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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winning Virginia Lottery Ticket Bought in Lorton

Check your tickets! Someone bought a Powerball ticket for Saturday’s drawing that ended up winning $1 million. The winning ticket was bought at Gunston Shell Service, 9801 Richmond Highway in Lorton.

The winning numbers for the November 29 Powerball drawing were 13-24-30-42-48, and the Powerball number was 27. This ticket matched the first five numbers and missed only the Powerball number.

Whoever has the ticket has 180 days from the drawing date to claim the prize. The Virginia Lottery advises that before doing anything else, the winner should immediately sign the back of the ticket to establish ownership. When the person is ready to claim the million-dollar prize, he or she should contact the Virginia Lottery.

Meanwhile, Lottery officials are still waiting for whoever has a $1 million winning Powerball ticket from the June 21 drawing to come forward before it’s too late. The ticket was bought at Getty Mart, 209 East Holly Avenue in Sterling.  If the winner doesn’t redeem the ticket before close of business (5:00 p.m.) on December 18, the ticket will expire and become worthless.

Workhouse Plans Black Friday Celebration

The Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, Virginia will open its galleries and studios for extended hours on Black Friday, Nov. 28, from 10am-7pm, offering a free, fun and festive alternative to a day at the mall. Instead of standing in lines, come and explore the art work of nearly 100 of the area’s most prominent  artists; participate in interactive demonstrations; and find unique artisan gifts—all while supporting local artists in your community.

This annual event is full of free activities, events, and experiences for you to enjoy with your friends and family, such as:

  • Holiday Sing-A-Long & Tree Lighting
    Gather around our tree and spread holiday cheer with music and song! Ceremony begins at 5:45pm after the sun sets in the Rizer Pavilion.
  • Fire Pits with S’mores & Free Hot Cider
    Warm-up next to our outdoor fire pits, while you make s‘mores and enjoy hot cider!
  • Doughnuts with Santa
    Presented by Mestey Films Productions, join Santa and his helpers for a special holiday experience. Participants will enjoy two doughnuts and a choice of juice or coffee while Santa and his elves read a classic Christmas story and lead a fun-filled family sing-a-long. Parents are encouraged to bring their cameras for those special photos! $20 for children & adults.
  • Kid’s Activities: “Stay, Create!”
    Young artists can get creative with fun make-and-take art projects while parents browse the diverse art galleries of the Workhouse. Suggested donation of $5 per child for this activity, which supports Workhouse arts, education, and history programs.
  • Holiday Ballroom Dance
    Bring your dancing shoes and a partner to this free holiday ballroom dance from 4-5pm! No experience is necessary and all ages are welcome to twirl around the dance floor. A short lesson/demonstration will be provided by our resident Ballroom instructor Cookie Bell! 
  • “This Side’s For You” Cooking Demonstrations
    Join Chef Kathleen Linton in our Culinary Classroom for lessons in how to create tasty holiday-themed side dishes.
  • Art of Movement Demonstrations and Workshops
    Get on the move in Building W-11 with free classes and demos in Hula, Lei-Making, Surfset (Indoor Surfing Fitness), Bodyblade, Pilates, Yoga and more! All ages and abilities are welcome.

News
Youth Scouting Membership Declines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traffic
Rules Changing for Drivers on I-95 HOV Lanes

The rules of the road are changing for those who use HOV lanes on Intestate 95.

When the newly built 95 Express toll lanes open in December, a 29-mile stretch of the road from Route 610 in North Stafford to Edsall Road in Alexnadria, to include a large portion of the existing HOV lanes, will be tolled 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Nearly everyone will need an EZ-Pass to use the lanes — even drivers of hybrid cars. Under the old rules, vehicles with three or more occupants, hybrid cars with a clean fuel designation printed on them, and motorcycles could use the lanes at all times. Under the new rules, motorcyclists can ride free but all other vehicles need an EZ Pass or EZ-Pass Flex.

Here’s more from the Virginia Department of Transportation:

Carpoolers: 

  • Carpools need an E-ZPass Flex
  • Carpools with three or more people can travel toll-free on the Express Lanes with an E-ZPass Flex set to HOV mode.   
  • E-ZPass Flex works like a standard E-ZPass but allows carpoolers to switch between HOV and toll-paying modes. The switchable E-ZPass Flex lets the Express Lanes operator know which vehicles are HOV-3+ so that they aren’t charged a toll.  

Drivers of Hybrid Vehicles with Clean Fuel Plates: 

 

When the 95 Express Lanes open, hybrid vehicles with clean fuel plates issued before July 1, 2006 must pay a toll or have three people in the car to use the Lanes.  The rules affecting hybrids are as follows:

  • Hybrid drivers can ride toll-free on the 95 Express Lanes with three people in the vehicle and an E-ZPass Flex set to HOV mode; or,
  • They can pay the toll with an E-ZPass if traveling with fewer than three people in the vehicle.
  • The 95 Express Lanes will end just north of Edsall Road. From Edsall Road to Washington, D.C., the HOV lanes will exist with the same rules that are in effect today. Hybrid vehicles with clean fuel plates issued before July 1, 2006 will continue to be allowed to use the HOV lanes without three people in the vehicle on the I-395 HOV lanes. For more information about the transition area just north of Edsall Road on I-395, please visit: 95ExpressLanes.com/transition

Drivers of Trucks, Commercial/18-Wheel Vehicles:  

  • Vehicles with more than two axles – including 18-wheel trucks – will not be permitted to access the 95 Express Lanes.
  • Small and mid-sized trucks with two axles may use the Express Lanes as toll paying customers or they may travel toll-free if they have an E-ZPass Flexset to HOV mode and three or more people in the vehicle.

Law Enforcement Officials: 

  • Local, state or federal law enforcement officials will not be exempt from toll and HOV requirements on the 95 Express Lanes unless in the direct pursuit of their duties, which does not include commuting to and from the workplace.
  • Law enforcement officials can contact the Express Lanes pre or post travel for trips they believe qualify as exempt.  Please contact customercare@expresslanes.com for more information.

Motorcycles: 

  • Motorcycles do not need an E-ZPass.

Unlike the existing HOV lanes, the rules of the road for the new 95 Express Lanes will be in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including weekends.  Vehicles may not tow trailers on the 95 Express Lanes. HOV-3+ vehicles with an E-ZPass Flex set to HOV mode, motorcycles and transit will have toll-free access to the Express Lanes at all times; drivers with fewer than three occupants can choose to pay a toll with E-ZPass to use the lanes on occasions when they need to get somewhere on time.

Get an E-ZPass:

Drivers can get an E-ZPass or E-ZPass Flex at more than 75 convenient Northern Virginia retail locations including Wegmans, select Giant Food Stores, or at one of the E-ZPass Customer Service Centers, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles; online or by calling Virginia E-ZPass at (877) 762-7824.  Visit www.ezpassva.com or call the Customer Service Center for more information – (877) 762-7824.

The 95 Express Lanes are being delivered through a public-private partnership between VDOT and Transurban with Fluor-Lane 95, LLC constructing the Express Lanes.  For more information on how I-95 drivers can use the 95 Express Lanes please visit  www.95ExpressLanes.com.  For up-to-date construction information please visit  www.vamegaprojects.com.

 

George Mason Green Job Networking Fair

The public, alumni and students are welcome to attend George Mason University’s second annual Green Job Networking Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Nov. 10 in the Johnson Center’s Dewberry Hall on George Mason’s Fairfax campus.

Mason’s Office of Sustainability and University Career Services are teaming up to host major employers including the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and environmentally friendly businesses and nonprofits.

Organizers recommend registering, dressing for success and bringing a resume — not only to possibly find a career, but to find a purpose.

“Creating solutions for a more sustainable world and Earth contributes to the greater good and enables our students to make a meaningful difference in the world,” says Margaret Lo, Office of Sustainability director.

Christine Cruzvergara, director of University Career Services in the Division of University Life, says attendees should research green industry trends even before they arrive. “Be prepared with thoughtful questions about how these employers are playing a critical role in their contributions toward conserving energy, developing alternative energy, reducing pollution or recycling,” she says. 

Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MOM’s Organic Market, Above Green, Walnut Hill Farm, Traderoots LLC, Fairfax County Farmers’ Markets, Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, Clean Fairfax and Earth Sangha also will be speaking on panels and answering questions.

 

News
Don’t Miss ‘Missiles In Your Backyard!’ at Workhouse

Here are a list of upcoming events in November at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton: 

Dada Re-Discovered
October 25 – January 19

Building W-16 Vulcan Gallery

Dada Re-Discovered explores how contemporary media and ideas can filter past Dada concepts and artwork.  The exhibit will feature sound, video, performance and other visual mixed media. Dada, an art movement birthed out of World War I Europe, was a rejection of prevailing standards in art. As it came to America, it became associated with the absurd, yet stayed grounded in anti-culture and avant-garde artistic ideas.

FCPS Art Teachers Exhibition
November 1 – December 15

Building W-16 McGuireWoods Gallery

The best art teachers teach in Fairfax County and exhibit at the Workhouse! For many years a primary goal of the Fairfax County Public Schools Fine Arts Office has been to seek out and hire candidates who are not only great teachers, but also great artists. Today, there are more than 350 visual art teachers in FCPS, many of whom continue to practice art-making while sharing their expertise with students. The FCPS Fine Arts Office is proud to partner with the Workhouse Arts Center to organize an exhibition showcasing the talents and artistic achievements of these artist-teachers.

Cabaret Series: Heroes Cabaret!
Saturday, November 1 at 8pm & Sunday, November 2 at 1pm
Tickets: $25, includes planche campagnarde

Featuring the music of heroes and anti-heroes alike we celebrate the valiant, the flawed, the strong, and the vulnerable characters that audiences have admired, adored and applauded over the last century! Whether he’s a stately gentleman or the boy-next-door, the music composed for these memorable characters is some of the best ever composed.

The Cold War in Lorton: Missiles In Your Backyard!
Sunday, November 9 at 2pm
Tickets: Free – $10 suggested donation

W-3 Theatre

Marvin ‘Shep’ Crow, Lieutenant Colonel, US Army (Retired), will discuss the Nation’s perceived need for air defense weapons during the Cold War with the Soviet Union and the development of the U.S. air defense system, focusing on the Lorton site. Presented by the Workhouse Prison and Museum Committee, Workhouse Arts Foundation, Inc.

 

2nd Saturday Art Walk

November 8, 6-9pm

Campus Wide, Free!

The 2nd Saturday Art Walk at the Workhouse showcases the diverse work of more than 100 visual artists in a unique historic venue, creating an atmosphere that encourages visitors to immerse themselves in the richness of this creative community.

Guests can tour seven unique studio buildings, mix and mingle with artists, buy original works of art, experience ever-changing exhibitions and meet featured artists, all while enjoying light refreshments and music. The social atmosphere of the monthly art walk makes it the perfect destination for a date night or girls’ night out, as well as for art collectors and art appreciation groups alike. These monthly events are also perfect for family art outings.

Date Night: Chef’s Table

Saturday, November 15, 7-9pm

Building W-3, Classroom 302

$85 per person (covers all food and a glass of wine)

Anyone can go out for dinner and a movie so why not make your night something special to be remembered? Date Night cooking classes are designed to be fun, relaxing and an escape from the daily grind. They are great way to learn some basic cooking techniques while enjoying your company and making new friends. The menu items will be prepared by participants working together at each of the cooking islands. Participants will be served a tasting portion of all the entrees and a pre-chef-selected drink of choice. No one will leave hungry! Every month you will prepare a new dish ranging from ethnic cuisines like Japanese, Thai and Spanish High Cuisine to Vegetarian and much more!

Ballroom Social Dance

Saturday, November 15, 7:30-10:30pm

W-16 McGuire Woods Gallery

$10-15

Start your evening by learning some new moves with a ballroom mini-lesson! Each month will feature a new style of dance ranging from the ChaCha to the Tango. Mini-lesson begins at 7:30pm and is $5 per person. Then take your new moves to the dance floor when open dancing begins at 8pm. Open dance is $10 per person. Complimentary refreshments and a cash bar will be available in the gallery. There is no need to get fancy unless you feel like it—the dress code is casual. All skill levels are welcome–even if you have two left feet!

Mini-lesson 7:30-8pm. 
Open dance 8-10:30pm
Complimentary refreshments and cash bar available.

Stranger than Fiction: Great Art Heists in History

Friday, November 20, 7:30pm

W-3 Theatre

$10 per person, $5 for Artists at the Workhouse, Friends of the Workhouse, Workhouse Volunteers and Military

Anne Kenny-Urban: Budget Services Manager at VMFA
Discover what Japanese gangsters, bear spray and daring boat getaways have in common with noteworthy art thefts. In this lecture, you will travel the globe learning why museums from Amsterdam to Zimbabwe have been targets for thieves and what tools they used to elude detection. Find out who got caught…and who did not.

Black Friday Holiday Celebration at the Workhouse

Friday, November 28, 10am-7pm
Campus-wide, Free!

Begin your holiday season with family and friends at the Workhouse’s Holiday Celebration! Explore the artwork of nearly 100 artists, join in interactive demonstrations and find that perfect gift for everyone on your list–while supporting local artists in your community. Festivities will also include Doughnuts with Santa, fine-art projects for children, and holiday music and theatrical performances throughout the day. Don’t miss the culminating sing-a-long and tree lighting! Parking and admission is free. Get into the holiday spirit at the Workhouse! 

Traffic
Updated: Woodbridge Man Dies in Bus Crash; Passengers Were Returning to Prince William

Update

A bus carrying 17 people including its driver was returning to Prince William County after a birthday party in Washington, D.C. early this morning when it was involved in a crash where nine occupants were ejected.

The crash occurred while the van was traveling south on Interstate 95 at Lorton was cut off by a 2-door Acura traveling at a high rate of speed, said Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller. The car and bus collided causing the bus driver to lose control of the vehicle, run off the side of the highway, strike a guardrail, and then overturn.

The driver was not wearing a seatbelt and is being treated for non life-threatening injuries. Another passenger is also being treated for serious but non life-threatening injuries.

One passenger – Alberto Sanchez, 24, of Woodbridge, was taken to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. Thirteen others that were on board the bus suffered minor injuries.

The driver of the Acura, identified as Manuel Barrientos, 31, was arrested at his home this morning and faces charges in connection to the crash.

Update

A man who lives in a home behind a Walmart near Dumfries has been arrested in connection to a bus crash this morning on Interstate 95.

Of the 17 people who were taken to a local hospital, Alberto Sanchez, 24, of Woodbridge, has died. A second person is still being treated for life-threatening injuries.

Here’s the latest from Virginia State Police:

Thanks to witness information, state police were able to track down the white car to a residence in Dumfries, Va. A white Acura was located at the residence in the 16,000 block of Gentle Wood Lane and its driver, Raphael Manuel Barrientos, 31, of Dumfries, Va., was taken into custody without incident. Barrientos has been charged with one felony count of hit-and-run. He is being held at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. Additional charges are pending consultation with the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

A total of 17 individuals – 16 passengers and driver – were transported to nearby hospitals for treatment. All passengers are in their early 20s and from Prince William County.

• Two were flown from the scene to Inova Fairfax Hospital – one these two, David Alberto Sanchez, 24, of Woodbridge, Va., succumbed to his injuries later Sunday morning at the hospital; the second one is still being treated for life-threatening injuries.

• The driver and one other passenger are being treated for serious, but non-life threatening injuries.

• The remaining 13 passengers suffered minor injuries.

All southbound lanes of I-95 were open as of 8 a.m.

9:30 a.m. 

LORTON, Va. — One person is dead after a bus crash this morning on Interstate 95 in Lorton.

Here’s the latest from Virginia State Police:

At 3:28 a.m. Sunday, Virginia State Police were called to the scene of a crash involving a small, 16-passenger shuttle bus in the southbound lanes of I-95, just south of Exit 163 for Lorton.

The shuttle bus was traveling south on I-95 when, according to witnesses, a white, four-door passenger vehicle traveling at an extreme high rate of speed swerved into the bus’s travel lane. In order to avoid the car, the driver of the shuttle bus swerved to the right. The shuttle bus then ran off the right side of the road, struck the guardrail, and overturned.

The 16 passengers and driver on board the shuttle bus have been transported to nearby hospitals for treatment. State police was just notified that one of the two individuals flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital for treatment of serious injuries has succumbed to his injuries.

State police are asking if anyone saw the white sedan prior to or following the crash, to please call the Virginia State Police at 703-803-0026. State police are currently looking for the vehicle at this time…all we have right now for a description is a white, four-door sedan.

All southbound lanes of I-95 were open as of 8 a.m.

The crash remains under investigation.

News
Sculptures Give Glimpse into PTSD-Ridden Minds

Army Corpsman Sgt. Linsey Siu, talks about her art labeled "Just put on a happy face." [Mary Davidson/ Potomac Local News]

LORTON, Va. — The effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on this nation’s veterans can be devastating.

More than just loss of sleep, PTSD can cause once emboldened military warriors that served in combat overseas to lose their sense of self worth, to feel helpless and regretful — an illness debilitating enough to place them into hospitals to help treat the condition.

Talking about the effects of PTSD is tough, soldiers said, so many have turned to art to express their feelings, and to help share what’s going on inside their heads.

“I wanted to show that PTSD was taking over my life, but I wanted to make it pretty,” said Linsey Liu, an Army Corpsman who served two tours in Iraq.

Liu crafted a sculpture of her head, with the front of it showing regular features like a nose, eyes, and long stringy hair. But take the detachable faceplate off and the inside of the head — a red, tormented brain is revealed.

“With art, you get the freedom to say what you want to say without having to talk about it because, let’s face it, talking about it sucks,” said Liu.

She was one of several artists who are patients at Fort Belvoir’s Art Therapy program, an outpatient center that treats servicemen and women suffering from PTSD.

A growing form of treatment that has also expanded to Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland, the patients on Saturday put their work on display at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton. It’s part of a new exhibit entitled “360 Degrees of Post Traumatic Stress” that features sculptures by local artists, all depicting how PTSD makes them feel.

The effort is part of the Combat Paper Project, which allows soldiers the ability to cut up their old uniforms worn in battle, beat them into a pulp forming a sheet of paper, and then use that paper to create art.

“When someone has trauma, it’s an experience that gets stuck in their heads as an image, not words, so this art is a way for them to get that image out,” said Eileen McKee, an Art Therapist at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital.

Other sculptures included heads with pieces of the Army’s battle dress uniform, tiny guns, and words like “hero” written on the outside.

“Here is what everybody is supposed to see when they look at me. This sculpture shows how I really feel,” said Liu.

The exhibit will be on display through August 16 at the Workhouse Arts Center’s W-16 Gallery.

062713-ptsd-05
Picture 1 of 5

"Mask of Combat" by Patrick Smyth[Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

News
Sentara Expands to Lorton, Opens Emergency Center

LORTON, Va. — Sentara Healthcare’s footprint in Northern Virginia is expanding.

This week, the massive healthcare provider that is deeply rooted in Hampton Roads, and then later expanded to Woodbridge, has opened a new center in Lorton.

Sentara Lorton Marketplace Emergency Care Center opened its doors. The concept for the new facility is based off one used at a Sentara outpatient center that opened in Lake Ridge in March 2012.

“The new Emergency Care Center will provide 24-hour emergency care, board certified physician specialists, and advanced imaging services, including low-dose CT, x-ray, and ultrasound. The 10-bed facility is powered by eCare, Sentara’s fully integrated electronic medical record,” a press release stated.

This new facility is Sentara’s first in Fairfax County and third in the region. The healthcare provider continues to expand in an ever crowding market of healthcare providers like Innova, and Novant Health, a North Carolina-based health care agency that recently purchased its first hospital in Virginia — Prince William Hospital, now known as Novant Prince William Medical Center in Manassas.

Sentara’s new Lorton Center is located in Lorton Marketplace, just seven miles north of Sentara’s regional hub, Northern Virginia Medical Center in Woodbridge, formerly Potomac Hospital.

News
Investigators Believe Lorton Restaurant Fire Set Intentionally

LORTON, Va. — An explosion at a Lorton restaurant yesterday with one injured person has led investigators to believe a fire was intentionally set there.

More in a press release from Fairfax County fire and rescue:

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department units responded to a commercial fire, Wednesday, February 6, 2013, at approximately 10:25 a.m., in the Lorton area of Fairfax County. The restaurant, Sub Shop, is located on 9504 Richmond Highway in a shopping center.

Firefighters encountered heavy black smoke coming from the front and rear of the one-story structure upon arrival. Firefighters conducted an aggressive fire attack from the front and rear of the structure and quickly brought the fire under control. Fire damage was contained to the restaurant; however, adjacent structures received minor smoke damage. One adult was transported by ambulance to the Washington Hospital Burn Center with non-life threatening injuries. There were no other injuries.

Damage is estimated at $100,000.

According to fire investigators, the fire was intentionally set. Fire investigators and the Fairfax County Police Department are investigating and seeking the person or persons responsible. Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS/8477, e-mailwww.fairfaxcrimesolvers.org or text “TIP187” plus your message to CRIMES/274637, or contact the Fire Marshal’s Office at 703-691-2131, and ask for the duty investigator.

 

News
Performance Dance Troupe Coming to Workhouse Also Offers Class for Youth

LORTON, Va. — The en Route! dance group touring Richmond, Va. and Baltimore, Md. will perform at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton. Their performance will come with a special dance lesson for youth dancers at any experience level.

More in a press release from the Workhouse:

Artists from Fairfax and Richmond, VA are included as part of the first en Route! performance presented at the Workhouse Arts Center.

At least five artists have worked together to bring the dance group to the stage. One of them will offer a youth dance class, according to the press release:

Furia Flamenca’s Artistic Director, Estela Velez will teach a free flamenco master class from 11:30-12:15 p.m., on January 26th at the Workhouse Arts Center as part of en Route! This workshop is open to youth dance students at any experience level. Contact Workhouse Arts Center for registration.

Want to go?

Saturday, January 26th 2013 at 7:30pm

Workhouse Arts Center

Building W-3, Theatre, 9601 Ox Road

Lorton, Va.

Tickets: $25 general admission, $20 senior/military, $10 youth/student.

Purchase tickets online or call 703-584-2900

News
10 Most Clicked Stories of 2012

Powerful storms, car crashes that injured and killed youth, the opening of new restaurants, the loss of a familiar face at one of the area’s most famous restaurants, and the changing landscape of Woodbridge topped the list of the most clicked news stories of the year on PotomacLocal.com.

See the list below of the top 10 stories and tell us what should get an honorable mention.

Double Fatal Crash Investigated in North Stafford

On an early morning in September, a car crashed on Va. 610 in Stafford County, collided with a tree, and instantly killed a 15-year-old girl and 23-year-old man. Several others were injured.


4 Seriously Injured in Aquia Crash

The site of twisted metal wrapped around a tree jolted the Aquia Harbour neighborhood in July. Police said 19-year-old Daniel Ringler had just bought a new car, loaded it with some friends, and went for a drive.

The car crashed, two passengers were ejected, and police said alcohol appeared to have been involved in the crash.


New Dumfries Clinic on Schedule to Open

The Dumfries area got a lot of attention this summer when a new military health clinic relocated there from Woodbridge. The Dumfries Health Center is expected to serve 47,000 patients and is part of the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital System.


Connolly Calls on USPS to Release Hidden Report

The U.S. Postal Service completed a study that examined the impacts of cutting back mail delivery service from six days to five days per week. When the agency tried to keep the results of the survey a secret, it didn’t sit well with one area congressman.


Gloria Spooner Dies

If you’ve lived in the Potomac Communities for any length of time, especially if your path took your through Quantico – the crossroads of the Marine Corps – you know about the Globe and Laurel Restaurant.

Our area lost one of the faces that made the destination eatery what it is today.


Strong Storms Blow Through Region

It would become known as the Great Derecho Storm of 2012, but all we knew the night it blew in to our area was it was one of the strongest wind gusts we had ever felt here. The storm hit after dark on the last day of June, and when it left it took power, cell phone service, and peace of mind with it. Forth of July fireworks shows were canceled, boil water advisories were issued, and it was hot outside. Our continuous coverage of the storm’s aftermath was highly viewed.


Diner of TV Fame to Reopen in January

It may be the most famed diner in the Potomac Communities, but it has historically been one of the most unlucky businesses in the region. Now known as County Café, it opened as County Fare and was featured on the popular TV show Restaurant Impossible in 2011. After years of struggling to make a profit, the owner closed up shop. But when news came of a new owner coming to the spot, it got your attention.


Stonebridge Altering Woodbridge Landscape

It’s the town center that sprung up from nowhere. Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center made lots of headlines this year as many stores and restaurants in the new complex at Dale Boulevard and Interstate 95 opened their doors for the first time.

More than just stores, the complex also boasts housing making it a true mixed-use neighborhood.


Cheesecake Factory to Anchor Potomac Mills Renovation

Not to be outdone, the folks across the street from Potomac Town Center at Potomac Mills mall – a retail shopping staple in Woodbridge since 1985 – also announced some changes. Mall officials announced a new outdoor walkway that would be built in front of the mall, and would be anchored by a very well known restaurant.


102812-Sandy-radar Sandy: The Latest

Just as voters were making up their minds as to who they would choose to lead the nation over the next four years, Mother Nature decided she would blow Hurricane Sandy toward the Northeast, putting millions of people on alert.

While the Potomac Communities were spared the brunt of her damage, residents in New York and New Jersey weren’t so lucky. Our continuing coverage of the day kept readers in Prince William and Stafford counties informed.

News
‘Art Walk’ Offers Holiday-Themed Events

LORTON, Va. — Art will be on display at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton on Saturday offering visitors a break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

The center’s “2nd Saturday Art Walk” is held on the second Saturday of each month. They are free events designed to allow visitors to tour the arts campus and meet individual artists showcasing their work, purchase locally-produced art, and to tour the facility that has become a destination point in our community. 

This month, several holiday-themed attractions will be featured at the Workhouse including “Tiny Treasures: Artful Gifts Galore” in the center’s W-4 Gallery, and a holiday showcase and opening reception that which will feature a collection from artists from the glasshouse in the W-7 studio.

A full listing of the evening’s events is below:

“Tiny Treasures: Artful Gifts Galore!” Studio 4 Group Show Opening Reception in W-4

“Fly With Me” Artist Songmi Park Solo Exhibition

Opening Reception in W-5 “Stripes Reinterpreted” Artist Ann Liddle Solo Exhibition Opening Reception in W-6

Holiday Showcase Glasshouse Group Show On display in W-7

A recurring exhibit of functional and sculptural works by Ceramic Resident Artists On display in W-8

“Building 10 Christmas Show” Studio 10 Group Show

Opening Reception in W-10 Associate Artist Exhibition with featured artist Lesley Clarke

Opening Reception in the Vulcan Gallery Artist Demonstration by Associate Artist Lorrie Herman in the Vulcan Gallery

Experimental music artists from Sonic Circuits will be performing on campus:

Blue Sausage Infant

J. Surak

Gary Rouzer

Fast Forty

Dave Vosh

The Art Walk begins at 6 p.m. Parking is free.

 

News
Workhouse Offers Escape from Black Friday

LORTON, Va. — If standing in long lines late at night before your Thanksgiving meals settles in your stomach doesn’t sound appealing, the Workhouse Arts Center has a better idea.

The local arts hub will feature Escape to Black Friday where more than 100 artist are set to gather across 70 studios, in nine galleries at the center in Lorton.

More in a press release from the Workhouse:

Bring the family for cookies and cider, free artist demonstrations and workshops, to include glass blowing and ceramics, throughout the day.

Visit early to get the best local art, ceramics, glass, paintings, fiber, and more; many made specifically with your shopping needs and budget in mind. Along with art made year-round in studios, you will find practical crafts, holiday ornaments and decorations to own.

The Workhouse offers the perfect opportunity to meet artists while learning about their process and studio experience.

While shopping for local art, enjoy local food from the Workhouse Farmers Market – on campus, 11am – 3pm, or grab lunch from the Workhouse Café. Stay late to be part of the free opening reception for 30×30:30 Works in 30 Days exhibition, in the McGuireWoods Gallery in building 16, 5pm – 7pm.

A percentage of all sales during Escape to Black Friday go to support the Workhouse exhibitions and educational programming.

 

News
Area Farmers Markets Expanding

Fresh fruit and vegetable stands are popular attractions at the Dale City Farmer’s Market. (File photo)

An organization committed to providing producer-only farmers markets is expanding in the area.

Smart Markets of Northern Virginia will expand it’s Thursday afternoon market at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton from a season market to one open once per week, all year long.

——

Smart Markets, Inc. presents the Workhouse Farmers Market, to be held every Thursday from 3-6 p.m., all year round on the Workhouse Quad! Smart Markets of Northern Virginia is the newest arrival to the farmers market scene in Northern Virginia, providing guaranteed producer-only markets for the region’s discerning shoppers.

Visit the Workhouse Farmers Market every Thursday for locally grown fruits and vegetables, locally raised meats and poultry, and local foods from breads and cheeses to salsa and sausage.

-Workhouse Arts Center statement

—–

Starting this spring, Smart Markets will also open a new farmer’s market in Manassas Park. The market will be held next to City Hall.

——–

We are actually moving our Centreville market lock, stock and tents to Manassas Park next year. We will be open every Friday beginning in May from 3:30pm – 6:30pm.

We were invited by the mayor and convinced by [City Manager] Catherine Moretta that Manassas Park would welcome us with open arms and work with us in numerous ways to involve the community in our own educational and outreach activities.

We look forward to working with the new Community Center staff to incorporate the market into their ongoing efforts to promote healthy lifestyle choices among their population.

We are also going to work together to go after grant monies that will enable us to spread our wings into some of the underserved neighborhoods in Manassas Park with pop-up, corner markets offering only locally-grown fruits and veggies along with nutrition information and cooking instruction.

-Jean Janssen, Smart Markets

—–

 

News
Closures for Veterans Day 2012

Some government offices in the Potomac Communities will close Monday in observance of Veterans Day.

Manassas 

On Monday, Nov. 12, City of Manassas Government offices will be closed in observance of Veterans Day.

Yard waste will be picked up in the City on Monday. For questions about recycling or trash pick up visit www.manassascity.org/recycling.

The Manassas Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Veterans Day and is free to veterans and active duty military all weekend.

Manassas Park Community Center

In observance of Veteran’s Day, there will be no Extended Care, Preschool or MP3 on Monday, November 12th.

Prince William County

All Prince William County Government offices and Courts will be closed on Monday, Nov. 12 for the Veteran’s Day holiday.

The landfill will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 12.

All neighborhood libraries will be closed on Saturday, Nov. 10. All libraries will be closed on Sunday and Monday, Nov. 11 and 12.

Stafford County

Stafford offices, departments and facilities will be closed on Monday, November 12, 2012, in observance of Veterans Day.

The Circuit Court, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, and General District Court in Stafford will also be closed on Monday.

The following offices and facilities will remain open:

Fire and Rescue Information (540) 658-4400

Emergency 9-1-1

Sheriff’s Office Information (540) 658-4400

Emergency 9-1-1

Magistrate (540) 659-2968

The Regional Landfill, 489 Eskimo Hill Road, Stafford, VA 22554, and the Belman Road Recycling Center, 1200 Belman Road, Fredericksburg, VA 22401, will be open on Monday from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

 

News
Utilities Promise All Power Restored by Thursday

Power is coming back on for the thousands in our area that lost it following Superstorm Sandy.

Outages by the numbers:

Dominion Virginia Power

Prince William County – 561

Stafford County – 0

Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative

Prince William County – 1,086

Stafford County – 46

NOVEC tells us 26,000 customers lost power during the height of the storm, and that they expect to have every one of their customers back up and running Thursday night at the latest.

Dominion has restored power to 75 percent of their 322,000 customers affected by the storm and also has set a restoration deadline of Thursday night.

 

News
Halloween Still a Go for Area

A mask is a simple, but always effective last minute Halloween costume idea. (Photo: Stephanie Tipple/For PotomacLocal.com)

Happy Halloween. It’s not canceled.

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy many had wondered if trick-or-treaters would still be welcome in neighborhoods – some of which on Tuesday were without power.

In Prince William County, officials there said they don’t have the power to cancel the candy-getting, costume-wearing festivities.

County spokeswoman Nikki Brown comments:

——-

The county doesn’t regulate Halloween or trick-or treating. We do recommend that people follow these safety tips: http://www.pwcgov.org/government/dept/FR/Pages/Halloween-Safety.aspx.

In addition, due to the recent weather, people need to assess whether or not they think it’s safe to go out or take their kids out. If they do go out, they need to watch for any flooding or debris. Hopefully, power will be restored by then, but if not, people should be aware of that, as well.

——

Adversely in the gated North Stafford community of Aquia Harbour, police chief Patricia Harman did have the option to postpone Halloween but chose not to.

The neighborhood was impacted by a few power outages but it wasn’t enough to order children off streets tonight.

News
Sandy Leaves Power Outages, Closed Roads

National Weather Service Sterling, Va. radar image at 8 a.m.

10 a.m. 

Prince William County will close the Ferlazzo Shelter at 11 a.m. this morning. A total of 40 residents used the shelter last night.

In addition, the Department of Social Services will open the Winter Shelter two days early due to the cold weather. The Winter Shelter is typically open Nov. 1 through March 31.

9 a.m. 

Prince William County will close the Stonewall Jackson High School shelter at 10 a.m. today. A total of 17 people used the shelter last night. No residents are at the shelter currently.

8 a.m.

The worst of Sandy has passed our region, but the remnants of the storm will continue to dump rain today on the Potomac Communities.

Sandy roared through our area with high wind gusts before 10 p.m. Fort Belvoir recorded one of the region’s highest wind gusts at 63 mph at 9:29 p.m., and Quantico clocked a gust at 49 mph at 7:15 p.m.

Rain will taper off later today but the National Weather Service warns flooding will be an issue for those living on or near the Potomac River.

Power outages

One of the largest areas without power this morning is in southern Fairfax County near Occoquan, where more than 3,000 Dominion Virginia Power customers are in the dark.

Some Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative customers are also without power in Prince William and Stafford counties.

By the numbers as of 8 a.m.:

Dominion Virginia Power

Prince William County – 7,059

Stafford County – 1,293

NOVEC

Prince William County – 8,285

Stafford County – 1,217

Statewide conditions

Virginia State Police have been monitoring the situation all night long and released this latest information:

——

Statewide from Sunday, Oct. 28, thru 6 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30, troopers have responded to 2,549 traffic crashes and disabled vehicles, and received a total of 4,605 calls for service.

During the height of the storm, state police were fielding 155 calls for service an hour.

——

There are more than 143 secondary roads in Prince William and Fairfax counties closed this morning due to storm impacts, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

 

News
Shoppers Stock Up Ahead of Sandy

By STEPHANIE TIPPLE

DALE CITY, Va. — As Hurricane Sandy moves its way toward the Potomac Communities, families and companies all over Northern Virginia are preparing.

Prompted by the derecho this past June that took many off guard, and leaving several people without power and supplies for extended periods, there is a bigger sense of preparedness for Hurricane Sandy.

At Pitkins Ace Hardware in Dale City supplies are flying off the shelves; with batteries, flashlights and candles being among the top most purchased items, according to Meagan Stephens, a cashier at the store. Another popular item many are flocking to are sand bags.

“People are especially buying those to keep from flooding,” Stephens said.

While they have plenty of flashlights in stock, the store is currently out of propane tanks.

Dominion Virginia Power and NOVEC are also taking preemptive measures – and are urging their customers to do the same. A press release issued Saturday by Dominion Power warned this storm is likely to be long lasting, and that customers need to be ready for long term outages.

“This storm system will build in intensity over time and will remain a force for days, not just hours, causing major damage and extensive power outages,” said spokesman Rodney Blevins. Dominion has made a commitment to have teams on the ground as soon as the worst of the storm is over, to help restore power to affected communities.

NOVEC is also prepared with teams to fix any damage and outages in the Northern Virginia area, and has stressed safety and emergency preparedness. One tip that NOVEC offered all customers was to get in touch with NOVEC and ensure that they have your up to date contact information on file, so they can get in contact with you and restore your service as quickly as possible.

“If you use a cell phone, call us at 703-335-0500 or 1-888-335-0500 to associate your number with your account,” the press release states.

Take a look at these hurricane preparedness tips, published by NOVEC:

? Designate the safest shelter location. Be prepared to leave a mobile home for better protection. Develop a plan for someone disabled.

? Have an emergency kit with non-perishable food, water, flashlights, fresh batteries, battery-operated radio, lanterns, canned fuel, matches, and first aid. If applicable, have enough prescription drugs, pet food, and baby-care items.

? Have identification and documentation ready to grab. Keep Social Security information; birth certificates; home, car, and life insurance files; and other important documents in a water-proof file box.

? Cordless phones do not work when power is out; keep cell phones charged.

? Before a storm hits, unplug TVs, DVD/ VCR players, microwave oven, and computers to protect them from power surges and lightning strikes.

What to do if Power Goes Out

? Call NOVEC at 703-335-0500 or 1-888-335-0500, or report the outage online at novec.com if you have access. The Outage Center will provide updates.

? Only open freezers and refrigerators when necessary.

? Use portable generators, camp stoves, or grills outdoors to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Alternatively, heat food in a chafing dish or fondue pot over canned fuel.

 

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