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Occoquan Local

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
Water Creeps into Dark Occoquan

By URIAH KISER

UPDATE — Power back on in portions of Occoquan. Mayor Earnie Porta updates us: 

Power has been restored in Occoquan’s business district (i.e. north of Commerce Street). As of the time of this writing Dominion and their contractors are working on the power lines that pass adjacent to the Route 123 bridge, travel out of town, cross Route 123, and come back into town via Washington Street.

They have indicated that once repaired these lines should bring back online almost everyone else in Occoquan except those living on Poplar Lane.

The latter will be offline at least until tomorrow, as damage to two houses must first be addressed. Dominion and contractor crews are working throughout the evening.

ORIGINAL POST

OCCOQUAN, Va. — High tide tonight brought the Occoquan River over a portion of crumbled seawall and into the basement of a building and back a back alley.

Water rose from the river’s banks behind a set of shops at 309 Mill Street in Occoquan, Va. where the Occoquan River took a portion of seawall Monday night’s bashing from Superstorm Sandy.

Water seeped into the garage area underneath of an adjacent building. According to neighbors, the building’s owner had already moved what cars had been parked underneath to higher ground. All that was left behind was an unplugged generator, and a canoe that floated in and out of the garage.

The rest of the river quietly raged on about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday as high tide set in. The roar of water coming over a nearby dam upstream was the only sound that filling the darkness.

And it was dark, as power to the town and to the surrounding neighborhoods in Lake Ridge remained without electricity. The glow of Occoquan’s iconic sidewalk gaslights served as the only dim candles in the town.

Mayor Earnie Porta spent much of the day speaking with power crews from Dominion Virginia Power and told PotomacLocal.com power could be expected back on by 8 p.m. But when technicians made their initial repairs and threw the switch, nothing happened.

That’s usually a sign there is another, yet undiscovered problem with the power source, and that crews would remain working on restoring power.

More than just Occoquan, nearby portions Lake Ridge were also dark.

Police officers directed traffic at the intersection of Old Bridge and Minnieville roads while the traffic signal the neighborhood of homes and business on the westbound side of Old Bridge Road remained dark.

Those on the opposite side of the road, including the busy Tacketts Mill Shopping Center, were lit up and open for business.

News
Power Restored in Occoquan

We lost one relatively low and weak sea wall at 307 Mill Street (Brambles), but luckily it did not result in flooding of adjoining properties. (Photo/ Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta)

2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012

Power in Occoquan has been restored. An update from Mayor Earnie Porta.

Power has been restored in Occoquan’s business district (i.e. north of Commerce Street). As of the time of this writing Dominion and their contractors are working on the power lines that pass adjacent to the Route 123 bridge, travel out of town, cross Route 123, and come back into town via Washington Street.

They have indicated that once repaired these lines should bring back online almost everyone else in Occoquan except those living on Poplar Lane. The latter will be offline at least until [Thursday], as damage to two houses must first be addressed.

Dominion and contractor crews are working throughout the evening.

1:25 p.m. Tuesday

OCCOQUAN, Va. — The tiny village of Occoquan remains without power this afternoon, and is cleaning up after a seawall failed.

About 1,000 customers have been without power since the height of Sandy when power lines fell on Mount High Street, just outside the town limits. A tree also fell on Popular Lane near Prince William Marina and that spelled no electrical service for town residents.

“Dominion is working on it and they tell us it is a matter of hours, not days, as to when we should expect the service back on,” said Porta.

Rushing water took down a seawall behind Brambles at 307 Mill Street, and Sandy also

Decent amount of water coming down the Occoquan below the High and Low Dams at the moment. (Photo: Occoquan Mayor Earine Porta)

claimed one of the town’s iconic gas-powered streetlights.

Officials in the town have also been watching the water levels on the Occoquan River, which in the past has flooded busy Mill Street. Porta said water levels at the Big Occoquan Dam are normal.

He added no water level problems were seen during high tide at 8 a.m.

Storm drains were also able to keep up with the pace of rain dumped on the region from the storm.

 

News
Roads Closed in Prince William County

Officials are telling people to stay indoors and keep of area roads so crews can clean up storm damage. And for good reason, as many roads in Prince William County are simply impassable due to downed trees, wires, and high water. A full list of closed or impacted roads in Prince William is below, provided by the county’s government’s communications office:

Ingram Dr at 1 lane bridge — High Water at the bridge

**NOT Passable**

Little River Rd / Log Mill Rd High Water / Tree Down

**NOT Passable**

Artemus Rd / Pageland Dr High Water – Cones

**NOT Passable**

2628 Alvey Dr Power pole down blocking road –

**NOT Passable**

Logmill Rd / Rock Hill Ln — Tree down on power line –

**NOT Passable**

Sudley Rd / Lee Hwy High Water

**Passable**

Logmill Rd / James Madison Hwy — High Water

**Passable**

Alvey Dr / Logmill Rd Tree down

**1 Lane Passable**

Antioch Rd / Camp Snyder — High water

**1 Lane Passable**

Featherbed Ln off Sudley near bridge — High Water

**NOT Passable**

Fayette St / Jefferson St — Lines down

**NOT Passable**

12769 Bren Forest Way — Tree on power lines –

**NOT Passable**

Bacon Race / Colonnade Ct Tree down wrapped in power lines

**NOT Passable**

North Point Rd / Purse Dr — Power Lines down

**NOT Passable**

8971 Westchester Dr — Trees down

Piper Ln / RR bridge — High Water

**NOT Passable**

6706 Groveton Rd — Trees, poles and lines down

**Passable**

Bethlehem / Balls Ford Rd — High Water

**Passable**

Sudley Manor / Garner Dr High Water

**1 Lane Passable**

Reid Ln at Vint Hill — High Water

**NOT Passable**

Fox Hound Dr / Owls Nest Rd — Power lines down

**NOT Passable**

Carver Rd / Lee Hwy — Pole & wires down

**Passable**

14992 Alaska Rd — Wires down –

**NOT Passable**

Jefferson Davis Hy/Featherstone Rd — Traffic light still out but falling light has been removed

13822 Botts Av — Tree & lines down

**NOT Passable**

18338 Sharon Rd — Trees down

**NOT Passable**

3804 Russell Rd — Large Tree down

**Passable**

Wellington Rd / Nokesville Rd — Traffic Light Out, Control Panel is underwater

 

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
Names on Police Chief Panel Leaked

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — With the names of the interview panel leaked, the man who pushed for their release reacts to the news.

The Washington Post is reporting the names of those who will work to select qualified candidates to replace now retired Prince William police Chief Charlie T. Deane:

——

The panel’s membership has not been publicly named. According to a county official familiar with the search, it consists of Peacor, two deputy county executives, Fire and Rescue Chief Kevin McGee, Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert (D), Sheriff Glendell Hill (R) and county residents Donna Widawski and W. Ralph Basham. The official who provided the list requested anonymity because supervisors have not made it public.

——-

Of the two private citizens on the panel, Basham is a consultant with a 38-year law enforcement background, and Widawski has placed herself in the public eye on the issue of immigration, has served the U.S. Secret Service and Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland as his chief of staff until she was let go.

Prince William County officials did not release the names of those on the panel because they feared the names, if made public, would prompt others in the community to approach panel members and potentially sway their decisions. Voluntary interview panels are commonplace when the Prince William County Government selects candidates to fill jobs, said spokesman Jason Grant.

Al Alborn, a county resident and blogger, pushed for the release of these names. He asked his elected county supervisor, the county’s attorney, and then filed several Freedom of Information Act requests in hopes to get the names made public. He commented on his blog he’s happy the names were released but wonders why elected officials chose to keep them secret, and notes he’s still awaiting a response for his FOIA request.

The interview panel is expected to present a list of qualified, vetted candidates to the governing body who will ultimately decide who will serve as the county’s next police chief: the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. A decision on a new chief is expected early next year.

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.

 

News
Area Conditions to Worsen Sunday Night

Sandy is on again, off again as the massive tropical cyclone is once again upgraded to a hurricane. Showing signs of weakening at 5 a.m. Saturday, by 8 a.m. Hurricane Sandy was once again a category one storm 335 miles southeast of Charleston, S.C. with sustained 75 mph winds.

As the storm is expected to pick up speed and make its way closer to Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic states, it’s also expected to bring a storm surge of two to four feet to the lower Chesapeake Bay, heavy rain between four and 12 inches in some spots, and high wind.

Conditions in the Potomac Communities are expected to start downhill Sunday night as rain moves in and wind picks up. Wind and rain is expected to pick up Monday as Sandy moves over the area.

As of 9 a.m., there were no watches or warnings for the Potomac Communities.

Cold air will filter into the region following the storm. The high temperature forecast for the Potomac Communities on  Tuesday is 48 degrees. 

Schools

Public schools in Prince William and Stafford counties have told parents, students, faculty and staff to monitor their respective school divisions websites for closure information. No cancelations for either institution have been posted yet.

Utilities prepare

Power crews Dominion Virginia Power, NOVEC, and crews from Manassas have all said they are monitoring the storm. In Manassas, there is a focus on monitoring Lake Manassas’ levels to prevent flooding as well as clear storm drains of debris.

The city is fortunate to have 80 percent of their power lines underground as major power outages are forecast for the region. The city issued a statement late Friday afternoon:

——-

The Manassas City Police Department has canceled all training activities for Monday and Tuesday. This will allow for more officers on the street to assist residents. The City of Manassas Fire & Rescue Department Emergency Management staff will be monitoring the storm throughout the weekend.

Fire & Rescue personnel will be checking equipment and preparing for extended operations. Prince William County Department of Fire & Rescue will have swift water rescue response boats and equipment staffed and available to assist the City of Manassas and the region should they be needed.

——

Stafford County fire and rescue officials also urged residents to also closely monitor the storm

Supplies

Lines at the grocery store on Friday afternoon were beginning to back up as shoppers gathered supplies.

Batteries, non-perishable foods, and water were just some of the items on shoppers’ lists. It’s recommended to freeze water in prior to the storm so it will be cold in the event power goes out. Officials also urged residents to have a NOAA weather radio in the event of a power loss or loss of cell phone communications, as was the case during June’s Derecho storm.

 

News
Prince William Withholds Names in Search for Police Chief

By URIAH KISER

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — One man’s push for transparency in government has been met with pushback.

Resident blogger Al Alborn asked Prince William County officials to the see the names of county residents who were asked to serve on a special interview panel that will help to decide the next chief of the Prince William County Police Department. The panel comes as Chief Charlie T. Deane retired Sept. 1.

The panel will also include several local government officials who will interview candidates and bring their final decisions to the Prince William County Board of Supervisors — the county’s governing board that is expected to select a new chief early next year.

“I had heard that a panel was formed to select our next Police Chief. Since it isn’t ‘rocket science’ that whomever is on that panel will influence the nature of the decision, I sent a quick email to my supervisor, Marty Nohe, asking who was on it,” Alborn penned in his blog.

That simple request was elevated to a full Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) application that was sent to County Attorney Angela Horan. She wrote back to Alborn and told him, just as county officials told PotomacLocal.com when asked about names of those on the interview panel, that information was off limits.

Alborn posted Horan’s response on his blog and that got the attention of Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland who demanded the information be public.

“…it was my understanding that the names of those individuals who were under consideration to serve on this citizens panel would be confidential until the members had agreed to serve and the panel commenced functioning…” Candland stated in a letter to Horan.

The elected leader apparently sent the letter after he read Alborn’s blog post.

Immigration debate

The changeover of a new police chief comes as the Department of Homeland Security placed Prince William’s 287(g) program – where inmates at the county’s jail have their immigration status screened by trained sheriff’s deputies – under review.

Residents like Alborn supported Deane who oversaw a department with overall high satisfaction ratings. Deane also protested a 2007 decision that was later overturned to have his officers question anyone suspected of being in the U.S. illegally.

That created friction between Prince William’s At-large Supervisor, Corey Stewart, who said one’s stance on illegal immigration will be a “litmus test” in deciding who the county’s next police chief will be, and blames the president for the putting the 287(g) program at risk.

“It’s obviously important to me that whoever we hire is a strong believer of immigration enforcement. We’ve had problems with illegal immigrants committing crimes in the past, we have a program in place which is now in jeopardy because of the Obama administration, but if we’re able to get that decision overturned by a Romney administration we expect whoever we hire is going to be a proponent of our efforts,” said Stewart.

Stewart was not in favor of releasing the names of anyone on the interview panel keeping with concern aired by county officials that if the names get out, those on the panel, and their decision, may be unduly influenced by friends and neighbors.

The police department

Prince William’s police department is currently headed by Acting Chief Barry Bernard. He’s been with the department since 1976 and served as its assistant chief from 2000 until 2009. The department has 750 sworn and civilian members that make up its ranks.

The county is no longer accepting applications for the chief’s position but has left a job description on its website to serve as a source of information about the job.

News
Ghost Stories Told at an Occoquan Campfire

LORTON, Va. — Scary stories told around a campfire; its a classic fall memory that was served up last night at Occoquan Regional Park.

Kay Pietrewicz, of Haunted Occoquan Tours, gathered about 30 people around two campfires at the park just across from Occoquan, and she shared tales of the tiny town’s haunted past. When she’s not sending chills up the spines of those roasting marshmallows she can be found giving walking tours of Occoquan.

Monday night’s event was billed as a community bonfire and was put on by Occoquan River Communities – an advocacy group tasked with promoting Occoquan, the river the town is named after, and the surrounding area as a region to be visited by tourists.

Before the fires and ghost stories, participants gathered at a picnic shelter where the ORC provided free hot dogs, cookies, and drinks. Live music was played, and a history of Occoquan Regional Park in Fairfax County was provided by Park Manger John Houser.

Kay Pietrewicz, of Haunted Occoquan Tours, told ghost stories of the tiny town’s haunted past. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

 

The skull of a deceased animal lies in Occoquan Regional Park. (Mary Davidson)

 

Occoquan Regional Park in October. (Mary Davidson)

 

News
Workhouse Holds Second Arts Gala

Paul Berry and Sally Merten at the Gala cocktail reception. (Submitted photo)

LORTON, Va. — The Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton held its second annual Arts Gala on Saturday.

The event is held to celebrate the artistic and cultural significance of a bustling arts center near Occoquan. Here are some snippets from a press release about the event that featured former WJLA-TV anchor Paul Berry as the Master of Ceremonies.

-The evening began with guests mingling at a cocktail reception that included decadent hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction, full of community donations and Workhouse artists’ work. From there, they moved to an elegant dinner upstairs in the McGuireWoods Gallery, featuring filet mignon and seared mahi mahi.

-Dinner entertainment included an awards presentation and live auction, featuring a Nascar Experience hosted by a Sprint Cup team owner and a custom oil portrait from one of the Workhouse Arts Center’s exceptional artists, Patricia McMahon Rice

-Musical entertainment was provided by the Johnny Artis Band, a favorite local rock and roll/rhythm and blues band. Throughout the evening, guests were able to meet the Workhouse Art Center’s outstanding artists and view their work.

-The evening’s Honorary Chairman Dr. Alan G. Merten, President Emeritus of George Mason University (GMU), was honored for his outstanding commitment to GMU, as well as to the arts at GMU and throughout Fairfax County.

-During dinner, [Fairfax County] Mount Vernon District Supervisor, Gerald W. Hyland, was presented the Lorton Arts Foundation (LAF) Founders Award by LAF Board Chairman Richard Hausler. The award was presented on behalf of the Workhouse community with appreciation and respect for Hyland’s steadfast support of LAF and the Workhouse Arts Center.

 

News
Dancers Raising Funds at Occoquan’s Rockledge Mansion

By ANGELA POUNDERS

The gracefulness of a ballet dancer gliding across the stage, the sounds of a tap dancer keeping rhythm to a song or a pair of dancers doing interpretative dance. All of these are forms of art and the Woodbridge Dance Company is committed to raising public awareness of dance as an art form and believe that the “Arts have an amazing power to inspire, unite and teach.”

The Woodbridge Dance Company is a non-profit (501c3) organization that relies extensively on their friends and patrons for support. Their mission is providing the community with awareness of dance and the performing arts, while giving young dancers the experience of performing, and gifted choreographers the means to create artistically.

One way the Woodbridge Dance Company raises money is with its annual Confections and Cocktails Masquerade Fundraiser Reception. Adults 21 years and older are invited to join and celebrate the event’s third year on Friday, November 2 from 7-10 p.m. at the historic Rockledge Mansion (circa 1758) located at 440 Mill St., Occoquan, Va 22125. Parking is a challenge in old town Occoquan, but there is ample parking at the end of the road near the Mansion.

Catherine Furr of The Woodbridge Dance Company says the Confections and Cocktails event “is an opportunity for the community to meet the directors, learn more about Woodbridge Dance Company, mingle with innovative choreographers and talented dancers.”

It is her hope that this event will raise $6,000 toward their final goal of $20,000 to support their 5th Annual “A Coffee House Concert Collection” on January 12, 2013 at the Hylton Performing Arts Center.

This will be a night out that you won’t soon forget. Cocktail reception attire is required; masks will be provided at the event. Enjoy the entertainment while having cocktails and eating hors’dourves.

There will also be door prizes, raffle items and a silent auction. One of the items to be auctioned is a “Wall of Wine” consisting of a variety of donated wines along with a personalized story of why the donor loves the wine contributed. The Woodbridge Dance Company feels that this item “demonstrates our Company members’ belief that enjoying the finer things in life, such as wine and dance, truly enhances our lives.” Other items to bid on will include gift certificates from various local businesses and donated baskets.

After Oct 15 through Nov 1 tickets cost $35 each, or they may be bought at the door for $45 per ticket. Tickets can be bought online at woodbridgedancecompany.com. For more information call 703-583-2623.

Traffic
Twice Delayed Gas Line Relocation Starts Tonight

OCCOQUAN, Va. — Officials hope the third time is the charm for an attempt to relocate a six-inch gas line near Occoquan.

The pipe at Occoquan and Old Bridge roads needs to be moved because it’s in conflict with a sanitary line that has been designed for a new neighborhood, the Potomac Crest condominiums and townhomes. Once the line is relocated, 76 new townhomes – some of which have already been purchased – can be delivered to their new owners.

The homes sit on a hill overlooking busy commuter route Old Bridge Road, and are nestled next to existing apartments on Dara Drive. A base model new home in this development sells for $290,000 while luxury models are priced at $300,000.

But ongoing delays to relocate the gas line has cost developer Basheer and Edgemore at least $25,000, said spokesman Mark Fields

The problematic gas line, which wasn’t originally accounted for in plans for the new neighborhood, was located May 17. Shortly thereafter, Potomac Crest developers went back to their drawing board and worked up plans to reroute their  water and sewer utility lines to avoid a conflict with the gas line. But a clash between a new sanitary line and the gas line couldn’t be avoided, and that’s when Washington Gas called in a contractor to relocate the line, said Fields.

The relocation work is scheduled to begin tonight with overnight closures of a portion of Occoquan Road occurring each night this week. It’s the third time it’s been planned, with previous unmet completion dates in August and September, said Fields.

PotomacLocal.com spoke with Washington Gas on Friday to get details about what has prolonged the work but the utility was not immediately able to provide them.

Detour signs warning drivers to tonight’s detour are posted. The closures will take place from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday night through Friday morning. Drivers will be directed to use Riverview Lane to Va. 123 to Old Bridge Road.

For Art Klos at the Virginia Department of Transportation, it’s been an ever more frustrating task to communicate to elected officials and to drivers about a detour that keeps getting pushed back.

“I regret to inform you that the night work on Occoquan Road has been postponed until next week. Hazel Construction, with the support of the Police Department, is on standby ready to proceed. Unfortunately, their work continues to be delayed due to relocation of the gas main,” stated Klos in an email to public officials.

While a portion of Occoquan Road south of Old Bridge Road carries 13,000 cars per day, the portion of the road that will be detoured carries 2,000 cars per day, said Klos.

News
Bonfire, Ghost Stories Planned at Occoquan Regional Park

OCCOQUAN, Va. — There are burning desires to build a better regional identify for the Occoquan area and a bonfire might be the way to do just that.

As the weather gets cooler and Halloween approaches, Occoquan River Communities has invited residents to Occoquan Regional Park on the Fairfax County side of the Occoquan River for a free bonfire event where marshmallows will be roasted and ghostly tales of Occoquan’s past will be told.

Occoquan River Communities will hold the event, as the organization serves as a cheerleader for all things Occoquan. The organization entices visitors to the come to the small Town of Occoquan in Prince William County, urges them to visit the Rivergate complex in Woodbridge, and to take in the sights at the Workhouse Arts Center in Fairfax County.

The ORC group hopes this free event and others like it will draw more people to the Occoquan area.

“Our members know that each event provides them with a fun and unique opportunity to discover something that may not have known about the region, meet new people and enjoy the fellowship and sense of community that we all share,” said ORC spokeswoman Bryanna Altman.

The bonfire starts at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 22. As the sun goes down and skies get darker, Occoquan Regional Park manager John Houser is expected to share stories about the area’s past to include tales of women suffragists who were brought to the Lorton Workhouse in the 1920s. Later, Kay Pietrewicz of Occoquan Ghost Tours will share some of her own paranormal experiences she’s had while trolling through the historic town that dates back to 1804.

About 25 to 45 people are expected to attend the event.

 

News
Occoquan Shops to Treat Dogs this Halloween

Elaine Carmack and her dog, Sassi, greet customers at Fetch Dog and Cat Bakery Boutique.

OCCOQUAN, Va. — Some dogs will finally get their treats this Halloween.

The Fetch Dog and Cat Bakery Boutique in Occoquan, which specializes in animal treats, will host its 15th Annual Trick or Treat for Dogs from 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 28.

About 35 owners have signed up their furry friends and will take them on a leash, of course, to at least 40 businesses in Occoquan who will give the dogs treats. Fetch has provided all of the gourmet dog treats to the participating businesses ahead of time, and organizers say it’s a great way to get people out and about in the small town at Halloween.

“The owners take them to the stores and then they say ‘trick or treat,’ or if they have an exceptionally talented dog the animal can say ‘trick or treat,’ but I’ve not ever met one like that before,” joked Fetch manager Elaine Carmack.

This is the second year Trick or Treat for Dogs has been held in Occoquan. Fetch held similar events in prior years when the store was located in Old Town Alexandria.

To participate, a donation of $10 is requested from dog owners by Oct. 15. The money will go to an effort to build Prince William County’s first dog park, said Carmack.

Those interested in signing up their dog should call the store at 703-491-8686 or visiting the shop at 305 Mill Street in Occoquan.

News
Occoquan A ‘Prettiest Painted Town’

OCCOQUAN, Va. —  Occoquan is one of the prettiest painted places in America.

The Paint Quality Institute for the third time since the 1990s has reviewed historic downtown areas that use and ranked them on what unique paint schemes they use to express the town. The national competition is called the “Prettiest Painted Places in America,” and more than 200 historic districts, main streets, and downtowns are competing in the competition.

In a periodical newsletter to residents, Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta said he’s pleased his town was nominated. He also thanked the Prince William County tourism board, Discover Prince William and Manassas for submitting Occoquan in the competition.

“We are thrilled competition officials recognized this beautiful hidden gem along the Occoquan River,” Discover Prince William & Manassas Executive Director Ann Marie Maher said. “The merchants and residents of the community work hard to maintain their historic buildings and charm and it’s one of the reasons why thousands come to visit Occoquan annually.”

It’s a busy time for the small town along the Occoquan River in Prince William County. Occoquan last weekend welcomed thousands to one of its two annual craft fairs.

Other pretty painted town finalists include downtown Bowling Green, Ky; Gulf Shores, Ala.; Historic Oakwood in Raleigh, N.C.; Key West, Fla.; Old Louisville, Ky.; Old Town Alexandria, Va.; Paducah, Ky.; Selma (Ward 3), Ala.; and Historic Downtown Smithfield, Va.

After the first Prettiest Painted Places in America competition was held in the 1990s, another was held in 2000. This marks the third time the competition has been held.

News
New Rule Ensures Seized Lands Used for Public Good

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — A problem in Norfolk has found a solution in Prince William County.

The county’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday passed an ordinance that will guide leaders on how eminent domain – the taking of private lands for a public purposes — is used.

Board Chairman Corey Stewart is the driving force behind the new ordinance that mandates Prince William County Government now must only take private property for uses like public roads, utilities, or buildings that “benefit the public as a whole.”

A similar proposed revision to the Virginia Constitution called the Virginia Property Rights Amendment will come before voters on Election Day Nov. 6. But, if voters do not support it statewide, Tuesday’s Board action ensures the amendment will be law in Prince William.

Stewart, who is also running for Virginia Lt. Governor, added the county is the largest jurisdiction in the state to adopt such a resolution, and acknowledged Fairfax County leaders and the Virginia Association of Counties does not support the measure.

“It’s certainly true that this Board has never abused its eminent domain authority by taking from one private land owner and given it to another in the name of economic development, however, one could argue that’s exactly what’s happening in the City of Norfolk,” said Stewart.

He’s referring to the owners of the 78-year-old Central Radio Company in Norfolk, which is being muscled out by city leaders who want to condemn the business and give the land on which it sits to Old Dominion University for future development.

So far, a case like this hasn’t appeared in Prince William County, and Transportation Director Thomas Blaser said less than one percent of eminent domain cases in Prince William have ended up in litigation.

“We have done a certificate of take literally hundreds of times…If the public purpose [of a project] was questioned, I think everybody would be more cautious about starting a project than just doing what we call a ‘quick take’ if we thought the ramifications would bigger than the risk was worth,” said Blaser.

Prince William has long funded construction of their own roads, including the widening of U.S. 1 in Triangle and the construction of Prince William Parkway.

Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank Principi was the lone dissenter on the Board Tuesday and said this decision could have a “chilling effect” on the county’s efforts to build new roads, and on future economic development.

“We should not be fixing what’s not broken. We have voted for years now…in favor of these road building projects…and I don’t know why we have to change our position today,” said Principi.

The issue may come down to a battle between the federal government and the states. According to Tuesday’s resolution, the Supreme Court upheld a decision to allow local governments to seize privately-owned land, homes, or small businesses and transfer them to a new owner for the uses of economic development.

 

News
Occoquan Residents Warned of Loud Noise from Dams

OCCOQUAN, Va. — Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta in an email to constituents today noted when it rains the pumps at the nearby dam could get loud. The text of his email is below:

In Occoquan we know that heavy rains sometimes mean flooding along the Occoquan River, as well as along Ballywhack, Furnace Branch, and Boundary Branch Creeks.

For the near future, however, heavy rains will likely also result in some increased noise from pumps the contractor working on the Occoquan dams will be forced to use.

With good weather, the related work should be completed within three weeks. In the meantime, the contractor is installing sound barriers to help with the pump noise and has asked that we bear with them.

 

News
Occoquan Merchants Association Disbands

OCCOQUAN, Va. — The Occoquan Merchants Association is no more.

The group of small business owners in Occoquan was comprised small shop owners in the tiny riverside town. The group promoted ghost tours, the town’s farmers market, the holiday tree lighting, as well as the interests of about 20 small businesses in the town.

The ghost tours, farmers market, and a printed guide to the town once produced by the OMA will continue under new management.

“In recent years, it was noticed that the general membership’s interest in the organization had decreased due to the need to focus on their personal businesses in this struggling economy, and by vote of the entire current OMA membership, on Sept. 19th it was decided the organization would fold. The current members of the OMA are positive about the transition towards a new direction in town,” the organization told PotomacLocal.com in statement.

The association also worked to inform visitors about Occoquan’s rich history, as well as a provide information on non-profit organizations in the area.

The association was made up of volunteers and had no full time support staff. 

The disbanding of the association comes as Occoquan is poised to welcome thousands to its annual fall craft fair this weekend.

“This is not a swan song for the Occoquan Merchants Association. The OMA was an integral part of the growth of this town, but like the old phrase says, ‘When one door closes, another door opens,” the OMA stated. 

 

News
Occoquan School Board Candidates Square Off on Funding, Teacher Pay

Jessie

By URIAH KISER

LAKE RIDGE, Va. — In a room of just over 50 voters who came to hear School Board candidates debate, by a show of hands only five of them were undecided.

Four candidates looking to become the permanent Prince William County School Board member for the Occoquan District squared off at Westminster in Lake Ridge Tuesday. They tackled topics like per-pupil funding, teacher pay and performance, and whether Prince William County Public Schools still lives up to it’s motto of a “world-class education.”

This is an unexpected election for the School Board this year, coming after former Occoquan District representative Grant Lattin abruptly resigned from his post last spring to spend more time with family.

Wooten

Dr. Michael Wooten is endorsed by the GOP and was appointed to the position shortly thereafter. Wooten touted his service as a U.S. Marine and as Vice Chairman of the Northern Virginia Community College Board, and laid out a three-point plan he said would ensure success in the county’s schools.

“I call it the iron triangle…the first leg being teacher compensation… what is that value proposition that we give to those professionals that is so important to student learning,” said Wooten.

Class size and the amount of taxes levied to fund schools make up the second and third legs of Wooten’s plan. Schools are funded with 56 percent of monies transferred from Prince William County’s overall budget. The School Board cannot levy taxes.

Bauckman-Moore

Wooten said current school funding is unsustainable, but said the School Board should not have taxing authority. More densely populated housing developments are putting more strain on local schools, and that could require the Board of Supervisors to step up funding, said Wooten.

Former elementary school principal and Democrat Lillie Jessie was the only candidate on the panel Tuesday to receive applause. When asked if Prince William County’s allotted $9,852 per student spending cap – the lowest in the region — is enough, she said principals control their school’s budget on a site-based management system, and that education is more than just money allotted to each student.

Bender

“Sometimes teacher-pupil ratio has nothing to do with the number of teachers. You could have the number of teachers and not have the [classroom space to house them] and you end up with two teachers in a room, and I’ve lived with that whole situation…moving people around to create the learning environment that we need,” said Jessie.

Jessie added while the per-student spending cap may be low in Prince William, the jurisdiction outperforms some of the other better funded counties in the region.

Business owner and Prince William schools employee Lori Bauckman-Moore said she’s running, in part, to better equip classrooms with the materials they need. She likened the school system’s expansive headquarters, the Kelly Leadership Center near Manassas, to the Taj Mahal.

“I go to an open house and I hear a teacher say that a child cannot check out a school book to do homework because she only has one book for the entire classroom, or I go and I hear a teacher say there’s not enough money to put her SmartBoard on the wall. Those are little budget things but they’re perceptions…perception is everything… I would like to see some money going back to the classroom,” said Bauckman-Moore.

When it comes to pay, Virginia teachers cannot strike as Chicago Public School employees did earlier this month. Jessie doesn’t agree with a state mandate tying 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to student performance, and said he would opt to give teachers raises rather than taking a wait and see approach.

Candidate Stanley Bender said more vocational and arts education is needed in the schools, and, in response to the school system blocking LGBT content from computers in 2011, he said students are very savvy when it comes to accessing information online, but they should not access this type of information at school.

Jessie agreed.

“We need to realize that we are in America and that there is gay and lesbian behavior. There is heterosexual behavior [on the web] they shouldn’t have access to,” said Jessie.

The candidates also addressed students leaving Prince William to attend Fairfax County’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology – a STEM program ranked number two in the country by U.S. News and World Report, behind New Jersey’s High Technology High School.

“It’s very difficult to tell a parent to go to in Prince William when you have a school down the road that is the best in the nation …[Prince William County Public Schools] are ranked as one of the best school systems in the nation… we need to create opportunities for students to participate in higher level thinking,” said Jessie.

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