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History comes to life for upcoming Manassas Civil War Weekend

 

Manassas Civil War Weekend is August 21-23

There was much more to the Civil War than bloody battles, endless strategizing, and the stands of famous generals.

This year, in addition to featuring portrayals of well-known generals and studies of tactics, the fourth annual Manassas Civil War Weekend will also bring to life the experiences of women on both the home front and in the conflict.

The weekend’s free events, from August 21-23, promises to engage visitors of all ages and interests with the sights, sounds and scents of Civil War-era Manassas. Speakers and performers will reveal many stories about the stark reality of war.

The weekend begins with a keynote address by well-known Civil War re-enactor Al Stone, who has been portraying General Robert E. Lee for more than 20 years to nationwide audiences. Stone will portray Lee in his reflective post-war years, when he became president of what was then called Washington College in Lexington, Va., later renamed Washington & Lee University. His address begins on Friday, Aug. 21 at 7 p.m. on the Manassas Museum lawn.

Many speakers throughout the weekend will focus on the war’s military experience. Richard Killblane, the United States Army Transportation Historian and author of the war history, The Filthy Thirteen, will talk about the logistics of the war. Re-enactors will portray General William Tecumseh Sherman, General Philip T. Sheridan, General Jubal Early, General John B. Gordan, Major Jed Hotchkiss, and General Samuel Cooper. Earl McElfresh, author of Maps and Mapmakers of the Civil War and cartographer and historian for the McElfresh Map Co., will speak about maps during the Civil War.

To lend a different perspective on the war experience, living historians will also portray Clara Barton, the famous Civil War nurse; Dorothea Dix, an American activist who created the first American mental asylums; Elizabeth Keckley, Mary Todd Lincoln’s seamstress and confidante; the wives of Generals Robert E. Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and Isaac Trimble; and Barbara Smith and Hendrina Appelt, who will talk about the role of women in the war.

Tracey McIntire and Dr. Audrey Scanlan-Teller will speak about the experiences of more than four hundred women who disguised themselves as men and served in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. They will speak not only about individual soldiers, but about gender roles and military culture during the era.

Visit www.manassasmuseum.org for the weekend’s latest schedule.

Marriage isn’t a give-and-take. It’s a give-and-give.

Marriage should be serious fun.

That’s the premise behind a series of classes called ‘Married People,’ hosted by Chapel Springs Church in Bristow.

The classes are hosted on Wednesday nights at 7:30 p.m., and are open to all married couples.

Pastor Josh and Leah Wesley both work in the ministry at Chapel Springs, and recently hosted one of the ‘Married People’ classes.

The Wesleys have been married for 15 years, after meeting through a mutual friend in ministry.

“We really became best friends and got to the point where, ‘I just don’t want to live life without you. I don’t want to experience anything about life without you by my side’ and that was it,” said Leah Wesley.

According to Pastor Josh Wesley, the classes are for all married couples who want to make their marriage better.

“We’re trying to help people – not just from the slant of ‘come fix your broken marriage’ – but also we’re being proactive in helping people continue to nurture healthy marriages. Marriage gets a lot of flack for being the ‘ball and chain.’ We really believe that marriage opens and unlocks a lot of opportunities…we’re helping people develop their relationships,” said Pastor Josh Wesley.

Here’s some advice from the Wesleys about marriage.

1. Stop comparing your marriage to other people’s marriages. The way that you have fun and enjoy your lives together is unique.

2. Develop the ability to give.

“Marriage is not a give-and-take. It’s a give-and-give. And when we both are giving equally, everybody’s being blessed,” said Pastor Josh Wesley.

3. Make the decision to put your spouse first every day, and value them.

4. Developing your imagination and creativity, and explore new ways to have fun.

“In marriage we kind of tend to get very hum drum. We tend to do the same thing over and over again. We go to work – we have responsibilities. And we forget to be creative and to spark that love and enjoyment with one another,” said Leah Wesley.

5. Know that marriage requires a lot of hard work.

6. Your marriage needs to be above all relationships, including the relationship with your children and parents.

Chapel Springs Church, with locations in Bristow and Stafford, is committed to offering marriage enrichment opportunities and helping people heal fractured marriages. Next Wednesday, July 29, concludes the “Married People” series with a session at 7:30 pm in the Bristow auditorium. All married couples are welcome to attend.

Free marriage resources.

 

Traffic
Proposed towing fees higher in Prince William

Two truck companies could soon be allowed to charge you more to tow your car in Prince William County.

Here’s a breakdown the of newly proposed fees:

Proposed fee Current fee  
$135 $125 For vehicles with gross weight of 10,001 pounds
$250 $175 For vehicles with gross weight between 10,001 and 26,001 pounds
$475 $300 For vehicles with gross weight of 26,001 or more pounds

Tow companies would also be allowed to charge drivers an additional $25 if their car is towed between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. weekdays, on weekends, or holidays, according to the proposal.

Tow companies are not allowed to charge storage or impound fees for the first 24 hours. Companies may then charge $50 per each 24 hours thereafter. 

If the driver of a tow truck offers to release a vehicle before it is towed away, the owner of the car will have the option of paying a release fee up to $50 to have the vehicle released from the tow truck, according to the proposal.

A towing advisory board comprised of various towing companies and the Prince William County Police Department review towing fee on an annual basis.

The public hearing on the matter is set for 2 p.m. Aug. 4 at the Prince William County Government Center. The new fees must be approved by the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.

News
20 orgs win Prince William County arts grants

A total of $193,000 was provided to arts groups in Prince William County. 

The grant money is built into the annual county budget, and is awarded on the recommendation of the Prince William Arts Council County Parks and Recreation Department.

Each organization submitted a grant application. About $270,000 was requested, or about 140% of the total funds available. 

Brentsville District Supervisor Jeanine Lawson questioned whether or not some of the grant benefactors located in Manasssas were being funded by similar grants awarded by that city.

“I don’t have anything against these. I just want to know they’re carrying the weight themselves,” said Lawson.

Prince William County Parks and Recreation Director Debbie Andrew said Manassas does not offer the same type of arts grant as Prince William. She also told Lawson applicants must prove their arts programs regularly serve residents of Prince William County.

And the grant winners are: 

Applicant  Amount awarded
Center for the Arts $50,000
Manassas Ballet $60,000
Youth Orchestras $19,413
Woodbridge Flute $776
Cabin Branch Quilters $3,137
Old Bridge Chamber Orchestra $2,964
Castaways Repertory Theatre $2,301
Prince William Arts Society $886
Manassas Symphony  $10,695
Manassas Chorale $13,453
Woodbridge Dance $3,839
Celebration Singers $2,382
Prince William Little Theatre $5,250
Asaph Dance $5,522
New Dominion Choraliers  $3,618
Bull Run Cloggers $1,382
Woodbridge Music Club $1,211
Woodbridge Comm. Choir  $1,981
Gainesville Ballet $780
Shenandoah Sound $3,410

 

News
Meeting on July 20 to discuss the fate of Occoquan Visitor’s Center

Discover Prince William & Manassas has plans to close the Occoquan Visitor’s Center on August 2, and will be meeting to talk about it on July 20.

The organization – also known as the Convention & Visitor’s Bureau – who is responsible for tourism in the county, consider the visitor’s center to be a low return on investment, according to their Executive Director Ann Marie Maher.

“The CVB’s Visitor Center was identified as an area with a low return on investment in relation to other CVB programs,” said Maher.

Funding changes for Discover Prince William & Manassas

According to Maher, Discover Prince William & Manassas had made a fiscal year 2016 budget request for $1,346,845 but the organization only received county funding in the amount of $1,162,782.

Additionally, the organization used to receive $87,000 per year from the City of Manassas, but their funding from the city has now dropped to $65,000, according to city spokeswoman Patty Prince.

“Prior to this [year] we had given them $87,000 per year, and this year we gave them $65,000…this is 50% of our TOT (Transit Occupancy Tax) funds…what we’re asking them to do is promote us for our special events, shopping and dining in historic downtown [Manassas] and bring in bus tours. We’re asking them to more narrowly focus than they have been,” said Prince.

Prince also stated that the funds from the city had never been based on TOT funds before, and this was the cause for the shift in funding.

Occoquan district Supervisor Mike May stated that Discover Prince William & Manassas may be closing the Occoquan Visitor’s Center as a way to continue their sports marketing initiative that the county is no longer funding.

“That’s interesting because the CVB received the exact same amount of TOT revenue for operating this year that they got last year. And in the budget documents it states that operations will remain the same. Now the CVB did get a one time grant of additional TOT money to do some sports marketing initiatives, so that grant was only available in [fiscal year 2015]…what I think that the CVB has decided is the marketing initiative is valuable and they want to continue it. And in trying to find the revenue to continue it, they have tried to find reductions in other areas and one of those areas is the closure of the visitor’s center,” said May.

Elected officials, residents voice concerns on the closure

May expressed concerns about the closure of the visitor’s center.

“I am concerned about it. I think that the Occoquan Visitor’s Center is an asset to the entire county – not just the Occoquan community. I think it provides a personal touch, and it’s one of the best ways to market the community and small town image that Occoquan and some of our other small towns in Prince William present to visitors,” said May.

May stated that he had reached out to Discover Prince William & Manassas through the County Executive Melissa Peacor, to work with the organization to come up with an alternative.

“If nothing else, I think that the quick timing of the decision is problematic, because it did not give the community or the stakeholders an opportunity to thoroughly explore alternatives that we might be able to come up with. At the minimum, I would like to see the CVB keep it open for a time, so we can continue to talk through these things and see about a public-private partnership,” said May.

Maher stated that the budget for the organization, and potential cuts, had been discussed for several months.

“The [board] reviewed budget revisions presented during public meetings on February 23, March 23 and April 20 where the CVB Board discussed estimated FY16 revenues and the best use of these funds.  The CVB met with the Mayor and Town Manager of the Town of Occoquan on May 21 to discuss the visitor center closure…although there were no funds allocated to sustain the center operation in the CVB’s FY16 budget beginning July 1, a decision was made by the CVB to extend funding through August 2, 2015 in an effort to work with the town in developing a transition plan,” said Maher.

According to May, he has heard concerns from several of his constituents in Occoquan about the visitor’s center closing.

“I think people are concerned about it and from my perspective, and a lot of my constituent’s perspective, they like it…and it adds that personal touch that you don’t get from a website or a brochure…but even setting that aside, I think the bigger concern is the rapid nature of the decision, in the fact that the stakeholders were never really given a venue to express concerns and let the CVB know how important the visitor’s center is to them,” May commented.

What happens next?

The board of directors for Discover Prince William & Manassas will meet on July 20 to talk about options for the Occoquan Visitor’s Center.

“At the CVB Board of Directors regularly scheduled meeting on July 20, the CVB Board will discuss concerns posed by the Town of Occoquan, Supervisor May and others impacted by the CVB Board’s FY16 budget,” said Maher.

May stated that he would be attending the meeting, and urged residents with an opinion to go to the meeting and speak.

Celebrate America in style in Manassas July 4

Fireworks show, watermelon, and pie contests planned 

On Saturday, July 4, 2015, Celebrate America with the City of Manassas from 3 to 10 p.m. in Historic Downtown Manassas.

The celebration begins with the Bicycle Decorating contest. At 5 p.m. visitors are invited to take part in a Watermelon-eating contest.

Next, Judges from around the City will lend their culinary expertise to judge the Apple and Peach Pie Baking Contest. This is Americana at its best. To sign up for these contests, visit visitmanassas.org.

Visitors can bring a blanket or a lawn chair to lay claim to a spot for viewing the best fireworks in Virginia. Beginning at 3 p.m., there will be children’s rides, food vendors, and other vendors. The celebration centers around the Harris Pavilion, the Manassas Museum and the Train Depot.

The City of Manassas loves pets, but pets do not love loud noises. Their ears are more sensitive and the City asks that pets be left at home in the air conditioning. This time of year, streets and sidewalks are hot enough to burn puppy paws.

News
Occoquan visitors center set to close

The Occoquan Visitors Center is set to close August 2.

The tiny office on Mill Street in Occoquan has served travelers and tourists looking to get more information on the town, and about things to see and do in surrounding Prince William County since 1999.
Budget cuts at Discover Prince William / Manassas — the county agency responsible for keeping open the center — have forced its closure.

Discover has a budget shortfall of $200,000 this year.

“Because of that, we have to make some of these tough budget decisions,” said Discover Prince William / Manassas Director Ann Marie Maher.

One part-time employee and one contracted employee are expected to lose their jobs when the center closes. Maher’s team at Discover Prince William / Manassas this year will also forgo traveling to four conferences over the next year where they would meet with group tour operators to in an effort lure business back to the county. Employee raises, and updates to the agency’s website are also on hold.

The Occoquan Visitors Center may have cost $45,000 annual to operate. That’s down from the old cost of $78,000, before the center began using volunteers as staff.

The brings in an average 20,000 visitors to the tiny town per year, according to Maher. Occoquan’s shop owners need that foot traffic. Many travelers on nearby Interstate 95 would stop in at the center to use the restroom, and would stay longer to eat or shop in Occoquan before getting back on the road, said Maher.

More than 30 shop owners came to a recent meeting of the Occoquan Town Council to protest the closing, stated Occoquan Town Manager Kirstyn Barr Jovanovich. She sent a letter to Prince William County Occoquan District Supervisor Mike May stating the town could not afford to absorb the operating cost of the center, and noted the center’s value to the town and region.

Former Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta was asked by a town official to consider operating sightseeing shuttle service from the visitors center to keep the doors open.

“I told them I was open to considering the idea, but that’s basically where we left things. I don’t know the current status of the town’s plans,” stated Porta.

Maher, who attended a recent Occoquan Town Council meeting, said officials discussed the possibility that Porta could run his business from the site, as well as continue to make available the many tourism brochures and handouts that are currently available in the visitors center.

A committee of Occoquan business owners, visitor center volunteers, and elected officials will provide an update to Town Council during their regular meeting on July 7, 2015 at Occoquan Town Hall.

Northern Virginia families needed for visiting French teens

Waiting for lift-off in the Virginia countryside. In three short weeks, American families and their French students can become lifelong friends.
Donatien, 16, of Versailles, enjoys swimming, tennis, reading, and video games. He has lived in India, and also studies Chinese, and is in a scientific specialization in school.
Joris, a lively and sociable-14 year old, enjoys swimming, canoeing, sailing, camping, mechanics, animals, history and plays the electric guitar.
Hugues and Sebastian prepare for a watermelon seed-spitting contest at a host family picnic last year.
LEC student Paul, left, enjoys his first American hamburger at a Virginia Red Robin restaurant.

Early July is that exciting time of year when French teenagers sponsored by LEC (Loisirs Culturels a L’Etranger, founded in 1972 and based in Paris, France) will be arriving into Dulles Airport for a fun-filled three weeks in the Northern Virginia area.

But to do so they need local families willing to open their hearts and homes now.

LEC has five students, ages 14-19, who still need welcoming homes from July 7–27. They all speak English, are fully insured, bring ample spending money, and would like to participate as a member of an American family – your family!

But what does that entail?

Our families provide room and board, of course, but even more importantly friendship and the desire to include the student in their daily activities, thus giving the student a wonderful introduction to American life.

Families will receive a weekly stipend of $125 to help cover typical hosting costs. For more information or to apply, please contact Karen Sweer, LEC General Coordinator, at 717-795-7089 or ksweer@aol.com TODAY. We need Host families immediately to ensure that every student can visit the US. For more information, please see LEC-USA.com.

It is always fun to observe the group of teens searching for their host families in the airport crowd. Some of the students have corresponded and ‘met’ their families in advance. They have received pictures, and have heard about some of the upcoming plans for the 20 days that they will be in the Northern Virginia area. Others will shyly meet their American families for the first time once they leave the International Arrivals area.

Either way, excitement is in store for both students and families as both share in the daily activities and traditions of the family and have fun learning about each others’ cultures.

Trips to the local swimming pool, bowling alleys, family reunions, and food stores may be just as much fun as trips to amusement parks, museums, the White House and baseball games. Even introducing your student to corn on the cob, American barbecue, or the joys of s’mores can be fun. All are new and exciting to our students! Let your imagination guide you!

Aurelie, a student from Paris who was housed in Chantilly last year, formed a strong bond with her host family who admitted that they had known little about France and had been nervous about opening their home to a student they had never met.

“We decided to go for it,” host mother Joan stated, “ and the 20 days just flew by. In the end, we wished Aurelie could have stayed much longer!”

Again, please contact Karen Sweer, LEC General Coordinator, at 717-795-7089 or ksweer@aol.com TODAY. Please help so we don’t disappoint a single student! See you at Dulles on July 7!

 

News
Storms in the forecast Tuesday

Update

It looks like the area will be seeing some more stormy and hot weather.

According to the National Weather Service, scattered and severe thunderstorms are possible this afternoon and evening.

There may also be damaging winds and large hail. Additionally, there could be thunderstorms with significant rainfall and flash flooding.

Along with the stormy weather, the National Weather service has announced a heat advisory for the entire Interstate 95 corridor.

It is expected that the temperature will rise to 105 degrees.

The advisory is in effect from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

More from the National Weather Service:

A HEAT ADVISORY MEANS THAT A PERIOD OF HIGH TEMPERATURES IS EXPECTED. THE COMBINATION OF HIGH TEMPERATURES AND HIGH HUMIDITY WILL CREATE A SITUATION IN WHICH HEAT ILLNESSES ARE POSSIBLE.

TAKE EXTRA PRECAUTIONS IF YOU WORK OR SPEND TIME OUTSIDE. WHEN POSSIBLE…RESCHEDULE STRENUOUS ACTIVITIES TO EARLY MORNING OR EVENING. KNOW THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HEAT EXHAUSTION AND HEAT

STROKE. WEAR LIGHT WEIGHT AND LOOSE FITTING CLOTHING WHEN POSSIBLE AND DRINK PLENTY OF WATER.

TO REDUCE RISK DURING OUTDOOR WORK…THE OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION RECOMMENDS SCHEDULING FREQUENT REST BREAKS

IN SHADED OR AIR CONDITIONED ENVIRONMENTS. ANYONE OVERCOME BY HEAT SHOULD BE MOVED TO A COOL AND SHADED LOCATION. HEAT STROKEIS AN EMERGENCY – CALL 911.

Original post

Sweltering hot temperatures and more potentially dangerous storms are in the forecast.

We’ll see a high of 96 degrees on Tuesday. Factor in the heat index, and we could be looking at temperatures that feel like 101 or better.

The hot temperatures could also bring severe thunderstorms much like we saw on Saturday night, said National Weather Service Baltimore-Washington office forecaster James Lee.

According to the weather service, the movement of a cold front across the region could determine when we could see some nasty weather. The storms could come during the afternoon or evening, so keep an umbrella handy for the drive home from work on Tuesday.

This latest threat of stormy weather comes days after a massive line a damaging, potentially tornado-causing weather moved through the region Saturday night. That storm — remnants of Tropical Storm Bill that slammed into Texas last week — caused flooding, topped trees and structures, and lightning from the storms sparked several house fires.
We are well into the summer season now, and the weather pattern setting up for the remainder of the week reflects the season.

While not nearly as hot as Tuesday’s forecasted temperatures in the high 90s, the rest of the week will bring temps in the high 80s, as well as more chances for thunderstorms on Thursday and Friday.

Your weekend should be warm with highs in the low 80s, with a chance of showers on Saturday and Sunday.

News
3 resign from Prince William Committee of 100

wiggins

Wiggins

Three members of the Committee of 100 Board of Directors resigned on Saturday.

Vice President Marlo Thomas Watson, treasurer Harry Wiggins, and committee program chair Bill Golden all walked away from the group when it met Saturday at the Montclair Country Club.

Watson

Watson

Their resignations come weeks after newly elected committee president James Young turned to Facebook to post opinions on a move by the Alabama government’s decision to stop issuing state marriage licenses after federal government forced the state to recognize same-sex marriages.

Young, a 20-year member of the Committee of 100, called the

Golden

Golden

move by the state an “assault on marriage” and an attempt to “force acceptance of sexual deviancy.”

Wiggins, who also is the Prince William County Democratic Committee Chairman, took exception with Young’s comments. The committee has always billed itself as a bi-partisan group that fosters community conversation.

Young

Young

“As soon as I read that, I called James and told him ‘you’re the president of the Committee of 100. You have gay members who are a part of the committee.’ It was like taking to a brick wall,” said Wiggins.

James Young had no comment for this story.

Marlo Thomas Watson said she resigned her position as vice president, but declined to elaborate on why she left.

“I will continue to work to bring together people of all races, colors and creeds,” said Thomas Watson.

She will consider attending Committee of 100 events and functions in the future, and she said her resignation was “met with sadness.”

For the past year, committee program chair Bill Golden organized many of the programs and political debate hosted by the organization.

“I did indeed step down early as the Committee of 100 Program Committee Chair.  I was given the opportunity to continue on for the next program year, but felt it best that the new leadership under President James Young put together its own team for the new program year,”said Golden. “Under the prior board of directors, I had a lot of freedom and support to craft programs designed to appeal to the public as well as the membership.”

Golden said he will remain active in the committee despite resigning his leadership position.

The resignations come on the heels of a very well attended committee program earlier this year on the homelessness problem in Prince William County. Also held at the Montclair Country Club, the event brought together community residents, activists, and politicians on a dialogue on what can be done for those living in the woods just off major highways in the county.

The Committee has also been instrumental in hosting political debates featuring candidates for local, state, and congressional offices. Many politicians and prominent community members list committee membership on their resumes.

Membership in the Prince William Committee of 100 has grown by 10% over the past year.

As the November General Election inches closer, Wiggins said Democrat candidates vow not to participate in any debate or political function hosted by the Committee of 100 after Young made his comments online.

News
Prince William supervisors talk giving themselves a pay raise

Update

Following publication of the original story, county spokesman Jason Grant asked that certain points that were made in the article be clarified.

“The question I think was, ‘Can they talk about their salaries in closed session?’ And so, to that question, yes – they can talk about salaries in the closed session. Now the specifics the discussions may entail – that I can’t comment on. But that’s why they have legal counsel, so that certain discussions in closed session remain appropriate to the exemption,” said Grant.

In regards to his comments about the lawfulness of supervisors speaking about what occurred in closed session, Grant clarified, “I’m very careful not to articulate what’s lawful or unlawful. I don’t know what – legally – what they can or cannot articulate. If it’s a question of whether a supervisor can discuss the items in closed session…I don’t know if that’s Virginia Code specifically or aspects of it, but I can say that the closed session is confidential, and we’re not to disclose – as staff. And we’re told whatever happens in closed session stays in closed session. Now what can be discussed specifically [in terms of] what the board does report out, sometimes…I don’t know where the specifics lie as to what can or cannot be discussed.”

Original post

On Tuesday night, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors went into closed session – which caused quite a stir.

Two members of the county’s highest governing body stormed out. They claimed the other five board members were talking about giving themselves a pay raise, and that such matters should be discussed in public and not behind closed doors.

During a closed session, members of the public and press are not allowed to attend, and there is no recording made available of what has been said. The session is typically called for private or personal matters of a sensitive nature that supervisors may not be able to discuss publicly.

Pay raises for supervisors

Prior to the calling of the closed session, the acting County Attorney Michele Robl announced that among the four items to be discussed, “legal advice in a personnel matter regarding salaries,” was listed.

On the board agenda for the meeting, a pay raise for supervisors was listed under Supervisor’s time, but it was not discussed in Tuesday’s public session.

It was on the agenda because the supervisors want to be sure their compensation is comparable to other localities.

Fairfax County leaders in March voted to give themselves a pay increase. Starting in January 2016, Chairman At-large Sharon Bulova will receive $100,000 annually while other board members will get $95,000 per year.

In Prince William, the last time the board voted to approve a raise for the supervisors was in 2007, according to county documents.

Chairman At-Large Corey Stewart is paid $49, 452 a year, and the other supervisors are paid $43,422 a year.

It’s fair to point out Fairfax County Supervisors work at their jobs full time, while Prince William supervisors have other full-time jobs outside their local government duties, or are retired. 

Why the closed session?

With the item of pay raises listed as an open session agenda item, many asked why the supervisors decided to call for a closed session to talk about compensation. They also wanted to know whether or not it was legal for them to do so.

According to county spokesman Jason Grant, the supervisors were legally within their rights to call a closed session to speak about salaries, because they fall within the category of public officers – which have an allowable clause in the Virginia Code.

“The County Attorney didn’t want to comment to [the media] because they can’t discuss what’s discussed in closed session. No one is supposed to be talking about what’s in closed session…I have no idea what’s discussed or not…the County Attorney stated during that meeting…there were four items. One of those items was public officers – so it’s discussion of salary of public officers…the Virginia Code does allow discussion of salaries of public officers to be held in closed meetings. It also allows for consultation with legal counsel by a public body,” said Grant.

So, we were curious and checked state law to see what the Prince William County Board of Supervisors could talk about in closed session.

Section 2.2-3711.1 and 2.2-3711.7 of the Virginia Code states:

Public bodies may hold closed meetings only for the following purposes:

Discussion, consideration, or interviews of prospective candidates for employment; assignment, appointment, promotion, performance, demotion, salaries, disciplining, or resignation of specific public officers, appointees, or employees of any public body; and evaluation of performance of departments or schools of public institutions of higher education where such evaluation will necessarily involve discussion of the performance of specific individuals. Any teacher shall be permitted to be present during a closed meeting in which there is a discussion or consideration of a disciplinary matter that involves the teacher and some student and the student involved in the matter is present, provided the teacher makes a written request to be present to the presiding officer of the appropriate board.

Consultation with legal counsel and briefings by staff members or consultants pertaining to actual or probable litigation, where such consultation or briefing in open meeting would adversely affect the negotiating or litigating posture of the public body; and consultation with legal counsel employed or retained by a public body regarding specific legal matters requiring the provision of legal advice by such counsel. For the purposes of this subdivision, “probable litigation” means litigation that has been specifically threatened or on which the public body or its legal counsel has a reasonable basis to believe will be commenced by or against a known party. Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to permit the closure of a meeting merely because an attorney representing the public body is in attendance or is consulted on a matter.

The part that crosses into gray area is not the supervisor’s speaking about salaries as public officers in a closed session, it’s what exactly that gets discussed that could potentially be a legal issue.

“Can they talk about salaries? Yes. Now what the specific discussion is – there may be [gray] areas,” said Grant.

Supervisors react

During the closed session, two supervisors – Pete Candland, of Gainesville, and Jeanine Lawson, of Brentsville – abruptly left the session.

According to Candland, he left because he felt uncomfortable about the things being discussed in the closed session.

“When they brought up the salary increases, they brought up two issues. One – the legality of whether we can give ourselves increases – and what the time frame is. And I made it clear that I’m fine talking about whether we can legally do it…what I’m not comfortable with is whether we should do it, or the specifics around it…I informed the rest of the board if that was going to be any part of the discussion, that I was going to leave…,” said Candland.

“I will say that they started discussing numbers and people started expressing opinions about it, and that’s where I felt it just went too [far]. And anything that happened after that, I’m not sure – I was not there for [it]…nobody thought there was any problem [with the discussion] enough to leave or to protest the discussion besides myself and Supervisor Lawson,” he added.

Candland admitted that he was not in the room to overhear anything about specific discussion on pay raises for the supervisors, so he cannot verify that it was discussed in closed session.

Additionally, it is unlawful for supervisors to disclose information given in a closed session unless it is a general statement or there is a majority consensus from the board, stated Grant.

Lawson stated that she did not want to comment on her decision to leave the closed session, but did say she was planning to vote down any measure for pay raises for the supervisors.

“I was planning to vote against [the raise], but a vote wasn’t taken,” said Lawson.

Board Chairman, At-large Corey Stewart asserted that everything discussed within the closed session was legal and that it followed the allowances made for talk of salaries in the Virginia Code.

“As you know, Board members cannot discuss the contents of our closed sessions. I can say, however, that the Board followed the advice of the County Attorney and that the Board complied with the law,” said Stewart.

Potomac Local called other members of the Board of Supervisors. They did not return requests for comment.

Do the supervisors deserve a raise?

While the rationale for parties in favor and opposed to giving the supervisors a raise, the question still stands – do they deserve it?

According to Candland, they don’t.

“I don’t think we deserve [a raise]. We’ve raised taxes the last four years – I don’t think we’ve earned a pay increase,” said Candland.

Regardless of what was discussed in closed session, any further movement to provide a pay raise to the supervisors would have to take place by July 1, and would have to be voted on in an open meeting, stated Grant.

Candland said that the item for supervisor pay was not on the draft agenda for the next board meeting.

“I get a feeling that this discussion is probably dead now,” said Candland.

Manassas awarded for Civil War Sesquicentennial celebration

The City of Manassas, along with Prince William County, were the recipients of the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission’s Leadership Award for the area’s efforts in commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War during the past seven years.

The City of Manassas partnered with Prince William County, the Prince William County Historic Preservation Division and many area museums, parks, and historic sites to coordinate dozens of local events that brought history to life for thousands of residents and visitors from across the country. The Prince William County/Manassas Committee began meeting in 2007, and helped plan and promote the signature 2011 Sesquicentennial commemoration at multiple sites across the city and county.

The local committee also fostered a strong partnership with the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission. The Manassas Museum hosted both the Commission’s traveling exhibit, An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia, and the Legacy Project, an effort to scan and archive the Civil War-era documents of local residents. The city also twice hosted another of the Commission’s traveling exhibits, the award-winning Civil War 150 HistoryMobile.

On average, more than 11,000 visitors a day attended events in the city during the four-day July 2011 Sesquicentennial commemoration despite an average heat index of 103 to 105 degrees. The city saw a 14% increase in meals taxes and a 55% increase in sales taxes during the month of the event, and garnered significant national media attention for its expansive free programs.

The annual Manassas Civil War Weekend, scheduled for August 21-23 this year, was created as a result of the popularity of the 2011 and 2012 Sesquicentennial commemorations held throughout the City of Manassas. The Weekend’s program tells the story not just of Civil War battles, but of the War’s impact on civilians and African-Americans.

The Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission was created by the General Assembly to plan and commemorate Civil War events in the Commonwealth. The Commission officially ended its work this year with a Memorial Day award ceremony and concert on the Capitol steps in Richmond. Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell served as Chairman, and State Senator Charles J. Colgan, Sr., served as Vice-Chairman of the Commission.

How to do a tasting at Manassas Olive Oil Company

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Find perfect pairings for salads, chicken, even ice cream

At Manassas Olive Oil Company, you have the opportunity to sample over 45 flavors of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

From mild to robust, these oils fill up metal fusties that are placed throughout the room. Empty bottles are lined up beneath them, and tasting cups are waiting to be filled with fresh oils and vinegar.

A tasting experience can vary.

You may end up spending an hour with friends sampling a large variety, or you might just be looking for something to create a perfect marinade for tonight’s chicken entree.

“We encourage people to spend as much time as they want finding what they love in here,” says store manager Cameron Thomson. “If you don’t want to spend an hour and change in here tasting everything, I can ask you what you’re looking to use it for and then help you find what you’re looking for.”

Thomson says it’s an experience that most people aren’t expecting. “Typically most people, what they’ve had their whole life is nothing like this, so they’re going to be caught very off guard by what they’re about to taste,” Thomson says.

To sample any of the olive oils or balsamic vinegar, you just have to fill up a small plastic ramekin of the flavor you want. Thomson says it’s important to smell it before taking a swig. He also suggests slurping the oils in order to really discern their tastes.

For people that might be put off by drinking the oils on their own, there are jars of bread available for tastings. You can dunk the small pieces of bread into the various flavors in order to get a sense of their taste.

“Sometimes it’s good to break up the taste of it,” said Thomson. “Some of the oils have very strong flavor by themselves, so sometimes its good to have something neutral to taste it with.” 

After sampling a variety of flavors, you may end up with a French Walnut olive oil and Black Cherry vinegar pairing that will make a perfect dressing for your salad, a Mushroom Sage as marinade for tomorrow night’s pork dinner, and a raspberry vinegar to drizzle on that vanilla ice cream in your freezer.

After narrowing down your choices, employees will help you fill the empty glass bottles with the fresh balsamic vinegar and olive oils.

Thomson says this is something fun and new that everyone will love trying out.

“Open up your mind to the new possibility of tasting very fresh olive oil,”he said.

Manassas Olive Oil Company opened its doors in May. Hours are Monday thru Thursday 10 a.m.- 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Wild edible plant classes teach people to find free food in their own backyard

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It may come as a surprise, but in many backyards free, local, nutritious food is growing!

Many plants that people consider weeds are edible, and with a little bit of knowledge, those weeds can become delicious sustenance. For instance, Autumn Olive is an invasive shrub that has become very common in Northern Virginia. But did you know that in the fall it produces loads of edible berries that can be used to make jams and fruit leather?

Or consider the dandelion. Not many people realize it, but every part of the plant is edible. You can add the flowers and leaves to your salads, and the roots can be processed into a coffee-like drink.

Of course, before you start pulling up weeds and eating them, it’s important to know what you’re doing. It is essential to identify plants correctly, harvest them safely and ethically, and prepare them properly. There are many plant identification books on the market; however, the best way to learn about wild edibles is from an experienced forager.

In the coming weeks, Earth Village Education, a nonprofit nature education center located near Marshall, Virginia, will conduct two classes about wild edible plants.

The first class on Saturday, June 20, will be a great introduction to the subject. Students will learn plant identification and safety principles, then go for a plant walk, visiting fields, forests, and wetlands to find and harvest a variety of plants that are in season.

The second class from Saturday, July 11 through Sunday, July 12, will cover the same basics in greater depth, and will also feature information about the medicinal uses of wild plants. No prior experience is necessary for either class, and the fee for each class is on a sliding scale.

For more information and to register, visit EarthVillageEducation.org, and transform a stroll in your backyard into a foraging adventure!

You’ll be surprised at the local artifacts featured in the ‘Hometown Tourist’ exhibit in Manassas

Manassas Museum ‘Hometown Tourist” exhibit coming to Bull Run Regional Library 

Trade your suitcase for some walking shoes and be a Manassas hometown tourist this summer. If walking shoes aren’t an option, take a virtual tour.

The new Manassas Historical Sites Map Tour lets you click on a map to find in-depth information about the city’s eight historic properties. The tour includes photographs, little-known stories about people and places associated with the site, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and information about visiting in person. Visit manassasmuseum.org/tour to access the tour.

The Manassas Museum is taking to the road for a new summer travelling exhibit, Hometown Tourist, at the Bull Run Regional Library. The exhibit features artifacts, old post cards, and archaeology from nine area historic sites: The Southern Railway Depot, the Hopkins Candy Factory, Liberia Plantation, the Stone House, the Manassas City Cemetery, the Manassas Museum (built on land where Eastern College once stood), the Manassas Industrial School, the former Grace United Methodist Church (now Bull Run Unitarian), and the Albert Speiden House.

Most of the City’s nationally significant historic sites are open free every day and offer interpretive signage that tells their story. Take along the mobile version of the Manassas Historical Sites Map Tour as you visit the Manassas Museum, the Southern Railway Depot, the Hopkins Candy Factory, Liberia Plantation, Mayfield and Cannon Branch Earthwork Forts, and the Manassas Industrial School/Jennie Dean Memorial to enhance your experience.

If you would like to learn even more about the sites, guided walking tours of Historic Downtown Manassas are offered every Thursday and Friday at Noon, and Liberia House tours are offered Sundays at Noon through the summer. Meet at the Manassas Museum, 9101 Prince William Street, for the Downtown tours, and at Liberia, 8601 Portner Avenue, for the Sunday tours.

Call 703-268-1873 or visit manassasmuseum.org for more information.

News
Occoquan hosts successful craft show for 46th year

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Last weekend, the Town of Occoquan hosted yet another successful spring Arts and Crafts Show.

“This is the show’s 46th year and we are continuing to take steps to improve and grow the show for the benefit of the participants, as well as the community,” said Town Manager Kirstyn Jovanovich.

Over the two days of the show, around 10,000 people came to Occoquan, said Jovanovich.

“We had about 265 vendors at the show that brought a wide variety of handcrafted items, including lawn ornaments made out of recycled materials, jewelry made from coins and recycled computer equipment, handmade soaps, baked goods, jellies, salsa, planters, dog treats and collars, clothing and more. In addition, we had many vendors specializing in fine, graphic and mixed media arts,” said Jovanovich.

Several of the vendors at the event were locally owned and operated, including jewelry maker Motherbored, based out of Gainesville, and What’s Your Time Frame, based in Manassas.

According to Jovanovich, the town is already gearing up for the fall Arts and Craft Show, which will be September 26 and 27.

News
Labella Bridal Boutique expands in Occoquan

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Labella Bridal Boutique celebrated its expansion in Occoquan.

The bridal gown boutique acquired an old storage unit next door, and Labella added a new series of fitting rooms and places to store merchandise such as shoes.  This is the second expansion for the bridal boutique that shoppers and public officials say is unique to the Town of Occoquan.

“A woman wants to feel beautiful, and coming into Labella, we can enhance her beauty,” said Ellalyne Brayman, who has owned the shop for eight years.

Labella held a ribbon cutting for the new expansion in conjunction with the Prince William Chamber of Commerce. Several elected officials and longtime friends and customers of the business attended the celebration.

Brayman designs her bridal gowns. Some of the shop’s top sellers are also accessories like shoes, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.

“A bracelet gives a little bling to enhance the ring,” said Brayman.

A recent trend at weddings, “trash the dress” parties, where brides purposefully destroy their wedding dresses,  doesn’t sit well with Brayman. She donates gowns to charities, such as wounded warrior projects and said trashing the dress is wasteful.

“I think it takes away from the sacredness of a wedding,” said Brayman.

Labella Bridal Boutique is located at 313 Mill Street in Occoquan. The store is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday 11 to 7 p.m., Friday 11 to 5 p.m., and Saturday 11 a.m to 6 p.m.

News
Arts and Craft show in Occoquan this weekend

This weekend town of Occoquan will be hosting its annual spring Arts and Crafts Show.

The Arts and Craft Show will take place on June 6 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and June 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

According to a release, there will be more than 300 artists and vendors at the show.

Because of limited parking availability, the town will be hosting shuttle bus service for residents.

More on shuttle service from a town release:

Shuttle Bus

Shuttle Bus Cost: $5 per Rider (Cash Only) (Round Trip)

The Town’s historic district will be closed off to vehicular traffic during the show.  Roads will be closed from 8 am to 7 pm on each day.

Visitors to the show can ride a shuttle bus from one of four locations and will be dropped off at one of three stops. View Event Map

Shuttle Bus Pick Up Locations

Visitors can park at one of the following lots to board a shuttle bus: ($5 per rider, round trip)

Vulcan Materials (Yellow)

Tackett’s Mill Commuter Lot (Purple)

123 Commuter Lot (Old Hechinger’s Lot) (Green)

Commuter Lot I-95 (Red)

Shuttle Bus Drop Off Locations

Shuttle buses bringing visitors to the show will be dropped off at one of the following locations:

123 Bridge (Yellow)

Mom’s Apple Pie (Red and Purple)

Occoquan Footbridge (Green)

News
Prince William County CXO gets top nods, raise

Melissa Peacor leads the county government in Virginia’s second-largest county. Her bosses say she’s doing a good job and will get a raise.

Prince William County Executive Melissa Peacor reports to the Board of Supervisors, and the Board, just as many other employers do, conducted an annual review of her performance.

“She has done a great job,” said Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman At-large Corey Stewart.

The positive review means Peacor will be awarded a 3% merit increase retroactive to Jan. 1, 2o15, and a 2% cost-of-living raise.

“Ms. Peacor’s new salary is $244,667 for the remainder of FY2015, and will increase with the County market adjustment to $249,560 on July 1, 2015,” stated county spokesman Jason Grant.

The Board of Supervisors voted to approve the performance review. Peter Candland, of Gainesville, was the only Supervisor to vote against the subsequent pay increase.

Peacor has worked in Prince William County Government since 1985 and has held such jobs as Strategic Planning Coordinator, Budget Director and Deputy County Executive.

Traffic
MyLink teen passes on sale, provide unlimited summer rides

The MyLink Teen Summer Pass is on sale. The pass allows teenagers unlimited rides on OmniLink buses in Prince William County, Manassas, and Manassas Park between now and Sept. 1, 2015.

The pass costs $30 and is on sale at the following locations:

Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission Transit Center, located at 14700 Potomac Mills Road in Woodbridge, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to  7 p.m.

Chinn Aquatics and Fitness Center, located at 13025 Chinn Park Drive in Woodbridge, Monday through Thursday 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sharron Baucom — Dale City Recreation Center, located at 14300 Minnieville Road in Dale City, Monday through Friday 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Cash or credit only.

Ben Lomond Community Center, located at 10501 Copeland Drive in Manassas, Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cash or credit only.

Manassas City Hall Treasurer’s Office, located at 9027 Center Street in Manassas, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cash only.

OmniLink provides bus service along major routes in the area, including Route 1 in Woodbridge, Dale Boulevard in Dale City, as well as major routes in Lake Ridge, Manassas, and Manassas Park.

Those who purchase a My Link Teen Bus Pass will also receive discounts good for $1 off general admission to Potomac Nationals games, $2 off public skating at the Prince William Ice Center in Dale City, up to five free games per day at Bowl America, located at 13409 Occoquan Road in Woodbridge, and $1 off general admission to Stonewall Pool in Manassas.

Riders must be between the ages of 13 and 19 years old to use the pass. Teenagers use the pass to get rides to summer jobs, shopping centers, recreation centers, and libraries, according to a Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission press release.

Manassas City businesses rise and shine at appreciation breakfast

Close to 100 people gathered at the Center for the Arts for the inaugural Manassas Business Appreciation Breakfast where they celebrated the City’s entrepreneurial spirit and thriving business community. The City of Manassas and the Prince William Chamber of Commerce hosted the event to recognize local businesses.

In his opening remarks, Mayor Harry J. Parrish II thanked the audience for choosing Manassas and “for all that you bring to the community.” Beyond creating jobs and boosting the local economy, he acknowledged the many business leaders who serve on boards and commissions and participate in the robust calendar of events.

See photos from the event

Those in the room took a moment to welcome the newcomers to downtown, which include Amy’s Bridal, Totally Vintage Designs, and Scatter Seeds as well as the soon-to-open Cut Rate Barbershop and Jitterbug ice cream shop. H Mart and Firehouse Subs, which recently opened on Liberia Avenue, were recognized as well. Dalena Kanouse, the CEO of MTCI Management and Training Consultants, Inc., and incoming chair of the Prince William Chamber, pointed out that her well-established company was once a newcomer to the City of Manassas. She told the tight-knit business community that MTCI moved from Dumfries to take advantage of the opportunities in Manassas and are happy to be here.

Existing businesses in the City are flourishing, too. Fauquier Bank relocated within the City to accommodate its anticipated expansion. Malone’s opened a second floor to accommodate their growing business. Another expansion in the City is Aurora Flight Science who are sub-leasing the airport’s FlightWorks hanger and envision creating 50 new jobs over the next several years. B. Hayes Framme, advisor for infrastructure and development for the Commonwealth of Virginia, acknowledged that most businesses have “Chief ‘Everything’ Officers.” He also identified high-growth opportunities in Virginia like cyber security and biotechnology and discussed incentives and policies that support job creation.

The City strives to create a business-friendly environment and is always interested in speaking to prospective business owners who wish to join this supportive community. For more information, call the economic development department at 703-257-8881.

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