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Stafford

7 New Stafford Deputies Graduate

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On Thursday, Nov. 20, seven new deputies for the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office graduated from the Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy Law Enforcement Officer Basic Class #132.

These seven individuals were Deputy Jason P. Aubry, Deputy Brandon A. Boyle, Deputy Timothy S. Clayborn, Jr., Deputy Moises J. Martinez, Deputy Cody L. McCormick, Deputy Mikel J. Reyna and Deputy Catherine E. Whited.

These deputies joined 22 other law enforcement professionals who also graduated representing numerous law enforcement agencies through-out the region.

Deputy Cody McCormick was the recipient of the Top Skills Achievement Award and was also selected to be the Class Leader. Senior Deputy James Kingman, a Stafford County Deputy for eight years, also an instructor at the Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy, was selected by the recruits to be the featured speaker at the graduation ceremony.

Stafford 350th Anniversary Movie Premiers Dec. 1

Stafford will cap off a year of celebrating its 350th Anniversary with the world premiere of “Stafford, Virginia: Our American Story,” a film chronicling Stafford’s past, present and future. The film will be shown on Monday, December 1, 2014, at 6:00 p.m. at Mountain View High School, 2135 Mountain View Road, Stafford, VA 22556.

“When the Board of Supervisors started planning for the 350th Anniversary, we wanted to have the type of events that people would remember for years, as people remembered Stafford’s tricentennial in 1964,” said Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Jack Cavalier, Griffis-Widewater District. “With the help of the Blue Ribbon Committee, our partners, sponsors, volunteers and citizens, we have succeeded beyond what I could have imagined. This movie is the exclamation mark to our year and serves as a lasting legacy that documents where Stafford County has come from and where it is going.”

The movie documents early life with the Patawomecks in Stafford County through colonial times, the Civil War, desegregation and up to modern times with glimpses of the people who will shape our future. The premiere will be a true Hollywood-type event complete with a red carpet and light refreshments showcasing the skills of the Mountain View High School culinary program.

“This film is the most historically accurate and comprehensive film on Stafford’s history that has ever been produced,” said Harry Crisp, chairman of the 350th Anniversary Blue Ribbon Committee. “Nine local historians worked on this project and reached a consensus with their accumulated knowledge on every historic event depicted in the movie. It was truly a labor of love and will be a treasure for the community for years to come.”

The list of experts who worked on the project includes well-known local historians: Jane and Al Conner; Jerrilyn and Rick MacGregor; John Hennessy, Chief Historian and Director of Interpretation for the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park Frank White; Becky Guy and William Deyo, members of the Patawomeck tribe; and D.P. Newton, proprietor of the White Oak Civil War Museum.

Produced by Signature Communications, the movie was written and directed by Signature’s president John Allen. The Legacy and Education Subcommittee of the 350th Anniversary, under the guidance of Blue Ribbon Committee members David Kerr and Cessie Howell, oversaw the project. Sponsors of the movie are Dominion Virginia Power, Intuit and Walmart helped fund the movie.

The movie follows a packed year of events that celebrated Stafford’s 350th Anniversary. In January, citizens and visitors enjoyed a history presentation, musical entertainment and an ice skating rink at Celebrate Stafford 350. Thousands of people enjoyed the Founders Day parade and Stafford County Schools Fine Arts Festival that took place over a weekend in May. Musical and theater acts headlined the grand opening in June of Celebration Stage, Stafford’s beautiful new amphitheater. Stafford’s military heritage was honored in October at the annual Wings and Wheels event. Stafford’s African-American history was highlighted in November on the Trail to Freedom Tour and by the unveiling of the Rowser African-American History Wall.

Admission to the premier of “Stafford, Virginia: Our American Story” is free and no tickets are required. Following the premier, members of the public may receive free copies of the movie by visiting the Citizens Assistance Office at the George L. Gordon, Jr., Government Center, 1300 Courthouse Road, Stafford, VA 22554.

Stafford Renews $14K per Month Court Docs Contract

There is money to be made in the business of courthouse documents.

Stafford County renewed its contract with Logan Systems, Inc., where the county pays the company $14,000 per month for the outsourced electronic record conversion services for the county’s Circuit Court, where land records are kept for the public.

State law requires information such as social security numbers be redacted from all electronic land documents, electronic records of deed books, wills, and plats all be kept electronically, and all electronic images are indexed to be filed in the Virginia State Library, according to county documents.

The monthly rate has not increased since Stafford County entered into a contract with Logan Systems seven years ago.

The Stafford County Clerk of the Circuit Court operates on a $1.5 million annual budget, according to the county’s annual budget. The payment to Logan Systems is about 11% of the Clerk of the Circuit Court’s annual budget.

Stafford’s neighbor to the north, Prince William County, spends a total of $1 million of that county’s $3.8 million Clerk of the Circuit Court budget is allocated to records management. Spotsylvania County to the south operates its Clerk of the Circuit Court on a $904,000 budget.

Embrey Mill Swim Park Named After Stafford Olympian

Embrey Mill Recreation Center slated to be built by fall 2015

A new indoor aquatics facility will be named after Stafford native and two-time Olympic gold medalist Jeff Rouse.

Rouse competed in the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games and won gold in the 4×100 medley relay both years, and won gold in the men’s 100-meter backstroke during 1996 games.

The swim park at Embrey Mill will be a public facility maintained by the Stafford County Parks and Recreation Department. Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Cavalier proposed naming the center after Rouse.

“It’s kind of nice to name things after people in your community that has accomplished something, and he’s an inspiration to others in sports,” said Stafford Rockhill District Supervisor Cord Sterling.

George Washington District Supervisor Bob Thomas said naming buildings after people who are still alive is frowned upon, but the name is warranted in this case.

“[Rouse’s gold medal wins are] probably something that will never happen again for Stafford County,” said Thomas.

Cavalier said Rouse has offered to display some of his medals in the new center. There is also talk about erecting a wall of fame inside the swim facility to honor the accomplishments of other local athletes, said Cavalier.

Work on the $12 million facility is expected to be complete by fall 2015.

Stafford Experiencing 911 Phone Issues

3 p.m.

A Stafford County email alert stated 911 service is fully restored. We don’t yet know the cause of the problem that affected the system earlier today.

7:56 a.m.

Problems with phone service is preventing some Stafford County residents from calling 911.

The county’s sheriff’s office said Sunday morning people who live in the Berea and White Oak areas of Stafford are having “technical difficulties” reaching emergency services by phone.

Technicians are working on resolving the problem, a sheriff’s spokesman said.

Children’s Hospital in North Stafford Evacuated

Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, the North Stafford location, was evacuated this morning due to an odor inside the building.

Odor prompted evacuation of Children’s Hospital

 

Stafford County Fire and Rescue crews were dispatched to Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, the North Stafford location to investigate a strange odor at 10:30 this morning. 

The children’s hospital unit was evacuated, said Stafford fire and rescue Asst. Chief Mark Doyle. Several adults and at least one child waited outside while fire fighters checked for a cause of the reported odor. 

Children’s Hospital is located in the Aquia Park Shopping Center on Jefferson Davis Highway. It’s next door to Engineering for Kids. 

Fire fighters reported not smelling an odor and said no cause was evident. They wanted to enter the adjacent business to determine if there was a problem of some kind coming from that location, but Engineering for Kids was closed and no problems could be seen through the glass door. 

After discovering that a fire wall was between each unit of the building, even through the roof, it was determined that, if there was a problem, it likely would not be coming from another unit with the fire wall in place.Rescue crews left the scene about an hour after arriving.

Brooke Point Choking Investigation Complete

Stafford authorities say they have completed their investigation into a choking incident at Brooke Point High School.

A football player was choked and subsequently passed out inside a locker room Oct. 23. The following week, the school canceled its scheduled football match with North Stafford High School.

Here’s more in a statement from the Stafford Sheriff’s office:

The Stafford County Sheriff’s Office is reporting that on Wednesday, October 29, 2014,

the Sheriff’s Office was informed of an incident that occurred in the Brooke Point High School football team’s locker room on Thursday evening, October 23, 2014. The incident in the locker room involved the choking of one student by another.

Once informed of the incident the Sheriff’s Office initiated an investigation. That investigation has now been completed. The investigation concluded that while the student who initiated the chocking incident could, according to Virginia Code, be charged with misdemeanor assault, no charges will be filed against the minor teen at this time. In this incident the Sheriff’s Office worked closely with the family of the victim prior to determining if charges would be brought. The Stafford County School Division has dealt with the situation according to the school division’s Code of Conduct.

This investigation is now completed and no further comment will be provided.

Lafayette Football Player Shane Black, of Stafford, in ‘The Rivalry’

Shane Black, of Stafford,  is a member of the Lafayette football team participating in the 150th meeting of college football’s most-played rivalry at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 22. More than 49,000 tickets have been sold for the game, which will be televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.

Black is a graduate of Mercersburg Academy and a senior.

The two schools, which are located 15 miles apart in Pennsylvania, first met in “The Rivalry” in 1884, one year after standardized football rules were instituted in the United States. Lafayette leads the all-time series 77-67-5 and won the 2013 meeting 50-28 en route to a Patriot League title and an FCS playoff berth.

Much has changed since that initial meeting, including the invention of the football helmet by Lafayette’s George “The Rose” Barclay in 1894, and the forward pass, which Lehigh’s Head Coach Howard R. Reiter’s is credited with helping develop in the early 1900s.

The Rivalry has continued unabated since 1897 making it not only the most played rivalry but the longest continuously played rivalry series in college football. This year marks not only the 150th game, but the 118th consecutive year, and is just the second time it will be played at a neutral site.

Stafford Teen Trains with Chuck Norris

Byrne (center) met with Chuck Norris at his karate championship in Vegas.

Byrne (center) met with Aaron Norris (right) and Chuck Norris at his karate championship in Las Vegas.

Teen competed for Chuck Norris Cup

 

Byrne's kick form earned her praise during the competition from Norris.

Byrne’s kick form earned her praise during the competition from Norris.

Vanessa Byrne has had a unique opportunity to combine her passion for karate and a brush with fame.

The senior at North Stafford High School met and trained with Chuck Norris in Chun Kuk Do. Byrne began her training in Chun Kuk Do when she was just seven years old at Champion Martial Arts in Stafford, which is owned by Norris.

“I started training in Chun Kuk Do, when I was seven years old, because I didn’t like dance or swimming, or anything my mom put me in,” Byrne said.

She did well, earning her first black belt in 5th grade, and her second in 6th grade. All of this training paid off for Byrne, when she began attending Norris’ karate championship in Las Vegas each year.

“He does a world championship karate tournament and conference every year in July. And we attended one back in 2009, that’s when she first had her picture taken with him and trained with him a little bit and got to know him, and we’ve been going ever since,” said Bill Byrne, Vanessa’s father.

Byrne receiving an award at Norris' competition.

Byrne receiving an award at Norris’ competition.

Byrne did well in this year’s competition, where she actually got to train with Norris himself. “I got into the championship – I got into Grands – and I got to compete for the Norris cup,” said Byrne.

“It was a great honor, especially now that I have become friends with his daughter. He lives up to the expectations of what you see on TV – he’s actually as nice as he seems. He’s very personable,” Byrne said of her experience meeting Norris.

While Byrne had intended for Chun Kuk Do to be a hobby, she plans to incorporate it into her life for many years to come, with hopes of becoming an instructor.

“Especially after the competition this year, because I did very well…I plan on continuing it more than ever. I was planning on taking a break during college, but now I’m picking my college around places that teach Chun Kuk Do,” said Byrne, who is planning to attend West Virginia University.

Increase in Fraud Cases Worries Bohmke

Many Stafford residents fraud victims 

 

Stafford County Falmouth District Supervisor Meg Bohmke and Stafford School Board Member Scott Hirons called a Town Meeting to discuss issues facing the area – namely the large uptick in the number of fraud and scam cases being committed.

Twenty residents, Stafford County Schools Superintendent Dr. Bruce Benson, County staff and staff from the Sheriff’s Department gathered at Falmouth Elementary to speak about the increase.

“The other reason that I wanted to have a meeting was that I am the Chairman of the Public Safety Committee, and our fraud and financial crime in Stafford County has really gone up. And it’s not just hitting older people – its hitting everybody across the board,” Bohmke said, continuing, “The first question I asked was, ‘How many of you have been the target of what you believe may be fraud crime?’ and everybody in the room raised their hand.”

These frauds, which typically take place over email or by phone, have included individuals posing as Microsoft, the IRS and even family members in need.

“[The criminals] are becoming much smarter, and much craftier in what they’re doing. It’s very difficult, according to Sheriff Jett, to pinpoint these people because a lot of them are out of the country,” Bohmke commented.

Both the Sheriff’s Department and Bohmke urged citizens to be careful with their financial information.

“You just have to be very careful and whenever anybody is asking you for information about your debit card, or your pin, or any of your personal information, you cannot give that out,” Bohmke said.

The Stafford Sheriff’s Department currently has a webpage on their site that lists all of the known scams taking place in the area, and they are urging citizens to report incidences of potential fraud.

“The reality with scams is if it seems too good to be true – it’s not true. If there’s any concerns, we tell people to contact us. A deputy will respond and take a report, and we will investigate,” said Bill Kennedy, the Information Officer for the Stafford County Sheriff’s Department.

 

Santa Train Tickets on Sale November 24

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Tickets for the annual Operation Lifesaver Santa Train will go on sale, starting November 24.

More information from a VRE press release:

Tickets for our Operation Lifesaver Santa Trains will go on-sale November 24th 2014 at 9:00am, online and at our Fredericksburg, Manassas, Woodbridge, and Burke Centre stations.

Burke Centre tickets will be sold at Supervisor John Cook’s Office located at 9002 Burke Lake Road, Burke VA.

Woodbridge tickets will be sold at the Coffee Club Cafe at Woodbridge VRE Station, 1040 Express Way, Woodbridge VA.

Fredericksburg tickets will be sold at Fredericksburg Visitors Center 706 Caroline Street, Fredericksburg VA.

Manassas tickets will be sold at Manassas Visitors Center 9431 West Street (Manassas VRE Depot), Manassas VA.

Please keep in mind Ticket sales are limited to 6 per person for most trains. Tickets for groups of more than 6 may be purchased only for designated trains. For online purchases, any person attempting to purchase more than 6 tickets for trains with designated limits will have their ENTIRE ORDER REFUNDED, thus not receiving any tickets. NO EXCEPTIONS.

If you would like to purchase tickets on-line please use the this web address: http://www.vrespecialevents.org/Seasonal_Santa_Trains/availability.html

Bella Cafe Opens Earlier, Greets Morning Commuters

Bella Cafe in North Stafford, Virginia.

Bella Cafe competing with new chain store rival Peet’s Coffee & Tea

 

Peets Coffee in North Stafford, Virginia.

Peets Coffee in North Stafford, Virginia.

There’s coffee competition in Stafford’s Boswell’s Corner. It’s one of the last places in the world you would think there would be competition between coffee shops.

On the north side of Route 1 is locally-owned coffee shop and eatery Bella Cafe, and regional chain Peet’s Coffee  and Tea are now fighting for their share of customers looking for coffee and breakfast items during their morning commute.

“This little coffee shop came up, over next door to us, and I didn’t think they were going to do anything, but they’ve really taken a chunk [of business] from us,” said Bella Café owner Will Wobbe.

Previously the café was only open for lunch and dinner, but Wobbe was not solely motivated to open for breakfast because of the competition.

“We’re not doing this just because [Peets] opened up next door – that’s just something that happened. I’ve always wanted to open early, but I’ve never really been in the right situation,” Wobbe said.

The new hours for the café are 5:30AM to 10:00PM, which began in the first week of November. For the morning service at the café, Wobbe wanted to stay local, offering coffee from a Virginia company, along with grab-and-go breakfast items, including sandwiches and muffins.

“They can’t be as good as us – our food is really good,” Wobbe said.

With the growing Quantico Corporate Center nearby, this section of Route 1 is quickly developing as a business destination. Bella has an advantage of being on the northbound side of Route 1 — morning commuters on their way to Prince William can more easily stop at Bella because its on the right (northbound) side of the road. For customers stopping at Peets, there is a difficult left turn back onto Route 1 for those heading north.

Bella Café has faced struggles in past years, with the closure of its old location last year, before Wobbe reopened the café across the street from the old site, and this expansion of morning hours could bring further business that were limited with their lunch and dinner hours.

The cafe is popular with musicians and live performers. It is one of few places in Stafford that has live music regularly, is locally owned, and teen friendly.

Bella has seen its fair share of locations, from first being located in Aquia Town Center, to its new place in Boswell’s Corner (Route 1 near Quantico Corporate Center / Prince William – Stafford County line), to its new spot just across the Route 1 from its old one.

“I was getting ready to leave after the situation where they wanted to put a car shop [on the site], and the community really rallied and said, ‘Please don’t go, our kids love Bella, you’ve done so much for the community,’” said Wobbe.

No one from the Peets Coffee location across the street was available for comment for this story.

Stafford Airport Runway Extension Means More Planes

The Stafford Regional Airport wants to extend its runway at an estimated cost of $8 to $12 million.

The project would bring more air traffic to the airport from the north, and opponents worry it would bring more airplane noise to surrounding neighborhoods.

Facilities manager Ed Wallis said that with the growth and use of the airport in its current operations, the extension has already been a part of their master planning process.

“Currently the airport runway traffic pattern is all to the south. A normal airport has traffic on both sides of the runway…there’d be very few aircraft on that side of the runway…we wouldn’t come near the areas [Sterling is] worried about,” Wallis said.

A longer runway would also mean aircraft taking off from the airport could carry more fuel and reach destinations further away, such as the U.S. west coast.

“Right now, on a hot and humid day, one of the largest aircraft that use [the airport] could not take a full load of fuel or a full load of passengers and go to the West Coast, because the runway’s too short. By lengthening the runway, it gives planes the stopping distance they need, should there be an emergency right at takeoff.”

“We are not increasing the capability of the runway, size wise. What we’re doing is increasing the capability of the aircrafts that currently use us, to use the maximum capacity of fuel and passengers,” said Wallis.

Before any work to the runway can begin, an ongoing environmental assessment needs to be completed. Public hearings will be held in spring to discuss the findings in the assessment with the community. 

The project to extend the runway, which could top out at $12 million, would see 90% of funding from the FAA, 8% of the Virginia State Dept of Aviation, and the remaining 2% from the Stafford Regional Airport Authority, said Wallis.

This extension would mirror similar work completed at the Manassas Regional Airport in 2012. An additional 500 feet was added to their runway.

Juan Rivera, the director of the Manassas airport, understood the need for a runway extension to ensure that planes could take on a full load of passengers and fuel, that Wallis cited as a major reason for Stafford’s intended extension.

“It’s been good for [the airport]… We have not had any major issues as far as noise and safety,” Rivera said.

This comparison between the two airports could become important as some individuals are not in support of the potential runway extension. For Cord Sterling, Stafford County Rock Hill District Supervisor, there are safety and financial concerns related to the airport’s plans that need to be addressed.

“You’ve got to look at what they’re planning. They’re not only expanding it – they’re adding that Northern route. The route takes [planes] over Stafford High School and over neighborhoods,” Sterling said.

Sterling also said the plans for the runway extension contradict earlier comments made by the Stafford Airport Authority about safe use in the neighborhoods surrounding the airport.

“The Stafford Airport Authority has come out saying that the things like schools and neighborhoods are not compatible for those flight paths, that it’s a danger to people on the ground. It’s a danger to the quality of life,” said Sterling.

Sterling also pointed to the Airport’s financial dependence on subsidies from the Stafford County budget as further concern for the extension.

“I think they should just continue to operate how they’re operating. What’s the need for the expansion? [The airport hasn’t] been able to show us they can the deliver,” Sterling said, citing County money loaned for a terminal, the removal of an airplane pass and addition of fuel station at the airport.

Wallis insisted that there were no major safety concerns and that the addition of north side air traffic as they have currently planned, will not be a noise issue. Stafford County officials showed the latest plans for the runway expansion at a recent public meeting.

Rules Changing for Drivers on I-95 HOV Lanes

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The rules of the road are changing for those who use HOV lanes on Intestate 95.

When the newly built 95 Express toll lanes open in December, a 29-mile stretch of the road from Route 610 in North Stafford to Edsall Road in Alexnadria, to include a large portion of the existing HOV lanes, will be tolled 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Nearly everyone will need an EZ-Pass to use the lanes — even drivers of hybrid cars. Under the old rules, vehicles with three or more occupants, hybrid cars with a clean fuel designation printed on them, and motorcycles could use the lanes at all times. Under the new rules, motorcyclists can ride free but all other vehicles need an EZ Pass or EZ-Pass Flex.

Here’s more from the Virginia Department of Transportation:

Carpoolers: 

  • Carpools need an E-ZPass Flex
  • Carpools with three or more people can travel toll-free on the Express Lanes with an E-ZPass Flex set to HOV mode.   
  • E-ZPass Flex works like a standard E-ZPass but allows carpoolers to switch between HOV and toll-paying modes. The switchable E-ZPass Flex lets the Express Lanes operator know which vehicles are HOV-3+ so that they aren’t charged a toll.  

Drivers of Hybrid Vehicles with Clean Fuel Plates: 

 

When the 95 Express Lanes open, hybrid vehicles with clean fuel plates issued before July 1, 2006 must pay a toll or have three people in the car to use the Lanes.  The rules affecting hybrids are as follows:

  • Hybrid drivers can ride toll-free on the 95 Express Lanes with three people in the vehicle and an E-ZPass Flex set to HOV mode; or,
  • They can pay the toll with an E-ZPass if traveling with fewer than three people in the vehicle.
  • The 95 Express Lanes will end just north of Edsall Road. From Edsall Road to Washington, D.C., the HOV lanes will exist with the same rules that are in effect today. Hybrid vehicles with clean fuel plates issued before July 1, 2006 will continue to be allowed to use the HOV lanes without three people in the vehicle on the I-395 HOV lanes. For more information about the transition area just north of Edsall Road on I-395, please visit: 95ExpressLanes.com/transition

Drivers of Trucks, Commercial/18-Wheel Vehicles:  

  • Vehicles with more than two axles – including 18-wheel trucks – will not be permitted to access the 95 Express Lanes.
  • Small and mid-sized trucks with two axles may use the Express Lanes as toll paying customers or they may travel toll-free if they have an E-ZPass Flexset to HOV mode and three or more people in the vehicle.

Law Enforcement Officials: 

  • Local, state or federal law enforcement officials will not be exempt from toll and HOV requirements on the 95 Express Lanes unless in the direct pursuit of their duties, which does not include commuting to and from the workplace.
  • Law enforcement officials can contact the Express Lanes pre or post travel for trips they believe qualify as exempt.  Please contact customercare@expresslanes.com for more information.

Motorcycles: 

  • Motorcycles do not need an E-ZPass.

Unlike the existing HOV lanes, the rules of the road for the new 95 Express Lanes will be in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including weekends.  Vehicles may not tow trailers on the 95 Express Lanes. HOV-3+ vehicles with an E-ZPass Flex set to HOV mode, motorcycles and transit will have toll-free access to the Express Lanes at all times; drivers with fewer than three occupants can choose to pay a toll with E-ZPass to use the lanes on occasions when they need to get somewhere on time.

Get an E-ZPass:

Drivers can get an E-ZPass or E-ZPass Flex at more than 75 convenient Northern Virginia retail locations including Wegmans, select Giant Food Stores, or at one of the E-ZPass Customer Service Centers, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles; online or by calling Virginia E-ZPass at (877) 762-7824.  Visit www.ezpassva.com or call the Customer Service Center for more information – (877) 762-7824.

The 95 Express Lanes are being delivered through a public-private partnership between VDOT and Transurban with Fluor-Lane 95, LLC constructing the Express Lanes.  For more information on how I-95 drivers can use the 95 Express Lanes please visit  www.95ExpressLanes.com.  For up-to-date construction information please visit  www.vamegaprojects.com.

 

NOVEC Operation Turkey Underway

080512-NOVEC

Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative’s group of employee volunteers, NOVEC HELPS, is asking area residents to donate non-perishable food to the Operation Turkey drive to help provide Thanksgiving meals for low-income people in Prince William County.

NOVEC HELPS will accept non-perishable food donations through Nov. 13 at three offices. SERVE, a campus of Northern Virginia Family Service, and ACTS, Action in Community Through Service, will distribute the food to people who need assistance.

Anyone requiring a receipt must drop donated items at the SERVE or ACTS locations. Donna Snellings, NOVEC HELPS executive director, says, “One of NOVEC‘s guiding principles is to serve the community with more than electricity. Helping to feed the needy through Operation Turkey is one way NOVEC and its members serve others every November.”

Suggested Food Items Breads and muffin mixes, Bisquick, instant mashed potatoes, pasta, rice, boxed desserts, sugar, flour, evaporated milk, pie crusts, and canned meats, vegetables, cranberry sauce, fruits, pie filling, and gravy. Drop-off Locations

NOVEC Offices, 10323 Lomond Drive near Manassas

Wellington Branch Road in Gainesville

14500 Minnieville Road  in Woodbridge, hours: 8:15 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday

SERVE, Inc. 10056 Dean Drive in Manassas 

ACTS 3900 Acts Lane in Dumfries

in VA 22026 NOVEC HELPS, Hands Engaged in Local Public Service, is a 501 (c) (3) organization. For more information, visit www.novechelps.org. NOVEC is a not-for-profit corporation that supplies and distributes electricity and provides energy-related services to more than 155,000 customers in Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun, Prince William, Stafford and Clarke counties, the City of Manassas Park, and the Town of Clifton, Va. It is one of the largest electric cooperatives of its kind in the nation. For more information, visit www.novec.com, call 703-335-0500, toll-free 1-888-335-0500, or send mail to P.O. Box 2710, Manassas, Va. 20108.

Stafford “Eyesore” Ripe for Commercial Development

A dilapidated house in North Stafford will soon be demolished to make the way for commercial development. [Potomac Local]

Two vacant residential properties in North Stafford have recently gained attention as eyesores in the community.

With broken windows, graffiti and overgrowth, these homes may soon make way for further commercial development in the area.

The properties, located on US-1 across from Coachman Circle, near the Garrisonville Road / Interstate 95 exit, are surrounded by other commercial buildings. The just over an acre plot of land is being sold as a commercial property, despite currently being zoned as residential land. The current asking price is $1.2 million, according to Mo Wilson, a realtor listing the property for sale.

Windows are shattered, holes busted in drywall, empty beer boxes on the floor, with overgrown brush in the front and back yards. It appears squatters have been staying in the house while it has sat vacant despite a cable that has been haphazardly strung across the front yard to try to keep people out.

The run-down house has also drawn its fair share of complaints.

“My plans are to demo it. I’ve already got the permit, I just need to go and pick it up. And, as soon as I can make arrangements, it’s coming down,” said Ron Edwards, who owns the land.

Stafford County officials have fielded complaints about properties along US-1.

“Our process is that we will visit the property to determine if they are unsafe – we use the County Code, Chapter 6, Section 1, to make these determinations. We then send a Letter of Correction to the owner and ask them to correct the unsafe issues,” said Stafford County spokeswoman Cathy Vollbrecht. “The length of time in which they are able to do that depends on the severity of the property’s condition. If the issues are not corrected, we then send a Notice of Violation. We work with the owner to help them understand the safety issues and provide information on the options provided in the Code to fix those issues, which include putting a fence around the property, boarding it up or tearing it down.”

While there is no clear buyer for the property, Edwards is confident that it will be an asset as a commercial site. “I’m the least expensive property between 610 / Garrisonville Road and the Quantico exit… It could be a hotel, it could be a restaurant – who knows?” Edwards said.

Before anything is built there, the property needs to be re-zoned by the Stafford County Board of Supervisors. That process could take up to a year.

Stafford Aquia District Supervisor Paul Milde is hopeful that the land will be rezoned and lead to further commercial development in the district.

“If it’s not zoned [for commercial], it will be. It is a prime candidate for rezoning. It is literally surrounded on all sides by commercial zoning, and it’s in our COMP Plan for commercial,” Milde said, referring to the County’s plan for future development.

Several new businesses have cropped up in this area of US-1 in recent years, including a brewery, new hotels and a car dealership.

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Wittman, Connolly Easily Keep District Seats; Comstock Wins the 10th

Congressman Rob Wittman, Magisterial District Committee Chair Jim Riutta, and members of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors Bob Thomas and Paul Milde III check election night results on a tablet at the Globe and Laurel restaurant. [Photos by: KJ Mushung]

Republicans maintain control of two big Virginia House Districts

 

Rob Wittman will return to Washington for his fourth consecutive term.

The congressman represents Virginia’s 1st District to include Prince William and Stafford counties, as well as counties in the eastern portion of Virginia stretching to Williamsburg.

Wittman handily defeated his opponent Norm Mosher, a Democrat, who was a first-time political candidate this season.

“The top three issues when I return to Washington are military readiness… the second is to get our economy cranking and then there’s many other opportunities to do other things, to get our budget under control and government out of the way, to make sure we’re doing things to reach across the aisle to get things done,” said Wittman.

Rob Wittman gives his acceptance speech. [Photos by: KJ Mushung]

Rob Wittman gives his acceptance speech. [Photos by: KJ Mushung]

Wittman beat Mosher handily across the state with 63% of the vote. The vote tally resulted in a 28 point spread between the two candidates.

Riding a Republican wave into office, Wittman said he looked forward to working in a GOP-controlled congress.

“By having a republican senate and a republican house you’ll have bills come through on both sides of the aisle and people willing to work together to get things done. It’s going to be telling when we look at what the president is going to do,” said Wittman. “He is going to come and meet with us and try to make things happen?”

Wittman and his supporters gathered Tuesday night at the Globe and Laurel restaurant just outside Quantico.

Voters in Virginia’s 10th District to include western Prince William, Manassas, and Manassas Park sent also sent a Republican back to Washington. Barbara Comstock, a Virginia State Delegate, will replace retiring Rep. Frank Wolf, who has held that office since 1980. With 57% of the vote, Comstock beat challenger Democrat John Foust, a member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

A party gathers at the Globe and Laurel Restaurant for Congressman Rob Wittman. [Photos by: KJ Mushung]

A party gathers at the Globe and Laurel Restaurant for Congressman Rob Wittman. [Photos by: KJ Mushung]

The former Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Fairfax, Prince William, easily won the congressional district. He first won the seat in 2008, and the district includes most of eastern Prince William County. Connolly won the day with 57% of the vote, 17 more points than his opponent.

The much-watched race of the night was for Virginia’s Senate seat, which remains too close to call despite Warner claiming victory in the race with a slim 49% to 48% lead over Republican Ed Gillespie.

Heads Up: 95 Express Lanes Signs Unveiled

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Drivers on Interstate 95 north are slowing in the mornings and are looking up to see what’s ahead.

New purple signs directing drivers to the newly built 95 Express Lanes are unveiled. With black tarps removed from the overhead signs, drivers can now see they will need to queue up in the left lane to enter the lanes, and they’re warned that an EZ Pass is required to use them.

The 29-mile stretch of express lanes will run from Route 610 in Stafford to Edsall Road in Alexandria. New lanes have been built from Route 610 to Dumfries, and HOV lanes form Dumfries to Edsall Road will now be express lanes.

When the lanes open in December, single drivers will be able to EZ Pass or EZ Pass Flex pay a toll to use the lanes while carpoolers with three or more occupants must have an EZ Pass Flex to use the lanes.

“We want drivers to be aware that they will start to see new signage but to remember that it is business as usual – and HOV rules still apply – until the Express Lanes open,” said Susan Shaw, PE, Director of VDOT’s Northern Virginia Megaprojects.  “We need to unveil some Express Lanes signs in advance of opening given the volume of new signage for the Express Lanes and to help drivers become familiar with the new rules of the road as well as remind them to take the necessary steps to prepare for the changes by getting an E-ZPass.”

Here’s more information about what the signs say:

·                     Regulatory Signs:  These signs reinforce key Express Lanes information, such as:

–         All drivers need an E-ZPass or E-ZPass® FlexSM to use the Express Lanes – there are no toll booths or options to pay cash

–         Carpoolers travel toll-free on the 95 Express Lanes with three or more people in the vehicle and an E-ZPass Flex set to HOV mode

–         Buses and two axle vehicles may use the lanes.  Vehicles with three or more axles may not use the lanes at any time

 

·                      Entry/Exit Signs:  These signs guide drivers on and off the Express Lanes:

–         Entry signs have a purple banner with an E-ZPass logo and “EXPRESS ONLY”

–         Exit signs have white letters on a green background

 

·         Pricing Signs:  The 95 Express Lanes will use dynamic tolls to provide drivers with a predictable trip:

–         Drivers will see overhead pricing signs before all entrances to the Express Lanes or anytime they have a choice to use the Express Lanes or take the regular lanes

–         The displayed prices change to reflect the current toll prices.  Drivers lock in their rate when they pass under a pricing sign

 

·         Express Lanes End/HOV Lanes Begin Signs:  Drivers will see special regulatory signs at the Express Lanes/HOV lanes transition point near Edsall Road:

–         When traveling northbound, the Express Lanes end and the HOV lanes begin on I-395 north near Edsall Road:

·         To continue onto the I-395 HOV lanes, drivers must comply with HOV rules

·         Drivers that do not have three people in their car or an applicable clean fuel plate vehicle when the occupancy restriction is in effect on the I-395 HOV lanes should follow signs to exit onto the I-395 northbound regular lanes

–         When traveling southbound, the I-395 HOV lanes end and the Express Lanes begin on I-395 near Edsall Road:

·         Drivers traveling in the HOV lanes should not enter the Express Lanes without an E-ZPass

A total of 300 signs will need to be uncovered prior to the opening of the lanes. EZ Passes are being sold at various retail locations in our area as well as online.

 

Election Day Voting Underway in Area

Minor issues at Prince William polls, Manassas sees higher than expected turnout

 

manassas voteIt is midterm Election Day today across the country and here locally voting is off to a swift start.

People were lined up at many polling places throughout the area. The polls opened this morning at six o’clock and many people on their way to work stopped at polls to cast their votes.

There are several key races, including who will hold one of the two Virginia U.S. Senate seats for the next six years – incumbent Democrat Mark Warner or Republican Ed Gillespie. In the House of Representatives, Republican Barbra Comstock faces Democrat John Foust for control of Virginia’s 10th District to include western Prince William and Manassas. The seat opened when Republican Frank Wolf announced his retirement.

Voters in Virginia’s 1st District in Prince William and Stafford counties will also decide to vote for incumbent Republican Rob Wittman or Democrat challenger Norm Mosher.

There are more than 250,000 registered voters on the rolls for this election in Prince William County. Electronic voting machines are used at all of the county’s 92 precincts, and there were some polling machine calibration problems earlier this morning that have now been resolved, said General Registrar Roky Suleman.

The problems were confined to the county’s Buckland Mills precinct and did not prevent anyone from voting. Suleman did not have information to indicate voter turnout is larger than normal.

In Manassas, however, it is. More voters than were expected have turned out to vote at the city’s five precincts.

“Things are going great, and the turnout numbers were maybe a little higher than expected,” said Sarah Cioffi, the city’s deputy voter registrar.

Manassas and Manassas Park residents will also vote for open seats on each of the respective City Councils.

All voters in Virginia must now have a valid photo ID to be able to vote this year. Cioffi said a voter who was unable to obtain a drivers license prior to today’s election went to the Manassas Voter Registration Office where they were able to obtain a temporary photo voter ID card and was able to use it to vote today.

Cioffi urged anyone without proper photo ID to come to the city’s elections office at 9025 Center Street in Manassas to obtain a temporary ID. A hardcopy ID will be mailed to voters later, said Cioffi.

Stafford County General Registrar Greg Riddlemoser described voting turnout as steady in the county’s 27 polling stations. The county will tabulate just how many voters turned out to vote after the polls close at 7 p.m.

Hampton Inn Stafford/Quantico Conference Center Upgrades Complete

Hampton Inn Stafford/Quantico Conference Center owners and elected officials gather to celebrate the newly renovated hotel.

Hampton Inn renovations include new suites, conference space, saltwater pool

 

The newly renovated Hampton Inn Stafford/Quantico Conference Center hotel is open in North Stafford.

New additions to the hotel allowed for larger suites, a dining hotel area, conference space, and a saltwater pool. Known as the Hampton Stafford / Quantico and Conference Center, the 17-year-old hotel sits in what has become an increasing crowded market of hotels nearby catering to business travelers.

“Over the years, the quality of our hotels has been going up and you have been a leader in Stafford in building a quality product which matters when you live here. There was a time when you couldn’t find a decent hotel in Stafford,” said Stafford County Aquia District Supervisor Paul Milde.

Four new hotels have opened along the Route 1 corridor in North Stafford in just the past two years. Milde says hotels last year generated $1.2 million in tax revenue for the county.

The Hampton hotel is valued at $7 million, according to tax records, and is unlike any other in the chain. The 2,600 square foot conference space and meetings rooms inside the hotel will provide much-needed meeting space for the county.

Milde said his county government had few options when it came to meeting outside the county government center to conduct business. He will petition Stafford County Administrator Anthony Romanello to hold some business meetings at the newly renovated Hampton, he said.

The renovation will also allow hotel owner Dhiren C. Patel to carry the Hampton branding on his hotel for another 17 years. He involved his family in the remodel and put his wife in charge of the overall aesthetics over the interior makeover.

“I want to thank the staff that has been working and kept the lights on during construction over the last 16 months, even during construction we kept our occupancies very high and this allowed us to pay our bills,” said Patel.

The Hampton is located at 2925 Jefferson Davis Highway near the intersection of Garrisonville Road, at the interchange for Interstate 95 in North Stafford. For more information, call 540-657-0999.

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Stafford Mural Depicts Blacks’ Struggles, Triumph

A mural showing the history of African Americans in Stafford County was unveiled at the Rowser Building.

Mural hangs at Rowser Building

 

A mural depicting the 350-year history of African Americans in Stafford County was unveiled Saturday.

The event held at the Rowser Building was the last in a series of day-long events commemorating the Trail to Freedom. Many slaves pass through Stafford County seeking freedom in the northern U.S. before and during the Civil War.

Delegate Micheal Futrell views a new mural showing the history of African Americans in Stafford County.

Delegate Micheal Futrell views a new mural showing the history of African Americans in Stafford County.

Creators of the 40-foot mural wanted to showcase the struggles and triumphs of black citizens in Stafford County. The mural hangs inside the Rowser Building at 1739 Jefferson Davis Highway in Stafford which traces its roots back to 1939, when the land for the building was purchased by African Americans who would later build the Stafford Training School for the Colored.

“I would be hard pressed to find a time in my life where I am more proud, more touched, and more energized than I am today,” said Mike Lovitt, who hosted Saturday’s unveiling event and served on the Blue Ribbon Committee for Stafford’s 350th anniversary celebrated this year. “Who would have every dreamed that African Americans would have purchased this land some 75 years ago to build a school for young black youth to see it renamed [H.H. Poole School] for our first African American school principal [in Stafford County] and then later the Rowser Building.”

The National Anthem is sung at a ceremony to unveil a new mural dedicated to African Amercians in Stafford County.

The National Anthem is sung at a ceremony to unveil a new mural dedicated to African Amercians in Stafford County.

The Stafford County NAACP as well as local churches also participated in the event that began with the singing of the National Anthem. Then the first verse of the Black National Anthem, followed by performances by young dancers and a clarinet player.

Throughout the day, buses were used to shuttle event goers to multiple Trail to Freedom events on Saturday. Attendees were able to see six historically black churches in Stafford County each more than 100 years old, as well as the area that is now Aquia Landing Park where many slaves crossed the Potomac River on their route to freedom.

Dancers perform at the unveiling ceremony.

Dancers perform at the unveiling ceremony.

“It’s been an exciting day to celebrate the passage of 10,000 slaves through Aquia Landing, the building of an African American Community through its churches, and now the dedication of a mural,” said Harry Crisp, a former Stafford County Supervisor and Blue Ribbon Committee member.

Stafford County has celebrated its 350th birthday all year long starting with a block party with ice skating at Stafford Marketplace in January. It has also included other events such as a Founders Day Parade in May and the dedication of the outdoor Celebration Stage at Pratt Park in June.

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