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Fires rip through homes during severe storms

Send us your storm reports / photos

9:20 p.m. 

Fire on Belmont Bay Drive in Woodbridge caused by lightning strike. Fire in attic. Flames doused by fire crews. Homes have water damage due to rain.

The fire ignited prior to the severe thunderstorm that rolled through the area. The call for help went about about 6:20 p.m., said OWL VFD spokeswoman Rebecca Barnes.

9:15 p.m. 

Four people who went kayaking earlier today on the Occoquan River and were reported missing have been located safe. 

9:10 p.m. 

Storm reports reported by the Baltimore/Washington National Weather Service office in Sterling: 

A 62 mph wind gust was recorded at Quantico Marine Corps Base.

Downed tree on Route 1 and Jason Lane in Stafford.

Tree down on Spruce Lane near Manassas.

Tree down on Sudley Road near Pageland Lane in western Prince William County.

Tree down on Sudley Road at Misty Acres Lane near Gainesville.

Tree down on Sudley Road at Catharpin Road.

8:52 p.m. 

At least 30 people were displaced in the Belmont Bay neighborhood in Woodbridge after a fire ripped through a condo building.

The fire occurred after 7 p.m. in the 500 block of Belmont Bay Drive in Woodbridge. It happened about the same time a round of severe thunderstorms roared through the region bringing torrential rains, wind, and lightning. It’s not clear if anyone was injured.

Fire crews are also working a major house fire near Gainesville, in the 1300 block of Fieldstone Way in the Heritage Hunt retirement community.

“The units where the fire occurred are normally occupied by at least two people,” said Prince William fire and rescue spokesman Thomas Jarman.

Jarman didn’t have any information about possible injuries, or how many people were displaced because of the blaze. The fire was a “major working incident,” Jarman said.

Jarman also said two people kayaking on the Occoquan River went missing about the same time the storm hit. He said Fairfax County officials were working that incident.

Potomac Local called Fairfax County authorities to get more information. We’re waiting to hear back from them.
The region was under a tornado warning for about an hour tonight. While there were no reports of serious wind damage just before 9 p.m., Jarman said these storms contained dangerous wind and hail, and that more damage reports are possible.

If you see storm damage, safely take a photo of it and submit it to news@potomaclocal.com.

Prince William supervisors talk giving themselves a pay raise

Update

Following publication of the original story, county spokesman Jason Grant asked that certain points that were made in the article be clarified.

“The question I think was, ‘Can they talk about their salaries in closed session?’ And so, to that question, yes – they can talk about salaries in the closed session. Now the specifics the discussions may entail – that I can’t comment on. But that’s why they have legal counsel, so that certain discussions in closed session remain appropriate to the exemption,” said Grant.

In regards to his comments about the lawfulness of supervisors speaking about what occurred in closed session, Grant clarified, “I’m very careful not to articulate what’s lawful or unlawful. I don’t know what – legally – what they can or cannot articulate. If it’s a question of whether a supervisor can discuss the items in closed session…I don’t know if that’s Virginia Code specifically or aspects of it, but I can say that the closed session is confidential, and we’re not to disclose – as staff. And we’re told whatever happens in closed session stays in closed session. Now what can be discussed specifically [in terms of] what the board does report out, sometimes…I don’t know where the specifics lie as to what can or cannot be discussed.”

Original post

On Tuesday night, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors went into closed session – which caused quite a stir.

Two members of the county’s highest governing body stormed out. They claimed the other five board members were talking about giving themselves a pay raise, and that such matters should be discussed in public and not behind closed doors.

During a closed session, members of the public and press are not allowed to attend, and there is no recording made available of what has been said. The session is typically called for private or personal matters of a sensitive nature that supervisors may not be able to discuss publicly.

Pay raises for supervisors

Prior to the calling of the closed session, the acting County Attorney Michele Robl announced that among the four items to be discussed, “legal advice in a personnel matter regarding salaries,” was listed.

On the board agenda for the meeting, a pay raise for supervisors was listed under Supervisor’s time, but it was not discussed in Tuesday’s public session.

It was on the agenda because the supervisors want to be sure their compensation is comparable to other localities.

Fairfax County leaders in March voted to give themselves a pay increase. Starting in January 2016, Chairman At-large Sharon Bulova will receive $100,000 annually while other board members will get $95,000 per year.

In Prince William, the last time the board voted to approve a raise for the supervisors was in 2007, according to county documents.

Chairman At-Large Corey Stewart is paid $49, 452 a year, and the other supervisors are paid $43,422 a year.

It’s fair to point out Fairfax County Supervisors work at their jobs full time, while Prince William supervisors have other full-time jobs outside their local government duties, or are retired. 

Why the closed session?

With the item of pay raises listed as an open session agenda item, many asked why the supervisors decided to call for a closed session to talk about compensation. They also wanted to know whether or not it was legal for them to do so.

According to county spokesman Jason Grant, the supervisors were legally within their rights to call a closed session to speak about salaries, because they fall within the category of public officers – which have an allowable clause in the Virginia Code.

“The County Attorney didn’t want to comment to [the media] because they can’t discuss what’s discussed in closed session. No one is supposed to be talking about what’s in closed session…I have no idea what’s discussed or not…the County Attorney stated during that meeting…there were four items. One of those items was public officers – so it’s discussion of salary of public officers…the Virginia Code does allow discussion of salaries of public officers to be held in closed meetings. It also allows for consultation with legal counsel by a public body,” said Grant.

So, we were curious and checked state law to see what the Prince William County Board of Supervisors could talk about in closed session.

Section 2.2-3711.1 and 2.2-3711.7 of the Virginia Code states:

Public bodies may hold closed meetings only for the following purposes:

Discussion, consideration, or interviews of prospective candidates for employment; assignment, appointment, promotion, performance, demotion, salaries, disciplining, or resignation of specific public officers, appointees, or employees of any public body; and evaluation of performance of departments or schools of public institutions of higher education where such evaluation will necessarily involve discussion of the performance of specific individuals. Any teacher shall be permitted to be present during a closed meeting in which there is a discussion or consideration of a disciplinary matter that involves the teacher and some student and the student involved in the matter is present, provided the teacher makes a written request to be present to the presiding officer of the appropriate board.

Consultation with legal counsel and briefings by staff members or consultants pertaining to actual or probable litigation, where such consultation or briefing in open meeting would adversely affect the negotiating or litigating posture of the public body; and consultation with legal counsel employed or retained by a public body regarding specific legal matters requiring the provision of legal advice by such counsel. For the purposes of this subdivision, “probable litigation” means litigation that has been specifically threatened or on which the public body or its legal counsel has a reasonable basis to believe will be commenced by or against a known party. Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to permit the closure of a meeting merely because an attorney representing the public body is in attendance or is consulted on a matter.

The part that crosses into gray area is not the supervisor’s speaking about salaries as public officers in a closed session, it’s what exactly that gets discussed that could potentially be a legal issue.

“Can they talk about salaries? Yes. Now what the specific discussion is – there may be [gray] areas,” said Grant.

Supervisors react

During the closed session, two supervisors – Pete Candland, of Gainesville, and Jeanine Lawson, of Brentsville – abruptly left the session.

According to Candland, he left because he felt uncomfortable about the things being discussed in the closed session.

“When they brought up the salary increases, they brought up two issues. One – the legality of whether we can give ourselves increases – and what the time frame is. And I made it clear that I’m fine talking about whether we can legally do it…what I’m not comfortable with is whether we should do it, or the specifics around it…I informed the rest of the board if that was going to be any part of the discussion, that I was going to leave…,” said Candland.

“I will say that they started discussing numbers and people started expressing opinions about it, and that’s where I felt it just went too [far]. And anything that happened after that, I’m not sure – I was not there for [it]…nobody thought there was any problem [with the discussion] enough to leave or to protest the discussion besides myself and Supervisor Lawson,” he added.

Candland admitted that he was not in the room to overhear anything about specific discussion on pay raises for the supervisors, so he cannot verify that it was discussed in closed session.

Additionally, it is unlawful for supervisors to disclose information given in a closed session unless it is a general statement or there is a majority consensus from the board, stated Grant.

Lawson stated that she did not want to comment on her decision to leave the closed session, but did say she was planning to vote down any measure for pay raises for the supervisors.

“I was planning to vote against [the raise], but a vote wasn’t taken,” said Lawson.

Board Chairman, At-large Corey Stewart asserted that everything discussed within the closed session was legal and that it followed the allowances made for talk of salaries in the Virginia Code.

“As you know, Board members cannot discuss the contents of our closed sessions. I can say, however, that the Board followed the advice of the County Attorney and that the Board complied with the law,” said Stewart.

Potomac Local called other members of the Board of Supervisors. They did not return requests for comment.

Do the supervisors deserve a raise?

While the rationale for parties in favor and opposed to giving the supervisors a raise, the question still stands – do they deserve it?

According to Candland, they don’t.

“I don’t think we deserve [a raise]. We’ve raised taxes the last four years – I don’t think we’ve earned a pay increase,” said Candland.

Regardless of what was discussed in closed session, any further movement to provide a pay raise to the supervisors would have to take place by July 1, and would have to be voted on in an open meeting, stated Grant.

Candland said that the item for supervisor pay was not on the draft agenda for the next board meeting.

“I get a feeling that this discussion is probably dead now,” said Candland.

Manassas awarded for Civil War Sesquicentennial celebration

The City of Manassas, along with Prince William County, were the recipients of the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission’s Leadership Award for the area’s efforts in commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War during the past seven years.

The City of Manassas partnered with Prince William County, the Prince William County Historic Preservation Division and many area museums, parks, and historic sites to coordinate dozens of local events that brought history to life for thousands of residents and visitors from across the country. The Prince William County/Manassas Committee began meeting in 2007, and helped plan and promote the signature 2011 Sesquicentennial commemoration at multiple sites across the city and county.

The local committee also fostered a strong partnership with the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission. The Manassas Museum hosted both the Commission’s traveling exhibit, An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia, and the Legacy Project, an effort to scan and archive the Civil War-era documents of local residents. The city also twice hosted another of the Commission’s traveling exhibits, the award-winning Civil War 150 HistoryMobile.

On average, more than 11,000 visitors a day attended events in the city during the four-day July 2011 Sesquicentennial commemoration despite an average heat index of 103 to 105 degrees. The city saw a 14% increase in meals taxes and a 55% increase in sales taxes during the month of the event, and garnered significant national media attention for its expansive free programs.

The annual Manassas Civil War Weekend, scheduled for August 21-23 this year, was created as a result of the popularity of the 2011 and 2012 Sesquicentennial commemorations held throughout the City of Manassas. The Weekend’s program tells the story not just of Civil War battles, but of the War’s impact on civilians and African-Americans.

The Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission was created by the General Assembly to plan and commemorate Civil War events in the Commonwealth. The Commission officially ended its work this year with a Memorial Day award ceremony and concert on the Capitol steps in Richmond. Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell served as Chairman, and State Senator Charles J. Colgan, Sr., served as Vice-Chairman of the Commission.

Concrete plant demolition clears way for Cabela’s

The Betco Block Plant in Gainesville is no more.

Three cranes with cables connected to the tower of the old concrete facility pulled it down about 11 a.m. today. The plant was closed to make way for a 79,000-square foot Cabela’s outdoor store.

Prior to demolition, workers cut through the steel support beams of the structure with welding torches. While doing so, workers could hear the building begin to “dance” and “sway,” according to a demolition supervisor.

When workers were done cutting, they all moved away from the building. A countdown was given, and then the tower crumbled into pieces, collapsing inside a massive dust cloud reminiscent of watching and old Las Vegas casino being brought to the ground.

“We worked for seven months to negotiate a deal for this 13-acre property,” said Jim Mertz, with Peterson Companies, the firm that will develop the Cabela’s store.

While workers prepared the tower for demolition, Prince William County officials took the opportunity to herald the coming of the new outdoor retail giant that is expected to open in 2017.

“This plant helped build the new Prince William into a prosperous, wealthy place for families,” said Prince William Board of Supervisors Chairman, At-large Corey Stewart.

It’s an election year for the Board, and Stewart aims to keep his seat. He’s expected to use developments like these to convince voters the county is attracting jobs and growth in the region.

The Betco Block Plant opened in 1967 and made concrete blocks for construction use. It was located just off Interstate 66 in Gainesville and was one of the last few standing structures manufacturing structures in a county that is shifting its job focus to attracting more bio-science and technology jobs.

Ruby Tuesdays in Gainesville closed after kitchen fire

On the morning of June 11, Prince William fire and police were called to a fire at the Ruby Tuesdays location on Iron Bar Lane in Gainesville.

According to Prince William fire and rescue, all customers were evacuated from the building.

Firefighters saw a fire in the kitchen wall. Prince William fire and rescue stated that the heat from continual cooking had ignited plywood that was behind the gas stove.

They were able to extinguish the fire and no one was injured. The fire is being considered accidental.

Prince William fire and rescue stated that damages were estimated at $35,000.

A Building Official has declared the building unsafe.

It is not known as of yet when the restaurant will reopen.

Two men wanted by police for Nokesville break in

On June 12, Prince William police responded to a home on Glenkirk Road in Nokesville to look into a burglary.

According to Prince William police, the homeowner said that two individuals entered the home through a back door that was unlocked. There were no signs of forced entry, said Prince William police.

When the homeowner yelled at the individuals, they fled the home on foot. No property was missing, stated Prince William police.

The homeowner tried to follow the individuals, but lost them when they ran into a wooded area near the home, reported Prince William police.

Prince William police K-9 units attempted to search for the two individuals.

One is described as a white male, between 20 and 25, 6’0” and 180 pounds with blonde hair, wearing a white shirt and blue jeans. The other individual is described as a male, between 20 and 25, 5’8” and 200 pounds with black hair.

How to do a tasting at Manassas Olive Oil Company

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Find perfect pairings for salads, chicken, even ice cream

At Manassas Olive Oil Company, you have the opportunity to sample over 45 flavors of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

From mild to robust, these oils fill up metal fusties that are placed throughout the room. Empty bottles are lined up beneath them, and tasting cups are waiting to be filled with fresh oils and vinegar.

A tasting experience can vary.

You may end up spending an hour with friends sampling a large variety, or you might just be looking for something to create a perfect marinade for tonight’s chicken entree.

“We encourage people to spend as much time as they want finding what they love in here,” says store manager Cameron Thomson. “If you don’t want to spend an hour and change in here tasting everything, I can ask you what you’re looking to use it for and then help you find what you’re looking for.”

Thomson says it’s an experience that most people aren’t expecting. “Typically most people, what they’ve had their whole life is nothing like this, so they’re going to be caught very off guard by what they’re about to taste,” Thomson says.

To sample any of the olive oils or balsamic vinegar, you just have to fill up a small plastic ramekin of the flavor you want. Thomson says it’s important to smell it before taking a swig. He also suggests slurping the oils in order to really discern their tastes.

For people that might be put off by drinking the oils on their own, there are jars of bread available for tastings. You can dunk the small pieces of bread into the various flavors in order to get a sense of their taste.

“Sometimes it’s good to break up the taste of it,” said Thomson. “Some of the oils have very strong flavor by themselves, so sometimes its good to have something neutral to taste it with.” 

After sampling a variety of flavors, you may end up with a French Walnut olive oil and Black Cherry vinegar pairing that will make a perfect dressing for your salad, a Mushroom Sage as marinade for tomorrow night’s pork dinner, and a raspberry vinegar to drizzle on that vanilla ice cream in your freezer.

After narrowing down your choices, employees will help you fill the empty glass bottles with the fresh balsamic vinegar and olive oils.

Thomson says this is something fun and new that everyone will love trying out.

“Open up your mind to the new possibility of tasting very fresh olive oil,”he said.

Manassas Olive Oil Company opened its doors in May. Hours are Monday thru Thursday 10 a.m.- 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Wild edible plant classes teach people to find free food in their own backyard

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It may come as a surprise, but in many backyards free, local, nutritious food is growing!

Many plants that people consider weeds are edible, and with a little bit of knowledge, those weeds can become delicious sustenance. For instance, Autumn Olive is an invasive shrub that has become very common in Northern Virginia. But did you know that in the fall it produces loads of edible berries that can be used to make jams and fruit leather?

Or consider the dandelion. Not many people realize it, but every part of the plant is edible. You can add the flowers and leaves to your salads, and the roots can be processed into a coffee-like drink.

Of course, before you start pulling up weeds and eating them, it’s important to know what you’re doing. It is essential to identify plants correctly, harvest them safely and ethically, and prepare them properly. There are many plant identification books on the market; however, the best way to learn about wild edibles is from an experienced forager.

In the coming weeks, Earth Village Education, a nonprofit nature education center located near Marshall, Virginia, will conduct two classes about wild edible plants.

The first class on Saturday, June 20, will be a great introduction to the subject. Students will learn plant identification and safety principles, then go for a plant walk, visiting fields, forests, and wetlands to find and harvest a variety of plants that are in season.

The second class from Saturday, July 11 through Sunday, July 12, will cover the same basics in greater depth, and will also feature information about the medicinal uses of wild plants. No prior experience is necessary for either class, and the fee for each class is on a sliding scale.

For more information and to register, visit EarthVillageEducation.org, and transform a stroll in your backyard into a foraging adventure!

You’ll be surprised at the local artifacts featured in the ‘Hometown Tourist’ exhibit in Manassas

Manassas Museum ‘Hometown Tourist” exhibit coming to Bull Run Regional Library 

Trade your suitcase for some walking shoes and be a Manassas hometown tourist this summer. If walking shoes aren’t an option, take a virtual tour.

The new Manassas Historical Sites Map Tour lets you click on a map to find in-depth information about the city’s eight historic properties. The tour includes photographs, little-known stories about people and places associated with the site, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and information about visiting in person. Visit manassasmuseum.org/tour to access the tour.

The Manassas Museum is taking to the road for a new summer travelling exhibit, Hometown Tourist, at the Bull Run Regional Library. The exhibit features artifacts, old post cards, and archaeology from nine area historic sites: The Southern Railway Depot, the Hopkins Candy Factory, Liberia Plantation, the Stone House, the Manassas City Cemetery, the Manassas Museum (built on land where Eastern College once stood), the Manassas Industrial School, the former Grace United Methodist Church (now Bull Run Unitarian), and the Albert Speiden House.

Most of the City’s nationally significant historic sites are open free every day and offer interpretive signage that tells their story. Take along the mobile version of the Manassas Historical Sites Map Tour as you visit the Manassas Museum, the Southern Railway Depot, the Hopkins Candy Factory, Liberia Plantation, Mayfield and Cannon Branch Earthwork Forts, and the Manassas Industrial School/Jennie Dean Memorial to enhance your experience.

If you would like to learn even more about the sites, guided walking tours of Historic Downtown Manassas are offered every Thursday and Friday at Noon, and Liberia House tours are offered Sundays at Noon through the summer. Meet at the Manassas Museum, 9101 Prince William Street, for the Downtown tours, and at Liberia, 8601 Portner Avenue, for the Sunday tours.

Call 703-268-1873 or visit manassasmuseum.org for more information.

More information on missing Nokesville teen

11392810_10207172977509227_5468513354319157529_nMore information surrounding the disappearance of 14-year old Thomas James “TJ” Sadler has come to light.

Sadler went missing from his home in Nokesville on June 3, and the family and law enforcement officials have not been able to locate him.

According to Facebook posts from the teen’s mother – Lynn Sadler – he took his grandfather’s pickup truck when leaving the home.

Lynn Sadler stated:

TJ took my father’s blue ford truck ranger. It was not noticed missing last night, I’m not sure when it was gone. Everything was so hectic with my father coming home from the hospital and all the stress. The police have not shared this info even though I found out hours ago. Please skate the info about the blue truck. It is an older model, 1987.

The pickup truck is registered with Virginia license plate tag ZMD-4856.

Additionally, Lynn Sadler pleaded with her son on Facebook, asking him to reach out.

TJ if you are reading this, please call me. It doesn’t matter what has happened, I’ve always stood behind you. I will still always protect you. You have no idea how this has affected me. Please call me, I will come get you wherever you are.

Potomac Local will keep you updated on the latest with this case.

Gainesville man charged with 5 counts of arson

Today, Prince William County Fire Marshals arrested Gainesville man – Gerald Llewellyn Purvin – on five counts of arson.

The five counts of arson are on personal property valued at more than $200. This qualified as a class-4 felony, said Prince William fire and rescue.

Purvin was arrested related to a fire on May 1 of a recreational vehicle located on Livingston Road, stated Prince William fire and rescue. Multiple vehicles were destroyed in the incident.

More on the arson charge from Prince William fire and rescue:

Each charge carries a maximum penalty of a term of imprisonment of not less than two years and not more than 10 years and, subject to a fine of not more than $100,000.

Purvin was released on a $10,000 bond and will be arranged in county district court on June 8. The hearing for the case is scheduled for July 7, according to Prince William fire and rescue.

 

Prince William County CXO gets top nods, raise

Melissa Peacor leads the county government in Virginia’s second-largest county. Her bosses say she’s doing a good job and will get a raise.

Prince William County Executive Melissa Peacor reports to the Board of Supervisors, and the Board, just as many other employers do, conducted an annual review of her performance.

“She has done a great job,” said Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman At-large Corey Stewart.

The positive review means Peacor will be awarded a 3% merit increase retroactive to Jan. 1, 2o15, and a 2% cost-of-living raise.

“Ms. Peacor’s new salary is $244,667 for the remainder of FY2015, and will increase with the County market adjustment to $249,560 on July 1, 2015,” stated county spokesman Jason Grant.

The Board of Supervisors voted to approve the performance review. Peter Candland, of Gainesville, was the only Supervisor to vote against the subsequent pay increase.

Peacor has worked in Prince William County Government since 1985 and has held such jobs as Strategic Planning Coordinator, Budget Director and Deputy County Executive.

Endangered teen goes missing in Nokesville

Update

According to Prince William police, Sadler may be traveling in a 1987 blue Ford Ranger pickup truck with the VA license plate ZMD-4856. They are asking to call the police if you see this vehicle.

Original post

Prince William police are asking for assistance in locating endangered minor Thomas James “TJ” Sadler.

According to Prince William police, family members stated that Sadler left his home on Hickerson Lane in Nokesville around 12:30 p.m. yesterday afternoon.

Prince William police said that they believe that Sadler left the home voluntarily, but may need assistance.

Sadler is described as a 14-year old white male, 6’5” and 220 pounds with collar length brown hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a red and black striped t-shirt, jeans and blue shoes.

MyLink teen passes on sale, provide unlimited summer rides

The MyLink Teen Summer Pass is on sale. The pass allows teenagers unlimited rides on OmniLink buses in Prince William County, Manassas, and Manassas Park between now and Sept. 1, 2015.

The pass costs $30 and is on sale at the following locations:

Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission Transit Center, located at 14700 Potomac Mills Road in Woodbridge, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to  7 p.m.

Chinn Aquatics and Fitness Center, located at 13025 Chinn Park Drive in Woodbridge, Monday through Thursday 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sharron Baucom — Dale City Recreation Center, located at 14300 Minnieville Road in Dale City, Monday through Friday 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Cash or credit only.

Ben Lomond Community Center, located at 10501 Copeland Drive in Manassas, Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cash or credit only.

Manassas City Hall Treasurer’s Office, located at 9027 Center Street in Manassas, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cash only.

OmniLink provides bus service along major routes in the area, including Route 1 in Woodbridge, Dale Boulevard in Dale City, as well as major routes in Lake Ridge, Manassas, and Manassas Park.

Those who purchase a My Link Teen Bus Pass will also receive discounts good for $1 off general admission to Potomac Nationals games, $2 off public skating at the Prince William Ice Center in Dale City, up to five free games per day at Bowl America, located at 13409 Occoquan Road in Woodbridge, and $1 off general admission to Stonewall Pool in Manassas.

Riders must be between the ages of 13 and 19 years old to use the pass. Teenagers use the pass to get rides to summer jobs, shopping centers, recreation centers, and libraries, according to a Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission press release.

Manassas City businesses rise and shine at appreciation breakfast

Close to 100 people gathered at the Center for the Arts for the inaugural Manassas Business Appreciation Breakfast where they celebrated the City’s entrepreneurial spirit and thriving business community. The City of Manassas and the Prince William Chamber of Commerce hosted the event to recognize local businesses.

In his opening remarks, Mayor Harry J. Parrish II thanked the audience for choosing Manassas and “for all that you bring to the community.” Beyond creating jobs and boosting the local economy, he acknowledged the many business leaders who serve on boards and commissions and participate in the robust calendar of events.

See photos from the event

Those in the room took a moment to welcome the newcomers to downtown, which include Amy’s Bridal, Totally Vintage Designs, and Scatter Seeds as well as the soon-to-open Cut Rate Barbershop and Jitterbug ice cream shop. H Mart and Firehouse Subs, which recently opened on Liberia Avenue, were recognized as well. Dalena Kanouse, the CEO of MTCI Management and Training Consultants, Inc., and incoming chair of the Prince William Chamber, pointed out that her well-established company was once a newcomer to the City of Manassas. She told the tight-knit business community that MTCI moved from Dumfries to take advantage of the opportunities in Manassas and are happy to be here.

Existing businesses in the City are flourishing, too. Fauquier Bank relocated within the City to accommodate its anticipated expansion. Malone’s opened a second floor to accommodate their growing business. Another expansion in the City is Aurora Flight Science who are sub-leasing the airport’s FlightWorks hanger and envision creating 50 new jobs over the next several years. B. Hayes Framme, advisor for infrastructure and development for the Commonwealth of Virginia, acknowledged that most businesses have “Chief ‘Everything’ Officers.” He also identified high-growth opportunities in Virginia like cyber security and biotechnology and discussed incentives and policies that support job creation.

The City strives to create a business-friendly environment and is always interested in speaking to prospective business owners who wish to join this supportive community. For more information, call the economic development department at 703-257-8881.

Construction, detours expected for road projects in Gainesville

Expect to see some changes on the roadways in Gainesville over the next few weeks.

As part of a $230 million project, starting overnight on May 26, traffic traveling on the southbound lanes on Route 29 between I-66 and Linton Hall Road will now be moved on to the newly built bridge, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). The new bridge crosses over the railroad track.

According to VDOT, the ramp that goes from eastbound I-66 to southbound Route 29 will also be reopened.

Additionally, VDOT is working to remove the traffic signal at Route 29 and Linton Hall Road, with all of the traffic on the Linton Hall/Route 55 section being moved to the new overpass.

After the shifts in traffic have been completed, crews will complete the ramps from Route 55 over to the southbound lanes of Route 29, as well as from northbound lanes on Route 29 to Linton Hall Road, said VDOT.

The ramp completion will cause some detours for drivers in the area.

According to a release from VDOT, drivers heading northbound on Route 29 to eastbound Linton Hall Road, and eastbound from Route 55 to southbound on Route 29 will all use temporary detour ramps.

Also, drivers going westbound on Linton Hall Road, headed to southbound Route 29 will be detoured to Wellington Road and University Boulevard, said VDOT.

The project is expected to be completed this summer.

Apple Federal Credit Union celebrates 1 year in Gainesville

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The Apple Federal Credit Union branch in Gainesville turned one-year-old this week.

A business after hours event held on Tuesday, May 12, attracted members of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce lined up for networking. They also dined on fresh-off-the-bone barbeque catered by “The Bone” in Downtown Manassas.

The branch on McGraws Corner Drive in Gainesville is one of 23 branches in the company. It is one of the three Apple Federal banking centers in Prince William County. Others branches in Prince William are in Woodbridge and just outside Manassas.

Residents of Prince William and Fairfax counties may join the credit union, said Bill White, the bank’s regional vice president.

An Apple Federal Credit Union branch is soon to open in North Stafford, at Stafford Marketplace next to Firehouse Subs. Stafford residents cannot simply sign up to join the credit union as Prince William or Fairfax may, added White, due to banking rules.

21st Annual Manassas Heritage Railway Festival

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Can you hear the far off whistle? Can you feel the rumble as the train lumbers down the tracks?

Get ready! The 21st Annual Manassas Heritage Railway Festival is on June 6 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Historic Downtown Manassas. This is a family-friendly celebration of railroad history.

There will be live performances on two stages. Folsom Prisoners, Justin Trawick and High Grass Bluegrass Band are a few of the performers lined up for the day. Enjoy great food and lots to see and do. Take a train ride on the  a VRE train with a princess for $6 per person, or just peruse the memorabilia and the model trains under the Harris Pavilion.

On Saturday and Sunday, June 6 and 7, the inaugural trips of the 611 Steam Train will be rolling through the City. Norfolk & Western 611 will pull passengers from Manassas to Front Royal and back. This is part of Norfolk Southern’s 21st Century Steam program.

Owned by the Virginia Museum of Transportation, 611 recently underwent a massive restoration after more than two decades in retirement. The Steam Engine will be available for photos near the Harris Pavilion after its Saturday trip. Tickets for both trips start at $109 and may be purchased online.

Whether you are a railroad enthusiast or just looking for something to do, this event is a great way to spend a Saturday.

On Friday, June 5, from 5 to 9 p.m. come to First Friday in Historic Downtown. The June First Friday features corn hole playing and corn hole tournaments throughout downtown, plus, great food and wonderful shops.

On Sunday, June 7, get ready for the Taste of Historic Manassas from noon to 4:30 p.m. This annual event transforms Historic Downtown Manassas into a lively festival with local entertainment and lots of great food. For more information on these and other events in the City of Manassas, go to visitmanassas.org.

Prince William police seek to identify suspicious individual

Update

The individual has been located and identified. No crime took place. There is no need for public concern.

Original post

On the afternoon of May 5, Prince William police received a call at Creekbranch Way and Legend Drive in Gainesville to investigate a suspicious individual.

According to Prince William police, a 17-year old female juvenile told officers that she was walking in the area, when the individual approached her from behind. The man reportedly touched her arm and spoke with her briefly before leaving the scene in a red Dodge Ram pickup truck.

The Prince William police stated that the man was not forceful and did not attempt to harm the female.

They are seeking to identify this individual, and ask that anyone with information call 703-792-6500.

He is described as a Hispanic male, between 28 and 32, 5’5”, and 180 pounds with short black hair and an unshaven face.

Lightning strike starts fire at Gainesville home

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Early yesterday evening, Prince William fire and rescue were called to a fire at a home on Adirondack Court in Gainesville.

According to Prince William fire and rescue, when crews arrived, they saw a fire burning through the roof of the residence.

When crews began to deal with the fire, the flames engulfed the second floor, causing some of the floor to collapse. Firefighters were able to continue to put out the fire, said Prince William fire and rescue.

No one was injured.

The Red Cross was on the scene of the fire to help two adults that were displaced.

A building official has deemed the property unsafe. The Fire Marshal’s Office stated that the fire was caused by a lightning strike, and has been deemed as natural.

 

Prince William leaders on board with VRE extension to Gainesville, Haymarket

Three new stations part of VRE extension plan

More than five years ago, many on the Haymarket Town Council wanted nothing to do with a planned westward expansion of Virginia Railway Express.

Then town leaders feared the traffic congestion a new VRE station could bring to the town.

Now, the town council appears to be on board with the idea of commuter rail to the tiny town.

“We’re excited about a study that will tell us more about the prospect of VRE coming out to Haymarket. We’ve had councils, in the past, that weren’t too excited, but this new council is looking forward to having VRE come here,” said Haymarket Mayor David Leake.

The process of getting VRE to Haymarket and Gainesville, both in the western portion of Prince William County, took a big step forward. The commuter railroad approved $4 million to pay AECOM Technical Services, Inc. to conduct a planning and engineering study of the planned project.

At least three new stations would be added as part of the extension — at Sudley Manor Drive, Gainesville, and in Haymarket. A fourth station at Prince William Innovation Park — home to the George Mason University Science and Technology Campus — has also been discussed.

If service is extended, the new rail line would be an extension of VRE’s Manassas line. It would run on Norfolk Southern railroad’s “B” line, which branches off from its main line at Wellington Road in Manassas. The “B” line runs parallel to Wellington Road, crosses underneath Sudley Manor Drive and then continues west underneath Prince William Parkway into Gainesville and Haymarket.

Trains headed west from Washington to Haymarket would service the train station in Downtown Manassas but not the Broad Run station at Manassas Regional Airport, as Manassas line trains do today.

Today, the “B” line is used by freight trains. Those trains would continue to use the line alongside VRE trains. A new bridge that carries cars on Route 28 over Wellington Road in Manassas was built wide enough to accommodate a second set of railroad tracks that could be built as part of VRE’s westward expansion.  

Prince William County taxpayers continue to be one of the transit system largest funding sources. Officials like the idea of expanding a popular commuter rail system with a major presence in their backyard.

“I think this would be a great step forward for the Brenstville District,” said district supervisor Jeanine Lawson. “It’s the ideal transportation solution to the traffic congestion we have on I-66.”

Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland said riders that have embraced using VRE had helped to decrease the number of cars on I-66. He vows to work with other local officials, as well as residents, to gather input on the project.

“Tere are obviously a myriad of challenges that exist with such projects, including traversing wetland areas, impacts on existing communities, traffic and parking issues at a station, and the disruption on the quality of life for homeowners that would potentially be negatively impacted by the construction of a VRE extension in their community,” said Candland.

The planning and engineering phases of the project are slated to last through the end of 2017. Final design of the new phase is expected two years later. If construction were to begin in 2021, the expansion could open the following year, according to VRE spokesman Bryan Jungwirth.

Founded in 1992, VRE is Virginia’s only commuter rail system. It carries nearly 20,000 average daily riders on its two lines – Manassas to Washington and Fredericksburg to Washington.

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