green light at this intersection. The aim is to move more cars on Old Bridge Road, said Virginia Department of Transportation Land Use Director Richard Burke.

Transportation planners are examining what it would cost to add a “right turn on red” lane at this intersection, as well as straighten Occoquan Road, which is curved throughout its intersection with Old Bridge Road.

Utility poles located along Occoquan Road east of Old Bridge Road, as well as steep terrain, would increase the cost of the project, Canizales said.

Traffic
Woman struck, killed on Springwoods Drive in Lake Ridge

From police: 

Fatal Crash Investigation – On November 21 at 11:32PM, investigators from the Crash Investigation Unit responded to the area of Springwoods Dr and Glenridge Rd in Woodbridge (22192) to investigate a crash involving a pedestrian. The investigation revealed that the driver of a 2005 GMC Envoy was traveling northbound on Springwoods Dr approaching Glenridge Rd when the vehicle collided with a pedestrian attempting to cross Springwoods Dr. The pedestrian was transported to an area hospital where she died as a result of her injuries a short time later. The other driver remained on scene and was not injured. Speed, alcohol use and drug use do not appear factors for the driver involved in the crash. The pedestrian will be transported to the Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy. No charges are pending at this time. The investigation continues.

                Identified:

                The pedestrian was identified as Tabitha Lynn HACKLEY, 35, of Woodbridge

                The driver of the 2005 GMC Envoy was identified as a 22-year-old man of Woodbridge

News
Occoquan will have Small Business Saturday gathering point

OCCOQUAN, Va. — Small business owners in Occoquan may visit the offices of One Degree Capital on Saturday, which will serve as a rallying point for Small Business Saturday activities in the town.

From a press release: 

Merchants in the Town of Occoquan, Virginia, will get a boost to their marketing efforts this Saturday as they prepare to entice local shoppers into their businesses. This Saturday, November 26, 2016, is a heavily promoted national day to ‘shop local’ thanks to the efforts of American Express Corporation’s Small Business Saturday® and Shop Small® initiatives.

From 8 a.m. until noon on Saturday, November 26, One Degree Capital will have over 300 pre-inflated blue and white helium balloons as well as a helium tank for use by town merchants who may need it. In addition, freshly brewed coffee from Stafford County-based Rick’s Roasters Coffee Company and donuts from Locust Grove-based Doughlicious Donuts and Bakery will be provided free-of-charge to town merchants. Occoquan town merchants can also register to win prizes.

Rod and his business partner, Jenn Mathis, routinely seek ways to give back to the communities in which their business serves, including donating goods, services and time as well as mentoring aspiring young entrepreneurs through their newly-launched scholarship program.

The One Degree Capital office is located at 204 Commerce St. in Occoquan.

 

News
Pour FOG in the trash, not down the drain

This public service announcement comes to us from the Prince William Service Authority. We’d thought we would share it before Thanksgiving. 

From PWSA: 

Did you know that Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG) can damage your plumbing and the sanitary sewer system if you pour it down the drain?

After dining on your holiday dinner this year, please be sure to properly dispose of the leftover FOG by canning it and tossing it in the trash. More than 80 percent of clogs in the Service Authority sewer system can be attributed to grease being poured down the sink.

Sewer mains are often home to “fatbergs” a term for grease that has congealed onto the interior of sewer pipes. These obstructions can be easily seen by our field staff when they video inspect the lines.


Old Bridge Chamber Orchestra Presents: How to ‘Handel’ the ‘Messiah’ sing-along without being disowned by your family

The rules are simple.

Handel’s inimitable Messiah Oratorio is just a few months short of its 275th birthday, and it continues to delight audiences around the world. Countless orchestras and vocalists have gathered to celebrate the season with this perennial favorite, often with a significant audience participation component. Will you be ready when sing along time comes? Just in case, we are pleased to provide you with this summation of centuries’ worth of rules for “Handeling” the time-honored tradition of the “Messiah” Sing-Along.

Rule 1: Do Your Vocal Warm-ups in the Car on the Way to the Performance

You can’t belt out “For unto Us a Child Is Born” with a tense larynx. On the other hand, repeating in the concert hall “fluffy floppy puppy” and “Sally saw Silvester stacking silver saucers side by side” might be alarming to your fellow concert-goers.

Your best bet is to warm up in the car using exercises like humming up and down a scale or singing “Don’t Stop Believin’” at the top of your lungs.

Rule 2: Pick the Right Performance

To get the most out of a “Messiah” Sing-Along, you need support and lots of it. You need a well-prepared orchestra, dynamite soloists, and a chorus of pros to help you negotiate those tricky passages.

Fortunately for you, that’s precisely the kind of support system you’ll find on Friday, December 16, 2016, 7:30 PM, at First Baptist Church, 13600 Minnieville Road, Woodbridge, and again on Saturday, December 17, 2016, 7:30 PM, at Grace United Methodist Church, 9750 Wellington Road, Manassas.

Old Bridge Chamber Orchestra and featured choruses from First Baptist, Grace UMC, All Saints Catholic Church, and New Dominion Choraliers will be there for you; you don’t have to go it alone. Admission is free, though donations will be accepted gratefully.

Rule 3: Sit Next to a Ringer

Watch for someone walking confidently into the concert. Likely, he or she will be wearing an artfully disheveled scarf and carrying a marked-up, dog-eared copy of the Messiah score.

This is how you will know that this is not his or her first rodeo. Follow that person into the audience. Befriend the singer. Imitate him or her fiercely.

Rule 4: When in Doubt, Mouth the Word “Watermelon”

No need to panic if you’ve lost your place in the score! Scientists are not sure why this is true, but mouthing “watermelon” is the perfect choral faking device. It also works well if intonation is not your forte.

Rule 5: Employ the Art of Misdirection

You may not be able to sing your way out of a paper bag, but that doesn’t have to be common knowledge.

Rock an obnoxious holiday sweater. If it’s loud enough, no one will notice that you are completely tone deaf. If your sweater game is weak, study up on puns, carefully dropping one at the end of each chorus.

Saying things like “That one was too hot to Handel” will result in the kind of groans that will erase any memory of what you just did to “And He Shall Purify.”

To address the younger audience members giving you side-eye about your not-quite-baritone baritone, try saying “The club can’t even Handel me right now.” That should shut them up.

Rule 6: Have Fun

An OBCO Sing Along is about the community coming together in song. It is impossible to leave without feeling joy, inspiration, and the fullness that comes from artistic satisfaction … and post-concert cider and cookies.

An OBCO Sing Along is about the community coming together in song. It is impossible to leave without feeling joy, inspiration, and the fullness that comes from artistic satisfaction … and post-concert cider and cookies.

For more information, visit www.obco.org or www.facebook.com/obcomusic.

News
Lines form early, stay brisk on Election Day

Lines at the polls this Election Day formed early on Tuesday.

Many across Prince William County reported long lines this morning at polling places. The pace was steady, and the mood of the voters: patient. 

In Manassas Park City where voters choose between Barbara Comstock or LuAnn Bennet for the 10th Congressional District, will vote on a Mayor, and a slate of new Governing Body candidates, a total of 1,443 votes were cast in Manassas as of 9 a.m., according to Manasass Park City Deputy Registrar Nancy Van Wyen.

In Pricne William County, elections spokesman Forrest Winston said the pace at the polls was brisk, but reported no problems.

Stafford County General Registrar Greg Riddlemoser reported simliar conditions at the polls, and said there had been no issues with voting eqiuipment. 

Submitted photos from the polls: 

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Pictured on the left, Virginia State Senator Scott Surrovell (Fairfax, Stafford, Prince William) — who is not up for election this year — out with voters in Stafford County.

Pictured in the center Prince William Count Occoquan Distinct Supervisor Ruth Anderson, and Prince William County State Delegate Rich Anderson -- both not running for election this year -- with voters at the Prince William County Government Center.

Pictured in the center Prince William Count Occoquan Distinct Supervisor Ruth Anderson, and Prince William County State Delegate Rich Anderson — both not running for election this year — with voters at the Prince William County Government Center.

Tweet us your photos @PotomacLocal

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News
Potomac Local Voter Guide 2016: What’s on my ballot?

It’s been a long election season, and in it will be all over in about 48 hours.

We crafted this local voter guide for residents in Prince William and Stafford counties and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park. This handy guide will tell you who is on your ballot, from presidential candidates, city council, and school board.

Also in the Guide: Links to profiles for the two candidates running in the special Manassas City Treasuer election, and links to the two constitutional amendments all Virginia voters will see when they go to the polls on Tuesday.

PotomacLocal.com’s Project: Election sent candidate surveys to all of the candidates listed this post. We have linked to the responses submitted by the candidates. 

If there is no link provided for a candidate for local offices, that candidate did not provide Project: Election questionnaire. 

For Presidential and Congressional candidates, we linked to their campaign websites. An asterisk notes incumbents. 

U.S. President 

Prince William County

1st Congressional District 

10th Congressional District

11th Congressional District

City of Manassas 

10th Congressional District

Manassas City Mayor 

City of Manassas Park 

Manassas Park City Mayor 

Governing Body 

Stafford County 

1st Congressional District 

Griffis-Widewater District School Board Representative 

Now for the two Constitutional Amendment questions that all Virginia residents will see.

Here is the first Constitutional Amendment question on the ballot: 

Should Article I of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to prohibit any agreement or combination between an employer and a labor union or labor organization whereby (i) nonmembers of the union or organization are denied the right to work for the employer, (ii) membership to the union or organization is made a condition of employment or continuation of employment by such employer, or (iii) the union or organization acquires an employment monopoly in any such enterprise?

Here is the second Constitutional Amendment question on the ballot: 

Shall the Constitution of Virginia be amended to allow the General Assembly to provide an option to the localities to exempt from taxation the real property of the surviving spouse of any law-enforcement officer, firefighter, search and rescue personnel, or emergency medical services personnel who was killed in the line of duty, where the surviving spouse occupies the real property as his or her principal place of residence and has not remarried?

See more 2016 election coverage

Traffic
No PRTC service cuts in coming year, funding dwindles 

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — As transit officials in Prince William County wrangle with how to keep buses rolling, riders won’t have to worry about service cuts in the coming year.

Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission Interim Director Eric Marx issued this statement to riders of OmniRide commuter, and OmniLink local buses:

“PRTC has started preparing its FY18 budget, and I’m pleased to share some encouraging news with you.

At a special meeting on October 24, the PRTC Board of Commissioners agreed that bus services should not be cut in FY18, which runs from July 2017-June 2018.

 A stable year with no service cuts will enable PRTC to complete its strategic planning effort and allow the Board, our customers and other interested parties in our community to form a vision of what public transportation should look like in the Prince William area in the future. It also provides us with additional time to seek a stable and sustainable alternate source of funding.

 Those of you who are familiar with PRTC know that we’ve cut service often over the past eight years due to declining revenues from the area’s motor fuels tax combined with other federal and local funding issues. While we still have a long budget process in front of us, the prospect of being able to continue providing bus services at current levels is noteworthy.”

Local bus service in Prince William County is funded now solely through the state’s 2.1% motor fuels tax, charged at the pump each time drivers fill up in Northern Virginia.

The Prince William County Government earlier this year moved to rely on the motors fuels tax exclusively to fund buses. At the same time, shifted its source of funding for Virginia Railway Express commuter rail trains from fuels tax funding to a pot of money given to the county by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission that supposed to be used for roadway improvements.

PRTC officials still face a shortfall in funding as the motors fuels tax continues to produce less funding year over year as gas prices fluctuate and new cars continue to earn better fuel economy ratings.

From PRTC: 

Why is an alternative funding source necessary? “Alternative sustainable funding sources are needed because (as you know) funding from the 2.1% motor fuels tax revenue has been insufficient to cover existing services due to the continued drop in fuel prices.”

What sources are being reviewed? “PRTC is in the midst of a strategic planning effort, which includes examining other possible sources.”

Where are we with the budget this year vs. last year? “The FY2018 proposed budget process is under way and will be presented to the Commission at its January 2017 meeting.”

Last year in the light of a budget shortfall, OmniRide riders faced the threat of potential cuts to commuter routes as the system explored the possibility of rerouting buses to have them serve only Metro stations. Thankfully for many, those service changes never happened.

So, what does PRTC need to do to secure a permanent, reliable source of funding? Potomac Local asked state legislators and local officials and received these responses. We’ve posted them in the order we received them: 

Dudenhefer Head Shot

Delegate Mark Dudenhefer (Stafford, Woodbridge)

“I’m not on [the PRTC Board of Commissioners], so my knowledge is superficial. I believe that the majority of their problems with funding shortfalls has come from the decline is gas prices which the gas tax is based on. Gas prices have stabilized a bit which has stopped the leak temporarily.
 
At the state level we hear most often about setting a tax floor. As you can imagine this is a touchy subject. Where do you set the floor? Many don’t think we should set a floor at all. “
surrovellSenator Scott Surrovell (Fairfax, Stafford, Woodbridge)
“I am pleased that PRTC is not cutting service, but the General Assembly needs to step up and correct the drafting error that resulted in Prince William County losing millions of dollars in transit revenues.  We tried to correct this legislatively last year, but it got caught up in politics.”  
Updated Nov. 5, 2016
 
 
AndersonDelegate Richard Anderson (Prince William County)
“The PRTC Board met on October 24th to adopt budget guidelines for FY18 and decided that we would maintain services in FY18 (July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018). That decision gives us the necessary time to identify alternate funding sources to fill the hole left by declining tax revenues that result from dramatically lower gas prices. For now, the way ahead is indefinite, but will take on greater clarity after we get beyond several key events that include the following:

– PRTC Board Strategic Planning Session, December 3rd, 8am-12pm, McCoart Government Center (open to the public)

– Governor’s Budget Presentation to the annual joint meeting of the House and Senate money committees, December 16th, 9:30-11am, General Assembly Building in Richmond (open to the public). This event puts the Governor’s proposals in the hands of the legislative branch and permits us to consider PRTC’s budget concerns.

– Convening the 2017 legislative session of the Virginia General Assembly on January 11th (adjourns February 28th). Sometime prior to the opening of session, we’ll have a detailed legislative plan in hand from Hefty Wiley & Gore (HWG), the firm recently hired by PRTC to advocate for a solution to the challenge presented by declining tax revenues. HWG is working on the plan now, and I don’t have visibility into the plan as I type these words.”

News
South Carolina man killed while crossing Old Bridge Road

LAKE RIDGE, Va. — A South Carolina man was killed Saturday night while crossing Old Bridge Road near Springwoods Drive in Lake Ridge. 

From police: 

Fatal Crash Investigation – On October 29 at 7:00PM, investigators from the Crash Investigation Unit responded to the area of Old Bridge Rd and Springwoods Dr in Woodbridge (22192) to investigate a crash involving a pedestrian. The investigation revealed that the driver of a 2002 Mazda Protege was traveling eastbound on Old Bridge Rd just passed Springwoods Dr when the vehicle collided with a pedestrian attempting to cross Old Bridge Rd. The pedestrian was crossing the roadway outside of the intersection and a designated crosswalk. The pedestrian was flown to an area hospital where he died as a result of his injuries on October 30. The other driver remained on scene and was not injured. Speed, alcohol use and drug use do not appear factors for the driver involved in the crash. The pedestrian will be transported to the Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy. Anyone who may have witnessed this collision is asked to contact police at 703-792-5123.

                Identified:

                The pedestrian was identified as John Harry SHANNON, 70, of Ridgeway, SC

                The driver of the 2002 Mazda Protege was identified as a 42-year-old woman of Woodbridge

News
Occoquan WinterFest 2016 activities announced

From Occoquan River Communities:

Organizers for Occoquan River Communities (ORC), a not-for-profit focused on promoting and celebrating the Occoquan River region as a premier destination, have announced the schedule of events for the second annual WinterFest celebration on December 10, 2016.  WinterFest is family-friendly, area-wide celebration of the winter season. The all-day event highlights multiple area destinations with entertainment, food and activities for all ages.

The day begins at 11a.m. with Santa’s Lake Ridge Parade – a Comic Book Christmas – on Harbor Drive in Lake Ridge, and concludes with a spectacular fireworks display at approximately 8-8:30p.m. sponsored by the Prince William Marina.  Other venues hosting activities include the Tackett’s Mill Center, Town of Occoquan, the Workhouse Arts Center, the Occoquan Regional Park and Hoffmaster’s Marina. Attendees will be able to partake of free hot chocolate at all venues and Santa will make multiple appearances, beginning with his arrival by firetruck at the parade.

The day’s agenda will be as follows (all events take place on Saturday, December 10, 2016)

Harbor Drive in Lake Ridge, 11a.m. – noon: Santa’s Lake Ridge Parade

Tackett’s Mill Lakeside, 12:30p.m. – Parade awards ceremonies

Tackett’s Mill Lakeside, noon – 3p.m. – Holiday Arts Market

Historic Occoquan, 3p.m. – 7p.m. –  Evening shopping, marshmallow roasts, kids’ crafts, restaurant specials, caroling and more

Workhouse Arts Center, 6p.m. – 9p.m. – Second Saturday Art Walk, carriage rides, fire pits, caroling and more

Occoquan Regional Park, 7p.m. – 9p.m. – Fireworks viewing* with free parking, hot chocolate and more

Hoffmaster’s Marina, 7p.m. – 9p.m. – Fireworks viewing* with free parking, hot chocolate and more

Activities are continually being added.  For updates and more information go to Occoquan River Communities’ Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/OccoquanRiverCommunitiesLLC/

Entry forms and participation details for Santa’s Lake Ridge Parade can be found at: http://tackettsmill.com/lake-ridge-santa-parade/

News
Eight cars damaged. Three taken to hospital. Alcohol, PCP use suspected.

From Prince William police: 

Felony Hit & Run | Attempted Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer [LEO] – On October 26 at 6:53PM, officers responded to the area of Minnieville Rd and Dale Blvd in Woodbridge (22193) for an initial report of a reckless driver. Multiple callers reported to police that the driver of 1999 Chevrolet Suburban was traveling in the above area in a reckless manner. As a result of the driver’s actions, multiple other occupied vehicles were struck before the vehicle became disabled on Minnieville Rd near Caton Hill Rd. When officers arrived, the driver, identified as the accused, refused to exit the vehicle. After a brief struggle, the accused was eventually removed from the vehicle and detained. During the arrest, the accused attempted to strike one of the officers. Once in custody, the driver was determined to be under the influence of alcohol and suspected PCP. The accused sustained a minor head injury during the incident and was treated at an area hospital. Two drivers of the other vehicles struck was also transported to an area hospital with minor injuries. In total, the accused struck 8 vehicles and impacted traffic in the area for several hours

Arrested on October 26:

Aaliyah Mahasin SAAHIR, 35, of 3107 Chesapeake Dr, #11 in Dumfries

Charged with 5 counts of hit & run, 1 count of attempted assault & battery on a LEO, 1 count of driving under the influence – 2nd offense in 10yrs, 1 count of resisting arrest, 1 count of reckless driving, and 1 count of driving without a license

Court Date: December 13, 2016 | Bond: Held WITHOUT Bond

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