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It’s Going to Cost More to Use Stafford County Parks

STAFFORD, Va. — Get ready to pay more to use a Stafford County park.

The county’s Board of Supervisors voted to raise park fees for the first time since 2009. The higher fees are expected to net $160,000 in new revenue for the county.

Fees collected at soon-to-be built Chichester and Embrey Mill parks are also expected to net $50,000 in additional revenue for the county.

Fees are being hiked on everything ranging from field rentals to the cost of summer camp. It will also cost more to rent facilities at the county’s Rowser Building on U.S 1, which includes a community kitchen.

A full list of the old, as well as newly approved fees are posted on the county’s website.

Here’s a brief explanation of why the fees went up, which was also published on the site:

In order to maintain on-going and consistent efforts at cost recovery, staff believes that it is time to revisit the County’s fee structure to align more closely with the costs required to maintain the County’s Park assets in good working order. The goal is to maintain the value of the assets, to keep parks and facilities in safe and reliable operating condition, and to support current citizen usage.

The higher fees go into effect July 1.

The increased fees come as the Board of Supervisors also raised property taxes an average of $74 per home owner. While real estate assessments in the county are up and are the driving force of increased taxes, officials lowered the property tax rate to $1.019 from $1.07 per $100 of assessed value.

News
Storms Rattle Stafford; More Expected Later in Week

Storms slammed into North Stafford area Tuesday night lighting up the skies and bringing drenching rains.

At 9:09 p.m., a severe thunderstorm warning was issued for the eastern portion of Stafford County. However, dark skies formed over the area about an hour and a half prior to the first warning.

Natasha Basalyga, a PotomacLocal.com reader from Winchester, Va., sent these photos of the storms into our news desk.

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This may be our first go-round with summer-like weather this week. More storms are in the forecast as showers are likely on Thursday, and then thunderstorms are likely Thurday night into Friday morning — and those could be heavy.

Here’s more from the National Weather Service:

THE COLD FRONT WILL APPROACH THE AREA THURSDAY AFTERNOON…SLOWING CONSIDERABLY OVER THE APPALACHIAN MTNS. A STRONG LOW LEVEL JET AHEAD OF THE FRONT WILL EFFECTIVELY USHER MOISTURE INTO THE MID ATLANTIC THROUGH THE DAY THURSDAY. WITH PW VALUES BETWEEN ONE AND A HALF AND TWO INCHES OVER THE AREA FROM THURSDAY EVENING THROUGH FRIDAY MORNING AND MODERATE INSTABILITY AHEAD OF THE FRONT…PERSISTENT MODERATE TO HEAVY RAINS COULD LEAD TO FLOODING CONCERNS.

A WAVE OF LOW PRESSURE WILL FORM ALONG THE STALLED FRONT EARLY FRIDAY MORNING AND RIDE UP ALONG THE EAST COAST THROUGH THE DAY ON FRIDAY. THOUGH THERE IS MINOR MODEL DISAGREEMENT ABOUT THE EXACT LOCATION OF THIS FRONT…THE EFFECTS OF THE WAVE ARE GENERALLY AGREED UPON. THE HEAVIEST RAIN SHOULD FALL AS THE WAVE PASSES LATE THURSDAY NIGHT AND FRIDAY MORNING. THUNDERSTORM COVERAGE WILL DEPEND UPON THE EXACT TRACK OF THE LOW. THE UPPER LEVEL TROF WILL BECOME MORE NEGATIVELY TILTED BY THIS TIME AND THE PASSAGE OF THE WAVE WILL USHER THE FRONT OFF OF THE COAST THROUGH THE DAY ON FRIDAY…WITH CHANCE POPS HANGING AROUND INTO THE EVENING MOSTLY ALONG AND EAST OF I95.

 

News
Reports of Dangerous Distracted Driving Up in Critical I-95 Work Zones

Interstate 95 at the National Museum of the Marine Corps [VDOT]

DALE CITY, Va. — Summer driving season is heating up, and officials fear the number of crashes caused by distracted driving could rise.

Again this year, officials gathered at a rest stop on Interstate 95 in Dale City, at the heart of the 95 Express Lanes construction project where HOV lanes are being converted into toll lanes, to warn drivers about the dangers of texting while driving.

The advice comes just days after Mary Jane Tracey, 72, of South Carolina, was killed after driving her minivan on the Capital Beltway and suddenly stopping to avoid entering the 495 Express (toll) Lanes.

“Most of the people that die in work zones are the people driving the cars, so it’s the right thing to look out for workers, but even if you’re not good at doing that you should look out for yourself,” said Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Lane.

A new report released by AAA Mid-Atlantic and Transurban, the corporation building the 95 Express Lanes, notes there is too much distracting driving the heavy-construction corridor from North Stafford to Edsall Road in Alexandria. The amount of distracted drivers in the corridor has increased from 56% in 2013 to 62% this year, according to a survey of 1,023 drivers who frequent the I-95 corridor.

Officials urge drivers to:

— Slow down when traveling through the corridor as there are constricted shoulders and frequent lane closures

— Avoid cell phone distractions, as well as traditional distractions – such as driving while drowsy or eating in the car – to decrease your risk of getting in an accident

— Remember that your driving decisions impact everyone – including you as the driver, your occupants and your fellow drivers and workers in the field

— Be alert for work vehicles that enter and exit the construction zone from the left lane

The overall message is part of Virginia’s “Orange Cones, No Phones” campaign implemented in 2009 while construction of the 495 Express Lanes from Springfield to Tysons Corner was kicking into high gear.

We also learned today there will be many more work-related closures to come as part of the project. Here’s some of what the Virginia Department of Transportation stated in a news release:

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) announced today at an Orange Cones. No Phones. Safe-driving event held on the 95 Express Lanes construction corridor that drivers traveling on I-95 in Northern Virginia should prepare for more lane closures and traffic impacts this summer. Drivers will face continued closures of the existing HOV and regular lanes on I-395/95 during overnight hours and weekends, as well as on weekdays during non-rush hours, as crews work to advance the Express Lanes to completion. The 95 Express Lanes project is more than 75 percent complete, and remains on-schedule to be substantially finished by late 2014 and open to traffic in early 2015.

“As the public prepares for summer road trips and commutes, construction will be in full force along I-95 in Northern Virginia,” commented Helen Cuervo, VDOT’s Northern Virginia Administrator. “The Orange Cones. No Phones. message of putting your phone down and staying alert is even more important this summer as crews will be working day and night to keep the nearly $1 billion 95 Express Lanes project on-schedule,” continued Cuervo.

They added:

Other critical work scheduled for this year includes constructing new sound walls to provide noise reductions to nearby communities; building storm water management ponds; and completing final work on barriers, guardrails, paving and roadways.

Once the Express Lanes are complete early next year, they will offer drivers an option paying a toll to use the lanes during all hours of the day, or to use the lanes for free with three or more occupants in their cars. Whether driving solo or for free with at least three in the seats, an EZ-Pass will be required at all times.

News
Law Enforcement Bike Ride Coming to U.S. 1 Sunday

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — Drivers on U.S. 1 in Stafford on Sunday should expect to see a mass of police officers on bicycles, and they’ll be riding for a good cause.

The Stafford Sheriff’s office tells us more about why they’re riding, and what to expect with several “rolling” road closures that will be in effect:

The Law Enforcement United Bike Ride will be entering Stafford County at the Falmouth Route 1 Bridge, approximately 3:00 pm, Sunday, May 11 and will stop at the Public Safety Center, Humphrey Building, 1225 Courthouse Road, at approximately 4:00 pm for a brief stop.  From there the Bike Ride will continue on Route 630 Courthouse Road to Austin Ridge Drive and Mine Road.  The bike riders will turn from Mine Road onto Greenspring Drive and then to the hotel on Salisbury Drive.

The Bike Ride will leave the hotel at 7:00 am Monday, May 12 and travel up Route 1, North to the Prince William County Line.

Motorists are advised of the temporary rolling closings of Route 1, North as the Law Enforcement Tour Bike Ride travels through Stafford County.  As soon as the riders clear a section of Route 1, that section of the road will be opened to motor vehicle traffic.

News
Updated: HAZMAT at North Stafford High School: 15 Sickened

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Update

Stafford County fire and rescue officials issued the following statement about today’s HAZMAT incident at North Stafford High School:

Shortly after 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday May 6, 2014, Stafford County Fire and Rescue Department units responded to North Stafford High School after students reported feeling ill due to an odor in the school. Upon arrival Fire Rescue personnel determined that the odor was due to a contractor spraying herbicide near the fresh air intakes for the HVAC system.

The incident only involved one wing of the building and that area was evacuated. Fire and Rescue personnel evaluated seventeen patients, of which four were transported to area hospitals for further evaluation. After consulting with the State Hazardous Material Officer, Fire and Rescue personnel ventilated the affected area and the school returned to normal operation at 1:00 p.m.

12: 20 p.m. 

A total of 15 people reported feeling ill this morning after chemicals used to eradicate weeds were picked up by North Stafford High School’s air handling system and distributed through a wing of the school.

All of the patients were evaluated, and two of them were taken to a local hospital with injuries that did not appear to be life threatening for further evaluation, said Stafford fire and rescue spokesman Mark Doyle.

11:40 a.m.

It appears chemicals sprayed this morning outside North Stafford High School are to blame for sickening children inside the school.

Here’s the latest statement from Stafford County Public Schools:

North Stafford High School’s academic wing has been evacuated to the gymnasium as a result of an unusual smell caused by contractors spraying for weeds outside the academic wing. The Stafford County Fire Department and Sheriff’s Office have responded to the building. Air samples are being checked before allowing the students and staff back into the classrooms.

As fire and rescue crews were still arriving at the school this morning, a landscaping crew was seen talking with emergency officials in the school’s parking lot. One of the landscapers appeared to be upset.

Large fans were brought into help ventilate the school building.

11:15 a.m. 

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. – A total of five patients have been identified as injured during a HAZMAT situation this morning at North Stafford High School.

Fire and rescue crews descended on the high school on Garrisonville Raod just before 11 a.m. There’s no official word on what caused the HAZMAT.

Recue crews are conducting a triage operation to asses the injured and several classrooms have been evacuated, according to initial reports.

Some students and teachers are being held inside an auditorium inside the school building, according to initial reports.
North Stafford High School was built in 1981.

News
Stafford to Celebrate Founders Day with Parade

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — Thousands are expected at the center of Stafford County on Saturday to celebrate Founders Day.

The event will feature a parade from Stafford Hospital to Brooke Point High School, and is one of several planned this year as the county celebrates its 350th Anniversary.

A portion of Courthouse Road will be closed in the area of U.S. 1 for the parade on Saturday.

Here is a list of events and what to expect:

9:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. – Parade (starts at Stafford Hospital and ends at Brooke Point High School). Highlights include:
• Stafford County High Schools Marching Bands
• Mayor of Stafford, England
• Two World War II Veterans, John Kessler and Charles “Chuck” Neighbor, both survivors of the storming of Normandy Beach
• Reenactors
• Antique Military Vehicles
• Miss Stafford County
• John Smith Longboat Replica
Noon – 5:00 p.m. – History Square, Brooke Point High School
• World War II Flame Thrower
• 1812 Cannon
• Dinosaurs of Stafford County
• Photos with George Washington and Abe Lincoln
• The Patawomeck Tribe’s Native American community including a 40-foot longhouse
• Meet John Smith and Pocahontas

• Noon – 5:00 p.m. – Stafford Fine Arts Festival, Brooke Point High School
• The festival will feature students’ art exhibits and student performances

• 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. – Via Colori Street Painting Demonstration, History Square

The fine arts festival and history square activities will also be available for visitors on Sunday, too.

 

If you’re thinking about attending the event, there are some things you should know about parking. This from the county’s website:

Parking will not be available along the parade route. Visitors may park at the satellite parking lots listed below. Parade goers should allow extra time for parking and riding one of the shuttle buses that will provide transportation to and from the parade.

• Parking Lots
• Stafford Government Center
• Courthouse Road VDOT Commuter Lot
• Brooke VRE Lot
• Route 17 VDOT Lot
• Disabled Parking Lot – Stafford Elementary School

• Shuttle Buses
• Shuttles will be available to transport visitors from these parking lots to and from the parade and Brooke Point High School on both Saturday and Sunday throughout the day.
• From 7:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Sunday

 

This event comes after a successful ice skating event that drew thousands to Stafford Marketplace to kickoff the 350th celebration.

County leaders say this weekend’s event is happening in “downtown” Stafford, near the county’s iconic courthouse. While the county lacks a downtown area, the county has previously identified this area as ripe for developing a walkable center of community in the years ahead.

News
Armed Intruder Poses as Police Officer, Enters Home

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — After someone posing a police officer walked into a Stafford County home and held two people at gunpoint, authorities in that county want you to be familiar with police uniforms.

The crime happened at 9:15 p.m. Tuesday at a home on Riggs Road in the Leeland Station subdivision. A white man, 5 feet 10 inches tall, with short, dark hair, weighing between 250 and 285 pounds, between 35 and 45-years-old, knocked on the door of the house. When the home occupants answered, the man displayed a gun and forced the two into the interior section of the house, said Stafford sheriff’s spokesman Bill Kennedy.

But the two were able to escape and fled to a neighbor’s house where they called 911. The man posing as a police officer also got away.

Here’s a statement from Kennedy on what to look out for is someone is posing as a local law enforcement officer:

The Stafford County Sheriff’s Office is actively investigating this incident and is requesting that if any citizen in the Riggs Road area of Leeland Station saw anyone or any vehicle of a suspicious nature  night between 9:00pm – 9:45 pm to contact the Sheriff’s Office at 540-658-4400, Stafford Crime Solvers at 540-659-2020 or TEXT “STAFFORD” + your tip to CRIMES (274637).

The suspect in this incident presented himself as a law enforcement officer.  In an attempt to protect the investigative integrity of this case the Sheriff’s Office is not releasing the specific description of what the suspect was wearing. However if a citizen is not sure as to the authenticity of the individual presenting themselves as a law enforcement officer, ask for identification or badge.  Verify the agency by reading the name on the ID or badge as well as the patch.  A generic badge will simply say Police or Investigator.  A real badge will usually include the name of the agency.  If you still question the authenticity call 9-1-1 and asked the dispatcher to verify the identity of the individual.

News
Region in for Stormy Mess Wednesday

Expect a soggy, downright nasty commute for the morning rush hour Wednesday.

A batch of heavy rain, lightning, and thunder is expected to push its way into our area sometime after 5 a.m.

The rain is expected to linger in the area until about 8 a.m. As the day wears on, so will a flood watch that went into effect at 10 p.m. Tuesday. With four to five inches of rain expected to fall, the flood watch will last into Wednesday afternoon and evening as more thunderstorms will develop, these associated with a warm front that will move through the region on Wednesday.

And, while temperatures were cool on Tuesday, expect warmer temperatures Wednesday and the threat of more severe storms with isolated tornadoes possible.

Here’s more from the National Weather Service:

THUNDERSTORMS WILL BECOME ROOTED WITHIN THE BOUNDARY LAYER…ESPECIALLY LATER WEDNESDAY MORNING THROUGH WEDNESDAYAFTERNOON AS INSTABILITY INCREASES BEHIND THE WARM FRONT. SHEARPROFILES WILL BE VERY STRONG…INCREASING THE CHANCE FOR SEVEREWEATHER. THE PRIMARY THREATS WILL BE DAMAGING WINDS AND ISOLATEDTORNADOES. THE BEST CHANCE FOR THIS TO OCCUR WILL BE FROM WESTERN MARYLAND AND EASTERN WEST VIRGINIA ACROSS NORTHERN AND CENTRAL VIRGINIA INTO EXTREME SOUTHERN MARYLAND.

Forecasters said the drenching rain can also cause flooding in some low-lying areas, as well as flash flooding and ponding on roadways. Some of the roads prone to flooding are Aden Road in Prince William County and Harrell Road in Stafford County, so you’ll want to avoid those routes, if possible.

The threat of severe weather will diminish into Wednesday evening, but there is the possibility of a few showers or thunderstorms that could linger into the late or overnight hours into Thursday, according to the weather service.

We begin to dry out on Friday, and we’ll see partly sunny skies on Saturday and Sunday, and a possible warming trend for the beginning of next week.

News
Stafford Authorities Pursue Car in High-Speed Chase, Find Driver in Woods

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — A driver led authorities on a high-speed pursuit on Interstate 95.

A Stafford County Sheriff’s deputy spotted a car in the area of U.S. 17 and Short Street in Falmouth about 11 p.m. Tuesday. The windows were “too dark by code” and the deputy activated his lights and siren and stopped the car.

Another sheriff’s deputy pulled alongside, but before the two law enforcement officers could speak to the driver the car sped off onto nearby Interstate 95 and headed north, said sheriff’s office spokesman Bill Kennedy.

Deputies gave chase and speeds during the pursuit reached over 100 mph, passing a tractor trailer, said Kennedy.

The driver eventually pulled off on the very next highway exit at Centreport Parkway and then stopped his car on the left side of the ramp, then bailed out and fled into the woods. Deputies pulled up and found two others inside the car who said they didn’t know the driver, said Kennedy.

Deputies then took off into the woods to search for the man. A K9 unit was called and, after a “short track,” the driver was found lying down in the woods, said Kennedy.

Fred English, 28, of no fixed address, faces charges of felony eluding, driving on a suspended license, and obstruction of justice. Kennedy also said English has arrest warrants out for his arrest in neighboring Prince William County, Va. and in Georgia.

News
Rocky Pen Run Reservoir Filling Up


STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — A lake is forming in Stafford County.

It took two years to complete the dam for the Rocky Pen Run Reservoir, and now the 503-acre lake is filling with water.

The largest public works project in Stafford County’s history, the reservoir will hold 5.5 billion gallons of water. It started to fill in January when officials allowed water to flow into the man-made lake bed.

The lake will provide water for the county’s more than 130,000 residents and join two other reservoirs, Abel Lake and Smith Lake.

Rocky Pen Reservoir also be used for fishing, non-motorized boating, and kayaking when it’s completely full.

[Video: Ricky Moorefield]

News
Exchange Student Charged with Sex Crime

STAFFORD, Va. — Authorities in Stafford County say they stopped an exchange student from boarding a plane bound for his native Saudi Arabia and then charged him in connection to a sex crime.

The county’s Sheriff’s Office states the incident occurred on April 19. A location of the alleged crime was not provided.

Here is the unedited press statement released by the Sheriff’s Office:

The Stafford County Sheriff’s Office is reporting the arrest of Hamad Mastour Alsuwat, age 20, currently of Stafford County on Sunday, April 20, 2014.  Alsuwat is charged with 1 Count Object Sexual Penetration.

On Saturday, April 19, 2014 Stafford Deputy Thomas Grasso responded to an address in Stafford County for a possible domestic disturbance.  While investigating the domestic disturbance Deputy Grasso learned that Hamad Alsuwat, a foreign exchange student residing at the residence, had sexually assaulted a 17- year-old female resident.  Alsuwat was not on scene when Deputy Grasso first arrived.

Detective Tim Covington initiated an investigation and when learning that Alsuwat was a foreign exchange student, contacted the Department of Homeland Security in the chance that Alsuwat was a flight risk.  Members of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection arrested Hamad Alsuwat as he was preparing to board a flight out of Washington Dulles International Airport bound for Saudi Arabia on Sunday, April 20.

Due to the sensitive nature of this ongoing investigation no additional information will be available at this time.

News
How Planning for Death Made One Mother’s Experience Easier

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STAFFORD, Va. — Shannon Broom was killed in a car crash 16 years ago.

Fresh out of college, the 23-year-old had a lot of life left to live. But when it suddenly came to an end her mother, Jan, knew she wanted to share that unlived life with someone else.

Four of Shannon’s organs were donated to others: 2 kidneys, her heart, and liver. The heart went to an 18-year-old who was hospitalized in Richmond, the liver to a patient in North Carolina, and the kidneys to patients in North Dakota and Minnesota.

The question of whether to donate her organs so others could live was never a question for the Broom family. Shannon was in third grade when someone came to speak to her class about the importance of organ donation. Afterward, the child knew it was what she wanted to do.

“I can still see her coming up the front steps. She was all excited about this lady who had gotten a new kidney and that if anything ever happened to her she still wanted to help people so they could still live because if she went to heaven she wasn’t going to need those parts anymore and she wanted somebody who did need them to get them,” said Jan Broom.

Jan on Wednesday joined doctors and administrators at Stafford Hospital who invited the community to come and have what many would consider an awkward conversation – what they want to happen in the event patients can no longer make decisions for themselves.

Called “advance directives,” it’s when a patient indicates ahead of time that, if hospitalized, they don’t want things actions like being placed on a breathing machine, a feeding tube, and they also designate who should carry out the patients’ final wishes in the event of death.

“Usually families are struggling with grief, and if they have to make a decision they might feel guilty about, you put guilt on top of grief and it’s a bad combination,” said Stafford Hospital Administrator Cathy Yablonski.

Tables were set up in the hospital’s lobby where residents could come in and speak to a counselor about their wishes, as well as fill out Virginia’s Advance Directive for Health Care so they could make those wishes known. It’s a conversation the hospital encourages every family to have at anytime, not just during special events like this one.

“No one knows mom better than you, and no one knows what decision would she want better than you do,” said Victor D ‘Addio, one of two vascular surgeons at Stafford Hospital.

Jan Broom was at those tables, and has come to events like these since her daughter passed away to communicate the importance of advance directives. She’s also kept in close contact with the recipients of her daughter’s recipients through letter writing.

“I kept worrying that they would feel guilty, and that the letters would somehow impair their healing process, thinking that someone had to die for them to be alive,” said Broom.

But she quickly learned that the letters were appreciated because some other mother had been praying for a miracle for their own child. That miracle was Shannon.

 

News
North Stafford Getting New CVS Store

Photo: KJ Mushung

Photo: KJ Mushung

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. — A CVS Pharmacy on Va. 610 will soon be beside itself.

The national pharmacy chain has cleared trees next to its store at 388 Garrisonville Road in North Stafford to make way for a new, larger, 14,000 square foot store. The new store will be 1,000 square feet larger than the current pharmacy and feature double the parking spaces than its predecessor.

The current location has also built a solid list of drive-through window customers — where people can simply drive up to a widow on the side of the building, speak to a pharmacist, and drop off and pick up prescriptions – that the new store will feature a double lane drive through, according to company spokesman Michael DeAngelis.

The new store is slated to open in July and the old location, at the corner of Va. 610 and Onville Road, is scheduled to close shortly thereafter.

The new CVS will join its recently constructed sister location that sits further west on Va. 610, at the intersection of Shelton Shop Road.

 

News
Teen Wards off Would-be Abductor

Investigators in Stafford County say a girl was nearly abducted on April 10 while walking her dog in her neighborhood.

The Stafford County Sheriff’s Department provided us the following press release with details about the incident:

The Stafford County Sheriff’s Office is reporting an attempted abduction that took place last night, Thursday, April 10 between 9:15 – 9:30 in the evening in the Stafford Lakes subdivision in southern Stafford County.

Deputies responded to a call of an attempted abduction on Hopkins Branch Way at 9:23 pm. The responding deputies spoke to the 17 year old female victim who told them that while she was out walking her dog she was approached from the rear by a Hispanic male subject. The male subject grabbed the teen’s wrist at which point the teen turned on the man, kneed him in the thigh causing the male subject to release his grip, allowing the teen to run home.

During the assault the male subject never spoke to the teen and was last seen running up Hopkins Branch Way towards Charter Gate Drive. Multiple units of the Patrol Division saturated the area along with detectives in an attempt to locate the male subject. Deputies and detectives returned again this morning in an effort to locate the subject.

The 17 year old teen was also approached by the same subject early on the same morning around 6:30 am. In that incident the teen was out walking her dog when the same Hispanic male, driving a white van, pulled up to her and began speaking to her in Spanish. The teen reports that the subject did not appear angry and his tone was conversational in nature. During that encounter the male subject made no attempt to grab the teen.

The male Hispanic subject is described as 5’02” – 5’08” tall weighing between 140 – 150 pounds with short black hair. The subject had no facial hair and was reported wearing a black shirt with some dirt marks on it and tan, short cargo pants. His age is described as late 30’s to early 40’s. It was also noted that his top two front teeth were crooked.

Anyone who has information relating to this incident is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 540-658-4400, Stafford Crime Solvers at 540-659-2020 (callers may remain anonymous) or TEXT “Stafford + your tip to CRIMES (274637).

 

This story has been corrected.

News
Lower Pay, Student Funding Has Teachers Going Elsewhere for Work: Professor

STAFFORD, Va. — School officials in Stafford County want to give teachers a raise.

Salary increases, to the tune of 3%, are a priority outlined in the Stafford County Public Schools proposed $273.8 million budget for fiscal year 2015, which takes effect July 1. To get there, the School Board is asking the Board of Supervisors for an additional $19.6 million to cover the costs of the raises, as well as other “unavoidable” increased costs mandated by the state to include rising healthcare, retirement, text books, and capital improvement costs.

“I know money doesn’t mean money doesn’t mean money in education, but lowering class sizes costs money. Quality educators don’t come cheap. That’s what makes a difference in education,” School Board Chair Nanette Kidby told the Stafford County Board of Supervisors.

First-year teachers in Stafford are the lowest paid in the region with a starting annual salary of $38,335, according Kidby. In neighboring Prince William, a county with nearly a $1 billion school budget, teachers start paid an annual starting salary of $45,370.

That funding gap makes it difficult to attract new educators to a county that boasts a low tax rate and a successful record of luring large businesses to set up shop.

“We are finding it very, very difficult to convince bright, young school teachers to come into your district. Your math teachers are going to Prince William and Fairfax County and there is not going to be anyone to replace them,” said Patricia Reynolds, a professor of education at Mary Washington University in Fredericksburg.

Reynolds’ students have examined the average cost per pupil that area school divisions spend to educate their students. They’ve found that Stafford’s $9,165 spent per student, when compared to $10,116 spend in Spotsylvania County and Prince William’s $11,984 per student, is a key factor that is driving teachers to work elsewhere.

In addition to state funds, Stafford officials will transfer $140 million of the county’s 2015 budget to the school division. That amount is $2.9 million more than last year.

“We are putting more local money into schools. That’s what the numbers keep saying. We are funding the schools at an increased rate. But if you listen to what is being put out there…you would think that were starving the schools,” said Rockhill District Supervisor Cord Sterling, who called for more accountability as to where the School Board spends their money.

Falmouth District Supervisor Meg Bohmke, who served on the School Board prior to being elected to the Board of Supervisors, agreed, and noted she has had problems getting information that she’s requested from the School Board on expenditures on things like the county’s International Baccalaureate program.

“If we can’t analyze the numbers we can’t make decisions,” said Bohmke.

The Board of Supervisors has invited the public to come speak on the 2015 budget at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Stafford County Government Center.

News
Jewelry Store Robbed, Owner Bound

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. — A jeweler in Stafford County met an unwanted, gun toting customer Thursday morning.

The owner of Darian Jewelers at 364 Garrisonville Road in North Stafford, near the Doc Stone shopping center, had just opened his doors just before 10 a.m. when a man entered the store behind him, displayed a gun, and then forced the owner to crack open the safe. Afterward, he bound the owners hands and forced him into the store’s bathroom. The suspect then made off with cash and jewelry.

The victim untied his hands about 30 minutes later and called 911. Stafford Sheriff’s deputies arrived shortly after the call came in, searched the area but turned up nothing.

Anyone with information on this case is encouraged to contact Stafford County Crime Solvers.

News
Updated: Water Main Breaks Impact Drivers, Disrupts Service

(Photo: Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Drivers are dealing with multiple water main breaks today on area roads.

A 12-inche water main broke last night closing a portion of Dale Boulevard at Birchdale Avenue. Fire and rescue crews that were called to the scene told Potomac Local News the pressure that was released when the water main blew caused “rocks the size of basketballs” to roll down the boulevard. The break disrupted several Virginia American Water customers in Dale City and forced the closure of Dale Boulevard in both directions near the site of the break.

Here’s more from water company spokeswoman Samantha Villegas; 

The main break initially affected about 48 town homes. But the break caused us to nearly drain our Hillendale tank which caused major pressure drops noticed much further away – a map of affected area was posted to our FB this am.

By about 7-8 am, most were back to normal.

As of noon, everyone but about 80 customers on Birchdale Square are back on.

Birchdale Square will be back on shortly, but because of the complete pressure loss, the homes on that street will need to boil water for consumption until we give them the all clear. We are notifying who is affected with door hangers.

All westbound lanes of Dale Boulevard reopened just before 10 a.m., according to Prince William police.

It’s almost as if drivers and people living in this area cannot catch a break. On Monday night, a gas main also ruptured in the same area and was ultimately repaired.

Crews are also on the scene of a water main break in Stafford County today, at the intersection of U.S. 1 and Layhill Road.

Here’s the latest statement from the Virginia Department of Transportation about the traffic impacts caused by the break.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has closed the right lane on Route 1 north just north of Route 624 (Layhill Road) in Stafford County due to a drainage pipe failure.

VDOT crews are on the scene accessing the damage.

There is no estimated time of reopening at this time. 

News
Church Gifted Land on Busy Route 610, Considers Relocating

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. — The Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Stafford is currently considering the options for development of a property on Va. 610 in North Stafford they inherited last year. The church received the land after the passing of two congregation members, Mary Stuart and Frances Cloe.

“Mary Stuart and Frances Cloe were long time members of Ebenezer Church. As I understand it, their parents were some of the founding members of Ebenezer Church,” said Reverend Chris Bennett.

“We ultimately decided that after prayer and discussion, that if we’re gonna stay here, we want to be able to do what we can with where we are, and it made sense to sell the property,” added Bennett.

More to the Story: A list of FAQs compiled by the church about the Cloe property

The 45-acre property at 425 Garrisonville Road sits across from Dan’s Pharmacy, and Arby’s restaurant and a Radio Shack. “It is currently zoned as residential with a house sitting on it, but the church is considering the development of the land for commercial use, which would require approvals from the Stafford County Board of Supervisors.”

According to Bennett, the proceeds from the sale and development of the proper will help to fund ministry work and projects, as well as a potential scholarship program in the Cloe’s name.

“We want to honor the Cloe sisters, whether it’s setting up a scholarship or naming something after them,” Bennett said.

In order for the church to move forward with commercial development, they’ll need to get the rezoning approved, so the plan will have to go before the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission, be subject to public hearings, and ultimately be approved by the Board of Supervisors, according to Stafford County spokeswoman Shannon Howell.

While Ebenezer Church has not started on the paperwork for the rezoning, they are hopeful about the impact they can have on the community as a result of the land sale’s proceeds.

“We are excited about the opportunity this gives us to continue our ministry and blessing the community. We hope this will continue to give us the opportunity to serve the local habitat. We’re just thankful for the gift that the sisters gave us, and we want to make sure that whatever we do honors them,” Bennett said.

Ebenezer United Methodist Church dates back to before the Civil War. The church used to be located on Onville Road in North Stafford before moving to its current location on Embrey Mill Road in 1992. If Ebenezer decides to relocate to the more visible Cloe House property, it would sit about a mile away from its old location on Onville Road.

News
Infant Dies in Fire, Local Collection Efforts Underway to Help Family

040214 fire

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — Eleanor Mae Avery died in a house fire in Stafford County on Monday.

The 6-month-old girl became trapped inside of her burning home in the Kings Grant subdivision in Hartwood.

“Despite efforts to gain entrance into the residence the mother was unable to rescue the child due to the severity of the fire,” stated Stafford fire and rescue spokesman Mark Doyle in a press release.

Flames destroyed the single family home that housed two adults and five children. It is a property loss of $650,000, according to a Stafford County fire marshal’s estimate.

The county’s sheriff’s office took over the investigation into the fire and noted that autopsy reports conclude the child’s death was fire related.

A Facebook page has been set up in a relief effort to assist the family. Here is the message posted to that page that describes the family’s loss:

Yesterday afternoon, Dirk and Naomi Avery’s house caught on fire and it quickly spread burning the house to the foundation. Due to living in rural Virginia, it requires time for the fire department to arrive and sadly by the time they were able to begin putting out the fire, the fire had consumed most of the house.

Everything has been lost and those who were at home managed to escape with only the clothes on their back. The biggest tragedy being they were unable to save their youngest daughter Eleanor who perished in the fire.

Also lost in the fire was their labra doodle Strider who had remained in the home with the baby. Fortunately their four other children are unharmed, but all their photographs, baby memorabilia and children’s keepsakes are gone.

Although insignificant in comparison to the loss they have sustained, both their cars were destroyed; all the children’s toys, books, movies and clothes have been lost. Local collection efforts have been amazing and the family has been fortunate enough to have clothes donated for the children, but the process of rebuilding their home and their lives will take time and money.

Insurance will only cover so much, so should you feel that you are in a position to help Dirk and Naomi with a small financial donation to help them with the items they will need down the road please donate whatever you can. Thank you!

News
Child Dies in House Fire

Updated

Stafford County fire and rescue spokesman Mark Doyle provided the following updated statement about Monday’s fatal fire.

The Stafford County Fire Marshal’s and Stafford Sheriff’s Office continue to investigate yesterday’s fatal fire that occurred in the Kings Grant Subdivision located in the Hartwood area of Stafford County. The damage is estimated at $650,000.00 which includes the home, contents and nearby vehicles.

Stafford’s sheriff’s office, now in charge of the investigation, had no comment on Tuesday.

7 a.m. 

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — A child died in a fire in Stafford County’s Hartwood area.

Fire and rescue crews were called to a two-story house that was on fire at 2:19 p.m. Monday. Crews immediately learned there was a child still inside the house at the time they arrived.

“However, due to the excessive heat, fire conditions and structural collapse units were forced to operated in a defensive mode,” Stafford fire and rescue spokesman Mark Doyle stated in a press release.

The fire was brought under control and the child was located. The victim was taken to state medical examiner’s office where an autopsy will be performed.

Doyle also stated there was no further information available. So, here’s what we don’t know right now:

The address of the home that burned

The age and gender of the victim

Overall, how many people were displaced

An estimate of damage to the home

The outcome of a fire marshal’s investigation

If criminal charges are pending in the sheriff’s office investigation

We’ll tell you more when we get more details.

 

News
Stafford Residents Outsmart Sheriff’s Office Scammer

STAFFORD, Va. — You could call this scammer creative or shameful, just don’t call some Stafford residents easily fooled.

Five Stafford County residents told authorities they received a phone call from a Lt. Paul Stevens who said he worked at the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office. He told them there was a bench warrant out for their arrests because they failed to report for jury duty.

The caller told them if they simply went to a nearby CVS Pharmacy and get a money order for the $230 for failing to appear in court, and another $200 to cover court fees, then call him back with the account number for where the money could be sent, all would be forgotten.

But, not so fast. 

“When several of the citizens volunteered to come to the Sheriff’s Office to discuss the situation, the fictitious “Lt. Stevens” refused and told the citizens to send the money to him instead. Realizing that they were involved in a scam the five citizens notified the sheriff’s office and a deputy responded to their residence to take a report,” said sheriff’s spokesman Bill Kennedy in a press release.

It turns out there is no one by the name of Lt. Paul Stevens at the sheriff’s office. And the office would never ask for money to be sent to any deputy or the department’s top brass for any reason, Kennedy said.

No one gave over any money to the scammer and no arrest has been made.

 Anyone with information on this case is encouraged to contact Stafford County Crime Solvers

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