The Prince William County Board of Supervisors will approve the final budget and tax rate tomorrow, April 21, at their regularly scheduled meeting.
The approved budget will now include $1 million allocated specifically for reducing class sizes in Prince William County Public Schools.
As the budget period for the Prince William County Board of Supervisors comes to a close, Supervisors Candland and Lawson took the opportunity to speak on their own budget draft with a 2.5% tax increase. In March, the board announced their advertised ceiling tax rate increase of 3.88%, and the difference between the 2.5% and the 3.88% is about $14.6 million.
Budget draft to address school overcrowding
Lawson and Candland stated their draft of the 2016 budget is focused on a plan to address overcrowding in county public schools.
The budget draft would invest county funds into reducing class sizes over the next five years, drawing funding from the Recordation Tax revenue. Under the original proposal given by Candland and Lawson, the board would invest $30 million over the 5-year period, starting with $2 million in 2016. The board decided to halve this amount – giving $1 million – and requiring the school board to match the funds.
Virginia charges a tax on the recordation of deeds, deeds of trust, mortgages, leases, and contracts, which provide the funding source Candland referenced. Currently, the Recordation Tax in the county’s budget goes toward paying for transportation projects and other small line items in the budget, stated a release. (more…)
The Bottle Stop Wine Bar and Shop, located in Occoquan, offers a mixture of local artisan drinks and small tapas style food plates for a unique dining experience.
Owned by Emil and Kim Wigode, the wine bar opened up a year and a half ago.
The Wigodes previously owned the Old Dominion Wine Shop on Mill Street in Occoquan for 5 years, before deciding to expand into a new location with a wine bar.
“We really saw a lack of a place where you could have some good wine, whiskey, craft beer – and not necessarily large plates of food, but smaller platers of food that pair well… there just isn’t a lot of that in the Woodbridge area, especially Occoquan. We were trying to fill that niche,” said Emil Wigode.
For their alcoholic beverages, they pride themselves on feature local and small production artisan beverages.
“[We have] wines you’re not going to find at the grocery store or some of the big box places. They tend to be family owned wineries that we represent. We usually have at least one local Virginia wine available by the glass,” said Wigode.
Additionally, the wine bar offers whiskeys and scotches by the glass, as well as their local craft beer selection.
“We skew more local [with beers]. We have 6 craft beers on tap right now…we have 2 Virginia breweries [featured] – a Delaware brewery, a Pennsylvania one also,” stated Wigode.
To go with the local drinks, Bottle Stop Wine Bar and Shop offers small tapas style fare that you can share with friends.
“Food wise we do cheese and charcuterie platters. So you can choose – we have a selection of about a dozen different artisan cheeses from around the world, and salamis and prosciuttos that you can mix and match. And then we do a few different versions of sliders – we do our specialty, which is a crab cake slider. And we do a beer braised beef slider – it’s short ribs braised in a local chocolate stout overnight. We do some smaller flatbread pizzas,” Wigode said.
Among their menu items, the most popular are the crab cake sliders and the Parmesan Asiago flatbread pizza.
According to Wigode, the community reaction to the wine bar has been overwhelmingly positive.
“We think people have enjoyed the concept. We get a lot of comments about how this was a needed element in the area. We’ve had a great first year and a half,” Wigode said.
Republicans face off in Prince William Chairmans Race Primary Debate
Two Republicans seeking to lead the Prince William County Board of Supervisors sat down for a debate on Saturday.
Incumbent Corey Stewart faced newcomer Chris Crawford, and each discussed issues facing the county from tax bills, funding firefighters, to bringing new jobs to the region.
On the latter note, Stewart addressed a question that asked what more is being done to bring high-paying jobs to the area as retailers like Walmart consistently rank in the list of the county’s top employers.
“We have so far, in a two-year period, have $1.5 billion in private investment in Prince William County,” said Stewart. “The jobs are there. Some are in the retail sector, but a lot of them aren’t. We’re seeing a lot of development in the life sciences industry especially in the [Innovation Park] area, and in the Route 1 corridor [in Woodbridge.]”
Crawford disagreed, and said he is tired of having to leave Prince William each day for a high-paying job.
“Innovation looks like a wheat field. I hear there’s a lot of jobs but I just don’t see it. We’ve got to get our tax rate under control…the businesses aren’t coming here,” said Crawford.
Recent local government data show the vacancy rate for commercial office, industrial, and retail space sits at 6.8% in December 2014, down from 8.3% one year earlier. At-place employment is also slightly on the rise.
Home values continue to rise, too. Stewart said he and others on the Board of Supervisors have worked to keep low the average property tax bill for Prince William homeowners, citing the bills are 30% lower than they are in neighboring Loudoun County.
“It’s not apples to apples to compare homes in other counties. Their houses are worth more,” Crawford fired back.
Both men support taking funds from the county’s fire levy that were once given to volunteer fire companies and instead use them to pay the salaries of career firefighters.
“As we become a more suburb and community and less rural, the number of volunteers is inevitably declining,” said Stewart.
Both men added they support the county’s blended career and volunteer fire system, and both thanked volunteers for their service.
The debates were held at the Dar AlNoor Islamic Community Center. They were co-sponsored by the Coles District Civic Association and Potomac Local.
Video of the full debate produced by Bill Golden of the Coles District Civic Association after the jump (more…)
On May 16, Occoquan will be hosting a ‘Sail Occoquan’ board parade.
From 9:50 a.m. to 4 p.m. there will be 10 to 12 boats led by a fire boat, parading along the Occoquan River, according to a release.
Residents will be able to view the parade from the Occoquan Town Boardwalk, located behind Madigan’s Waterfront Restaurant, down to Mamie Davis Park.
The Occoquan River Maritime Assocation is sponsoring the parade.
During the event, residents will be able to search for eight marine flags in town, and be entered into a drawing to win four round trip tickets for a Miss Rivershore cruise, according to a release.
Miss Rivershore cruises will be running until 4 p.m. that day, for residents that want to get on the water themselves.
[ngg_images gallery_ids=”367″ display_type=”ds-nextgen_royalslider”]
On April 9 the City of Manassas Farmer’s Market opened for the season. This is the 24th season the City’s Farmer’s Market has been delivering fresh produce and goods to residents and visitors of the City of Manassas. On Thursdays, the Farmer’s Market is located in the Harris Pavilion and on Saturdays it is located in parking lot B or the water tower lot. Both markets are open from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. In June, July and August there is a summer evening market from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Harris Pavilion.
About five years ago the City’s Farmer’s Market became a SNAP distributor by applying to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. This opened the door for people that are receiving assistance to purchase fresh fruits and vegetable from the market. In addition, Historic Manassas, Inc. has formed a partnership with INOVA, who supplied matching funds for dollars spent by SNAP recipients. The City of Manassas Farmers Market was one of the very first in this region to be able to offer this service to customers.
Jeff Adams has been selling Walnut Hill Farms poultry, eggs, pork, beef and lamb at the market for about five years. His motto is “from birth to plate, we know what we ate.” Jeff is a former biology teacher and telephone company employee. He bought his farm in 2001 after saying goodbye to corporate America.
Ron Burleson of Skyline Premium Meats has been a part of the City of Manassas Farmer’s Market for seven seasons. Burleson and his wife, Suzy run a farm in Unionville, Virginia, where they raise calves. Ron and Suzy also maintain a greenhouse, and depending on the season, produce eggs. They raise an array of annuals; from hanging baskets to potted vegetable plants and beautiful handmade Christmas wreaths in the winter season.
These are just two of the many wonderful vendors at the City of Manassas Farmer’s Market. Visit the City of Manassas Farmer’s Market soon!
On May 2, 2015, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the Manassas Airshow is bringing in Breitling Jet Team, the largest professional civilian flight jet team. This team demonstrates aerobatics with precision, speed, mastery and style. The Breitling Team coordinates a meticulous ballet in which planes sometimes fly within three meters of each other at speeds of over 700 kilometers per hour.
They are really a sight to see and the event is free to the public.
Also performing this year are the 3rd Dimension Parachute Team, the American Helicopters Demonstration Team, Andrew McKenna P-51 and T-6 Aerobatics, the Flying Circus Stearman Flight, Scott Francis MXS Aerobatics, Jack Knutson Extra 300 Aerobatics, Matt Chapman CAP 580 Aerobatics, Randy Devere CJ-6 Aerobatics and there will be an RC Modeler Jet Demonstration. Along with these performers, the Manassas Airshow offers aircraft displays, military re-enactors and much more.
Also at the Manassas Regional Airport on April 26 at 7:30 a.m. runners will be getting ready to race the Manassas Runway 10K/5K presented by the Bull Run and Manassas Rotary Clubs. This is the flattest run in the area, being held on the actual runway.
The Texas Raiders B-17 will be at the Manassas Regional Airport from May 3 to 6 offering rides on their B-17, which is one of only eleven B-17 flying fortresses still flying today. On May 8 from noon to 1 p.m. 15 historically sequenced warbird formations will participate in the World War II Victory Capitol Flyover in honor of the 70th Anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day. While several of these majestic warbirds are visiting the Manassas Regional Airport, they will be giving tours, May 9-10 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information on any of these events, visit manassascity.org/airportevents.
Neighbor complaints, citations lead to unanimous vote against family day home
The number of children allowed at a home daycare in Occoquan will continue to be limited to five.
Sammy’s Home Child Daycare at 1613 Mount High Street wanted to care legally for up to 12 children. After it had been denied the request twice before, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors on Monday denied them a third time.
The decision comes after county and state inspectors, recently as March 19, noted the center’s owners Max and Maria Miller were caring for seven children, and were cited by Virginia Social Services for failing to maintain a proper attendance log of children at the day home.
Rebecca Horner, with the Prince William County Planning Office, told the Board of Supervisors that inspectors do not count a family day home’s owners’ children as part of the five-child cap.
Prior to the county getting involved, the state also denied the couples’ request to expand.
A change in state law, however, allowed the Millers to appeal to the county’s zoning department. It polled neighbors, asking if they had concerns about the family day home.
They did and said too many cars had been coming to the home located on a dead end street causing unwanted congestion. They also cited a lack of parking on the street.
County zoning officials drivers dropping off and picking up children could not safely enter and exit the driveway due to a hill on Mount High Street.
Prior to the denial, the Millers’ on Monday night told the Board of Supervisors they had never been cited by state inspectors for exceeding the five-child limit. Citing county inspection reports, some on the Board, and those in the audience who spoke said the couple violated zoning laws several times.
“I congratulate Mr. and Mrs. Miller on their persistent purist of the American dream. My hat’s off to you,” said Ed Arnold, who lives across from the Millers’ family day home. “We have stood in your path for what we think are valid and viable reasons and, not withstanding, it is viable to see how persistent you are and that you’re not going to allow anything to come between you and your American dream — not even the laws.” (more…)
The three candidates – Jeremy McPike, Delegate Michael Futrell and Atif Qarni – are hoping to fill the long held seat of Senator Chuck Colgan, will debate local issues concerning governance in the district, which includes Prince William County and Manassas.
The candidates will take part in a state-run primary on June 9, which will decide who will go against Republican challenger Hal Parrish, Mayor for the City of Manassas, in November.
The debate will be held in the auditorium at the Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo Building at 15941 Donald Curtis Drive in Woodbridge.
Potomac Local is sponsoring the event, in partnership with the Prince William County Democratic Committee.
The candidates were briefed on the format of the debate as follows:
— Candidates will be introduced to the audience
— Short bios for each candidate will be read
— A candidate will be asked a specific question
— The candidate will have two minutes to respond
— An opposing candidate will have one minute for rebuttal
— A new question is asked of different candidate and process repeats
Stephanie Tipple, Prince William Regional Editor for Potomac Local, will moderate the debate.
Bob Gibson, Executive Director for the Sorensen Institute of Political Leadership at the University of Virginia, and Stephen Farnsworth, author and professor at the University of Mary Washington, will be the panelists for the debate.
Potomac Local will accept reader-submitted questions that may be asked of the candidates during the debates.
The event is open to the public.
Campaign literature and signs are permitted outside of the Ferlazzo building and must be removed upon event conclusion.
Four candidates for elected office in Prince William County will meet for two separate debates Saturday, April 11.
First at 5:30 p.m., incumbent Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman, At-large Corey Stewart will meet his Republican challenger Chris Crawford to debate local issues concerning governance of Prince William County and the task of leading its Board of Supervisors. Both men are candidates in an April 25 party canvass, also known as a “firehouse” primary where Republican voters will decide who will go on to face Democrat challenger Rick Smith in November.
At 6:30 p.m., incumbent Prince William County Coles District Supervisor Marty Nohe will meet with Republican challenger Paul O’Meara to discuss streetlight issues facing voters in the Coles District, which spans from the mid-county area to neighborhoods around Manassas.
To date, no Democrat seeks the Coles District seat, so this could be the debate that helps voters decide who will become the next Coles District Supervisor.
The candidates were briefed on the format of the debate as follows:
- Candidates will be introduced to the audience
- Short bios for each candidate will be read
- A candidate will be asked a specific question
- The candidate will have two minutes to respond
- An opposing candidate will have one minute for rebuttal
- A new question is asked of different candidate and process repeats
Potomac Local Publisher Uriah Kiser will moderate the debates. The local online news organization will accept reader-submitted questions that may be asked of the candidates during the debates.
The candidates, audience members, and all those involved in the debates are asked to adhere to the following rules:
- Occupants of the Dar AlNoor Islamic Community Center must remove their footwear at the door and place footwear in a storage area inside the center.
- Campaign literature and signs are permitted outside of the community center and must be removed upon event conclusion
When you say the words “Founders’ Day” it brings back images of a kinder, gentler time when people shared stories on front porches. The City of Manassas is celebrating Founders’ Day on First Friday, April 3, with restaurant specials, shops staying open late and, of course, birthday cake.
Stores and restaurants will be focusing on the history of the city and the buildings they inhabit.
This celebration is the brainchild of Councilman Ian Lovejoy. He was curious about the actual date the town was founded and in researching that date, found that the City was recognized as a town on April 2, 1873 by the General Assembly. The area was known as Tudor Hall, prior to that, until William S. Fewell, who owned the land, laid out the first six blocks and began selling lots.
The first official council meeting was held on May 17, 1873. Due to the town’s growth over the years, the town submitted a request to the General Assembly and in 1975 officially became the City of Manassas. From humble beginnings in 1873 as a half mile town concentrated along the railroad tracks, the City of Manassas grew to 10 square miles of homes, schools, shops and restaurants and more than 40,000 residents.
This Founders’ Day, come celebrate with the City of Manassas in Historic Downtown from 6 to 9 p.m. The Manassas Museum will host a City of Manassas trivia contest and a book signing. Love, Charley will offer cake, The Bone will have a beer garden and City Square Café is offering a three course dinner special and encouraging diners to dress in period attire. These are just a few of the offerings for First Friday. For more offerings and information, visit visitmanassas.org.
Vanessa Zambrana is the On-Site Community Manager at Cardinal Forest, located in Springfield, Virginia.
Cardinal Forest is a large condominium association and community that manages over 1,000 condo units for its owners within Fairfax County.
Zambrana has worked at Cardinal Forest for nine years and during all of those years, Cardinal Forest has “always used” Jewell Technical Consulting, Inc. (JTC, Inc.) for their services.
Recently, JTC, Inc. deployed a new server for Cardinal Forest. Zambrana was able to explain how the experience turned out for them.
“They do our monitoring of our server behind the scenes and everything and we got a notification from them that the current server we had, the software that runs the machine wasn’t going to be supported by Microsoft any longer,” said Zambrana. “So they basically told us we could use it up until the time that the support expires by Microsoft, or we could replace it, so we planned the replacement, I would say less than a year ago.”
“Our board of directors funded it through this year’s budget and then we decided, January 1, that we were going through the process to get it started.” I think Microsoft stopped supporting sometime in the summer, and we just wanted to be ahead of the game,” added Zambrana.
Cardinal Forest is professionally managed by Cardinal Management Group Inc. which also oversees residential association property management.
Cardinal Forest’s chose JTC, Inc. over other companies to an existing relationship it’s parent company had with the firm, so JTC was a natural fit.
Prior to replacing the old server, Zambrana, as well as the other staff at Cardinal Forest had to deal with slow Internet and an even slower server.
“Our old server was 10 plus years old, so everything was really slow. It would take the longest time just to open a file,” said Zambrana, “Now things are a lot faster.”
Thankfully, the process of JTC, Inc. going in and replacing the old server and transitioning to the new one, was efficient and painless to business operations.
JTC is a Microsoft Certified Partner and a Dell Authorized Partner and utilizes Microsoft and Dell technology.
Updated with new information at 4 p.m.
In keeping with what it calls the “status quo,” the Prince William Electoral Board will not allow local Republicans to hold Primary races in June.
The Prince William Electoral Board decided not to allow a Republican Primary Election after the Prince William Republican Party chairman missed a filing deadline on Feb. 24 to request the Primary Election. The Primary vote would have decided which GOP candidates would move on to face Democrats in November’s General Election.
Republicans filed a writ of mandamus asking for a judge to step in and allow a Primary Election. Arlington Circuit Court Judge Paul Sheridan, who is retired but agreed to hear the case in Prince William court, ruled against Republicans on Friday saying that it is up to the Prince William County Electoral Board to allow a Primary, and that a “mandamus is not the right way to proceed.”
Republicans argued state law allows incumbent candidates who have won a previous Primary Elections to automatically be allowed another Primary. The judge didn’t see it that way and said state law mandates a Primary Election must be requested by a party or candidate in advance.
Sheridan also denied a request to issue a declaratory judgement that could have ordered the local electoral board to a Primary.
“It is not for a judge, in light of all this, to tell [political] parties, state, or local organizations how to proceed,” said Sheridan.
Several incumbent Republicans are up for election this year. Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman, At-large Corey Stewart, and Coles District Supervisor Marty Nohe, each face challengers. Incumbents Potomac District Supervisor Maureen Caddigan and Sheriff Glen Hill are also Republicans on the ballot.
After missing the filing deadline, Prince William Republicans appealed to the State Board of Elections in Richmond to allow them to hold a Primary. That agency deferred to the Prince William Board of Elections and said it was the only agency that had the had the authority to allow such a Primary.
That Board in 2-1 vote, comprised of two Democrats and one Republican, ruled that it didn’t the authority to allow the Primary.
Republicans are now unsure how they’ll pick who will be on the ballot for local races in November. They now have options of holding a convention, or a “firehouse canvass” in instead of a Primary Election where voters would head to their regular polling places, or cast absentee ballots.
“This is an attempt by the Democratic Party to disenfranchise members of our military, the disabled, and those who will not be able to participate in this electoral process,” said Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman, At-large Corey Stewart.
Stewart added the Electoral Board has historically been non-partisan, but added that it is no more. He also voiced confidence that his fellow incumbent Republicans will win the local races.
Prince William County Electoral Board member Keith Scarborough said Republicans failed those who serve in the military overseas, or those who might not be able to participate in a nominating convention or firehouse canvass.
“This was something that was forced on us by the failure of the republican committee to file paper work to request a primary,” said Scarborough. “We have enough to do we’re not going out to look to meddle in someone’s Primary process.”
Scarborough maintains the local electoral board doesn’t have the legal authority to allow for a Primary Election.
“If the situation was different and a Democrat missed these deadlines, I would feel the same way. Following the rule of law should not be a partisan thing,” added Scarborough.
It’s not clear if Republicans will appeal Sheridan’s decision. Stewart said the hearing was “fair.”
The Secret Garden Café, located in Occoquan, offers area residents a chance to relax patio-side and enjoy dishes made from scratch on the premises.
The café’s style is ‘gourmet comfort food’ according to Allison Dauksz, the café’s general manager. It was started in April 2013 by a husband and wife team that have since sold the establishment.
“It’s very quaint and comfortable. It’s a really great place…in the summertime we’ve got the patio, – it’s very romantic…Everybody likes to sit in the garden in the warm weather. The inside [of the restaurant] is an old 1800s house that has been refurbished. Lots of little nooks and crannies in the house – lots of old rooms to sit in. We have a nice old fireplace,” said Dauksz.
During the week, the Secret Garden Café offers dinner specials, and other special menus for holidays.
“We do a dinner for two special throughout the week. That is $32. Couples come, and they get a choice between three entrees, and those entrees switch every week. And they either get a starter of a cup of soup or a house salad, and then they share one of our house-made desserts,” commented Dauksz.
Additionally, the café offers a Sunday brunch. Dauksz recommended having a reservation for the brunch, as it’s a popular event at the café and tables fill quickly.
On their menu, some of the most popular items, according to Dauksz, are their Monte Cristo sandwich, their house-made filet salad, and their take on the popular southern fare of shrimp and grits.
“We actually sell [shrimp and grits] for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s got a nice Cajun cream sauce with jumbo shrimp. And that’s got our homemade cheddar grit cake…it’s almost like a polenta cake where take the grits, and put cheddar cheese in them and then we pan-fry them, so it’s a little crispy on the inside and it’s got the nice warm, creamy grits in the middle. And that’s topped with our homemade corn salsa,” said Dauksz.
To give back to the community, the Secret Garden Café works with local charities and designates a day each month where they donate a portion of their profits to a charity.
“The first Friday of every month that we do, is a donation day…we pick different local charities, and 10% of our daily sales are actually donated to those local charities. [Within] these past couple of month’s we’ve done the Occoquan Historical Society, and that was really popular…and we also did some stuff with POW-MIA, and we also did Toys for Tots,” said Dauksz.
As the weather continues to warm up, it sounds like a good idea to grab a table on the patio at the Secret Garden Café and have dinner and drinks in Occoquan.
Earnie Porta, a financial executive and former mayor of Occoquan, has announced his candidacy for the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.
Porta plans to run for the Occoquan seat, currently held by Supervisor Michael May. May plans to run for the Prince William Commonwealth Attorney, and will be vacating his board seat.
He served as Occoquan’s mayor for eight years, during which time he worked on several large projects for the community. The projects include the purchase of the Oaks III property, a sightseeing shuttle service, and a conservation easement to create public park space in Occoquan.
Porta has been working as a senior financial executive for almost fifteen years, and he feels that this equips him with the necessary experience to help with county budgeting.
“[Porta] has been responsible for the compilation and oversight of budgets in excess of $500 million, capital programs in excess of $400 million, and the issuance of taxable and tax-exempt debt in excess of $600 million – expertise that he feels is directly relevant to the financial challenges the county faces today,” according to release.
In addition to his work as former Occoquan Mayor, and as a financial executive, Porta has worked with several organizations over the years. He has served on Patriots for Disabled Divers, the Prince William Trails and Streams Coalition, the Occoquan Historical Society, the Prince William Library Foundation, the Prince William Historic Preservation Foundation, the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association, and the Occoquan/Woodbridge/Neabsco Optimist Club, said a release.
During his campaign, Porta is looking to address business growth, overcrowding in schools, and transportation improvements.
“Better jobs in the county from an improved commercial sector will help, as will telecommute initiatives…but we have to look aggressively at potential transit alternatives that will help alleviate some of the pressure,” said Porta in a release.
Porta and his wife have lived in the Northern Virginia region for almost 30 years and have been Occoquan residents for 13 years.
This week,two public hearings to announce the 2016 budget that included an increase in OmniRide and OmniLink fares, as well as the elimination of OmniRide’s Route One bus.
Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission Executive Director Alfred Harf said all of the changes were necessary, including the elimination of the Route 1 bus.
“Its ridership has always been very low,” Harf said.
The trip carries an average of 15 people in the morning and six in the afternoon. Harf added that the route had survived for as long as it had because the nature of the route allowed for more federal funds.
Recent changes in funding meant that the route had to be evaluated on its own merits. In addition to it being the least productive route, there are also other options available, including the South Route 1 bus.
Riders of OmniLink and OmniRide using SmarTrip will see an almost 8% increase in fares, while MetroDirect will see a 6.90% increase. Reduced fares have similar hikes in prices, with OmniLink jumping 7.69%, OmniRide 7.79%, and MetroDirect 5.56%. Cash fares hold similar spikes in price.
Most citizens at the public heari’sngs had more questions rather than concerns.
“It’s been very muted,” Harf said about reactions to the fare jumps. “Everyone’s been accepting of the fact that everything on the table for the fiscal year of 2016 was well reasoned.”
Concerned citizen Walter Carter said, “I don’t stand in opposition to what is being done, I’m a long standing supporter of the transportation system in this city but I’m trying to get a handle on this thing.”
Personally Yours, a small home-décor store owned by Betsy Merklein, has moved to a larger location in Occoquan at 402 Mill Street.
The business has always been located in Occoquan, but Merklein wanted to move to a larger space in the community.
“We have a larger retail space than we had in our other store. We have designed the store so that there is more retail space on the bottom floor for customers who need to do some quick shopping, or don’t want to do stairs, which is a case for some. We do have three lovely rooms upstairs to expand our retail space,” Merklein said.
The store’s merchandise is comprised of home decorating goods and other seasonal decorations.
“Our main focus, besides home décor, [are] our seasonal decorations. We do a lot for all the holidays – we do St. Patrick’s Day, we started the year off with a big Valentine’s Day splash, and now we’re going into Easter. We’ll have specialized items for Mother’s Day for mothers, sisters [and] aunts. Then we go into a patriotic season, where they’ll be banners outside,” said Merklein, continuing, “People like to decorate their homes in spots, for different holidays.”
Merklein said that she wanted to remain in the Occoquan area because of the welcoming community and her ability to retain her freedom and individuality as a business owner.
“[We chose to stay in Occoquan for] the charm in the town, the close-knit community of the town, and the residents and the businesses. We get to make our own decisions we get to set our own hours…we get to keep our individualism.”
The store has five employees, which are county residents.
“I have a great staff, and I depend on them greatly,” Merklein commented.
Personally Yours is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
A new electronic speed sign will monitor drivers as they travel down Mill Street in Occoquan.
The sign was placed on an existing sign pole at the intersection of Mill and Union streets by Prince William County Police. Officers said the sign was requested by Occoquan Police Chief Sheldon Levi.
The sign uses radar and monitors the speeds of vehicles and electronically sends it to a computer owned and operated by the county police department. A digital display shows drivers how fast they are traveling.
The speed limit on Mill Street is 25 mph. The thoroughfare runs along the Occoquan River and is the heart of the town’s business district with several small shops and restaurants.
These small, digital signs have been in use for the past two years, according to police. They are smaller and easier to deploy than the older trailers. Officers used to use, equipped with radar devices that detected speed and provided a digital readout to drivers that showed them how fast they were going. The trailers, which were used on major thoroughfares and neighborhood streets throughout the county as a speeding deterrent, reached the end of the serviceable life, according to police.
The county police department will collect and organize the data. Afterward, information about vehicle speeds along Mill Street obtain by the data collector will be provided to Occoquan police. It will be in place for about a week, according to police.
Historically, Occoquan has been used as a cut through for commuters traveling south from Route 123 from Fairfax to Prince William County. Instead of proceeding to the intersection of Route 123 and Old Bridge Road, commuters cut through the Town of Occoquan to access Tanyard Hill Road to Old Bridge Road. This traffic pattern has created more afternoon traffic congestion in the small town.
Chris Crawford, a data scientist in the counter-terrorism industry, will be running against the current Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman At-Large Corey Stewart, for the Republican nomination for the board seat.
According to Crawford, there’s a lack of real leadership on the board.
“I have nothing against Corey [Stewart] personally – I just look at the results…we’ve been promised jobs here for a while…I hear talk about fiscally conservative values, but I see the taxes going up. I hear talk about how we should pull back the residential housing developments until our infrastructure can catch up and our schools, and I see people [on the board] still championing those initiatives…and I see that as a lack of leadership from the board of county supervisors. I feel like I can get us back on track,” Crawford stated.
Crawford, who currently works in Tyson’s Corner as a data scientist, graduated with his M.B.A. from Auburn University, and made the decision to move from business management to counter-terrorism after the events of 9/11.
“After watching all of the things that were going on after [9/11], I decided I wanted to get in the fight. So I left Accenture and joined a defense contractor working for the Navy. And now for a little over 10 years I’ve been doing counter-terrorism work,” Crawford said.
Currently Crawford serves as the Vice-Chair for the Brentsville district of the Prince William County GOP committee, a member of the Glenkirk Teacher Parent Advisory Council, as a representative to the Superintendent Advisory Council on Instruction, and as a member of the Nokesville Ruritan Club.
Crawford stated that his motivation to run came from seeing his family and other families in the community dealing with difficult issues, like overcrowding in schools and a lack of growth in the local economy.
“I’ve been living here in the county for a few years now, and my family – we really like living here…and I feel like this county has so much potential, but as I’ve gotten more involved with different groups…I’ve just started to notice some of the problems that were affecting me, were actually affecting a lot of people,” Crawford commented.
During his campaign, Crawford hopes to address several issues including economic development, expansion in education support, and a closer look at tax rate increases. To do this, Crawford has proposed going back to actively using the county’s strategic plan, which according to him, has fallen by the wayside.
Crawford currently lives in Brentsville with his wife and three children.
It was recently announced that the Chairman of the county GOP committee forgot to file the paperwork for a state-run Republican primary race, and the format for this year’s Republican primaries are being determined, according to Crawford.
Ruth Anderson, a retired Air Force veteran, and wife of Delegate Richard Anderson has announced her candidacy for the Republican nomination for the Occoquan Supervisor seat.
Supervisor Michael May, who will be running for Prince William Commonwealth Attorney this election cycle, has held the seat for several years.
Anderson has her Master’s degree in Nursing from the University of Kansas. During her 21-year career in the United States Air Force, she worked in emergency service and intensive care units, including command over medical units at the Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, according to a release.
Currently Anderson works as the director of the Virginia Supply Program of the Brother’s Brother Foundation, as well as serving as an active member in Lake Ridge Baptist Church.
Anderson has worked in outreach programs for the Prince William County school system and was an appointed member of the Prince William County Historical Commission.
During her candidacy, Anderson intends to speak about tax rates, education, and transportation, among several other countywide issues.
“As Occoquan District Supervisor, I’ll work hard to prioritize county spending on public safety, quality education, transportation infrastructure, and other core services. It’s important that we protect the taxpayers with commonsense solutions to the fiscal challenges facing our community. After a lifetime of military and public service, I’m ready to serve,” said Anderson in a release.
Anderson and her husband live in Woodbridge and have both children and grandchildren.
The Republican nomination for the Occoquan Supervisor race will take place on April 25.
The next time you’re looking for a waterfront meal, and you don’t want to leave the area, head over to Madigan’s Waterfront Restaurant, a restaurant in Occoquan that’s been open for almost 10-years.
Cathy Madigan and her husband started in the restaurant business in Prince William back in 1997, before moving to their current location.
“We had Madigan’s Grille, which was up on Old Bridge Road…from 1997 until 2007,” said Madigan, continuing, “My husband always wanted to have a restaurant on the water. This is really his dream…we’ve lived in Florida and North Carolina for a long time, and we ended up settling at Madigan’s Grille, but when this location [in Occoquan] became available, then we jumped at it.”
Madigan said that their menu consists of American fare with a heavy emphasis on seafood, and many of their seafood items are among the most popular with customers.
“The crab cakes. People love our crab cakes. The stuffed flounder – it’s wonderful – it melts in your mouth. It’s a filet of flounder that’s stuffed with crab meat and baby shrimp, Monterey Jack cheese and it’s topped with a little lemon butter sauce. And then also the Dirty Chicken – it’s kind of one of our signature dishes,” said Madigan.
They have inside dining space, patio seating in front of the Occoquan River, and an upstairs reception area where they host a slew of weddings and special events.
“We try to do special events every month,” said Madigan.
They offer themed dinners for the holidays, and one of their most popular special events is their wine nights.
“About once a month we do a wine glass painting, plus a half a bottle of wine or $35. People love that – they get to paint four wine glasses and enjoy a half a bottle of wine while they’re doing it with their friends,” Madigan said.
An upcoming event they’re hosting is ‘Shots Around the World’ which is run by Fireball Whiskey.
“We’re the only bar in this area that they’ve chosen to have it. This is our third year of doing it,” Madigan commented.
In their patio deck area, Madigan’s Waterfront Restaurant has a Tiki bar that opens in April, which offers local entertainment every night and drink specials.
The Madigan family does community outreach for charities, using the restaurant to host charity events and donations of food and gift certificates to charities.
“We donate a lot of gift certificates to charity events. We’ve had different [charity] events here at the restaurant. We have a yearly event for leukemia – a golf tournament. We’ve had the Wounded Warriors, where they took over the whole downstairs [for an event],” Madigan said.
According to Madigan, a big part of their success in the community has been their employees.
“We’re very fortunate – we have wonderful employees, that are very loyal,” Madigan commented.
The restaurant will celebrate its tenth year anniversary this October.
Have you ever watched the Ebb & Flow of water as it laps against the bank, whether it is a river or the ocean? Photographer Hannele Lahti explores the visual fabric of life that is water in the next exhibit at The Hall at Manassas City Hall. Ebb & Flow is a photo exhibit capturing the fleeting moment when all of the variables meld together and are stilled. The exhibit opens on March 17 and runs through April 24 at City Hall, 9027 Center Street in Manassas, Virginia.
Hannele Lhati is a nationally-recognized documentary and fine art photographer who creates images that explore the wonder and fragility of the natural world. She is the owner of Hannele Lahti Photography and a contract photographer for National Geographic. As a child, Lahti grew up on a lake and learned to respect the natural world, to honor its beauty as she sat by the water’s edge with her grandfather.
Exhibits in The Hall rotate on a monthly basis and include different forms of visual art. Visiting The Hall is free and open to the public from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and later when evening meetings are held in the building.