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Occoquan Local

HOV Lanes to Close this Weekend, Again Next Week

Photo: Mary Davidson

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — A portion of the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes will close again tonight and tomorrow as work on the 95 Express Lanes project ramps up.

The HOV express lanes facility is normally open to southbound drivers Friday night through Saturday afternoon. Tonight and tomorrow beginning at 11 p.m., however, the lanes will close from Franconia-Springfield Parkway to Va. 234 in Dumfries as crews complete test boring work.

Drivers will have to use the regular travel lanes to get where they’re going until 10 a.m. Saturday, and again on Sunday, when the HOV lanes are reopened for regular use.

But work on the HOV lanes doesn’t stop this weekend. It will continue throughout next week as the HOV lanes will close from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Thursday, and again from 11 p.m. to 10 a.m. next Friday and Saturday, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

By 11 p.m. during the planned work next week, drivers headed north on Interstate 95 will be able to enter the HOV lanes north through an entrance just past Exit 169 in Springfield. Drivers who use Franconia-Springfield Parkway will also be able to enter the northbound HOV lanes by 11 p.m., VDOT states.

When complete, the 95 Express Lanes will charge single drivers a toll to use the lanes at all times while vehicles with three or more occupants will be able to use the lanes for free. The express lanes will also be extended nine-miles south from Dumfries to Va. 610 in North Stafford.

Currently, vehicles must have three or more occupants to use the lanes between 6 and 9 a.m., and 3:30 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Drivers can use the lanes for free during all other times.


Fallen Prince William Firefighter Remembered


WOODBRIDGE, Va. — The first and only Prince William County firefighter to die in the line of duty will be remembered today.

Kyle Wilson, 24, was killed five years ago today when he went inside a burning home on Marsh Overlook Drive in Woodbridge to search for those who might have been trapped inside the home. County officials read a message over the public emergency radio at 6 a.m. and will repeat it at 6 p.m. commemorating Wilson’s death.

“Five years ago today Technician I Kyle Wilson made the ultimate sacrifice while operating at Box 1209, 15474 Marsh Overlook Drive. Kyle was staffing Tower 512 and was killed in the line of duty while performing a primary search looking for possible trapped occupants. The Department of Fire and Rescue has made a solemn promise, we will never forget Kyle or the sacrifice he made,” the statement reads.

On the day of the fire, all the occupants of the home had made it out safely unbeknownst to Wilson. Inside the home, he became trapped under a stairwell, radioed for help, but fire fighters couldn’t reach him in time.

While widely covered in Prince William County, Wilson’s death received little attention in the region as he died on the same day as the Virginia Tech shooting massacre.

Prince William fire and rescue chief Kevin McGee issued a statement this morning about Wilson.

“Our Department and our fire and rescue system will never be the same as it was prior to the dispatch to 15474 Marsh Overlook Drive. It shouldn’t be the same and it won’t. We have done much together to improve and make corrections over the past five years to enhance firefighter safety and improve service to our community. We have more work to do,” stated McGee.

The chief asked residents to keep Wilson’s family and friends in their thoughts today.

Kyle Wilson’s family, friends, and and fellow firefighters remember him now each year during the fifth annual “Kyle Wilson 10K Walk for Fitness,” as a way to remember his service to the community and provide a scholarship for those who wish to attend the athletic training program at George Mason University – Wilson’s alma mater.

The walk will be held this year at 9 a.m. at C.D. Hylton High School in Woodbridge.


Nohe: Fair Process Led to Voting Exemption

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — During the decennial political redistricting process in 2011, no Prince William politician’s district changed as much as Marty Nohe’s.

He’s the Supervisor for the county’s Coles District, which now spans the western portion of Dale City west to the Manassas area. Increasing from 57,000 to 62,000 residents in his district last year, Nohe now represents about 30,000 more residents that he did previously, he said.

Magisterial districts like Coles, as well as state and congressional election districts are redrawn every 10 years by politicians  to account for population changes, and, some argue, to ensure the greatest possible reelection outcome for the current political party occupying a particular district.

Once approved by the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, the new magisterial maps were sent to the federal government for preclearance — a review under the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

They were approved, but on Wednesday officials announced Prince William was given a pass under section five of the act governing preclearance, making it the largest jurisdiction in Virginia to receive such a bailout.

“Having had a very fair and non-partisan redistricting process that was widely adopted by the community was really the lynchpin that made it possible for us to get bailed out that preclearance [requirement],” said Nohe.

Virginia is one of nine states primarily in the southeast, and various jurisdictions in New York City, North Carolina, California, Michigan and others, that must submit to the preclearance process. In Virginia, 14 jurisdictions have been given a pass including Fairfax City, Roanoke, and Winchester.

“I think it speaks very well with the redistricting process we went through. We applied for a bailout of preclearance prior to that redistricting process, and we had looked into it in previous years but we had not pursued it because, for whatever reason, it was not the right time,” said Nohe.

Now, Prince William County can be looked to as example in the redistricting process, he said. He added, other jurisdictions should make sure they meet preclearance requirements if considering applying for a bailout.

Jurisdictions are provided an opportunity to be exempted from the requirement of preclearance, known as “bailout” if they can demonstrate ten years of unbiased voting regulation practices. This requires:

• Evidence that no test or device has been used to determine voter eligibility

• No federal examiners were assigned

• All voting changes were submitted in a timely manner

• No objections by DOJ or denials by D.C. Court were levied against the jurisdiction

• Elimination of dilutive voting procedures

• Constructive efforts made to eliminate harassment and intimidation of voters

• Opportunities for convenient registration and voting expanded

• Minority persons have been appointed as election officials throughout all stages of registration/electoral process

Source: Prince William County


Crime Declines in Prince William


WOODBRIDGE, Va. — In 2011, police in Prince William County investigated and solved three murder cases – the fewest number of murders in the county in 10 years.

There were six fewer murders in Prince William in 2011 than there were in 2010, according to the police department’s annual crime statistic report released today. Detectives in Prince William in 2006 investigated 16 murders, the year that saw the most murders in the county in the past 10 years.

Overall, the report shows the crime rate in the county continued its five-year decline.

The number of reported rapes in the county fell from 53 to 46 in 2011, so did the number of reported robberies from 221 to 173. The categories like burglary, larceny, aggravated assault, and vehicle theft also saw fewer reported instances in 2011.

“The crime rate in Prince William County continues to decline in 2011 at 17.5 crimes per 1,000 residents. This downward trend represents a decrease in the rate of criminal activity. The crime rate is intended to serve as a basic indicator of overall crime trends and is a commonly accepted community measure,” the police report states.

The county’s population was tallied at 409,345 residents, up 11,000 more from the previous year.

Some crimes in Prince William County, however, saw a rise in reported incidents last year.

Assaults, DUI, weapons charges, and charges for the sale and manufacture of drugs rose, the report states.

There were also 91 more reportable traffic crashes in 2011 leading to a 2.9 percent rise in the county’s overall crash rate. Of the 11 fatal crashes that took the lives of 12 people in Prince William in 2011, three involved large commercial trucks, one involved a motorcycle, and one involved a pedestrian death. There were seven fewer fatal traffic crashes in 2011 than in 2010 in Prince William, according to the report.

Fire Warnings Continue in Prince William, Stafford

With conditions still ripe for wildfires, Stafford authorities banned outside burning and Prince William officials remind residents to wait until after 4 p.m. to burn.

The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag warning for the region today, as they have since the weekend, warning that the combination of high winds, low humidity and dry conditions produce an atmosphere where wildfires flourish.

In Stafford, an outside burning ban remains in effect until 7 a.m. Wednesday, according to a statement from the county’s fire marshal. Officials in Prince William remind residents to adhere to the state’s burning law that restricts outside burning between 4 p.m. and midnight.

“Most outside burn permits are limited to commercial or agriculture operations and as part of the process a comprehensive review of the operation are conducted before a permit will be approved and issued,” said Prince William fire and rescue spokeswoman Kim Hylander.

Residents in Prince William are urged to call 703-792-6360 for more information on obtaining burn permits.

It’s recommended that residents make sure that grills, recreational or campfires are supervised during use and that they are completely extinguished, said Hylander. With the forecasted gusty winds today, Hylander also said residents should secure all outdoor furniture, trash receptacles, cooking grills, and other freestanding items that may become air born causing injury and damage if not properly secured.

‘Mayor’s Paddles’ Kayaking in Occoquan

By Stephanie Tipple

OCCOQUAN, Va. — The Mayor of Occoquan wants area families to get into the paddling business.

Town Mayor Earnie Porta announced “Mayor’s Paddles,” a yearly kayaking tour hosted by Occoquan Regional Park, will take place at the park on 9751 Ox Road just across the Occoquan River in Fairfax County, every first and third Saturday of the month.

The kayak tours, which run from April 7 until mid-fall, start at 11 a.m. and aim to provide families with a memorable tour of historic Occoquan, all from the perspective of the Occoquan River.

Those who are already well versed in the history of Occoquan also have the option to rent kayaks for $10, or you can bring your own kayak plus a launching fee, and then join in on any tours that are going on, or head out on your own and explore the river.


Gibson Seeks Office, Challenges Connolly

DUMFRIES, Va. — From a doughnut shop in Dumfries, Mark Gibson explains why he’s getting into the race to become the next congressman for the Potomac Communities.

“As a small business owner I have to keep low overhead costs, and I don’t think the federal government is doing that,” said Gibson.

The 51-year-old Independent from Fairfax is collecting signatures to get his name on the ballot for the November General Election. He needs 1,500 before June to be considered in the race.

His opponent is two-term Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly, a man Gibson described as having a good knowledge of how the government works, but also has too many years in office touting the same party line.

“Mr. Connolly is a good foot solider for the party but we don’t need foot soldiers, we need innovation,” said Gibson.

A native of the Washington area, Gibson, 51, lives with his wife, daughter and son – both who are in elementary school in Fairfax County. He’s the chief operating officer of a 15-employee IT firm that does database work for small business.

While the 11th Congressional District he wants to represent had portions of western Fairfax and Prince William counties redistricted away from it, the district still includes much of the Potomac Communities of Dumfries, Lake Ridge, Occoquan and Woodbridge. It’s an area of economic good fortune, he said, with federal jobs aplenty. Gibson said he doesn’t believe in a federal hiring freeze, and added downsizing government would ultimately lead to the loss of federal workers — but it doesn’t all have to happen at once.

“You can lose positions from attrition, and that will lead to more government savings, and over time that means we can pass along pay raises to federal employees,” said Gibson. “The people who come for work for me have gumption. They come in and want to be promoted, and federal workers are no different.”

On Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, Gibson says those who were promised a return on their investments into those systems should be rewarded, but added that those who have not yet reached retirement age will most likely have to wait longer to receive benefits.

A one-time Democrat, Gibson said he attended a meeting of Dems in Fairfax County but later felt the caucus was more about business as usual than bringing about change, which is why he said he’s running as an Independent.

Aside from Connolly, he faces proclaimed fiscal conservative Ken Vaughn and likely Republican nominee Chris Perkins.

Bottle Bombs Resurfacing in Prince William

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Over the past few weeks, chemical bottle bombs have become an increasing problem in Prince William County. There have been a number of occurrences in the Lake Ridge area beginning on March 18 and April 1 on Kempston Lane and April 5 on Berwick Place. The Fire Marshal’s Office and Prince William Police are working together to investigate, apprehend and prosecute those individuals responsible for these deadly devices.

Due to the corrosive nature of the mixture, anyone coming in contact with the materials while manufacturing or discharging the device can sustain serious and long-term debilitating injuries. Permanent injures to the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract are common.

The Fire Marshal’s Office and Police Department reminds everyone that individuals involved with the possession, manufacture, or discharge of chemical bottle bombs will face criminal charges for their actions. Additionally, they will be held responsible for costs associated with any property damage, emergency response and mitigation (police, HazMat, fire and rescue), and clean up. Due to the hazardous nature of the residual material, clean- up costs can be substantial.

If a chemical bottle bomb is discovered or suspected in the community, citizens should immediately relocate a safe distance away from the device and call 911 to report it. Under no circumstances should anyone touch or move a suspected device. Further questions or information should be directed to the Fire Marshal’s Office at 703-792-6360.

-Press release

PRTC Asked to Explore Consolidation

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — There are four transportation organizations that help govern how some commuters travel in Northern Virginia. Now there is a renewed call to consolidate them.

A total of 22 elected legislators in March sent a letter to the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, one of the four transportation groups on the list that was asked to explore consolidation. PRTC operates OmniRide and OmniLink bus service in Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park.

For the past two sessions of the Virginia General Assembly, there have been failed efforts to consolidate PRTC, Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, Northern Virginia Regional Transportation Authority, and the Northern Virginia Regional Alliance.

The PRTC Commission is lead by several elected officials who meet on a monthly basis. Prince William Coles District Supervisor Marty Nohe Chairs both the NVRC and the NVTA.

“We ask you as chairs of NVTA, NVRC, NVTC, and PRTC, to engage your organizations in an effort to determine whether consolidation and/or improved coordination would improve regional planning, including transportation planning and services,” the letter stated.

Delegates from the Potomac Communities who signed the letter include Richard Anderson, R-Prince William, and Scott Lingamfelter, R-Woodbridge.

PRTC commissioners are scheduled to take up the matter at tonight’s regularly scheduled commission meeting.


New Model Captures Old Occoquan Mill

By Stephanie Tipple

OCCOQUAN, Va. — On your next trip to Occoquan, you may see historic buildings and pretty scenes, but one thing you’re not going to see is the old Merchant’s Mill, which was once located in historic Occoquan. The mill burned down in 1924, but one resident of Occoquan, Dr. James Walbert, has found a way to revive the memory of Merchant’s Mill – he’s constructed a scale model of the mill for residents and tourists.

On Saturday, Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta and town residents gathered at Town Hall to hear Walbert speak on the history of Merchant’s Mill, and the arduous process he underwent to construct a scale model of the mill. Walbert shared the step by step process he used to construct the model, showing photos and dimensional drawings to further demonstrate the process.

The model, which can be seen at the Mill Museum on Mill Street, was the culmination of almost a year’s worth of work, and is an excellent replica of the mill, based on gathered photos and information found in records.

The model stands a quarter inch to one foot in scale of the original mill, was constructed using construction foam, wood, and other traditional materials, and is full of precise and immaculate details. While some parts of the mill were unable to be researched, requiring Walbert to use some skillful guesswork, with the help of the Historical Society, and Mayor Porta’s book in the Arcadia series on the town of Occoquan, Walbert was able to make a model that is the exact image of Merchant’s Mill.

Residents and patrons are able to see the model of Merchant’s Mill at the Mill Museum in Occoquan, daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Mill Museum is operated by the Occoquan Historical Society.


Early Work Slated for 95 Express Lanes

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — While final plans are not yet in place for High Occupancy Toll lanes on Interstate 95, transportation officials will begin preliminary work on the project next week.

Drivers will notice the work taking place on the highway shoulders on I-95 between Springfield and Dumfries, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The proposed toll lanes, if approved, will be a public-private partnership between the Virginia Department of Transportation and private construction firm Fluor-Transurban. Taxpayers are expected to foot $97 million while the private firm is expected to fund $843 million.

In December, officials said construction could begin as early as this spring. But no formal announcement has been made. According to, the work scheduled next week is utility work.

Once known as HOT lanes, the project has apparently been rebranded 95 Express Lanes to match its counterpart toll lanes on the Capital Beltway, the 495 Express Lanes which are scheduled to open late this year.

Work schedule:

I-95 north from Exit 150, Joplin Rd. (Route 619) to Springfield Interchange – Mobile right shoulder closures Monday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon for utility work.

I-95 north from Exit 150, Joplin Rd. (Route 619) to Springfield Interchange – Mobile single lane closures Tuesday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon for utility work.

I-95 south from the Springfield Interchange to Exit 150, Joplin Rd. (Route 619) – Mobile right shoulder closures Monday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. for utility work.

I-95 south from the Springfield Interchange to Exit 150, Joplin Rd. (Route 619) – Mobile single lane closures Tuesday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. for utility work.

I-95 High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes from Springfield Interchange to Dumfries Rd. (Route 234) – Mobile alternating shoulder closures Monday through Thursday from 7 am. to 7 p.m. and Friday 7 a.m. to noon.

Pr. William Sups Expecting Comments on Budget

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Prince William County officials tonight will hold a public hearing on a proposed $912.6 million budget for 2013.

The public hearing begins at 7 p.m. at the Prince William County Government Center on Prince William Parkway in Woodbridge.

The new budget includes, among other items, funding for 12 new police officers, two new arson investigators within the county fire department, five new 911 operators, upgrades to the security system at the county’s juvenile detention center, more cash for the county’s gang response team, and a new center for economic development concentrated on redeveloping the U.S. 1 corridor in eastern Prince William.

Teachers in Prince William County who have been clamoring for pay raises got work last night they would receive them, but announced they would appear at the meeting in mass to urge the Prince William County Board of Supervisors to maintain the proposed tax rate of $1.215 per $100 of the assessed property value.

“Any lowering of the tax rate will directly impact public education as the Superintendent’s current proposed budget is based on the advertised tax rate,” stated Brandie Provenzano in an email to

Provenazno has said teachers will organize outside the government center to urge county supervisors to approve the proposed tax rate.

Tonight’s public hearing comes as county staff in recently years has trimmed $140 million from its budget, and has passed on more retirement costs to their employees, officials said.

Mayor Running Unopposed

By Stephanie Tipple

OCCOQUAN, Va. — It’s been said that the best competitions are ones that you know you’re going to win, and this can be said for Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta

Porta, a Democrat, will seek his third, two-year consecutive term, as he runs for reelection – unopposed — this year.

Occoquan residents will go to the polls Tuesday, May 1 at Town Hall, at 314 Mill Street. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

While Mayor Porta has a seemingly election season ahead of him, he commented, “I don’t take anything for granted, though, so I will be out there campaigning for votes. I am hoping we will see solid voter turnout for the election, and I would very much like to see all the council members re-elected as well.”

Residents are encouraged to register to vote before the end of April in order to cast ballots in the upcoming town mayoral and council elections.


Occoquan to Host 5K Run, Walk

By Stephanie Tipple

OCCOQUAN, Va. — The Washington Regional Transplant Community will host their third annual 5K race in historic Occoquan.

The Race to Donate Life 5K in Occoquan will take place Sunday, June 10 at 9 a.m. The race, hosted by the Washington Regional Transplant Community, will be in Occoquan for its first time, and has been hosted in Northern Virginia for the past three years.

The 5K race will occur at the edge of the Occoquan River, and will start at the check-out point at 7:30 a.m. in front of Town Hall. In addition to the race, there will be music, food and other entertainment that the entire family can take part in.

All of the money raised from the 5K and surrounding events will be put to use for awareness programs in the area for organ, tissue and eye donations.

There is no minimum skill level for this 5K, and walkers, competitive runners, and everyone in between are welcome. There is a $30 registration fee for adults and $5 for children 12-years-old and younder. To register for the Race to Donate Life 5K, visit their website.

Revised School Budget Fails

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. –– A proposed measure that would have given all Prince William County Public Schools employees a raise has failed.

Prince William Schools Superintendent Steven L. Walts put forth a revised budget that included a two-percent raise for all school employees. But the county’s School Board denied passage of the newly proposed budget in a meeting Wednesday night.

Instead, At-large School Board Chair Milton Johns called another meeting next Wednesday where the Board is expected to explore more ways to cut spending in order to fund pay raises, said Prince William County Schools Communications Director Philip B. Kavits.

The Board has until April 1 to approve a new spending package.

This latest move comes after teachers in Prince William County have staged protests and so-called “work to the rule” campaigns in order to draw attention to the lack of pay raises over the years.

Teachers say they would like at least a three-percent increase in pay, as many have gone years without a salary increase. Teachers also said they dip into the own pockets to pay for supplies, and work evening and weekend hours just to meet the demands of the job.

First Ladies Campaigning in Area Today

OCCOQUAN, Va. — Two former Virginia first ladies will tour portions of the Potomac Communities on Thursday, stumping for their husbands who are running for U.S. Senate.

Susan Allen will stop in Falmouth in Stafford County at 10:30 a.m. at the Warrenton Road Park and Ride lot on U.S. 17 where she’ll be joined by Virginia State Senator Bryce Reeves, Delegate Mark Dudenhefer, and Stafford County Board of Supervisors Chairman Susan Stimpson.

The topic of this gathering of Republicans? Rising gas prices, which are averaging $3.88 in North Stafford, $3.97 in Woodbridge, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Fuel Price Finder.

Allen is married to George Allen who was Virginia’s Governor from 1994 to 1998.

Anne Holton is married to Democrat Timothy Kaine, who led the state between 2005 and 2009. She will tour small businesses in Occoquan on Thursday starting at 11 a.m.

Holton is expected to join Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta on a “small business listening tour.”

The tour will begin at Occoqaun Town Hall and is expected to conclude at The Garden Kitchen.


Riverboat Ghost Tours Planned

By Stephanie Tipple

OCCOQUAN, Va. — A company fascinated by things that go bump in the night will offer ghost hunting tours in Occoquan.

Footsteps to the Past, a family-owned business in Northern Virginia, specializes in historical ghost tours in Alexandria and surrounding areas. Run by two members of the Potomac Valley Paranormal Society, this tour will take you on a smooth ride on the Miss Rivershore boat on the Occoquan River, while tour guides provide information and insights into the various aspects of ghost hunting.

But you don’t need to worry about handling weapons when it comes to ghost hunting – just some technological gadgets and a camera, as explained by the tour guides. Guests who attend the ghost hunting tour will have the opportunity to hear about the different kinds of spirits, or ghosts, along with methods on how to potentially capture their existence and hear tales and experiences that the tour guides have experienced with those who have “passed on.”

The highly energetic and friendly vibe of this tour may seem off course for a ghost hunting endeavor, but this tour will provide you with all of the necessary information you need to know for the next time you might find yourself in a graveyard or a haunted house.

These ghost hunting sessions in Occoquan will continue into the spring, and the company will host more ghost tours in other Northern Virginia areas in the coming months.

Occoquan’s Cock & Bowl: Food and Beer to Savor

Crevettes Boclique

By Stephanie Tipple

If you’re looking for a hearty meal, a beer, and an excellent atmosphere on your next trip to Occoquan, then stop in at the Cock & Bowl.

Owned by couple Jacquie and Michael Lopez, this restaurant is a culmination of their love for entertainment, food and French and Belgian culture.

The Cock & Bowl at 302 Poplar Alley has become an established local favorite, recognized as one of the Best New Restaurants by Northern Virginia Magazine. The restaurant was also rated number two for one of the Top Prince William Places.

The location of the Cock & Bowl was originally a Belgian restaurant, and while studying Belgian culture, the Lopez’s discovered the French culture that they loved was deep within the roots of Belgian culture and decided to expand on this theme for their restaurant. Their menu also incorporates seafood elements like mussels, and a popular item – frites—which are dipped in mayonnaise.

"We Are the Champignons"

One thing that many patrons rave about at the Cock & Bowl is their extensive beer list.

“Beer is so much more approachable,” Jacquie Lopez commented, comparing it to French wines. “We have a two-page food menu, and a 12-page beer list – we’re a beer joint,” Michael Lopez said of the atmosphere he wants to convey to patrons.

In addition to their beers, and their comfort food meets that French cuisine dishes, Cock & Bowl offers restaurant goers live acoustic music on their patio. And like a good reporter always does, I decided to dig in and see for myself if the Cock & Bowl’s food and atmosphere lived up to the reputation.

After poring over the menu, I selected a shrimp dish called the “Crevettes Bucolique.” This dish was a great portion of shrimp with a cream based sauce, garnished with steamed spinach and tomatoes. For the side dish, I ordered the famous frites with mayonnaise, which truly live up to their reputation. This meal is light seafood fare that melts in your mouth, leaving you happily satisfied with the portion and flavors.

My companion selected the “We Are the Champignons” mussel dish for her entrée, which was a delicious plate of mussels, with a cream and mushroom based sauce, along with a side of bread. While many people may shy away from seafood, particularly shell fish, my companion commented that the mussels were light and not over-burdened by the seafood taste, and that the creamy rich sauce complimented the mussels nicely.

One of the best known Belgian dishes in American culture is Belgian waffles, and the Cock & Bowl offers these Belgian waffles in a variety of forms on their menu for a dessert treat. If you’re a little weary of having a breakfast item for dessert, then take a look at their varieties with fudge and caramel, topped with a scoop of Hagen Daz ice cream.

The “Ganache Belgian Waffles” are far from your traditional breakfast waffles, with a light fluffy waffle made fresh, topped with whipped cream and a heavy dousing of chocolate. This dessert is as fun to look at as it is to eat, and hits the spot after a beer and a great meal.

Prince William Bans Burning

Prince William County, Va. — Fire officials in Prince William County have banned all outside burning for Friday due to unusual weather circumstances.

Tomorrow’s weather forecast is calling for low humidity and dry conditions with high winds of 20-30 mph and gusts up to 50 mph. The Fire Marshal’s Office would like to alert the community regarding the threat of fire danger, i.e. outside fires that can spread quickly and out of control escalating into multi-alarm incidents threatening woodlands and structures while depleting fire and rescue resources.

These weather conditions are similar to the conditions that arose this time last year in February that produced numerous brush fires. Therefore, the Fire Marshal’s Office is banning all outside fires commencing today, Thursday, February 23rd through Saturday, February 25th.

Due to high winds and wind gusts, the Fire Marshal’s Office urges residents to secure all outdoor furniture, trash receptacles, cooking grills, and other free-standing items that may become air born causing injury and damage if not properly secured.

The weather has been unseasonably mild this winter prompting homeowners to start early spring clean up and removal of large piles of debris such as damaged trees, shrubbery and leaves. Please note that outside burning of debris is prohibited for residential areas and the preferred method of debris removal is to have it chipped or shredded on site and/or transported to the landfill for disposal.

Earlier this month, the fire marshal’s office instituted it’s 4 p.m. burning law that requires all residents to burn brush after 4 p.m. when humidity levels are typically higher.

-Prince William Fire and Rescue Department 

Last year, a high winds spawned a rash of wildfire in the Potomac Communities along Interstate 95 and behind shopping centers on Prince William Parkway.

Occoquan Will Host Civil War Reenactment

Occoquan will host a historical Civil War re-enactment on Feb. 25 for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. (Submitted photo)

By Stephanie Tipple

Occoquan, Va. — “Yankee” and “Rebel” may seem like names only used long ago when describing the Civil War. But local re-enactors are looking to revive the events of that time by hosting a lecture, re-enactment, and encampment in Occoquan on Saturday, Feb. 25, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

This reenactment group, comprised of members in the Northern Virginia and Maryland, is involved in projects and re-enactments year-round in the area.

“We portray a variety of infantry units, including on occasion Confederates,” said Michael Schaffner, of the reenactment group.

The re-enactors fancy themselves primarily a Union sharpshooter company, added Schaffner.

For this event, noted author Robert Alton will be offering attendees a lecture on the background history of the Civil War. It will be followed by the re-enactors who will be acting out a conflict that happened in Occoquan, exposing residents to the culture and past of history of the town on the river that bears the same name.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to visit the encampment of the sharpshooters, which will be located near the town’s Tourist Information Center on Mill Street. This encampment will be open to visitors who can view demonstrations on the firearms and weaponry used during the war.

Town merchants will also offer discounts and specials for those who attend the special re-enactment.

Town Demands Oaks III Developer Fix Watershed Problems

By Stephanie Tipple

Occoquan, Va. –– Occoquan officials have made their next move to slow construction of an office building just outside their town limits.

The Occoquan Town Council on Tuesday passed a resolution stating Ken Thompson, the developer of the much debated Oaks III office building to be located at the intersection of Old Bridge and Tanyard Hill roads in Lake Ridge, must first repair the water run-off issues at his adjacent Oaks II office development.

Thompson last month petitioned the Prince William County Board of Supervisors to rezone an 18-acre parcel of undeveloped land that will accommodate the planned 32,500 square foot, low-rise Oaks III office building. The rezoning passed despite outcries from Occoquan residents and members of the Prince William Board, clearing the way for the building’s construction.

According to Prince William County documents, Thompson promised to leave just over 13 acres of the property untouched as a conservation area. But Occoquan’s resolution comes as documents show that the National Rifle Association, not Thompson, owns the land.

Thompson did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

Occoquan officials point to water runoff from the Oaks II property as one of the major culprits that contributed to a flood of the Ballywhack Creek that inundated the town last fall.

The town has compiled a list of possible fixes for the flooding – one of the proposed solutions costing nearly $23,000.

Thompson offered to do these repairs in the course of developing the site of Oaks III, but did not proffer a reasonable time estimate, town officials said. Instead, he stating that market conditions would dictate the timing of the repairs, officials said.

The resolution would the developer accountable for fixing the run-off and erosion issues, stating, “…the developer, Ken Thompson, to promptly and with all possible speed, perform the run-off and stream remediation steps proffered under the rezoning, without regard to the timing of the construction of the Oaks III project.”

Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta also weighed in on the matter Thursday night and said if the erosion is not fixed, “the result will be continued deterioration of the watershed and even higher future costs to the taxpayer.”

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