Covering the Greater Prince William County, Virginia Area

Prince William

Dr. Seuss’ Birthday Marks Childrens Reading Day

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus

Loosen up your tongue muscles and get ready for tongue twisters.

Wednesday is Read Across America Day, celebrated annually on Dr. Seuss’ Birthday.

Librarians across the region are preparing special programs ranging from story times to family crafts.

Lorton Library plans to celebrate the day with a “Seuss is Loose” program with childrens librarian Anne Heising, who will wear the traditional red and white “Cat in the Hat” headwear.

“We’ll be reading a few Seuss favorites like Hop on Pop, and we’ll have bubble wrap for the kids to pop after we read”, Heising said.

Chinn Park Library in Woodbridge, in addition to story times, has a “Super SEUSS” movie time planned at 10:30 a.m. Friday.

Schools are also celebrating, as Antietam Elementary School in Lake Ridge plans to commemorate the Seuss’ birthday with a special “book character day” where children dress up as their favorite character from a book and bring the story to share with friends.

Tami Chaffee, a parent of two Antietam students  noted that her children are both “really looking forward to dressing up on Read Across America Day and will be going as Darth Vader and Betsy Ross, since my daughter’s class just finished historical VIPs in history.”

More reading celebrations will take place this weekend, when local non-profit CRIBS will offer a free event: “The Cat in the Hat Presents: STEM, What is a Scientist?”

The event is for children between the ages of four and eight, and director Barbara Edwards –– a Kindergarten teacher by day –– founded CRIBS to help families encourage children to embrace reading and learning.

Edwards says careers of the future are in science and mathematics technology, and feels that this event will help tie literacy in with hands-on science and fun.

The event will be held from 2 to 4:30 p.m., at 12184 Chaucer Lane in Lake Ridge.

The National Education Association created Read Across America day in 1997 in hopes of motivating children to read throughout the year.

Kristina Schnack Kotlus covers style and events for and lives with her family in Woodbridge.

Around Town

Prince William County Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart. (Mary Davidson/

Stewart will seek reelection
While it appears Prince William County Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart still hasn’t ruled out a bid for the U.S. Senate, he told he will seek reelection for his current job.

Man pleads guilty in Stafford County death
The man who shot and killed the owner of a antique store in Stafford County will spend the rest of his life in prison, reports.

Restaurant to hold benefit game for area charity
A Monopoly game that will be held Saturday at Glory Days Grill in Lorton will benefit Habitat For Humanity, WTOP reports.

East Coast Rapist’s Face Now on Billboards

Police have turned to digital billboard technology to catch the East Coast Rapist.

Authorities in Fairfax and Prince William counties in a partnership with the FBI and other police agencies have posted sketches on digital billboards in states where the rapist is believed to have struck – in Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island and Virginia.

The most recent attack is believed to have happened Oct. 31, 2009 in Dale City, when three female teenagers were approached and two raped as they were walking home from a night of trick-or-treating.

The attack happened behind Glendale Plaza, as a man approached the victim’s –– two of the girls were age 16 and the other 17 –– from behind with a gun.

He led them into a clearing in a wooded ravine and raped the two 17-year-olds while the 16-year-old looked on, police say.

The 16-year-old was able to use her cell phone to text her mother for help, but as police closed in the man was able to get away, police said.

Following the attack, the two 17-year-old girls were treated at a local hospital and the 16-year-old was not injured.

In all, the serial rapist has been tied to 12 attacks that began in February 1997.

“These billboards give each local police department, and the FBI, an added edge to identifying, locating and apprehending the subject,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Criminal Division, Ronald Hosko. “The public is the most important tool law enforcement has for solving crime.”

The billboard’s come after authorities launched a new website aimed at reaching out to the public to get more information about the serial rapist’s whereabouts.

His victims have been black, white or Hispanic females, and he generally approaches victims on foot and threatens them with a knife or handgun, asks for money to give the impression he is robbing the victim. The serial rapist has never been known to take anything from his victims, however.

In the earliest assaults, the man approached his victims on bicycles, authorities said.

He’s been known to wear a black mask or hooded sweatshirt to conceal his face.

Suspicious Car Closes Tully Gate

Update 5 p.m.
Traffic is moving once again through the Tulley Gate at Ft. Belvoir.

The gate reopened at 3:35 p.m. after K-9 units were called to search a truck whose driver was attempting to get on base.

Four people inside the truck were searched, but nothing was found and the truck was cleared.

“As a safety precaution for our people and the surrounding communities, Tulley Gate was closed,” said Ft. Belvoir spokeswoman Jacqueline Leeker.

A portion of Pohick Road, between Gunston Road and U.S. 1 which had been closed, was also reopened following the search.

Original Post 3:30 p.m.
Ft. Belvoir, Va. ––
Authorities were called to Ft. Belvoir’s Tully Gate this afternoon to search a suspicious car.

K-9 units were dispatched to search the vehicle – its contents still unclear.

No one was injured, but the search prompted the closure of the gate, as well as a portion of Pohick Road – from U.S. 1 to Gunston Road.

All incoming and outgoing traffic has been diverted to Pence Gate.

Drivers should expect delays in the area if the closure continues through the afternoon rush hour, said Ft. Belvoir spokeswoman Jacqueline Leeker.

More as we get it.

With Bonds, Schools to be Renovated

Potomac Senior High School in Woodbridge. (Mary Davidson/

Woodbridge, Va — At least 13 schools in Prince William County will receive upgrades if the Board of Supervisors agrees to sell $51.2 million in bonds.

The Prince William County Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday on selling the general obligation bonds.

The agenda item has a good chance of passing, say officials, as county staff has already suggested selling the bonds at the request of the Prince William County School Board.

Schools in the Potomac Communities to be upgraded:

Potomac Senior High School
$7.65 million will be spent on a 55,000 square foot addition to the existing building, which will include 30 new classrooms, renovations to the gym, locker rooms, cafeteria and administrative areas.

The school opened in 1981, has 1,700 students and 100 teachers.

Swans Creek Elementary School
$4.8 million will be spent on a 10,200 square foot addition to the existing building, which will include six new classrooms, additional resource space, a renovated physical education area and a renovated clinic.

The school opened in September 2001.

Westridge Elementary School
$4.1 million will be spent on a 13,250 square foot addition to the existing building, which will include six new classrooms, additional resource space, a renovated physical education area and a renovated clinic.

School bus parking lot expansion at Gar-Field High School

$1 million will be spent on expanding the school bus parking lot at Gar-Field Senior High School, which will include the construction of new toilet facilities.

School officials say any left over money will go to fund new school projects.

Gunston Hall to Address Educational Future

Gunston Hall, Va. –– Following questions in recent weeks, officials at Gunston Hall will hold a press conference to address the educational mission of the estate that once was home to George Mason.

Members of the public and the press have been invited to the event that will start at 6 p.m.

The conference comes after the firing of a 20-year-employee who served as the estate’s education coordinator.

Officials at the mansion say a $5,000 state budget reduction was the impetus for cutting the position.

But others have cried foul, saying it is the organization’s primary mission to educate the public about 18th century life on a plantation that owned by one of the men present as the nation’s constitutional convention.

Mason, a supporter of a national bill of rights, authored an original draft of Virginia’s first bill of rights.

He was raised, and later lived on the Fairfax County plantation.

The mansion and grounds are open for school field trips, visitors and scouting programs.

Water Agency Gets AAA Bond Rating

The H.L. Mooney Water Reclamation facility under construction prior to 2010. (Prince William Service Authority)

Woodbridge, Va. –– The Prince William County Service Authority is celebrating its new AAA bond rating, saying the new nod from Wall Street will save customers money.

The agency provides water to more than 75,000 homes and businesses in Prince William County, and this month Standards and Poors upgraded the agency’s bond rating from AA+.

The new AAA rating will lead to reduced borrowing costs for the Service Authority.

S&P based their decision on strong financial metrics, the agency’s customer base, their ability to treat water and their borrowing needs.

“We are very pleased to receive S&P’s highest rating, which is usually given to larger systems than ours,” said Service Authority Chief Financial Officer Leslie Griffith in a statement. “This upgrade is a testament to the Service Authority’s management, operations, and financial strength.”

The authority was chartered in 1983 by the state corporation commission and is an independent public body.

The Service Authority receives treated water from the Potomac River, the Occoquan Reservoir and Lake Manassas and distributes it to its customers.

One of their treatment centers is located in Woodbridge: The H.L. Mooney Water Reclamation Facility located off Rippon Boulevard.

That facility was recently upgraded to the tune of $145 million to limit the amount of nitrogen in treated water released back into the environment.

Residents Brush Up on Issues at Town Hall

Occoquan District Supervisor Micheal C. May

Lake Ridge, Va. –– Commuter parking, land use issues and the county’s budget were hot topics at this Saturday’s town hall meeting held by Occoquan District Supervisor Micheal C. May.

Those who attended were happy to know county officials in the recent recession have been doing more with less money, said May.

“The County Board has been forced to make a lot of difficult decisions over the past few years, as well as made some major reductions in budget in light of economy. The county’s general fund has only grown .07 percent in recent years while population has grown almost 10 percent in the past five years,” said May.

May says he holds about three town hall meeting each year, and this year it was easier than last as fewer cuts in services have been discussed.

Last year, there was talk about closing a mini public library in Lake Ridge.

“People took some comfort knowing we can’t add services, but that we are not looking at taking any away,” added May.

The supervisor has scheduled another town hall meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. March 9, at Westminster at Lake Ridge.

Fire Engulfs Garage


Woodbridge, Va. –– A two-car garage caught fire Sunday, prompting volunteer fire fighters to spring into action.

The blaze broke out at 4:03 p.m. in the 1400 block of Horner Road in Woodbridge.

When fire and rescue crews arrived, the saw the garage had been completely engulfed in flames, said OWL VFD spokeswoman Rebecca Barnes.

Fire crews worked to make sure the flames did not spread to adjacent homes.

No one was injured, and the fire was extinguished.

In addition to fire crews from Woodbridge, volunteers from Dale City were also called to help combat the flames.

An investigation into what caused the fire is still ongoing, said Barnes.

School Budget Session Planned

Stafford Counkty Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Randy Bridges (File)

Stafford, Va. –– Stafford County school officials have once again planned to sit down to hash out differences over the public school’s operating budget.

Following a meeting earlier this month, this latest meeting will take place Tuesday at the Alvin York Brady Complex in Stafford.

First at 4 p.m., a budget work session will be held and then officials will tackle the topic of redistricting at 5:30 p.m.

The meeting comes after Superintendent Randy Bridges last week said tough choices will have to be made in the face of a $9 million budget deficit.

Bridges said officials may be forced to eliminate positions through attrition.

That didn’t sit well with some members of the Rocky Run Elementary Parent Teacher Organization, who said cuts at the school would increase class size and would make it harder to instruct students.

Earlier this month, Stafford school officials announced they would consider redistricting students to relive crowding at Hartwood and Rocky Run elementary schools.

Storms Expected Today

Update 9:30 a.m.
Update 1 p.m.
The National Weather Service has canceled the tornado warning for the area, but strong storms can still be expected before 2 p.m.

A tornado watch has been issued for the Potomac Communities.

The watch is in effect for Faifax, Stafford and Prince William counties until 4 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.

Original Post 7:30 a.m.
The roller coaster ride that has been the weather in our area continues today.

Thunderstorms could overspread the area between 1 and 4 p.m., and some could bring heavy downpours and high winds, according to the National Weather Service.

The storms are forecast as high temperatures are expected to make it into the low 70s today.

Tornado watches have been posted off to our west, and meteorologists say they could be extended to our area as the day progresses.

Tonight, a thunderstorm is possible before 7 p.m.

Tomorrow, skies clear up with forecasted sunny conditions but temperatures will drop.

Highs on Tuesday are only expected to get into the high 40s and low 50s.

Around Town

Teen gets 28 years in Mt. Vernon area murder
A 16-year-old arrested last year in Woodbridge was sentenced to 28 –years in the beating death of another teenager. Prosecutors said Mario Reyes, who is now 17, took a baseball bat to Woodlawn Park in Mount Vernon and used it to beat the 16-year-old victim – another gang member – to death, The Washington Post reports.

Planning Commission votes no growth for Brooke
To build or not to build in Brooke remains one of the most hotly contested issues in Stafford County right now. Stafford County’s planning commission voted last week to strike a plan to build new homes, businesses and new transit options near the Brooke Virginia Railway Express station. Two of the five commissioners say not making a plan for develop Brooke would be a mistake, reports.

A new tenant for Quantico Corporate Center
QinetiQ North America will have 300 employees in three locations in Stafford County after it opens a new 70,000 square foot office in the Quantico Corporate Center at Boswell’s Corner, The Washington Business Journal reports.

$7 Million to Fund Upgraded Road

Mo Kim points out the planned changes to Mountain View Road to Kay Dudenhefer, wife of Stafford Board Chairman Mark Dudenhefer. (Mary Davidson/

Stafford, Va. –– Stafford County is investing its own money to make one road safer.

Residents on Thursday were invited to a public meeting about improvements to Mountain View Road.

The 9.1-mile, two-lane stretch of road traverses the middle of the county and has long been known for its sharp curves, narrow lanes and tight shoulders.

Now, county officials are investing $7 million – $6 million of county money and $1 million in grants – to widen the lanes of the road to a width of 12 feet, add four-foot wide shoulders on each side, as well as storm water drainage to each side of the road.

Voters in a road bond referendum approved the improvements in 2008, and when complete, the road will meet current standards set forth by the Virginia Department of Transportation.

“It shows Stafford’s commitment to improving road safety and shows the culture here is changing. Local government is taking ownership of problems that exist here, and it’s taken five years to work on the culture in Stafford, where the old mantra used to be ‘it’s the state’s responsibility to pay for road improvements,’” said Stafford Board Chairman Mark Dudenhefer.

Dudenhefer lost his 19-year-old daughter in a crash in the county in 2004.

Since that time, he has served on commissions and focused much of his tenure on the county board of supervisors to improving area roads.

Two Pulled From 95 Crash

Rescue crews pulled two victims from a truck that overturned on I-95 in Triangle. (Submitted)

Triangle, Va. – Two people were taken to the hospital this morning after their pickup rolled over on Interstate 95 in Triangle.

The crash happened at 3:40 a.m., and one of the victims was trapped between the dashboard and floorboard of the vehicle, and the

other was trapped beneath the first victim, according to a Dumfries Triangle Volunteer Fire Department spokeswoman.

The victims were extracted from the truck. One was flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital and the other was taken to Stafford HospitalCenter.

About 12:40 p.m. Saturday, volunteers were called back to the highway for a report of an overturned camping trailer at milepost 151 in Dumfries.

Though children were reported to be inside the trailer when it flipped onto its side, no one was seriously injured.

More from DTVFS.

Winds Bring Power Outages

Update 8:40 a.m. Saturday
Domion Virginia reports all power outages in the Potomac Communities have been restored. Still without power? Let us know.

Original Post 8:40 p.m. Friday
Stafford, Va. –– Dominion Virginia Power is reporting 95 customers in the area of Telegraph Road in North Stafford are without power at 8:30 p.m. Friday.

The cause of the outage is being investigated, but high winds have whipped the area this afternoon, blowing off the remaining portion of the iconic Potomac Mills sign.

Dominion crews were also working to restore power to about 40 customers in the Woodbridge and Lorton areas.

Rape, Incest Charges Filed

Lake Ridge, Va. –– Police obtained arrest warrants for a Lake Ridge man now accused of raping an 18-year-old female.

Prince William police say their investigation into the alleged rape began Nov. 15.

On Tuesday, investigators obtained warrants for 44-year-old Rene Martinez Romero, 44, of Mohican Road.

Police say he is a family member of the victim and has been charged with rape and incest.

Romero was held without bond.

Remaining Portion of Potomac Mills Sign Gone

High winds blew through the region once again on Friday and took the remaining portion of the iconic Potomac Mills mall sign with it.

Update 2:25 p.m.
The large sign at Potomac Mills mall overlooking Interstate 95 has fallen to the ground as high winds sweep the area.

Woodbridge,Va. –– Winds are once again battering the large Potomac Mills mall sign that stands high atop its perch looking over Interstate 95.

At 2 p.m., the north-facing portion of the sign was hanging on by a tread during another round of violent wind gusts to sweep the area.

Virginia State Police had been notified the sign – made of banner-like material – could fall 150 feet to the highway below, said Potomac Mills spokeswoman Caroline Barry Green.

“We have people in place ready to react when it falls down, but right now with the current wind speeds there is no way we can send someone up there to bring it down safely,” said Green.

While this is the second round of high winds to whip the area with gusts of over 50 mph, the south-facing portion of the sign blew away during last weekend’s violent wind gusts that fanned wild fires across much of Northern Virginia and Maryland.

State troopers assisted crews in retrieving the downed sign and no one was injured.

Mall officials have already had a plan in the works to replace the portion of the sign that had been missing, which is about 50 feet wide.

Now, they’ll have to replace both sides of the sign, said Green.

The iconic sign has stood in the same spot since the mall opened in 1985.

24-HR Medical Center Planned for Lake Ridge

An artist’s rendition of a new health facility that will sit at the intersection of Minnieville and Summit School roads in Lake Ridge. (Submitted)

Lake Ridge, Va. — Lake Ridge is the neighborhood next in line for a 24-hour emergency medical center.

Sentara Health Care announced the new center should open early next year at  the intersection of Minnieville and Summit School roads, and will offer physician, advanced imaging and laboratory services.

When finished, the new 43,500 square foot facility will ease the patient load at Potomac Hospital, which was designed to accommodate 40,000 patients per year but is now seeing about 60,000 per year, according to Sentara spokeswoman Charlene Wilkins.

While the medical center will be staffed with board-certified physicians, Wilkins says patients who will be seen at the Lake Ridge center may still be taken at doctor’s orders to Potomac Hospital in Woodbridge in serious cases.

Sentara chose to build the new center in Lake Ridge because the U.S. Census Bureau estimates population is expected to grow there by 9.6 percent over the next five years to 206,772, said Wilkins.

Augustine Golf Course Sold

Stafford, Va. –– Augustine Golf Course has a new owner.

Raspberry Golf Management purchased the facility Wednesday, adding it to its portfolio of golf courses in Northern Virginia.

Some include Old Hickory Golf Club in Woodbridge and Raspberry Falls Golf and Hunt Club in Leesburg.

“Augustine is a great golf course with a great reputation, but over the years it has declined and we see this as an opportunity for us to return it to its heyday,” said Raspberry Golf Management spokesman David Finocchiaro.

Raspberry plans to keep the club closed for renovations to the clubhouse and improvements to the course. Their goal is raise the conditions of the course to meet those of their other properties.

Finocchairo says guests will notice an immediate difference in service and staff when the club reopens, sometime later this year.

Augustine will remain a semi-private golf club, where players may become members and non-members are also allowed to play as long as tee times are available, said Finocchairo.

According to Stafford County land records, Augustine was last sold for $8.5 million in July 2008.

Around Town

Fairfax schools review disciplinary policy
Fairfax County Public Schools are now reviewing their disciplinary policy after two parents say their teenager committed suicide after being suspended from school, transferred to a different school and  subsequently kicked off his football team, MyFoxDC reports.

A George Mason south town campus?
George Mason University is one of five colleges that has been invited to set up a campus in Martinsville, Va., in southern Virginia. Virginia Commonwealth, Old Dominion, Radford and Virginia State universities were also invited to set up shop in the town. More at Connect2Mason.

New charges filed in soldier’s death
New charges have been filed in the case of an Army soldier who was stabbed to death.
Army Spc. Morganne McBeth was killed after joining the Army in 2008, and her parents now live in Stafford County, reports.

Expect High Winds

High winds fanned wildfires in Prince William and Stafford counties on Feb. 19, 2011.

It’s going to get windy out there today.

The National Weather Service has placed the Potomac Communities under a high wind advisory between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Then, between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Mother Nature is going to kick it up a notch with winds between 20 and 30 mph and gusts up to 50 mph, according to the weather service.

This could lead to donned trees and large branches falling on power lines.

The NWS also warns those driving high-profile vehicles could also be affected by the winds.

The advisory comes less than a week after high winds fanned massive wildfires in the area.

More than 300 acres of land burned in Prince William County, in Dale City, Woodbridge and the Manassas areas. Officials in Stafford said 200 acres of land burned there, mostly near the border of Stafford and Fauquier counties.

While Prince William County’s burn regulations state no one can burn outside without a permit, the county’s fire marshal has suspended all permits and banded all outside fires between today and Saturday because of the high winds.

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