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Occoquan Local

Occoquan Unveils New Town Website

The Town of Occoquan’s website got a makeover.

A new, blue website full of information about the town, how to apply to for business permit, and details on the town’s ever-popular spring and fall craft shows, replaced an older website dating back 10 years.

Here’s what Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta had to say about the new site:

I am pleased to announce that the Town has gone live with a new official town web site.  This new site replaces a legacy site more than ten years old that was both difficult to update and suffered from a variety of inconsistencies. 

Our new site project substantively began last spring with the retention of the Computer Doctor to design the site, discussions of site requirements, and the gathering of updated town information. Among the attributes of the new site are: ease of updating by staff (a significant priority given financial and personnel resources), ease of navigation, more attractive and consistent layout, and expansion of available information. 

This last feature includes, among other things, agendas and minutes, as well as Arts and Crafts Show information.  There are a number of privately-owned Occoquan-related web sites out there, but the official town government web site can be viewed at the same address as in the past –

We are contemplating a photo contest to gather great new photos of the town to add at a later date  – so check out the new site and stay tuned!

Frigid February 5K Run Sign Ups Underway

The first and coldest 5K run of the year will take place again in Occoquan.

The Frigid 5K Run and Walk will mark its second year in the small town on Feb. 8. The event is sponsored by the Occoquan-Woodbridge-Neabsco Optimists Club (OWN).

“O.W.N. Optimists were looking for a fundraiser that didn’t compete with efforts of others, was fun and different from the typical 5K,” said spokeswoman Connie Moser.

The hills that lead into in Occoquan make the event challenging, she added. Additionally, some merchants will be open early for coffee as the event starts bright and early at 8:30 a.m.

About 60 people participated in the race’s debut in 2013, and this year OWN is looking to have 80 to 100 people sign up to run or walk.

“In our first year, we learned how to set up the race, design the course, order commemorative shirts, get sponsors, so this year we just need more of the same,” said Moser.

The race is limited to $250 participants and those who sign up get a free t-shirt. The net proceeds raised from the Frigid 5K will go to benefit OWN.

Photo credit: Occoquan — Woodbridge — Neabsco Optimists Club


Occoquan’s Porta Won’t Seek Fifth Term as Mayor

OCCOQUAN, Va. — Mayor Earnie Porta has decided he won’t seek reelection after nearly seven years on the job.

The popular Democrat announced today there are new things in life that we wants to occupy his time with, though there was no indication that he would seek higher office in a local or state seat if one were to become available.

Porta could not be reached for comment Tuesday morning.

Here’s his statement he made to constituents:

With the deadline for filing for town elections approaching in March, I wanted to let everyone know that I will not be seeking a fifth term as Mayor of the Town of Occoquan this May. After making a careful and realistic assessment of other commitments and obligations, as well as of personal and professional goals, I have concluded that I simply would not be able to devote for another full two-year term the time, effort, and focus that I think the people of Occoquan deserve.

It has been an honor and privilege to serve as Occoquan’s Mayor over the past eight years, and I am very grateful for the generous support received during that time from residents, businesses, staff, visitors, and the many friends of the town in Prince William County and other areas. I am proud of all that we have been able to accomplish together. We have, I believe, provided a solid foundation on which future councils can build. Over the remaining five months of my term I will do my best to continue to work diligently on Occoquan’s behalf. Thank you all again for the privilege of serving.

Occoquan holds its Town Council elections in May. The mayor serves a two-year term.

Porta has become known for his knowledge of the town, and is an outspoken advocate for the Occoquan River and the natural features of the small town.

When the Ballywhack Creek flooded in 2011 after torrential rains poured for days, Porta was seen on the streets of the small town assisting business owners and directing traffic.

Santa’s Arrival in Occoquan Planned on Day of VFW’s Childrens Party

OCCOQUAN, Va. — Santa Claus will arrive in Occoquan for his annual visit this Saturday.

More in a press release from Mayor Earnie Porta:

On Saturday, December 7, the Occoquan Business Guild will be sponsoring Santa’s annual visit to town by boat. He will arrive at the Town docks at noon and then proceed to Town Hall where he will greet children of all ages.

Also starting at noon, our VFW Post 7916 will be hosting a holiday party for children. Consider visiting the historic district in Occoquan this weekend to fill some of your holiday gift needs with our merchants, grab something to eat, and enjoy some of our holiday traditions.


Crafters, Festival Goes Ignore Spring Heat in Occoquan

OCCOQUAN, Va. — Though Sunday was positively steamy, visitors flooded the picturesque streets of historic Occuquan to check out the Spring Arts and Crafts Fair. Vendors at the fair were concerned with the heat warning issued over the weekend, but fair goers did not seem to mind.

“Sure it’s a little hot,” said Jeff Bartos, co owner of DJ Flicker’s Candles. “But I have been coming here for at least 10 years now. It is one of my favorite shows.”

More than 300 vendors and local storeowners filled Occoquan with a colorful display of everything from homemade soap to garden statuary. The fair is in its 44th season.

DJ Flicker’s candles. [Photo: Mary Rosenthal / Potomac Local News]

DJ Flicker’s candles. [Photo: Mary Rosenthal / Potomac Local News]

Over 15,000 visitors packed the streets during the two-day event. Several buses brought fairgoers from satellite parking lots to the front of the fair.

“I have 25 years of candle making and selling under my belt now,” said Bartos. “I love coming down to Occoquan the people here are amazingly friendly!”

For more information on events in historic Occoquan visit


Occoquan Mayor Starts Shuttle Service for Train Passengers to Spur Tourism



OCCOQUAN, Va. — Mayor Earnie Porta of the tiny town of Occoquan is said to be the town’s biggest cheerleader when it comes to letting residents in the region know about special events during holidays, town gatherings, and sales at many of the town’s independently owned small businesses.

Now, instead of just telling people about what’s happening in the town, he’s actually going to bring people there.

Porta started Occoquan Transportation Company, LLC in partnership with Amtrak with the mission of bringing passengers waiting at Lorton’s Auto Train to Occoquan. The shuttle service runs on Saturdays and Sundays between 11:30 a.m. And 2:30 p.m. with stops at the Workhouse Arts Center and Occoquan.

Porta said the idea is to give passengers who normally wait up to three hours for their train something to do while they wait.

Here’s more in a Q&A session with Porta and Potomac Local News:

1. What’s the reason why you started this service?

I’m basically starting the service in the hopes of bringing to Occoquan to eat and shop people who would otherwise probably just be sitting around for hours at a train station with little to do.

2. What’s it’s main function? How does it work?

The shuttle service is basically designed to cater to Lorton Auto Train passengers. They line up to load their cars at 11:30 a.m., and then, in most cases, are marooned at the station until the Auto Train leaves at 3:00.

I’ll be making four pick-ups at the station at 11:30 a.m., noon, 12:30 p.m., and 1 p.m. to shuttle people to the Town of Occoquan (with a stop at the Lorton Workhouse Arts Center if passengers desire), where I hope they will eat, shop, generally enjoy themselves, and be motivated come visit us again in the future. The round-trip fare is $5, but children age 12 and under ride for free.

3. What was the level of dedication / financial commitment required to start this?

The margins on this, frankly, are quite tight, which is part of what led me to take this on. With such tight margins no established company was likely to initiate a service like this, and if the Fairfax County Government decided to run a subsidized shuttle, my guess is that their taxpayers would not really favor subsidizing trips to a town in Prince William County.

Consequently, I concluded that the only way to brings these folks into Occoquan and Prince William was for someone locally to set up a targeted service. Given the tight margins sustainability (and hope-for expansion) will depend not only on demand, but on promotional sales, etc.

The LLC I set up currently contracts for the buses and pays individuals to serve as ride docents, so the upfront costs are born by the [limited liability company], but hopefully will be adequately covered by fares and promotional sales.

5. Who will drive?

At the moment I have contracted with a well-established, reputable bus company, who, along with Amtrak, has been very cooperative in setting this up. Drivers, called toute docents, are people that I need basically to be on the buses to collect money, supervise the route, and make sure that everyone gets back to the train station in time.

More Than 70 Boats Used in Occoquan Clean Up

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — Using kayaks and an army of volunteers, a the results of a large coordinated clean-up of the Occoquan River have been tabulated.

More in a press release from the Neabsco Action Alliance:

The Prince William Trails and Streams Coalition successfully coordinated and conducted a multi-prong clean-up event from 9 different sites along more than 24 miles of the Occoquan River. The clean-up ranged from the River’s confluence of Cedar Run/Broad Run, through Lake Jackson, from the base of Lake Jackson Dam south of Lake Ridge Marina. 

Over 70 watercraft (mostly kayaks, canoes, some rowboats, motorized Jon Boats, Pontoon boats,  and a 22 foot motor boat) put-in at appropriate sites to collect debris from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  More than 140 volunteers contributed 553 hours of service in cleaning up debris on the water, land or assisted in moving the debris on shore to waiting trucks or dumpsters. 

More information and a link to more photos taken during the clean up are available at the Neabsco Action Alliance’s website.

Occoquan Boat Fire Cause Electrical

OCCOQUAN, Va. – A fire broke out on a boat behind Maddigan’s Waterfront Grill in Occoquan today.

More in a press release from OWL Volunteer Fire Department:

Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton Volunteer Firefighters responded to the report of a boat fire at the dock behind Madigan’s Grill at 201 Mill Street, Occoquan. OWLVFD arrived on the scene finding a 36-foot Chris Craft engulfed in fire and endangering nearby boats.

Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire within minutes from the dock while the fireboats continued to respond. No one was on the boat at the time of the fire and no injuries were reported.

The boat was towed to a local marina and removed from the river to prevent any possible pollutants from the fire or fuel remaining on-board. The cause of the fire is believed to be an electrical malfunction.

Slide show: Runners Fill Streets at Inaugural Frigid 5K

OCCOQUAN, Va. — On a cold February morning, the first Frigid 5K Run was held in Occoquan.

Area residents and runners filled the streets in the tiny village on Feb. 23 for the inaugural run to benefit the Optimist Club of the Occoquan, Woodbridge, and Neabsco  districts in Prince William County.

The race was promoted by the Neabsco Action Alliance and was billed as a way to bring community together.

“NAA wants to be part of anything that’s good for our community. You know I work with everyone,” stated NAA President Connie Moser in an email.

Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta and a host of sponsors also helped to promote the event.

The results of the races are below:

Frigid February 5K 2013 Results



Miguel Sanchez-Ruano

Mike Enrico

William Burke


Elizabeth McGrath

Liesl Nopp

Kjersti Smedley

20 & Under

Kaitlyn Peltzer

Victoria Jaeger


Robert Currer

Jeremy Fleming


Heather Steele

Kristin Hanley


Patrick Day

Neil Hogie


Jim Halley

Jeff Currer

Picture 1 of 6

[Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

Smoke Prompts Evacuation of Occoquan Elementary School

2 p.m. 

Students and staff have returned to classrooms at Occoquan Elementary School. 

1:45 p.m. 

WOODBRIDGE Va. — Students and staff at Occoquan Elementary School in Woodbridge are in classroom trailers at right now after someone reported a fire on the school building’s roof.

School spokeswoman Irene Cromer said all students are safe. 

Prince William fire and rescue Battalion Chief Curtis Brodie said no fire was found, however, smoke did fill the air at the school and the building was evacuated.

Construction of a new roof at the school is underway, and the initial report of a fire appears to originated from that construction site, added Cromer.

We’ll have more on this as it becomes available.

The evacuation comes after Dumfries Elementary School lost power today following a vehicle crash


Businesses, Residents Along Furnace Road in Lorton Told to Expect Noise

LORTON, Va. — It’s going to get louder on a stretch of Interstate 95 at Lorton soon. 

More in a press release from the 95 Express Lanes project:

The 95 Express Lanes project will start daytime pile driving on or about January 23, on Furnace Road at I-95. This work is being done to widen the I-95 bridge above Furnace Road for an additional Express Lane that is to be added as part of the project.


Crews will install new pavement along the shoulder of Furnace Road and shift traffic to create the work zone for pile driving. The pavement work is schedule to occur tomorrow, January 15, weather permitting, with a daytime flagging operation.

Crews will then return at night to place barrier along the work zone. Nighttime flagging operations will be in place during this work.

Daytime pile driving will then begin on or about January 23, and is expected to continue into mid-February 2013.

Pile driving will take place Monday through Saturday between the hours of 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. During pile driving operations, a daytime flagging operation may be needed to move equipment or adjust the work zone.

What you can expect

Businesses and residents near Furnace Road and I-95 may experience elevated noise during this time. Pile driving is usually done in intervals of about 15 minutes with a similar break in between activities.

Amphitheater, Terrace Possibilities for New Occoquan Park

OCCOQUAN, Va. — A terrace, amphitheatre, even ice skating could be coming to a new park in Occoquan.

The Town Council Wednesday approved a memorandum of understanding with with Fairfax Water and Prince William County that clears the way for a new one-acre park to be built where a water treatment facility once stood at the end of Mill Street in Occoquan.

Finer details with the plan have yet to be worked out, but overall Fairfax Water agrees to demolish water tanks that were once apart of the River Station Water Treatment Plant and then lease the property for 30 years to whoever agrees to own be a tenant of the land, said Occoquan Mayor Earine Porta.

A possible buyer leasee for the property is Prince William County, which would contribute funds to build the park. Once built, Occoquan officials would be responsible for maintaining the park.

“We already have everything we need to operate and maintain the park, and would consider hiring someone for the park if we decided to do educational programs,” said Porta.

Occoquan officials want to maintain the park rather than placing it under the care of the Prince William County Parks and Recreation Department, since the park will be closely associated with the town.

What amenities could come with the park? A natural terrace could greet visitors when they come in, and an amphitheater that could support ice skating in wintertime — much like Harris Pavilion in Old Town Manassas — is also a possibility depending upon how plans are drawn up.

“This is a big first step, but a lot more needs to be done with the lease agreement and project design,” added Porta.

Demolition of the old water tanks should begin this fall and the new park could be in place as early as spring 2014, said Porta.

The River Station Water Treatment Plant water treatment plant was taken out of service on Oct. 29, 2007, said Fairfax Water spokeswoman Jeanne M. Bailey. A replacement facility, The Griffith Water Treatment Plant in Lorton, opened in May 2006.

As Planned Highway Traverses Occoquan Watershed, Questions on Bi-County Parkway Remain


Contributing Editor

This Bi-County Parkway / North-South Corridor is a very polarizing issue.

Based upon what I know, I support the parkway. I have heard conspiracy theories that Virginia, its Department of Transportation, the Secretary of Transportation, and the local government is conspiring to build a road to benefit a few developers. I just don’t buy that.

Development and business will follow this road; however, I believe it is a reasonable response to the growth predicted for Northern Virginia. Anyone who has used the Prince William Parkway or driven on Va. 234 from Interstate 95 to I-66 understands how major road connections improve our quality of life, and make getting around Northern Virginia much easier.

Prince William County commuters will appreciate anything that gives them a new alternative to get to work. According to Prince William’s Demographic and Economic Newsletter, July – September 2012, The 2011 American Community Survey indicates that on the average, Prince William County workers continue to face long commute times. Some 27.1% of all County workers travel an hour or more one way to work. This figure is more than three times the national number of 8.2% and is the sixth longest commute among the largest 818 counties in the United States.

I know that my friends in the Rural Crescent make valid arguments regarding the infrastructure required to increase density in their neighborhood, and the change this road will bring to the character of Prince William County. Unfortunately, those of us in the much denser Eastern Prince William listen skeptically, finding it difficult to consider these arguments nothing more than “not in my back yard” thinking.

The math indicates we will need this road. That’s math based upon the way things are. With sequestration on the verge of coming to fruition, an end to our overseas military adventures, and general pressure to downsize government and the many contractors is a bit fuzzy at the moment. I suggest we need an “exit strategy” to recompute the math as we get closer to turning the first shovel of earth.

In modeling, we perform something called “sensitivity analysis,” or ask the “what if” questions to see if the math stands up. Perhaps VDOT needs to model a few “what if” scenarios to see if we still need this road should the economy in Northern Virginia experience a dramatic downturn on the next couple of years.

I’m surprised more people aren’t asking about environmental impact. As the picture at the beginning of this post indicates, the Bi-County Parkway pretty much transverses the Occoquan Watershed. For those of you drinking a cup of coffee or tea in Prince William or Fairfax County, there’s a good chance the water in that tea came from the Occoquan Reservoir.

For good measure, it all flows into the Chesapeake Bay. I’m guessing you are all familiar with the problems the bay is experiencing and the Chesapeake Bay Act.

An Environmental Impact Statement was prepared by the Virginia Department of Transportation in 2005 and submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation. It might be wise to “dust that off” a bit as things have changed in the past eight years. Assumptions about water quality, construction techniques, and storm water management have advanced significantly. The rules have changed.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance is a very vocal advocate of this road. They specialize in transportation research. I searched their website using the terms “environment,” “water,” “Occoquan,” and “Chesapeake Bay,” and found nothing, or saw comments that had nothing to do with environmental impact.

The Virginia Department of Transportation throws in a few sparkling generalities about the environment; however, I don’t really see any math.

Who is doing the environmental math?

I support multi-modal transportation solutions. I also support, based upon what I know, the Bi-County Parkway/North-South Corridor. I would like to know more. Asphalt is forever. Before making dramatic changes to the landscape of our community, we really, really need to make sure we understand the math – and it needs to be done before VDOT starts digging.

10 Most Clicked Stories of 2012

Powerful storms, car crashes that injured and killed youth, the opening of new restaurants, the loss of a familiar face at one of the area’s most famous restaurants, and the changing landscape of Woodbridge topped the list of the most clicked news stories of the year on

See the list below of the top 10 stories and tell us what should get an honorable mention.

Double Fatal Crash Investigated in North Stafford

On an early morning in September, a car crashed on Va. 610 in Stafford County, collided with a tree, and instantly killed a 15-year-old girl and 23-year-old man. Several others were injured.

4 Seriously Injured in Aquia Crash

The site of twisted metal wrapped around a tree jolted the Aquia Harbour neighborhood in July. Police said 19-year-old Daniel Ringler had just bought a new car, loaded it with some friends, and went for a drive.

The car crashed, two passengers were ejected, and police said alcohol appeared to have been involved in the crash.

New Dumfries Clinic on Schedule to Open

The Dumfries area got a lot of attention this summer when a new military health clinic relocated there from Woodbridge. The Dumfries Health Center is expected to serve 47,000 patients and is part of the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital System.

Connolly Calls on USPS to Release Hidden Report

The U.S. Postal Service completed a study that examined the impacts of cutting back mail delivery service from six days to five days per week. When the agency tried to keep the results of the survey a secret, it didn’t sit well with one area congressman.

Gloria Spooner Dies

If you’ve lived in the Potomac Communities for any length of time, especially if your path took your through Quantico – the crossroads of the Marine Corps – you know about the Globe and Laurel Restaurant.

Our area lost one of the faces that made the destination eatery what it is today.

Strong Storms Blow Through Region

It would become known as the Great Derecho Storm of 2012, but all we knew the night it blew in to our area was it was one of the strongest wind gusts we had ever felt here. The storm hit after dark on the last day of June, and when it left it took power, cell phone service, and peace of mind with it. Forth of July fireworks shows were canceled, boil water advisories were issued, and it was hot outside. Our continuous coverage of the storm’s aftermath was highly viewed.

Diner of TV Fame to Reopen in January

It may be the most famed diner in the Potomac Communities, but it has historically been one of the most unlucky businesses in the region. Now known as County Café, it opened as County Fare and was featured on the popular TV show Restaurant Impossible in 2011. After years of struggling to make a profit, the owner closed up shop. But when news came of a new owner coming to the spot, it got your attention.

Stonebridge Altering Woodbridge Landscape

It’s the town center that sprung up from nowhere. Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center made lots of headlines this year as many stores and restaurants in the new complex at Dale Boulevard and Interstate 95 opened their doors for the first time.

More than just stores, the complex also boasts housing making it a true mixed-use neighborhood.

Cheesecake Factory to Anchor Potomac Mills Renovation

Not to be outdone, the folks across the street from Potomac Town Center at Potomac Mills mall – a retail shopping staple in Woodbridge since 1985 – also announced some changes. Mall officials announced a new outdoor walkway that would be built in front of the mall, and would be anchored by a very well known restaurant.

102812-Sandy-radar Sandy: The Latest

Just as voters were making up their minds as to who they would choose to lead the nation over the next four years, Mother Nature decided she would blow Hurricane Sandy toward the Northeast, putting millions of people on alert.

While the Potomac Communities were spared the brunt of her damage, residents in New York and New Jersey weren’t so lucky. Our continuing coverage of the day kept readers in Prince William and Stafford counties informed.

Nearly $50,000 in Fines Don’t Deter Popsicle Signs


PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va .– Did you know that each time you pass by a road sign on the median in Prince William County – you’re paying for it?

In an effort to keep roads safe and clutter free in the county, the Virginia Department of Transportation has a rule of no signs in the “right of way” but this doesn’t always stop area residents, businesses and organizations from posting the signs.

These “popsicle signs” (no, not the ice cream variety) have become more prevalent than ever after the recent Presidential election and are considered by many to be a nuisance. They’re also used by housing developments, Realtors, and by businesses advertising a special product or service. At the November 20 Prince William County Board of Supervisors meeting, residents spoke out.

“Unfortunately, during the last few years, we’ve been subjected to a proliferation of unsightly signs of all kinds on our roads, our intersections and our shopping centers. These signs are robbing us of our right to enjoy our community. This situation is out of control,” said Allan Beverstock, of Manassas.

In order to remove these signs, Prince William’s Neighborhood Services office, sends out a team of inspectors and volunteers to help ensure what signs are there are allowed to be there.

And while this team works hard to ensure the cleanliness of the roadways in the county, this comes at a significant cost of time and resources for. In this fiscal year alone, the inspectors and volunteers have collected 21, 638 signs, with 453 collected for court hearings.

“From 10/22 to 11/24, we decided to say well let’s see what that looks like – and we collected 960 signs between that period; 273 were political signs and 443 were builder’s signs and 244 were non-builder signs,” said Michelle Morris, Management and Fiscal Analyst for Neighborhood Services.

Election signs in particular have a window of time where they are allowed to be displayed, but are expected to be cleared away by the respective campaigns within 5 days after the elections.

For each offense, the fine is currently $100 per sign, and in this fiscal year, $48, 629 was collected in fines for these illegal roadway signs. Some people feel that this large volume of illegal signage would be deterred by higher fines for repeat offenders, especially considering the amount collected in fines is significantly smaller than the $100,000 plus dollars a year it costs to maintain the sign tagging and fine program.

“Some of the citizens have asked us to do higher fines for repeat offenders, because some people don’t know – but some people do know. We’ve tried to get it for the past few years so that the amount is higher for repeat offenders but that hasn’t passed down in Richmond,” Morris said.

Each time an inspector or a volunteer crew goes out, they’re required to follow a specific process for tagging and removing these roadways signs.

“You have to take a picture, you have to tag it, we have to find the registered agent for it, we have to send the summons out to the courthouse, which has to be served by a sheriff and then a court date has to be set,” Morris said.

All of this effort also leads to pollution in the environment as, “All the signs ultimately end up at the landfill.”

Morris commented that in many cases the posting of the signs illegally is unintentional, although each sign has to be properly tagged and fined – regardless of the intent. The Neighborhood Services sign tagging program urges residents to visit their website and be aware of the rules for posting signage in the county.

Children Still in Need of Gift Sponsors

MANASSAS, Va. — Each year Volunteer Prince William works to make sure some needy children in our area receive something special for Christmas.

If the numbers of children who are still applying to be apart of the gift program are any indication, the volunteer organization has a steep hill to climb and is in need of help.

More now in an email from Volunteer Prince William Director Mary Foley:

The Un Trim A Tree Holiday Gift Program for needy kids provides 2 gift per child valued at $50 total per child from throughout the greater Prince William community. About 7,500 children have registered for this program and we are most appreciative to hundreds of donors who have provided gifts to 6,300 children so far but we still have 1,200 kids needing a donor to provide them with gifts. There are three ways one can help us meet the wishes of the last 1,200 kids. We can provide a donor with the specific wishes of a child or you can just go purchase toys that we can match to the child or simply make a cash donation to the program for toys and gift cards.

The hot toys this year include: Barbie, Princess and Dora for little girls. Or action figures, soccer balls and legos for little boys. Donations can be dropped off until next Wednesday, December 19th at the Volunteer Prince William office – 9248 Center Street in Old Town Manassas.

To receive a specific wish for a child- please call (703) 369-5292 ext. 201 or via email at: or

Candland Rebukes Budget Review

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — In an annual budget process that began earlier in the cycle than normal, political leaders are far from running out of steam.

Prince William County Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland on Tuesday called a review by county staff of his flat tax budget plan for fiscal year 2014 – a plan designed to curtail spending and to hold property taxes at their current rates – a presentation that was riddled with mathematical errors and false assumptions.

That budget review was presented by Prince William County Executive Melissa Peacor on Dec. 4, and in it noted Candland wanted a $21 million reduction in real estate tax revenues collected, a $5 million cut in business taxes collected next year, and an overall spending cuts of $207 million over the next five years.

Candland fired back Tuesday afternoon and said his plan does not simply reduce revenues collected from businesses, but added the reductions will be made up by other cost savings included in his budget, to the tune of $17.4 million.

He also took issue with the staff analysis that stated his proposal meant $195 million in new school funding. On Tuesday, Candland said his plan includes $26 million to cover the cost of rising student enrollment, $15 million to reduce the number of students in classrooms, and for teacher pay raises in 2014 and 2016. He also supports abolishing a 56 percent revenue sharing agreement with the county school system where Supervisors automatically hand over that portion of their annual budget to the public school system.

Candland’s budget committee quickly crafted a response document following the staff analysis presentation Dec. 4.

“All I’m asking is that we do like every other family in Prince William County who has had to cut back on the things they spend their money on, and we keep our spending flat from one year to another,” said Candland.

Ultimately, supervisors Tuesday voted 5 to 3 to direct county staff prepare a plan that would show what the tax rate would need to be under the current five year plan – which does not include a flat tax, but does include four percent increases annually to cover anticipated operating costs for items included in the county’s capital improvement plan. Supervisors will make a final decision on the tax rate this spring.

Prior to the vote, Potomac District Supervisor Maureen Caddigan said the budget process was moving too fast, that is began too early, and urged Supervisors to throw out budget proposals from Candland and Corey Stewart (At-Large) – both whom support a flat tax — and proposals from Woodbridge Supervisor Frank Principi, and Neabsco Supervisor John Jenkins, and urged them to hold an unscheduled meeting Dec. 18 to come up with a new unified plan.

She went onto scold Candland and his budget committee after he put forward a vote of no confidence in County Executive Melissa Peacor.

“You talk about your budget committee…they are the bloggers, many of them are associated with your office. These are the people who have crucified our county executive, defamed each member of this Board. We do know them by name, we do know who they are, and it is disgraceful that they are going to twist our arms, put us out of office so they can get people that can be ‘behind Candland so he can run for Chairman.’ I don’t want to be a small person here, but your budget committee is despicable and I will not be listening to them,” said Caddigan.

Afterward, the audience in the Board Chambers erupted with applause. The next meeting of the Board of Supervisors is scheduled for January 8, 2013.

Occoquan Dam Siren to Sound Thursday

OCCOQUAN, Va. – Residents who live near the Occoquan River Dam will hear a warning siren on Thursday, and officials warn it’s just a drill.

More in a press release form Congressman Gerry Connolly’s office:

Residents of the Town of Occoquan and other Prince William and Fairfax residents who live near the Occoquan River will hear siren blasts Thursday at 10 am as Fairfax Water tests the new sirens it has installed.

The new Occoquan River dam sirens is a warning system is designed to alert residents and businesses downstream in the event of a catastrophic failure of the Occoquan River Dam. Although the dam is structurally sound and deemed very safe by authorities, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recommended the safety alert system and the Town of Occoquan supported the water authority’s siren plan.

At the request of the Town of Occoquan, Congressman Gerry Connolly secured $25,000 in federal funding in fiscal year 2010 as seed money for the project and the remaining cost was borne by Fairfax Water. The Occoquan River Dam is located approximately one mile upstream from the Town of Occoquan.

“Although a serious dam breach is unlikely, the new warning system provides an additional element of safety for the citizens of Occoquan and other residents along the river,” Connolly said. “In the event of a failure, these sirens can save lives and afford residents in communities like the Town of Occoquan and Belmont Bay time to seek safe shelter.”

Studies show that in the event of a catastrophic dam failure, the first wave of water would reach the Town of Occoquan in 5 to 10 minutes and it would cover most of the town’s historic district in 54-foot-deep water within 20 minutes, depending upon pre-existing ground saturation.

Residents and businesses in the impact zone have received a post card in the mail informing them of Thursday morning’s test of the sirens. More information about the siren and the December 13 test can be found at You can also hear what the siren will sound like by clicking here.

According to Fairfax Water, “The structural integrity of the Occoquan Dam is very sound. In fact, through rigorous maintenance and improvements, it is even stronger today than when it was constructed. The dam is approximately 72 feet tall and 70 feet wide at its widest point. It is anchored to the bedrock below the bottom of the dam and to the sides of the reservoir. It contains more than 100,000 cubic yards of reinforced concrete.”

Prince William Among 100 Best Communities

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — Prince William has once again been recognized as one of the best 100 communities in the nation for young people.

America’s Promise Alliance named the growing county of 410,000 people one of the best for the third year in a row. The distinction was given to communities in 42 states, and many more were reviewed.

A celebration was held at the Prince William County Public Schools Edward Kelly Leadership Center on Friday morning where breakfast was served and several elected officials spoke.

More in a press release from the county school system:

The recognition is testament to the collaborative efforts of county parks, schools, and private sector organizations and individuals to promote positive experiences that influence the choices young people make. Among the Prince William County initiatives noted are student leadership and community service programs and school safety initiatives to combat bullying.

More than 56 percent of the local budget is allocated for schools, and an additional 10 percent is used to support youth programs. Programs such as Beat the Odds and Learn and Serve encourage students to take on leadership positions, which allow them to interact with adult mentors. Since its inception, Beat the Odds has provided more than $100,000 for youth-focused programs. The county’s Parents as Educational Partners outreach program helps empower parents to become their children’s biggest advocates; it has also improved English language skills and education among program participants. Today, Prince William County Public Schools graduates 88 percent of its students, well above the national average.

With the distinction comes a $2,500 grant that goes to fund signage that designates the county as an award winner, and to cover the cost of Friday morning’s celebration.

The judges for the competition evaluated criteria such as healthy and successful children, community safety, and how the community has worked together to overcome challenges.


Occoquan Expects Park Deal in January


OCCOQUAN, Va. – Expect to see the creation of a park in Occoquan at the site of the Fairfax County water treatment plant.

Situated on about an acre of land, the former site of the water plant at the western end of Occoquan will be transformed into an open park space for recreation.

“It would involve the removal of the existing water tanks and buildings – the old, decommissioned Fairfax Water Treatment plant,” said Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta.

Before construction of the park can begin, Prince William County, Fairfax Water and the Occoquan leaders need to finalize an MOA (Memorandum of Agreement), which is currently in the works.

“That MOA would outline the use of the leasing of the property, by Fairfax Water, and the operation of it as a park by the Town of Occoquan,” Porta said.

The idea to create a park on the site has been eyed as parkland for years, and Porta hopes that the town can push forward to make this park a reality.

“Hopefully the agreement will be signed in January, and I hope actually that the removal of the tanks and the buildings by Fairfax Water will start in the fall of 2013.”

As of right now, the MOA is likely going to be put in front of the Town Council for its final approval at their January meeting.

The park will not have any structures or extra amenities, and will serve as an open space for walkers, families, and other residents who want a place to relax on their next trip to Occoquan.


Area Schools Begin Winter Break Dec. 24

Students, staff, and faculty at areas schools will be ready for a long winter’s retreat when the holidays roll around. Here’s a look at winter break schedules for schools systems in the area.

Prince William County

Schools will be closed for winter break for students and teachers Monday, December 24–Tuesday, January 1 and will reopen on January 2 on a regular schedule. Friday, December 21 is a full day for students and all Division personnel.

All School Division offices will be closed on Monday and Tuesday, December 24 and 25. School Division offices will be closed on Tuesday, January 1.

Stafford County

Schools will close Monday, Dec. 24 through Tuesday, Jan. 1, and will reopen Wednesday, Jan. 2.

Friday, Dec. 21, is a regular day of instruction for Stafford County students.


Winter break for Manassas students, teachers, and staff begins Monday, Dec. 24, and will run through Tuesday, Jan. 1. Students will return to class Jan. 2.

Manassas Park

Winter break begins for students, staff, and faculty in on Monday, Dec. 24 in Manassas Park. The break runs through Tuesday Jan. 1, 2013. Classes resume Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013.


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