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Prince William voter turnout up; new precincts remain on hold

Turnout was strong in Prince William County as voters braved the rain to cast their votes in the 2017 General Elections.

Almost half of Prince William County’s eligible voters went to the polls Nov. 7 to decide on the next governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and local House delegates.

A total of 122,612 votes were cast in the General Election, according to election officials. That equated to 45 percent of the county’s total 271,705 registered voters — an increase of 5.9 percent from the 2013 General Elections.

Despite Prince William County’s ongoing population growth and the increased participation by voters in an off-year election, election official reported no adverse effects.

“We saw no long lines this year and all of our precincts reported closed on time,”  Winston Forrest, the country’s election communications coordinator, said in an email.

A Potomac Local poll asked readers what issues were most important to them this election cycle.

Election officials have been seeking ways to offset long lines that have sometimes occurred at county polling places due to population growth, such as additional precincts.

The  Board of County Supervisors turned down a request earlier this year for a public hearing on the issue. But Forrest said potential changes remain on the table. “Yes, we are looking to add ten or so precincts next year,” he said. “A new request will be submitted to the Board of County Supervisors.”

Plans for where those new precincts could be located are undetermined. “We don’t have any information about the new precincts at this time,”  Michele White, the county’s director of elections and general registrar, said in an email.

The Board of Supervisors could once again take up the discussion next year.

Statewide, the Democratic candidates won all three top positions. In the governor’s race, Democrat Ralph Northam defeated Republican Ed Gillespie by a margin of 53.90 percent to 44.97 percent.  For lieutenant governor, Democrat Justin E. Fairfax  defeated Republican Jill Vogel by a margin of 52.72 percent to 47.18 percent. And in the race for attorney general, Democrat Mark R. Herring defeated Republican candidate John D. Adams by a margin of 53.34 percent to 46.56 percent.

Here’s a look at how Prince William County voted for statewide offices, according to Virginia’s Department of Elections:

  • Governor: Northam, 61.06 percent, over Gillespie’s 37.86 percent.
  • Lt. Governor: Fairfax, 60.61 percent, over Vogel’s 39.27 percent.
  • Attorney General: Herring, 60.47 percent, over Adams’ 39.41 percent.

In the House of Delegates, Democrats picked up seven out of the eight positions available in Prince William County. According to Virginia’s Department of Election, the results for members of House of Delegates representing Prince William County are as follows:

  • District 2: Democrat Jennifer Foy, 75.70 percent, over Republican Mike Makee.
  • District 13: Democrat Danica Roem, 52.60 percent, over Republican Robert Marshall.
  • District 31: Democrat Elizabeth Guzman, 60.37 percent, over Republican Scott Lingamfelter.
  • District 40: Republican Timothy Hugo, 57.51percent, over Democrat Donte Tanner.
  • District 50: Democrat Lee Carter, 55.79 percent, over Republican Jackson Miller.
  • District 51: Democrat Hala Ayala, 52.98 percent, over Republican Richard Anderson.
  • District 52: Democrat Luke Torian, 93.50 percent, with no Republican contender.
  • District 87: Democrat John Bell, 46.20 percent, over Republican Subba Kolla.

FreshySites designs, builds first e-commerce website for USA Volleyball

At FreshySites, we’re dedicated to taking our clients’ online presence to the next level through the creation of beautiful, clean and user-friendly websites.

With that mission front and center, we recently harnessed our commitment and passion to partner with WorldWide Sport Supply and create a website for a globally recognized brand and organization – USA Volleyball.

FreshySites was approached to create an E-Commerce website platform that would provide a scaleable solution for order management and fulfillment for the United States Volleyball Team.

Creating an E-Commerce website platform that can handle the high demand and order influx for a national brand has many moving parts.

One of the biggest hurdles we had to overcome was that this was to be the first E-Commerce site for USA Volleyball – ever.

Our team spent hours carefully planning and collaborating – internally and with our client – on the USA Volleyball site, mapping out its many components to ensure flawless functionality and launch.

After months of hard work, we created the USA Volleyball Shop – a modern and fully responsive E-Commerce website, allowing members and fans alike to easily purchase USA Volleyball swag on a beautiful, simple user interface for both desktop and mobile devices.

Explore the site’s different features, like the swatch zoom, which allows users to easily check out various color options for different products, or the sort options, allowing users to shop based on a product’s popularity, price, and rating.

From T-shirts to jackets to hats, there are loads of quality apparel products featured for men, women, and children – all sponsored by Adidas.

With the start of the Winter 2018 Olympics right around the corner, now is the time to explore this brand new site for any USA Volleyball fans you may know!

FreshySites is a regionally-focused company with national reach and operations.

FreshySites is a fast-growing website design firm dedicated to creating beautiful websites, while consistently delivering best-in-industry customer service and support. Founded in 2011, FreshySites has quickly expanded into the largest in-house WordPress web design shop on the East Coast.

Our Washington D.C. office was founded in 2012 by Vincent Consumano. With additional offices, we have the team, resources and tools to serve our local – and national – clients through website mockups, creative briefs, revision rounds, and Search Engine Optimization audits. FreshySites is determined to take our regional clients’ online presence to the next level, ultimately helping them to grow and thrive. Explore our website to learn more about us, see our portfolio of work and become a part of our client family today!

Where you can drop off your unwrapped toy for Un-Trim-A-Tree

Each year, Potomac Local helps sponsor Un-Trim-A Tree — the effort by Volunteer Prince William to spread a little Christmas cheer by ensuring children in our community don’t go without a gift this holiday season.

Children are provided two gifts per child, valued at not more than $50-$75 per child. This ensures that all children are treated equally.

Here’s where you can drop off an unwrapped gift to donate to this great cause:


1. Experimac – 8669 Sudley Rd Manassas 20110

2. United Bank – 10830 Balls Ford Rd Manasas 20109

3. Northwest Federal Credit Union – 9730 Liberia Rd 20110

4. Glory Days – 9516 Liberia Rd Manassas 20110

5. Uno Pizzeria & Grille – 10711 Bulloch Dr Manassas 20109

6. Women’s Fit – 8379 Sudley Rd Manassas 20109

7. Fauquier Bank – 8091 Sudley Rd Manassas 20109

8. Fauquier Bank – 8780 Centreville RD Manassas 20110

9. Fauquier Bank – 7485 Limestone Dr Gainesville 20155

10. Fauquier Bank – 10260 Bristow Ctr Dr 20136

11. Fauquier Bank – 15240 Washington St Haymarket 20169

12. Historic Manassas Visitor Center- 9431 West Street Manassas 20110

13. Philadelphia Tavern – 9413 Main Street Manassas 20110

14. Mariachis – 9428 Battle Street Manassas 20110

15. The Bone BBQ -9420 Battle Street Manassas 20110

16. The Things I love – 9084 Center Street Manassas 20110

17. Totally Vintage – 9126 Center Street Manassas 20110

18. Todos Super Market – 13905 Jefferson Davis Hwy Woodbridge 22191

19. American Disposal Services 10370 Central Park Drive Manassas 20110

20. Café Rio 7803 Sudley RD Manassas 20109

21. CJ Finz Raw Bar and Grille 9413 West Street Manassas.  20110

22. District Hemp Botanicals 9023 Church St Manassas 20110

Breakfast Links: The size of the land on which a new county high school will sit just shrank

Father Gerard (Gerry) Creedon, pastor of Holy Family Church in Dale City, died Nov. 16. He was 73. [Arlington Catholic Herald]

The Prince William County school board is slightly shrinking the size of the plot of land it’s set aside for the county’s controversial 13th high school in Bristow. []

School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers says there’s only one way to find out whether Prince William County is ready to fix its overcrowded schools and eliminate the 211 classroom trailers parked outside them: Let voters decide whether they want to pay to build more schools faster. [Prince William Times]

A Democratic group claimed Wednesday that more than 600 Fredericksburg voters received ballots for the wrong House of Delegates race last week, adding another wrinkle to a close election that could determine control of the chamber. [Free Lance-Star]

The message from Sentara’s opioid town hall: It’s OK to hate the addiction but still love the addict

Narcan is often used to “wash out” the effects of opioid use for someone who overdosed.

In the past year, 1,159 doses of the counteracting drug — which is also an opioid  — were administered at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center to counteract the effects of heroin and other drugs.

That has prompted emergency department doctors Chinye Obidi to use words like “epidemic,” and “overdose phenomenon.”

“If you’re looking for a gateway drug, this is it,” the Woodbridge physician told a crowd of more than 50 people Thursday night at the medical center, speaking about opioid use and addiction.

Since 1999, the rate of people overdosing on opioids has exploded. And, it affects everybody.

“I feel like I’ve seen this before,” he said. “Maybe some of you are old enough to remember the crack cocaine epidemic? Well, this is different. Instead of going to an urban center and finding a crack house with people holed up and using drugs, it’s in suburban neighborhoods,” he said.

Sentara organized a community symposium called Project STOP — Speaking Out and Teaching Opioid Prevention. While there, attendees learned that hospitals can use opioids to treat severe pain and that prolonged abusers of the drug have increased sensitivity to pain, constipation, itching, and sweating.

Overdosing is ugly, and sometimes people can’t get the help they need.

“They used to dump you at the emergency department and leave you by the door. Today, they leave you behind 7-Eleven and hope someone finds you before your brain stops working,” said Obidi.

For those able to kick the habit, they will always fight the addiction to use again. “This is a chain you have to carry. This is something you have to fight every day,” he explained.

And, while many people make mistakes and can abuse opioids, Thursday night’s message was: You must have a compassionate and nonjudgmental attitude to the addicts and that it’s OK to hate the addiction but still love the addict.

In the coming year, Sentara plans to provide more resources to families who are dealing with opioid addiction. The hospital also plans to increase the number of drug takeback days, so people can properly dispose of unwanted medication so that it’s not used improperly.

No charges pending for discharge of shotgun in thwarting burglary

From Prince William County police:

Shooting Investigation | Residential Burglary – On November 11 at 5:03 p.m., officers responded to a residence located in the 14100 block of Morrison Ct in Woodbridge (22193) to investigate a fight. The investigation revealed that a large group of males responded to the home and were involved in a verbal altercation with the residents who were still inside.

During the encounter, several of the males began vandalizing a vehicle parked in the drive way then started throwing objects at the exterior of the home. When one of the suspects kicked open the front door of the home, an adult male resident inside of the residence fired two rounds from a shotgun at the suspects. The suspects eventually fled the area on foot as officers were arriving.

At this point, this incident does not appear to be random. No additional damage to property or any injuries were reported. There are no charges pending for the discharge of the shotgun. The investigation continues.

Chronic compression of the spinal cord meant he couldn’t write a letter or open a bottle. Then Dr. Lotfi stepped in.

Lou Ferrao knew something was terribly wrong. He had suffered from neck pain before.

He even had surgery which gave him limited relief. But the neck pain he felt now was severe and accompanied by other, more ominous, symptoms. He had been experiencing spasms and weakness in his legs and now had begun experiencing the same symptoms in his arms.

Lou had always been an active man. He loved to scuba dive and was certified as a rescue diver; a designation only awarded after completing what some divers call the most challenging course they’ve ever taken. He loved to walk and hike.

Now he found his legs no longer responding to the directions that he was giving. It was devastating.

Determined to find the reason behind his troubling symptoms, Lou visited a neurologist who diagnosed him with severe nerve damage on his left side and moderate damage on the right. His neurologist then referred him to the Sentara Back & Neck Center and Dr. Paymaun Lotfi, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in spinal surgery, to determine the cause of the damage.

As Lou went through a series of tests prescribed by Dr. Lotfi, his condition continued to deteriorate. He was no longer able to open a bottle or write a letter, and when he moved from a room with carpet to one with wood floors, he would lose his balance and stumble.

After all the tests had been completed, Dr. Lotfi diagnosed Lou with cervical spinal stenosis.

Dr. Lotfi explains, “It’s a condition that causes narrowing of the cervical spinal canal and chronic compression of the spinal cord and nerves; this causes numbness and weakness in arms and legs as brain signals can’t reach extremities.”

Dr. Lotfi suggested a spinal laminectomy and fusion, which removes the back part of the vertebrae, decompressing the spinal cord. The spinal column is then stabilized by placing screws and rods in the spine. Since Lou’s condition had been longstanding, Dr. Lotfi explained that he might not regain all his lost strength and lost functions, but it was important to decompress his spine to prevent weakness, paralysis or something even worse.

Lou appreciated the time that Dr. Lotfi spent explaining his condition.

“When Dr. Lotfi sat down with us, his empathy really showed. He tried to put himself in my shoes. He showed us the MRI. You couldn’t see my spinal cord from C2-T2 because it was so compressed,” Lou said. “He gave me an in-depth explanation of what was going on. He was educating me at the same time as he was helping me.”

After listening to Dr. Lotfi, Lou realized that the surgery wasn’t about feeling better; it was about survival. With his wife’s agreement, Lou made the decision to have surgery at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center.

The day of the surgery, everything went well. Dr. Lotfi was with Lou when he woke up and actually removed his cervical collar at that time. Lou suffered very little pain from the procedure and within four days was up and at rehab several hours a day.

Life is better for Lou now. While damage to the spinal cord can sometimes take years to heal, Dr. Lotfi says, “He (Lou) had a rapid recovery, and almost immediately could tell the difference in improved strength in his arms and legs.”

Lou no longer has the severe neck pain that plagued him, and he has regained his sense of balance and is walking with a cane. He is slowly getting his endurance back. He describes his life before and after his surgery as “the difference between night and day.”

Lou can’t say enough about Dr. Lotfi and his experience, “He (Dr. Lotfi) lives up to the Hippocratic oath. He was my guardian angel. It (the surgery) was the best thing I ever did.”

Unfortunately, many individuals suffering from spinal pain don’t seek help. They endure the discomfort and inconvenience for years because of many different reasons.

Dr. Lotfi understands this but says, “(You) may understandably be guarded about surgical treatment of the spine. However, many conditions such as stenosis are very disabling, and a properly executed surgery can truly improve one’s quality of life and function.”

Lou agrees and adds, “People shouldn’t have to suffer because they don’t know a procedure can help them.”

Breakfast Links: Teen’s final moments on tape

Teen’s final moments: “They shouted at her, demanding information about her role in the slaying of their clique leader, Christian Sosa Rivas, who was set up and killed with machetes, tree limbs and rocks in Prince William County about a week earlier.” [Virginian Pilot]

The Greater Washington Board of Trade went outside of the region to pick a new CEO, tapping Jack McDougle of New York to replace longtime chief Jim Dinegar. [Washintgon Business Journal, metered paywall]

Two Republicans clinched narrow victories over their Democratic opponents after votes were certified by the Stafford County Electoral Board on Tuesday afternoon. [Free Lance-Star]

Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-10th, said Tuesday that a sitting member of Congress exposed himself to a young female staffer who then quit her job. [Free Lance-Star]

Woman standing in home kitchen grabbed from behind, sexually assaulted

From Prince William police: 

Sexual Assault | Residential Burglary – On November 14 at 6:33PM, officers responded to a residence located in the 12700 block of Gazebo Ct in Woodbridge (22192) to investigate a burglary in progress. The investigation revealed that the victim, a 54-year-old woman, was standing in her kitchen when she was grabbed from behind by an unknown male. During the encounter, the suspect inappropriately touched the victim. The victim was eventually able to break free from the suspect who then fled the residence on foot. Minor injuries were reported. Entry was made into the home through an unlocked rear door. A police K-9 responded to search for the suspect who was not located. The investigation continues.

Suspect Description:

A dark skinned male, last seen wearing a ski mask, dark coat, and dark jeans

Dumfries man involved in fatal crash on I-66

A Dumfries man was involved in a fatal car crash in Fauquier County, just over the Prince William County line on Wednesday. 

More in a press release from Virginia State Police: 

Virginia State Police Trooper D.M. Garasimowicz is investigating a fatal crash in Fauquier County. The crash occurred Wednesday (Nov. 15) on Interstate 66 at the 36 mile marker.

A Ford Focus and a Ford F-350 pickup truck pulling a trailer were both stopped on the right shoulder of the westbound lanes of I-66. The pickup truck’s trailer had blown a tire, so it had pulled off onto the shoulder. It is unknown as to why the Ford Focus stopped on the shoulder.

But, the Ford Focus began backing down the shoulder and, while backing up, drifted into the westbound travel lane. A box truck traveling in that westbound travel lane was unable to avoid the Ford Focus and struck it in the rear.

The impact of the crash caused the Ford Focus to run into the guardrail off the right shoulder and the box truck to strike the Ford F-350 pickup truck. The box truck then overturned in the westbound travel lanes 

The driver of the Ford Focus, Judy C. Ravenscroft, 52, of Berryville, Va., was flown to Fairfax Inova Hospital, where she died later Wednesday morning. She was wearing a seatbelt.

The driver of the box truck, a 55-year-old Dumfries man, suffered minor injuries and was treated at the scene.

No one in the Ford pickup truck was injured in the crash.

The Virginia State Police Motor Carrier Team responded to the scene to assist with the ongoing investigation.

Community meeting at Sentara on Thursday to tackle community’s response to opioid epidemic

WOODBRIDGE — Katey Gemmmell just wants you to STOP.

She’s a registered nurse at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center, and she’s put together a new program called Project: STOP — Speaking Out and Teaching Opioid Prevention.

On Thursday night, she’ll join others at a community discussion held at the hospital on the epidemic that has become the opioid crisis not only in the U.S. but in our region.

“People need to feel like they have a positive role to play when it comes to preventing this,” said Gemmell.

The program builds on other symposiums she’s attended in Richmond and Washington, D.C. Attendees will not only get an earful from Gemmell and others in the healthcare industry, but they’ll also see what doctors and nurses must wear while working with a patient who has overdosed — personal, protective equipment, or PPE — to protect themselves from exposure to the deadly narcotic.

There will also be demonstrations on how to inject Naloxone, or Narcan, a nasal injection that serves as an opiate antidote credited with saving the lives overdose patients.

Just this week, Prince William police announced more of its officers would carry the life-saving drug in kits containing two injections. Right now, 36 officers on the force have been trained to use Narcan, and additional training has been ordered for the remainder of the officers on the force.

Since June, Prince William police have investigated 24 fatal overdoses. In 2016, there were 47 deadly incidents.

The epidemic has also prompted changes at the hospital. Sentara introduced a Dilaudid-free emergency room policy, removing the powerful pain medication from ER shelves.

The community discussion begins at 6 p.m. at the Hylton Education Center at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center, located at 2300 Opitz Boulevard in Woodbridge.

Low prices don’t make up for lack of customer service at new bargain basement retailer in Prince William County

The money that you might have planned to save by shopping at the new Ollies discount store just outside Manassas will be offset by the time you’ll spend in line.

I went to the new store on Sudley Road across from Manassas Mall at 2 p.m. Tuesday to return two glass food storage containers that didn’t seal when closed. The shop was bustling with people shopping for Christmas, everything from foodstuffs to towels, books, to kitchen blenders.

With the two glass containers under my arms, I picked the shortest line I could find but still spent 25 minutes in line to make my return. As I stood there, one woman asked to speak to a manager to complain about the long wait.

“I’m not standing in this line anymore. This is ridiculous,” she told the manager, Alma, as she pushed aside her cart full of merchandise and walked out of the store.

I continued to wait, and some of the people who had been in line behind me jumped into the next checkout line. Several minutes went by and I got my chance at the window.

I explained to the clerk that the seal on these containers didn’t work properly and that I wanted to do return them. He promptly called his manager — the same manager that had taken the complaint from the woman who had just walked out of the store.

I waited, and I waited. The manager walked past the clerk and me twice. Then the clerk called the cashier next to him, Odell, who was nice enough to help. He told my clerk how to process the return, what buttons to press on the cash register.

At this point I’m thinking, finally, we can finish this transaction, and I’ll move on with my day.

“I see you paid by credit card. Do you have your card on you,” Odell asked.

“No, I’m sorry I don’t,” I replied.

Now, at this point I know I should have brought my credit card with me. However, when in this situation before, I’ve always been presented with the option of receiving store credit. Or a simple, “I’m sorry, but we cannot refund your money without the card.” 

But after 25 minutes of patiently waiting, I was not expecting this.

“Well, how do you expect us to give you your money back if you don’t have your card?” he said.

After 25 minutes in line, by this time my patience has run out. Dumfounded someone would ask a question like that to a customer, I paused, and he filled the silence.

“You see, the way it works is you swipe your credit card, and then we refund…” he said.

“Don’t ask me how you are going to refund my money. Give me store credit,” I demanded, cutting him off mid-sentence.

Odell stepped back to his register to greet yet another line of people patiently waiting to pay.

“I’m going to call a manager, sir, and you don’t need to get an attitude with me,” he said as he began to help the next customer.

In the end, my $9.46 was refunded to me by way of a gift card. My time is something I’ll never get back.

I recognize the fact that the store has been open only two weeks, however, I give the store a failing grade for its customer service and question whether I’ll ever be back to the Manassas area location — no matter the bargains.

Kline development heads for public hearing Wednesday at Planning Commission

About a month and a half after its scheduled debut, the proposed Kline Development is now ready for prime time.

The Prince William County Planning Commission on Wednesday is scheduled to hear from developer Stanley Martin about its request to rezone 100 acres of land at the intersection of Prince William Parkway and Liberia Avenue just outside Manassas and build 392 new homes.

They would be a mix of single-family and townhomes constructed in a mix-use setting. Multiple businesses are proposed to be built on the property adjacent to the new homes to include a new Sheetz gas station, CVS Pharmacy, and a self-storage lot.

A revised proposal also outlines the possibility of the dedication of a new elementary school site. Under the old plan, the developer was going to provide enough cash to add one trailer classroom to Signal Hill Elementary School to help offset the influx of new children the development would bring to that school.

Additionally, a plan for a drive-through restaurant was slashed from the proposal.

Stanley Martin was to appear before the Planning Commission for a rezoning public hearing on Oct. 4, 2017, but requested more time to review and amend its proposal.

The proposed land rezoning, which would change the designation of the old Kline dairy farm from agricultural to planned mixed-use and general business development has sparked an outcry from citizens who oppose the project.

Eighty emails to county staff from residents opposed to the project and one for the project have been collected by county planning office staff. The big objection comes as Kline would put more cars on the region’s already congested roadways.

The development is now estimated to generate some 15,480 new trips on area roadways, including Route 28, which has been dubbed the most congested road in Northern Virginia.

Stanley Martin Homes didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

County staff recommended approval of the Kline development because, as it states, the project will ease traffic as there are a series of bus stops planned for the center. Also, because it’s a mixed-use development and because it supports the county’s goal of adding new businesses to attain a commercial tax base of at least 35 percent.

The plan needs to pass the Planning Commission before it can move ahead to the Board of Supervisors for final approval. If it doesn’t pass, the land cannot be developed as proposed, however, another developer could bring forth a new plan for consideration at a later date.

The Planning Commission meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15 at the Prince William County Government Center’s McCoart Administration Building.

How NOVA, Prince William County Landfill are working together to create a pipeline of new construction workers for the region

When it comes to talented workers to fill open construction jobs, there just aren’t enough to go around.

Heavy equipment operators are high-demand in the Washington, D.C. region due to new and ongoing construction initiatives in the area. Construction projects like the development and maintenance of buildings, airports, gas and oil pipelines, tunnels, bridges, and roads.

Two road construction initiatives — adding toll lanes on Interstates 66 and 395 in Northern Virginia will create an additional demand for local heavy equipment operators.

The I- 66 project dubbed, Transform 66 – Outside the Beltway will modify nearly 23 miles of I-66 providing two express lanes alongside three regular lanes from I-495 to Route 29 in Gainesville. There will be dedicated express lane access points and space in the median reserved for future transit. The I-66 express lanes are scheduled to open in 2022.

The I-395 project includes extending the Express Lanes for eight miles north from Turkeycock Run near Edsall Road to Eads Street in Arlington. The project will also convert the two existing HOV lanes and add an additional third lane to express lanes. These newly extended lanes are on track to open in the Fall of 2019 and the entire I-395 project is set for a summer 2020 completion.

“Two thousand five hundred heavy equipment jobs go unfilled in the region due to a shortage of heavy equipment operators. This shortage is expected to double as projects on Interstate 66 and Interstate 395 begin,” stated Ken Garrison, Executive Director of the Heavy Construction Contractor Association, in an article on Prince William County’s government website. “With the jobs averaging $65,000 to $70,000 a year, that would mean an influx of $325 million into the economy annually and the money would stay in the local economy,” said Ken Garrison,

In an effort to help fill this job demand in our region, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Workforce Development is creating a six-week Heavy Equipment Operator Certification Program to provide students will the skills necessary to safely operate heavy equipment in the construction industry. Melanie Stover, Director of Business Engagement for NOVA said the curriculum development assessment began out of a request from local businesses and the Heavy Construction Contractors Association (HCCA).

“The HCCA estimates the need for heavy equipment operators to be in the thousands for our area, due to contracted construction projects. Heavy equipment operators not only work on buildings but also infrastructure projects, such as road and bridges, and land development.”

Partnering with Construction Industry Experts

NOVA Workforce Development partnered with Mike Steigerwald a Training Specialist from The Lane Construction Corporation on the development of their Heavy Equipment Operator Program curriculum.

“Steigerwald was highly recommended by the HCCA for his focus on equipment safety and industry certifications,” said Esther Perantoni, Director of Curriculum Design and Implementation for NOVA Workforce. “We didn’t want to just create a program – we wanted to create a pipeline that would give students the certifications they need to succeed in the construction industry and provide area businesses properly trained resources.”

Stover agrees. “We want to provide our students a jumpstart to their career and an accelerated approach to the construction industry. We already have businesses like Atlantic Contracting and Materials Inc., Superior Paving Corporation and SW Rogers Company wanting to interview our students towards the end of our program for jobs.”

Asked what the Heavy Equipment Operator Program entails, Perantoni said, “Students will graduate from our program with the following National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) certifications: NCCER Core, NCCER Heavy Equipment Level 1 and VA Basic Flagger. These are national and industry-wide certifications which are a great value to our students.”

Collaborating with local resources

“Students will be able to get hands-on experience using various pieces of heavy equipment at Prince William County Landfill,” said Stover.

The landfill already provides local fire departments training in the trench for confined space rescues.

“The Solid Waste Division is pleased to be a resource for job training and economic development in the County,” Deborah Campbell, Public Relations Specialist for Prince William County Solid Waste Division said.

“We often work with universities such as George Mason, Virginia Tech and James Madison, as well as Prince William County schools on projects that help make the landfill a valuable community resource and learning experience,” said Campbell.

Empowering students

NOVA Workforce’s first Heavy Equipment Operator Program is on track to launch in February or March of 2018. Classes will have a ratio of eight students to one instructor. Program participants are required to be 18 years old, have a valid driver’s license and have transportation to get to various work sites.

“We already have people waiting in the queue for our program to begin. Veterans, women support organizations and local skills sourcing centers have all shown interest in this new program. We foresee this initial program as being a launch pad for additional heavy equipment operator programs as we continue to move forward” said Peratoni.

Interested participants will be able to find information and certification costs on NOVA’s Workforce Development website in the coming months once the program details are solidified.

Sentara celebrates medical center’s 45th birthday

Forty-five years ago, Woodbridge looked like a different place.

“There was a little old house at the bottom of Jefferson Davis Highway and Opitz Boulevard where we bought chicken eggs. And there was probably two stoplights on all of two stop lights on Route 1 — one at Marsumsco, and the other at Longview Drive,” said Carol S. Shapiro, director of the Sentara Northern Virginia Wound Healing Center.

She was one of the founders of what was Potomac Hospital, which opened in 1972. On Thursday, the community gathered at what is today Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center to celebrate the hospital’s anniversary during a celebration called “45 Years New.”

Shapiro, a plastic surgeon who completed her residency at Georgetown University Hospital, was working as the physician for the Gar-Field High School Football Team when she was asked to be apart of a new community hospital.

Shapiro recognized early on the need for Potomac Hospital and she never saw Woodbridge as a two-stoplight town.

“When those kids got injured during a football game, they had to go all the way up to Alexandria. So, there was a real risk of them not getting good medical care,” she said.

Some of the first meetings of the hospital steering committee were held at the old Virginia Power building at the corner of Route 1 and Reddy Drive in Woodbridge. It was there a Board of Directors was founded, and fundraisers held to raise cash to start Potomac Hospital.

“The money that was raised to get this hospital started were community funds. The community wanted this hospital. The community paid for this hospital,” she said.

Things have changed since 1972, Norfolk-based Sentara purchased the Potomac Hospital in 2009 and changed its name to Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center. Today, the center serves a diverse population, more racially diverse than of Sentara’s other locations across the state.

Thursday’s celebration featured Prince William County Neabsco District Supervisor John Jenkins, as well as current and former hospital staff, and members of its founding team.

The Manassas Christmas Parade needs volunteer marshals to help

Good Morning Prince William – The Un-Trim-A-Tree Holiday Gift program is in full swing! We have 1,900 children available for adoption. Share the joy of the season by sponsoring a child and making their wishes come true. You’ll be given the two wishes for toys or clothes valued up to $75 for a little boy or girl up to 12 years old. These children live here in our community. Come join the fun. Please visit for more info and to download the donor form.

· Mark your calendars for the next Volunteer Mobilization Center Training on Saturday, December 9th, 9am-12noon at Volunteer Prince William. Come learn how to man the center to dispatch volunteers in the event of a disaster to best utilize time, talent and meet human needs. Please call Bonnie at (571) 292-5302 to learn more.

· Calling all adult service groups! – The Manassas Christmas Parade needs volunteer marshals to help on Saturday, December 2nd. This is a super fun event kicks off the 2017 Holiday Season in Old Town Manassas. It’s just a couple of hours in the morning that is sure to put you in the spirit! This is the perfect opportunity for a large group as they need 40-50 volunteers! Please email Nora to learn more at

· Our Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) is looking for empathetic volunteer age 55+ to assist as a Senior Link Volunteer. This position has flexible hours and can be done at either the ACTS Manassas or Dumfries locations. Duties include calling home-bound seniors to check on them. Training is provided by ACTS and is scheduled in December. It’s a wonderful way to learn more about your community and reach vulnerable seniors. Please call Jan to learn more at 571-292-5307 to be part of the RSVP team.

· The Salvation Army is also in full swing with their holiday programs. Volunteers are needed to man the Red Kettles at over 20 convenient locations across the community. They also need volunteers to man the Angel Trees at either Manassas Mall or Potomac Mills Mall. Great opportunities for volunteer groups. Please Call George at (703) 580-8991 to learn more.

· Take the I Recycle pledge! At and you could win $300-$800! But more importantly, improve our community, conserve natural resources and create green jobs.

· Willing Warriors invites you and your family to the next volunteer orientation is Wednesday, November 29th, 6-7pm and their Open House is Sunday, December 3rd, 1-4pm. Please email them at if you plan to attend.

· Project Mend-A-House needs handy volunteers to help with their fix-up projects across the community. Both skilled and unskilled are most welcome on weekends and during the week. Also mark your calendars for their Holiday Open House on December 4th- 4:30-7:30. Please call (703) 792-7663 to learn more.

· Habitat for Humanity has opened their new Restore in Woodbridge so now you have two great locations to donate and more importantly volunteer in the store. Please visit their website to book your next shift at

· Brain Injury Services is looking for a volunteer to organize and facilitate a monthly or quarterly get together at Jirani Coffeehouse in Manassas for individuals with brain injuries. It’s a great opportunity for someone who has an interest in music, small group facilitation and working with people with disabilities. Please call Michelle at (703) 451-8881 ext. 232 to learn more.

If you are looking for other opportunities, please don’t forget to call my wonderful team at Volunteer Prince William. Jan can help you with the Retired and Senior Volunteer (RSVP) opportunities at (703) 369-5292 ext. 1, Shelley can help with any individual or group project and send you weekly updates if you’d like. Shelley is at (703) 369-5292 ext. 0, and Bonnie can help you with opportunities available in Disaster Preparedness at (703) 369-5292 ext. 3. Please visit our newly re-vamped website at Thanks so much for all you do in our community.

Call to Action is a column written by Volunteer Prince William Director Mary Foley.

Surovell: Let’s grow early voting in Virginia

The 2017 Virginia elections once against demonstrated that Virginians are choosing to vote early in larger numbers each election.

As compared with 2013, early voting in Prince William County was up over 210%, 170% in Fairfax County, and 146% in Stafford County.  In 2016, over 120,000 or one in five Fairfax County voters cast their votes early while nearly forty-four percent of Prince William County voters voted early. 

Voting early allows voters to avoid precinct lines, unpredictable weather, job, family or health problems.  Voting by mail gives voters more time to complete their ballot in the privacy of their home.  Most importantly, it provides the flexibility to allow more people to participate in our democracy.

Given its popularity, there are more things our government can do to facilitate early voting.

First, I support no excuse early voting.  However, my Republican colleagues kill it every year.   Short of that, we need to use existing authority to make our current more user-friendly.

Second, local registrars could choose to provide postage prepaid envelopes for voters to return their ballots.  Many younger voters do not purchase stamps or transact business by mail.  Prepaid envelopes would cost our localities a fraction of their budget.   

Third, the Fairfax County Registrar has identified a company that manufacturers a recreational vehicle that functions as a Mobile Voting Precinct.  This mobile precinct could be placed at locations with large numbers of eligible absentee voters such as Metro Stations, Virginia Railway Express stations, or commuter lots.  It costs only $100,000 per van plus operating costs.

Fourth, in 2015, the Republican Speaker of the House of Delegates, Bill Howell, persuaded the State Board of Elections to allow electronic absentee ballot applications.  I collaborated with software engineers to create my own application, and later that year the State Board of Elections created its own online application.  This year, Win Virginia PAC and the House Republican Caucus created their own online absentee ballot applications. 

There is nothing preventing each county from having its own on their county website other than appropriating some money.  Voters no longer need paper applications that must be downloaded, printed and returned.  The county should create an electronic application.

All of these simple and cost-effective steps would go a long way to promote participation in our elections and facilitate early voting. 

It is an honor to serve as your State Senator.  Please email me at if you have any feedback.

Scott Surovell (D) represents southern Fairfax, eastern Prince William, and northern Stafford counties in the Virginia State Senate. 

911 caller spots blaze in security camera at Woodbridge warehouse

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Fire crews doused a blaze Saturday afternoon in a commercial warehouse district in Woodbridge. 

More in a press release from OWL Volunteer Fire Department: 

Woodbridge, VA November 11, 4:58 p.m. – Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton Volunteer Firefighters responded to the report of a warehouse fire 15010 Farm Creek Drive in Woodbridge.  Crews arrived within minutes and reported no fire or smoke showing from outside, however, the caller reported seeing the fire from monitoring cameras.    

Crews forcibly entered through a front door and found a light haze. Fire was found in a sawdust pile under a containment unit. The fire was knocked down in less than 10 minutes.  An additional sweep of the building was conducted. The fire was contained to the sawdust pile.  The blaze is under investigation by the Prince William County Fire Marshal’s Office.  Fire and Rescue units from OWL VFD, Dale City VFD, PWCDF&R, and PWCPD responded to the incident. 

Driver killed, another faces DUI charge in hit-and-run crash

A driver involved in a hit-and-run crash on Interstate 66 early Sunday near Manassas died. 

A second driver was taken to a nearby hospital, and a third faces DUI charges.

More in a Virginia State Police press release: 

At 4:02 a.m.Sunday (Nov. 12), Virginia State Police responded to a fatal hit-and-run crash in Prince William County. The three-vehicle crash occurred in the westbound lanes of Interstate 66 at the 48 mile marker. The crash resulted in one of the vehicles overturning. The driver of the overturned vehicle was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment of minor injuries. The driver of the second vehicle involved in the crash died at the scene; a passenger was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. The third vehicle, a white SUV, fled the scene. 

Minutes later, a VDOT Safety Services Patrol spotted a white SUV with significant damage to the front end trying to take I-66 Exit 47. A trooper and Prince William County Police responded and initiated a traffic stop on the SUV. Its driver, Dustin Tran, 58, of Manassas, Va., was arrested and charged with DUI and one felony count of hit-and-run. He is being held at Prince William County Adult Detention Center. 

The Virginia State Police Crash Reconstruction Team is assisting with the ongoing crash investigation.

State police are still in the process of notifying next of kin.

Declining sales, lack of parking is what led longtime Occoquan jeweler Terry Quinn to close his shop

OCCOQUAN — Quinns Goldsmith has been making and selling jewelry at the corner of Mill and Union streets since 1990.

On Friday, he sent an email to his customers telling them his Occoquan store will soon close. All that will be left of Quinns is a 3,000-square-feet retail location in Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center in Woodbridge.

And that’s the way he wants it.

“It felt like I was running around between two stores for the past seven years, said Terry Quinn, owner of Quinns Goldsmith.

Quinn moved his jewelry-making shop out of the Occoquan store — where he once lived in the apartment above the shop — to the Stonebridge location when it opened in February 2011.

Consolidating the two shops will mean that everyone he works with will once again be under one roof, with more space. It was never his plan to open multiple locations and turn Quinn’s into a chain store, he said.

The jeweler said business at his Occoquan store began to slow down nearly 10 years ago, and that’s what led to him opening his second location. The decline in Occoquan has continued, but sales have steadily increased at his Woodbridge store.

Quinn blames the decline in his Occoquan shop, in part, on the parking situation in the small town just off Interstate 95.

“The town is 19 miles south of Washington, D.C., it’s quaint, it’s pretty, but they don’t have any parking restrictions,” he said.

That forces shoppers to compete with store owners for convenient parking spaces.

“If someone bought something big like a birdhouse at one of the craft stores, they don’t want to walk it three blocks to their car,” he said.

The town council this year commissioned a parking study to see what can be done to help the problem. One solution eyed was restriping parking spaces to fit more parking in the tiny town.

The study also found a parking structure would be too costly for the town, with an estimated price tag of $25,000 per parking space.

For Quinn, all of this comes too late. And, he says no one in town has asked him to stay.

“Good luck to Occoquan,” he said.

The Occoquan location will close Sunday, Nov. 11 to prepare merchandise for a closing sale. The doors will reopen on Friday, Nov. 17 for the start of the closing sale.

How the Sentara Diabetes Management Program helps patients understand and learn to live with their disease

November is American Diabetes Management month and with more than 30 million people living with diabetes in the U.S., it’s no wonder the American Diabetes Association estimates at least seven million of those people, don’t even realize they’re living the disease.

Health organizations and those working within the field say the disease has reached epidemic portions. It’s something the Sentara Diabetes Management Program team sees every day.

“The numbers are increasing, both type one and two are on the rise,” says Registered Nurse and Certified Diabetes Educator Robyn Johanson, “It is a chronic, lifelong illness that really requires the person to learn the skills to self-manage their diabetes. And with that, they need a lot of ongoing support and the necessary tools to do that successfully.”

Diabetes can be confusing

When you eat, your body turns food into sugars, or glucose. At that point, your pancreas is supposed to release insulin.  Insulin serves as a “key” to open your cells, to allow the glucose to enter — and allows you to use the glucose for energy. But with diabetes, this system does not work.

“Diabetes is a problem with your body using the sugar we need for energy, so someone with type one diabetes is unable to get that sugar out of their blood. People with type two, have a bit more difficulty doing so, because of a hormone called insulin. So type one needs to take insulin, because their body doesn’t make any. Whereas type two diabetes, they tend to have trouble using that insulin. So clinically, it’s a lifelong management of controlling medicine, physical activity, healthy eating and monitoring blood sugar, as well,” explains Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator Abbie Chesterson.

For more than 30 years, the team at the Sentara Diabetes Management Program has been helping patients understand and learn to live with their disease.

Our patients come to us through physician referrals. We are a group of nurses, dietitians and community health workers who follow a standard set of blood sugar targets for American Diabetes Educators,” explains Team Coordinator Genevieve Thompson.

Thompson, a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator, oversees the team made up of three full-time and three part-time employees. While the group gets referrals from area doctors, it’s up to the patients to show up and make the commitment to make some changes. But, admitting there’s a problem can be overwhelming for some just learning they have the disease.

People feel like they failed. Their pancreases failed, the person hasn’t failed,” says Johanson. “When you say that to somebody, they feel a lot better because they blame themselves.”

Within the Sentara Health System, Northern Virginia has the largest diabetes management program. Not only is this a densely populated region, it’s culturally diverse and those different cultures bring different diabetes management challenges. The team has gone out into the community and sees the type of food which is traditional for each culture.

“We individualize it. If someone comes in from a Middle Eastern country, we have a list of typical Middle Eastern foods that we can talk about, because maybe they’re not going to have hamburger buns and French fries. We try to make it as beneficial to the patient as can be,” explains Chesterson.

Some symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, excessive thirst, nerve sensation changes, blurry vision and slow healing. But, not everyone has those traditional warning signs, and that’s why community health members go out to the public.

The program, along with a grant from the Potomac Health Foundation has started doing pre-diabetes screenings over the last three years, more than a thousand people have been screened.

“Early care and detection is so important. The positive side, when you detect it early you can work at preventing the progression of type two diabetes,” explains Community Health Educator, Johanna Segovia, MPH.

Regardless of the type of diabetes, this group is committed to caring. The team wants to empower people so they can live their healthiest life while managing their disease.

“Patients shouldn’t be afraid to reach out and get help. If they’re struggling, we can get them back on track and offer support,” explains Thompson.

Adds Chesterson, “Education is really important if you don’t know what to do it’s going to be even harder, so learn what you can do. That’s why we’re here.”

“Having a chronic disease is very stressful and once you are you in control of it, a lot of that stress goes away because you’re managing it. It’s not managing you,” adds Johanson.

If you have any questions about managing your diabetes, finding a diabetes support group or learning more about the pre-diabetes program, call 703-523-0590 or email:

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