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Around Town

Coalition criticizes redistricting commission
Members of Virginia’s Redistricting Coalition have blasted the state’s population formula used to determine which senators and representatives will represent a district, saying Gerrymandering is now a real possibility, reports.

Lorton district unlikely
While Fairfax County is growing and there has been talk about creating a new supervisory district for Lorton, officials say a new district is unlikely and would cost about $1 million to create in these tough budget times, the Mount Vernon Gazette reports.

The hunt for Bigfoot is on
The search for Bigfoot is still on, this time in Prince William Forest Park where a man is using high-tech tools to find the elusive hairy beast, reports.

State Wants Ads at Rest Stops

Advertisements will soon be placed at the rest stop along I-95 in Dale City to help offset operating costs.

Dale City, Va. –– The Virginia Department of Transportation is about to enter the advertising business.

A plan to place advertisements at the state’s 42 highway rest stops and welcome centers was announced Monday by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell.

The plan comes after McDonnell last year reopened a string of 33 rest stops closed as a cost-saving measure under the previous governor, Timothy M. Kaine.

Touted as one of the first plans of its kind the country, the advertising program would allow private companies to place signs on the grounds of the rest stops, near vending machines, restrooms, and on highways on the approach to the rest areas.

The governor says 800 million people each year use the state’s highway system providing advertiser’s ample opportunity to extend their marketing reach.

“In these fiscally challenging times, we have to look for innovative new solutions for maintaining and operating the Commonwealth’s rest area and welcome center facilities. These facilities serve a critical role in providing a safe place for travelers to rest and providing information to tourists, businesses, and commuters on the many attractions and services the Commonwealth has to offer,” said McDonnell is a press release.

The idea to place advertising at state rest stops was born last July, when McDonnell tasked state employees to come up with long term strategies to offset the cost of operating the rest stops.

Because the rest stops on Virginia’s highways are located on federally-owned roads, not state-owned toll roads, the state cannot privatize their rest stops as Maryland and Delaware have done. To do so would require a change in federal law.

Around Town

School not responsible for rape
A Fredericksburg judge Monday decided the University of Mary Washington was not liable for the rape of a student, which took place in university’s parking lot, reports.

Recycling program on chopping block
At the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College, the recycling program is not working as planners hoped. Now the program may be a thing of the past, NOVA Fortnightly reports.

Police: Couple used drywall to barricade children in room

A couple from Bristow is charged after police say a 4-year-old climbed over a five-foot piece of drywall that had trapped the child and two others inside a bedroom inside their house, then went for help a neighbor’s house, The Washington Post reports.

Kites Soar at Mason’s Home

Gunston Hall held their annual kite festival on Saturday. (Mary Davidson/

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus

With light snow in the forecast, over 800 people grabbed their coats and their kites to enjoy an early spring festival at Gunston Hall on Saturday.

Each spring, the Friends of Gunston Hall host a kite festival to support the historic site’s education fund.  Susan Blankenship, Development Program Coordinator, says that the local community have come to expect a great program facilitated by dedicated volunteers who come as period actors.

This year the event included not only kite flying in the fields adjacent the visitor’s center and museum, but also historic games and demonstrations.  Volunteers in the kitchen showed visitors how to make carrot soufflé over a traditional colonial hearth while in another area, a local artist gave hands-on demonstrations of basket weaving.

Children enjoying a shadow puppet show seemed transfixed, while parents enjoyed a break from chasing kites.  Other visitors enjoyed talking with volunteers dressed in period costume.  “We’re very lucky to have a dedicated group of period actor volunteers who come out for all of our special events” said Blankenship.

Tava Jo Ingram Foster, who attended the festival with her children, said they enjoyed the festival.

“It was a lot of fun for us. The best part was getting a kite off the ground and actually flying it for the first time. My younger son Lincoln loved the Archaeology portion and still thinks he’s found dinosaur bones,” shared Foster.

The Friends of Gunston Hall hold events throughout the year to support the educational mission of Gunston Hall.  Upcoming events can be viewed on their website, and are also listed on the calendar.

Gunston Hall, at Mason Neck, was the home of famous patriot Geroge Mason.  The mansion was built in the 1750s with the Mason family living there between 1759 and 1792, according to materials provided by Friends of Gunston Hall.

Kristina Schnack Kotlus is’s Style and Events producer and lives with her family in Woodbridge.

Around Town

Work underway to preserve Aquia Creek battlefield
As divers and research boats comb the mouth of Aquia Creek at the Potomac River searching for remnants of one of the first naval battles of the Civil War, reports on an effort to preserve the battlefield.

Changes eyed at Prince William’s animal shelter
Officials at Prince William County’s animal shelter want to provide vaccinations to each animal they handle, as well as lower the rate of euthanasia there. Higher boarding and impoundment fees are being eyed to offset higher costs for the vaccinations, reports.

McDonnell must decide on autism benefits
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has until Tuesday to decide if he will require insurance companies in Virginia to provide up to $35,000 in health insurance to children with autism, between the ages of 2 and 6-years-old, The Washington Post reports.

Crash Victim Spent 22 Years in Army

Master Sgt. William Pitts was killed in a car crash Tuesday outside the main gate of Ft. Belvoir. (Submitted)

Ft. Belvoir, Va.  — An Oregon National Guard Soldier serving at Ft. Belvoir was killed in a Monday afternoon car crash, while driving home for a family dinner.

The victim, Army Master Sergeant William Scott Pitts, had more than 22 years in the military. He was posthumously promoted to master sergeant on Tuesday.

Colleagues at the National Guard Bureau remember him fondly, saying his strongest quality was how much of a family man he was to those he is survived by; his wife Vicki R. Pitts and their three children, daughters Crystal, 16, and Tonya, 9, and son Scott, 12.

A Memorial Ceremony is scheduled to take place at the Fort Belvoir Main Post Chapel, 12th and Belvoir Road, at 2 p.m. on Friday, March 25, with Old Guard members providing Honor Guard and Bugler support.

His family will hold a graveside service in the near future.

Pitts is the second U.S. serviceman to die in a crash along the same stretch of road in the last two weeks.

On March 14, 54-year-old Paul Krause was killed when a Honda Civic collided with his Ford Fusion sedan forcing it into oncoming traffic on Richmond Highway (U.S. 1).

Krause is also being remembered today and tomorrow.

A 33-year-old illegal immigrant, Carlos Ramos Lagos, is charged with involuntary manslaughter in his death.

-U.S. National Guard contributed to this report.

Pain at Gas Pump Continues

Drivers travel north on Interstate 95 at Garrisonville Road (Va. 610) in North Stafford. (Mary Davidson/

Gas prices are still going up as the weekend approaches.

In North Stafford on Friday, the average price of unleaded gasoline was $3.51 per gallon.

Some of the cheapest gas in the area could be found at the Wawa on Garrisonville Road (Va. 610) and at the Verlro gas stations on Va. 610 and U.S. 1 in North Stafford, for $3.47 per gallon.

The most expensive gas in the area was at the Stafford Sunoco on Courthouse Road at $3.61 per gallon.

Last week the average price per gallon in the area was $3.48 per gallon, while six months ago the price per gallon price of gas was $2.58, according to AAA Mid Atlantic.

The price of gas goes up for drivers in Woodbridge, where the average price per gallon of gas is $3.63.

Some of the cheapest fuel can be found at Wawa at Daniel Stuart Square, at Optiz Boulevard and U.S. 1, and at 7-Eleven on Telegraph Road at Prince William Parkway, at $3.55 per gallon.

The most expensive gas in the area, at $3.87 per gallon, is at a Shell station at 15423 Jefferson Davis Highway (U.S. 1) in Woodbridge.

In Lorton, the average price per gallon of gas is $3.64, according to AAA Mid Atlantic.

The price at the pump has not only affected drivers, but transit agencies as well.

If prices rise to $4 per gallon as predicted, transit providers nationwide who are already say they are turning away passengers because of crowded buses, could see the addition of 670 million passenger trips, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

Around Town

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell works out with students at Fred M. Lynn Middle School in Woodbridge in January. (Mary Davidson/

Spice banned, P.E. bill vetoed
For Gov. Robert F. McDonnell yesterday, it was one approved and one vetoed. The governor signed legislation to ban the synthetic marijuana plant known as Spice or K2, reports. He vetoed a bill that would have required public school systems across the state to mandate 150 minutes of physical education each week, reports.

Commuter town hall heats up over parking issues
Some area commuters unhappy with the location of the new commuter parking lot at the First Baptist Church in Woodbridge sounded off at elected leaders and transportation officials Wednesday night at a town hall meeting. Still upset over the loss of 750 commuter parking spaces at Potomac Mills mall, one commuter called herself a “Potomac Mills refugee,” reports.

U.S. 1 near Belvoir a dangerous road?
A recent rash of crashes along Richmond Highway (U.S. 1) near the main gate at Ft. Belvoir – two of them fatal in the past two weeks – has sparked concern amongst elected leaders, base officials and police. Now there is talk about what can be done to prevent more tragic accidents in the corridor, reports.

Funeral Services Set for Victim of Fatal Crash

Paul Krause, left, pictured with his family. (Submitted)

Fairfax County, Va. — A viewing for the man killed recently on Richmond Highway will be held Friday.

Paul Krause, 54, was killed March 14 when a Honda Civic collided with his sedan pushing it into oncoming traffic, near the intersection of Richmond Highway (U.S. 1) and Fairfax County Parkway.

Following the crash, police charged a 33-year-old illegal immigrant with involuntary manslaughter in connection to Krause’s death.

Police said Carlos Lagos Ramos was driving the Honda that collided with Kruause, then fled the crash scene uninjured with a 3-year-old child in his arms. That child was a passenger inside the car at the time of the crash, police said.

Services for Krause will be held between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. at Fairfax Memorial Funeral Home at 9902 Braddock Road in Fairfax.

Those wishing to leave condolences may do so by visiting the funeral home’s web page.

A second viewing will also be held at the funeral home between 2 and 5 p.m. Saturday.

Following that viewing, the family will hold a potluck dinner at the Church of the Nativity at 6400 Burke Lake Drive in Burke.

Attendees are asked to bring a dish that would serve a family of six or more.

Krause leaves behind a wife and three daughters.

Ramos is expected to appear in court April 20.

Thunder to Snow?

Prince William County, Va. –– Those lightning strikes that rolled through the Woodbridge area last night did more than leave rolling thunder and rain-soaked pavement in their wake – the knocked out the electricity to one home near Montclair.

Fire and rescue crews were called to a home at 15644 Piedmont Place off Cardinal Drive in Woodbridge.

No one was injured, but the lightning knocked out the power in the home, said Prince William fire and rescue spokesman Joseph Robertson.

With no lights, the family stayed overnight with neighbors, according to reports from the scene.

A line of storms moved through the region last night about 7 p.m. Wednesday night.

The National Weather Service posted a severe thunderstorm watch for the area, but none of the storms ever became severe.

As we look to the weekend we may go from lightning and thunder to snow.

Temperatures are forecast to be in the low 30s on Saturday night into Sunday morning, and with rain moving in overnight some snow could develop, forecasters say.

Around Town

Fire and rescue crews in North Stafford battle a house fire Wednesday that took the lives of several pets, a fire official said. (Mary Davidson/

County’s first dog park approved
Woodbridge residents may soon see Prince William County’s first dog park after the park authority last night approved an agreement to lease land in Lake Ridge for the proposed park, reports.

Geico will add more jobs
One of Stafford County’s largest employers, Geico, will add 180 new jobs to its office on Warrenton Road (U.S. 17) by the end of the year, reports.

Elizabeth Taylor’s Northern Virginia connection
Following the death of famed movie star Elizabeth Taylor, takes a look at her connection to Northern Virginia, her former husband Sen. John Warner.

Thunder Could Roll Tonight

The National Weather Service has placed the Potomac Communities under a severe thunderstorm watch for this evening.

Forecasters say we could see some strong storms with dangerous lightening and some hail, mainly before 8 p.m.

Tomorrow, temperatures will struggle to make it out of the 40 degree temperature range, with mostly sunny skies.

Friday will also be sunny, with a high near 50 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

Around Town

Chef Denise Baxter, instructor of Stafford County’s Mountain View High School’s Culinary Arts Program. (Mary Davidson/

Suicide prompts Fairfax schools to review disciplinary process
Fairfax County public school officials are taking a second look at how the discipline students after a 15-year-old freshman committed suicide after being transferred to another school following a disciplinary action, The Washington Post reports.

Superintendent candidate drops out
A democrat once vying to unseat Prince William County Superintendent Corey A. Stewart has taken his name out of the hat, citing redistricting concerns as a more “solid” candidate from Woodbridge, reports.

Jewelry store expands
A popular jewelry store in Woodbridge held a ribbon cutting on Tuesday to celebrate the expansion of their store on Prince William Parkway, reports.

VRE Riders Will Pay Less to Ride Amtrak

A Virginia Railway Express train pulls into the Woodbridge station. (File Photo: Mary Davidson)

Virginia Railway Express riders will soon be able to take Amtrak for less.

Beginning May 2, riders will be able to purchase an Amtrak Step-up ticket for $5, which is half of the current ticket cost. The reduced fares should alleviate crowding on the transit system that last month experienced record ridership, said VRE CEO Dale Zehner.

“This past Friday, the [VRE] Operations Board approved my recommendation to buy down the Step-Up fare. While VRE will still need to pay $10 to Amtrak for every VRE rider on one of its trains…the VRE rider will only pay $5. VRE will pay the rest,” said Zehner.

Covering the cost of the step-up fares is expected to cost VRE $300,000 annually, and is expected to increase Amtrak’s annual ridership by 250 trips per day, up to 60,000 passenger trips per year.

All of the riders are would-be VRE passengers.

In some cases, says Zehner, buying an Amtrak Step-up ticket will actually decrease commute times for some riders.

On March 15, VRE saw record-breaking ridership numbers with 20,573 passenger trips.

Chain Reaction Crash Leaves 1 Dead

Ft. Belvoir, Va. –– A 48-year-old Ft. Belvoir man in dead after a crash Monday, and charges are anticipated for one of the drivers involved.

Fairfax County police this morning said a 32-year-old man was driving a Fastran shuttle bus on northbound U.S. 1 near Ft. Belvoir about 4 p.m. Monday when four cars in front of him slowed for a traffic light at Fairfax County Parkway.

The driver told police he did not see the light or the slowing cars and hit a 1995 Toyota Celica, said Fairfax police spokeswoman Shelly Broderick.

Inside of the Celica was the fatal victim in the crash, William S. Pitts, of Fort Belvoir Road, who was pronounced dead on the scene.

After shuttle bus collided with Pitts’ car, the impact caused a chain reaction forcing the Celica into the back of a 2004 Dodge pickup. That truck then hit a 2001 Dodge Caravan, which then hit a 2004 Chrysler sedan.

In all, eight people were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries and later released.

Police have not filed charges or identified the driver of the Fastran bus, but said charges are anticipated.

This is the second fatal crash at the same spot on U.S. 1 in a week.

On March 14, 54-year-old Paul Krause was died when his sedan was struck by a Honda Civic, forcing it into oncoming traffic.

The driver of that Civic, 33-year-old Carlos Lagos Ramos, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and has been identified as an illegal immigrant here in the U.S.

Krause leaves behind a wife and three daughters.

Around Town

Train operators apologize for late night whistles
Railroad crews are apologizing for sounding train whistles that for the past few weeks have kept neighbors up at night, reports.

The next NOVA Idol
It’s that time of year again when students at Northern Virginia Community College take to the stage in the hopes to be crowed the next NOVA Idol. NOVA Fortnightly asks who this year’s idol will be.

East Coast Rapists suspect due in court today
The East Coast Rapist suspect is due in a Connecticut court room today, the Washington Post reports. Police in Prince William County charge 39-year-old Aaron Thomas with raped two girls in Dale City on Halloween night 2009.

Fatal Crash Snarls U.S. 1 Traffic

Update 7 p.m.

Update 5:40 p.m.
Police say one person has died and eight people transported to the hospital after a crash at U.S. 1 and Fairfax County Parkway that happened about 4 p.m.

Police have not released the identified any of the victims in the crash, nor have they released details on how it happened.

Crash investigators on the scene say at least five vehicles are believed to be involved.

The southbound lanes of U.S. 1 have been reopened to traffic at Fairfax County Parkway.

The northbound lanes of U.S. 1 are closed at Pohick Road.

Original Post 4:50 p.m.
Lorton, Va. ––
One person has been killed in a cash on U.S. 1 at Fairfax County Parkway near Ft. Belvoir.

County police are on the scene of the cash that reportedly involves seven patients.

The four-lane highway has been closed in both directions and officials advise motorists to find an alternate route to get home.

Fairfax County Connector Buses are reporting major delays at this hour.

The crash comes exactly one week after a Fairfax Station man was killed in a crash at the same intersection.

An illegal immigrant has been charged in that crash.

Around Town

Denise Harman was one of the brave who auditioned to sing the National Anthem at Pfitzner Stadium on Saturday in Woodbridge for upcoming Potomac National’s baseball games. (Mary Davidson/

Stafford BOCS: Build in Brooke
Stafford County’s Board of Supervisors wants a urban-like, high density development for the Brooke area of the county despite the wishes of the county’s planning commission, reports.

Mason madness is over
Try as they might, George Mason couldn’t scale Mount Buckeye in Ohio, losing to Ohio State with a jaw-dropping score of 99-66, The Washington Post reports.

Lorton space rock nets 10 grand for charity
Remember that tiny little meteorite that crashed through a doctor’s office in Lorton last year, narrowly missing those inside the office? The doctor has sold the space rock to the Smithsonian Institute for $10,000, reports.

Around Town

Construction on Courthouse Road in Stafford County. (Mary Davidson/

Kaine could run for senate
Virginia’s former governor, Timothy Kaine, may make a run for the U.S. Senate. If it happens, the senate contest could be a duel between political heavyweights as George Allen is also running for the seat, reports.

Parking desk could be built at Rippon VRE station
Virginia Railway Express commuters who use the Rippon station could soon see a parking garage built there. The parking deck would be part of a larger project to bring more residential and commercial property to that section of Woodbridge, reports.

Legislative recap dinner planned
Area business leaders have been invited by the Mt. Vernon Chamber of Commerce to get a recap of the latest Virginia General Assembly session at a dinner next Thursday night. The event will feature Senators Toddy Puller and George Barker, as well as State Delegates Dave Albo, David Englin, Mark Sickles, and Scott Surovell. The chamber will charge $35 per person to attend the event.

Family Mourns as Police Return to Crash Scene

Paul Krause was killed Monday following a car crash on U.S. 1 near Ft. Belvoir.

Lorton, Va. –– Paul Krause’s family is trying to come to grips with his sudden death.

He died Monday after a drunken driver struck his sedan forcing it into oncoming traffic on Richmond Highway (U.S. 1) in the Ft. Belvoir area, police say.

It doesn’t make things easier to know the man charged in the fatal crash that took Paul’s life is an illegal immigrant.

“I live in San Diego and we deal with the illegal immigration thing all the time, but for me, for my family, I don’t care if you’re from Mars –– driving after you’ve been drinking, no one should do that,” said Tom Krause, his younger brother.

Police closed the same portion of U.S. 1 Thursday morning where the crash occurred.

They used laser measurement devices, measured the friction of the roadway and collected more details to help them to understand the crash, said Fairfax County police spokesman Eddie Azcarate.

Carlos Sanchez Ramos faces multiple charges in a crash that left one man dead. (Submitted)

On Wednesday, A U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman said the man charged in the fatal crash, 33-year-old Carlos Lagos Ramos, was deported from the U.S. as an illegal alien in 2003. Authorities say he reentered the county illegally without ICE knowing.

Ramos has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Police say following the crash Ramos grabbed a 3-year-old who was passenger inside his car at the time of the crash and fled the scene. Ramos and the child, both uninjured, were picked up by police a short time later.

Krause, a retired Army Colonel, leaves behind a wife of 27-years, and three daughters ages 18, 20, and 24.

“He was all in for his family,” said Tom Krause. “I was going through his records the other night and found he saved his daughter’s homework from elementary school, and we found a bunch of medals and awards that he had never displayed or hung on the wall. He was a selfless kind of guy.”

The family is working with the Army on funeral arrangements, which are expected to be announced soon.

Renters in for Sticker Shock

It’s no secret that rental properties in the Potomac Communities are in high demand.

Some say it’s because of the military’s Base Realignment and Closure.

BRAC, as its known, is expected to bring more than 20,000 new military and federal workers to the Ft. Belvoir Army Garrison and Quantico Marine Corps Base, and landlords know those who relocate to these jobs will want to live where they work.

“At least two or three times a week I get an email request from someone relocating to the area. They want a reasonable commute to Fort Belvoir…access to public transportation to D.C. Easy enough to do. Then the hard part or perhaps the reality part hits. Most often they want a three or four bedroom detached home with a garage for under $2,000 a month. Unfortunately reality is the rental prices for a detached homes meeting this criteria starts closer to $2,300, and more likely will be $2,500 or more per month,” stated Woodbridge-based real estate agent Cindy Jones in her blog.

Jones says those who move here can opt for a longer commute time and choose to live in Prince William County to find a home at the $2,000 price point.

Northern Virginia is still a buyer’s market out there, real estate agents say.

It seems many people who are looking to rent still want to see if the market will go any lower, still waiting for their best deals, said Stafford real estate agent Rob Rachon.

“Purchasers are becoming wiser because people do not need to make decisions in one day if they want the home or risk losing it. If they lose out on that home, there will mostly likely be another one like it on the market next week,” said Rochon.

In Stafford, the market has yet to see a major influx of people relocating to the area because of BRAC. But they are coming, says Rochon.

“As people move down here for BRAC the pace will pick up, that’s going to bring more people to the area and fill jobs,” said Rochon.

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