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Occoquan Local

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.


Tax Hikes, Spending Cuts Discussed in Budget Proposals

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Ideas on how to fund the needs of Prince William County are on the table, though some of them differ.

The Board of County Supervisors on Tuesday reviewed each proposals from supervisors Corey Stewart, At-Large, Peter Candland, R-Gainesville, Frank Principi, D-Woodbridge, and John Jenkins, D-Neabsco.

Stewart and Candland propose a flat tax in 2014 that calls for $21 million in revenue reduction, cuts in services and county staff, and less funding to community partner organizations, such as youth mentoring partnerships and family services.

Proposals from Principi and Jenkins would accomplish the opposite effect, advocating for raising revenue and hiring new county employees.

Stewart proposal

The proposal from Corey Stewart would keep the tax bill paid by residents flat for 2014, leaving a $1.8 million budget surplus for the year. It would bring a $132 decrease in the average tax bill, but it also means budget deficits in 2015, ’16, and ’17 of up to $6 million.

“Additional operating or capital reductions need to be identified to balance the remaining years of the plan,” states county documents.

Stewart’s plan also means the county schools would have to cut $12.7 million from their spending plan, and 24 county employees would lose their jobs.

Another large portion of his plan calls for the state to fund more of its core services, like health clinics, thereby reducing in the need for county subsidy. A county document states The Affordable Healthcare Act, known as Obamacare, has the potential to fund the needs of more county residents through regular healthcare facilities if the state decides to expand Medicare.

Candland proposal

While Peter Candland’s flat tax proposal also calls for a $21 million cut in real estate tax revenue, it also promises to reduce spending by $207 million over the next five years. Additionally, a $5 million cut in taxes collected from businesses  is also on the table with this plan.

His plan also comes with additional cuts amounting to $8 million from county departments like  public works, human rights, aging, community services, and information technology to name a few, as well as several community organizations that rely on local government subsidy.

Some of the funding cuts proposed by Candland — $3.6 million of them — are for agencies already preparing to stop receiving general fund monies, like public health and human rights departments, according to county documents.

But Candland’s plan is not all about cuts as it does include a two-percent county employee raise (already budgeted in the five year plan), $350,000 for the county voter registrar, $1.2 million for parks and recreation, $1.2 million for fire and rescue, and $1 million for the county’s police department which is slated to build a mid-county police station in the area of Davis Ford Road and Prince William Parkway.

Candland’s plan also calls for covering the $26 million cost that associated with increasing student enrollment in county schools. The student population in Prince William is expected to grow by 12,000 students over five years. There’s also $15 million in his plan to cover the cost of reducing class sizes by one student in classrooms across the county.

The supervisor also supports a two-percent raise for teachers, but Potomac District Supervisor Maureen Caddigan who once served on the county’s independent School Board reminded Candland that the School Board will have the final say as to which school employees get raises.

All told, county documents show Candland’s proposal leaves large deficits over each of the next five years so additional cuts will be needed to pay for his plan.

Jenkins proposal

Bucking the Republican trend of reducing revenue, the John Jenkins plan increases county tax revenues by $44 million in 2014. Known as a balanced five year plan, Jenkins’ proposal would result in an average tax bill of $3,712 in 2014 – up $408 from the current tax bill, county documents state.

Schools would benefit to the tune of $25 million and 91 new county employees would be hired.

Also under the plan, the county would see a surplus of $6.1 million in 2015, but a $1.4 million deficit in 2016, and an $8.7 million deficit in 2017.

Principi proposal 

Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank Principi wants to raise county revenue by $50 million to fund what officials say are “critical unmet needs” in. A portion of these funds would go to places like  the jail, parks and recreation, public works, police, fire and rescue, and to the county’s voter registrar – a total of $2.1 million to fund new voting machines and other expenses to modernize the voting process in the county.

The county’s schools would gain $26 million under this plan, officials would hire 93 new full time county employees, and the average tax bill would rise $447 over the current bill, county documents state.

The Board of Supervisors meets again next Tuesday and is expected to continue the budget appropriation discussion. The budget process begins in earnest after the first of the year.

Gaslight Landing Restarts Construction


OCCOQUAN, Va. — Named after the quaint brick walkway and gaslights that line Occoquan’s Mill Street, Gaslight Landing is rebooting the stalled construction of their remaining river and roadside housing units.

“We started developing a few years back, and started with ten homes,” Mark Granville-Smith, co-owner of the development said.

The luxury development attracted a great deal of attention initially, with offers on the condos reaching $1.3 million. Plans to build more units were then stalled due to the economic downturn, leaving the lots vacant.

“The market went and took a downturn, so we simply held on tight until the point where the market has turned around where buyers are willing to pay in this price range,” Granville-Smith said.

Since the announcement was made that construction would resume, the project has sold all four spec units, ranging in price from $750,000 to $825,000. Ten more units will be built here.

Three remaining lots have been purchased, while seven will be put on the market.

“They’re under construction right now. I should be delivering waterfront units at the end of next spring and the last five units by the water by early summer,” said Granville-Smith.

These town homes are a far cry from others in the area. Each features its own elevator, views of the Occoqaun River, an underground parking garage, and they sit on a busy street filled with shopping, dining, and night life.

“This project took us almost a year to design the architecture, the Victorian architecture, which we spent in Occoquan going over the design phase. We’re just really thrilled about the project and that we’re able to build and finish it,” added Granville-Smith.


2,400 Area Children Need Christmas Gifts

DALE CITY, Va. — There is an increased need in our area this season to provide a bit of Christmas cheer for some needy children in Prince William County.

The area’s Un-Trim A Tree holiday gift giving program has seen a 24-percent increase in the number of children who need gifts this year. The program has over 5,000 children “adopted” or identified as needing gifts this year. For about 2,400 of the youngsters, Un-Trim A Tree organizer Mary Foley doesn’t know where the gifts will come from.

“This program is just about a little cheer for a kid- it’s a toy or new winter coat or fun stuff for a kid at Christmas,” she said.

The children who benefit from this program live in Prince William, Manassas, and Manassas Park. Thought family income levels vary, many of the children come from low-income families in the Dale City and Woodbridge areas and quality for free school lunch.

Foley says residents can help a child this year by contacting the program and adopting a child. Some adopters like to find out exactly what the child would like and then go out and shop for it, while others make gifts of cash or gift cards which are just as welcome.

“I have families with one child and I have families with 8 children. I can provide whatever your little heart desires,” said Foley to those considering adopting a child enrolled in the gift program.

Donations for  Un-Trim A Tree can also be dropped off at IKEA Woodbridge at Potomac Mills mall.

The Un-Trim A Tree program is 25-years-old and is managed by Volunteer Prince William.

New Transit Buses Arrive

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Bus commuters in Prince William County will now have new seats on 13 new buses.

Providers of OmniRide and OmniLink, the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission said the new buses have been delivered to their headquarters in Woodbridge. They will not be used to increase service, but to replace older buses that are rapidly aging.

PRTC Director Alfred Harf said PRTC had one of the oldest bus fleets in Virginia 20 years ago, but now it has one of the newest and youngest thanks to state funding and federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

More in a press release:

Each of the new Gillig brand buses is 40-feet long with a seating capacity of 43, featuring low floors for easier boarding and disembarking. They will be used for commuter bus services.

The buses were purchased through the USDOT’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants program, which is part of the Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In May 2009, the USDOT announced that it had $1.5 billion in discretionary TIGER funding and would accept applications for projects that promised a significant impact on the nation, a metropolitan area or a region. In late 2009, the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) applied for $266 million for multiple projects in the region including $10 million for PRTC projects. In February 2010, the TPB was informed that its application was partially approved and that 100% of the PRTC proposals would be funded.

More than half of PRTC’s funding, $5.7 million, was used to purchase the 13 buses. With the remaining funds, PRTC has purchased security cameras for 15 commuter buses and a Computer Aided Dispatch / Automated Vehicle Locator (CAD/AVL) system for the entire bus fleet. The CAD/AVL system, which will allow passengers to receive real-time bus information, is expected to be complete in 2014.

PRTC contracts with Ohio-based First Transit, Inc. to operate and maintain their bus fleet.


Occoquan Riverwalk to be Extended


OCCOQUAN, Va. — A river walk in Occoquan will be extended in hopes it will bring more visitors to the town.

The walkway along the Occoquan River allows visitors to stroll past boat docks, small shops, and restaurants like Maddigan’s Waterfront. It also provides  fishing and bird watching spots.

A planned 100-foot extension of the walk will take it underneath the busy Occoquan River Bridge that carries traffic on Va. 123.

The funding for this expansion to the Occoquan Riverwalk comes mainly from a grant from the Virginia Department of Transportation. Plans include extending the existing boardwalk to the east side of the Occoquan River Bridge, said Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta.

The state grant for $260,000 will pay for a majority of this project, and the town has committed to a town match requirement of $65,000.

While there is no exact timeline for this expansion, the town hopes to have it built and ready for use for when the weather becomes milder next year.

“Hopefully by spring, we’ll have it in place,” Porta said.

There will be no extra boat ties or attachments and the expansion will serve as a way for residents and tourists to walk further along the Occoquan River shoreline.

Panel Will Address Local Government Transparency

LAKE RIDGE, Va. — After Prince William County has made moves to abandon its internal auditing department, questions have arisen about transparency in local government.

A report Tuesday in the Washington Post detailed a recent audit some claim was not made public because it details mismanagement of a $9 million pension program for county employees and volunteer firefighters.

Now the Prince William Committee of 100 will meet in Lake Ridge on Thursday night at a previously planned meeting to discuss transparency in local government.

More from the committee in a press release:

The Presidential and Congressional elections are over, but as it is often said, all politics are local. The PWC 100 is pleased to present a program on “Openness, Transparency and Conflicts of Interest in Local Government.” The panel will consist of two members of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and a former County Attorney. Our moderator will be the Mayor of the Town of Occoquan.

Occoquan Mayor Earine Porta will moderate the panel, while Prince William Occoquan District Supervisor Mike May, Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland, former Prince William County attorney Sharon Pandak, and Staff Attorney for the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisor Council Alan Gernhardt will speak as part of Thursday night’s panel.

The event will be held in a multipurpose room at Westminster in Lake Ridge, 12191 Clipper Drive, at 7:45 p.m. The show is free to attend, but a dinner will be held at 6:30 p.m. that evening, and members of the committee will be asked to pay $25 and non-members $30 for attending the dinner social.


‘Santa Cops’ Returns to Prince William Dec. 8

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — Police and Santa will take some special children shopping and to breakfast this year.

On two Saturday’s next month, Dec. 8 and Dec. 15, the Santa Cops program returns as Prince William police, officers at the county’s Adult Detention Center, Virginia State Police, and police from Manassas, Manassas Park, and Haymarket will treat 100 children to shopping and breakfast.

In years past, a Walmart store in Woodbridge has been one of the stops on the Santa Cops program.

More now in a press release:

Battlefield Lodge 43a is looking for any donations, regardless how small to help make this mission a success. It is your one chance this year to do something good and make a child’s Christmas special. These children come from all walks of life and differing circumstances, but all are faced with financial limitations in their homes.

Our mission is to promote a positive law enforcement image with these children. Children need to experience officers as caring people who are willing to provide positive support. In supporting this project, we hope that we can make a real difference to the lives of vulnerable young people. Improving the connections between responsible adults and young people is the core element of effective crime prevention and deterring negative, delinquent behaviors and encouraging achievement. It helps leave a lasting impression of law enforcement with kids who sometimes don’t see us in a positive way. Remember: youth may make up 25 percent of society, but they make up 100 percent of the future!

Donations may be made out to the Battlefield Lodge #43 Charitable Organization and mailed to the Fraternal Order of Police, Battlefield Lodge #43, P.O. Box 195, Woodbridge, VA 22194. All donations are tax deductible.


Shoppers Trade Mall for Occoquan

OCCOQUAN, Va. — In Occoquan, the cash registers were ringing on Small Business Saturday.

Shoppers lined the streets to kick-off the Christmas shopping season and to support local merchants – something this town has plenty of.

Touch of Gold has been selling jewelry in Occoquan since 1990. When owner Carrie Manderfield started her business prices for gold were much lower than they are today, and cost is always remains a factor.

“We can offer a different experience. Because we don’t have the same high expenses other businesses do, like paying rent in malls, we can offer a higher quality product than what some others can,” said Manderfield.

The small shop also had live musicians playing outside the front entrance to help get people inside the store. Manderfield said the economy has been tough on small business in recent years, and she’s heard sad tales of other small businesses closing.

MORE TO THE STORY: Shoppers from as far away as Connecticut  flock to Old Town Manassas to support local businesses

“We are very thankful they are shopping today. If the economy is bad and stores are closing, for a shopper, that is one less unique store to visit at Christmastime,” added Manderfield.

Cold weather didn’t deter shoppers, either. Sandy Oliwer, sat on a bench outside the Golden Goose – a small shop they said was their favorite — with her children Kara, 9, and AJ, 8, who both were licking lollipops as if it were a warm summer day.

“We’ve been planning this trip for two months,” said Oliwer. We normally go to Potomac Mills but we decided to come here today.”

And where do shoppers in Occoquan go when they’ve had enough of the hustle and bustle? Dansk Day Spa offers deep tissue massages of all types, which can relax the face, arms, and neck.

Christina Morris who works the front desk said Saturday was not busier than usual, but there was a steady flow of phone calls and customers with appointments walking in and out of the shop.

Small Business Saturday was started three years ago by American Express. The creditor offered a $25 credit to its customers who spent $25 or more at a participating small business on Saturday.

Today’s Phrase: ‘Shop Small’

Today is Small Business Saturday. It’s a chance for the spotlight to switch from yesterdays deluge of deals at malls and big box chain stores to mom and pop stores across the region.

While there is nothing small about American Express – the sponsor and largest promoter of Small Business Saturday – lots of small businesses are taking part today.

In the small village of Occoquan in Prince William County, Mayor Earnie Porta in an email stated various shops will participate.

Stores like Quinns Goldsmith, 13 Magickal Moons, and Glory Be are just some of the stores participating. Cock and Bowl and the Pink Bicycle Tea Room are just some of the businesses listed on 20 pages of stores said to have deals on Saturday.

Stafford Music, 610 Pawn, and Stafford Technologies are some of the businesses listed in Stafford County.

A survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business and American Express, it shows 67 percent of those they spoke with will patronize a small business today. Many do it because they value the contributions small businesses make to the community.

In a press release, the survey results show where shoppers will go:

Additional findings from the Small Business Saturday Insights Consumer Survey include:

• The top five places that consumers plan to shop on Small Business Saturday are restaurants (52%), bakeries (35%), clothing stores (34%), gift shops (31%) and book shops (29%).

• The number one reason that consumers plan to support small businesses on November 24th is they value the contributions small businesses make to their community (76%), while the number two reason was better customer service (59%).

• 50% of those planning to shop on Small Business Saturday plan to “shop small” with a friend.

• 67% of consumers plan to eat out at small, independently-owned restaurant on Small Business Saturday this year.

• Word-of-mouth is the top way that consumers find small, independently-owned shops and restaurants in their communities (79%).

Shopping is quickly becoming synonymous with Thanksgiving. The National Retail Federation in a press release stated millions packed stores at midnight Thursday:

NRF estimates that holiday sales will increase 4.1 percent this year to $586 billion. NRF’s holiday sales forecast is based on an economic model using indicators like housing data, unemployment and previous monthly retail sales reports and includes retail industry sales from November and December.

Time Change for Santa’s Arrival in Occoquan

OCCOQUAN, Va. — Don’t go to Occoquan on Saturday to see Santa. Unlike most years, he won’t be arriving by boat this Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

The town changed the time in which the jolly old elf arrives in Occoquan via watercraft from this Saturday to Dec. 1.

Town mayor Earine Porta sent out a notice to those waiting patiently with their Christmas lists:

A number of you have contacted me asking about Santa’s arrival by boat, which often in the past has occurred on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This year the Business Guild of Occoquan has decided to hold the event on Saturday, December 1. Santa is scheduled to arrive at the Town pier at noon and then proceed to Town Hall (314 Mill Street) to greet children of all ages.

Following the arrival next Saturday, on Sunday the town will receive it’s annual blessing. Afterward, a free holiday party for the town will be held at Maddigans Waterfront.


Giant Food Wants Drive-Up Grocery Service

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — If you’re already thinking about your Thanksgiving feast, Giant Food stores in Prince William County are thinking about new ways to get it to you.

The county’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved an amendment to the county’s zoning plan that could allow for customers in the near future to drive to Giant grocery stores and pick-up their orders. Until today the practice has not been allowed these supermarkets in the county.

Sources familiar with the new shopping concept said Giant Food will soon allow customers to place their order online and then drive to the store to pick up. County documents state the service will offer a new level of convenience to customers:

A business has a new grocery retailing concept to provide a convenient way to offer customers the ability to pick up food and household items in areas that are not currently served by a grocery store or in areas that customers frequently travel.

The Board authorized what is known as a zoning text amendment on Tuesday. This will allow Prince William County staff to analyze a proposal from the grocer – a plan which must be approved by the county’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.

*This story has been corrected.


Paper Ballots to be Used in Prince William


PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — The Prince William County Electoral Board thought they had enough voting machines. Last night they admitted they didn’t, and that led to voters at Woodbridge’s River Oaks precinct waiting in lines for up to four hours to cast their ballot Election Day Nov. 6. The last ballot was marked at River Oaks at 10:45 p.m., marking it the most problematic of the county’s 84 77 voting precincts.

Long Lines and lengthy waits also prevailed at Beville Middle School in Dale City and Fred M. Lynn Middle School in Woodbridge where voters waited three hours to cast votes. There were also lines of up to two hours at 17 other polling places in the county.

“I think that gives you an idea of the hardship that citizens in this county suffered on Election Day, and I guarantee you this Board regrets that,” said Prince William Electoral Board Secretary Tony Guiffre.

Now, the Electoral Board will begin the process of switching from the electronic touch-screen voting machines used since 2004 to paper ballots. Officials said Fairfax County were using paper ballots on Nov. 6 when lines got long, because they have optical scanning machines to count the returns.

Prince William doesn’t have optical scanners, said Guifree, and the paper ballot wasn’t an option. Election officials admitted they are a year and a half behind the curve when it comes to replacing aging voting machines.

Prince William Voting Registrar Betty Weimer said outfitting a single precinct with new machines – individual voting machines and ballot scanners — will cost about $22,000. Officials said there is no timeline in place as to when to expect the new machines.

Weimer has also taken questions from Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank Principi after it was learned a request for $350,000 to fund overtime for election workers. The request appears twice in public meeting minutes of the Electoral Board.

The money would have not went to buy new voting machines if it had been approved, and weimer on Tuesday said she needed to review the matter further before she commented on it.

Guifree also listed other issues that slowed things down at the polls. There was voter confusion following the decennial redistricting process that brought changes to where voters are supposed to cast their ballots.

At least 10,000 voters cards presented to poll workers were red flagged with some type of issue, he said.

Two constitutional amendments that appeared on the ballot also slowed things, as voters had to take the time to read and understand the measures they were voting for.

Maryland voters had seven questions to review and decide on, and some counties also had individual referendums put to voters.

A new law that requires voters to present ID before they vote did not present a problem, said Guifree. Officials in Prince William County said they will now look at creating voting centers where residents will be allowed to vote ahead of time, much like in-person absentee voting, no matter what precinct they live in.


Stewart’s Flat Tax Bid Means $9 Million in Cuts

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Major cuts to Prince William County’s budget have been proposed by the Chairman of its Board of Supervisors.

Corey A. Stewart, At-large, is working to build consensus for a new flat tax structure for the county’s fiscal year 2014 budget. He’s proposed slashing $9 million in spending to reduce tax bill growth in the latter years of the county’s five-year plan.

Stewart, in a letter to fellow Board Supervisors, said the county can no longer fund state responsibilities like the juvenile court services unit, or health departments to include non-profits. That would slash $4 million from the budget.

Some funds to the county’s community partners, which totaled $14 million in FY 2013, would also be cut. Northern Virginia Family Services, arts grants, youth mentoring services, and a marketing partnership are just some of the proposed cuts totaling $941,000.

Four police school resource officers who now work with middle school children would be placed back on patrol, saving $520,000. And there would also be cuts to parks and cultural services as all neighborhood libraries would close two days per week, sports tourism grants would be cut, and the popular Bluebird Seniors Bus Trips would no longer be funded – making for a cost savings of $400,000, according to Stewart.

Prince William County employees would also feel the pinch as they would have two fewer paid holidays– Presidents Day and Columbus Day – and would be placed on a similar calendar to that of the federal government which has just 10 paid holidays.

Funding for the Flory Small Business Center would shift from the economic development fund to an industrial development authority fund, according to the proposal.

The measure is expected to be taken up at Tuesday’s regular Board of Supervisors meeting in Woodbridge.

County officials are taking up the budget process much earlier this year than they have in years past. The staff of the Prince William County budget office recently compiled a list of “budget choices” which ranks funding needs based on their impact to the community.

Stewart is running to become the next Lt. Governor of Virginia. 


Fans Flock for Final Twilight Movie

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — The fifth and final film adaptation of the Twilight book series was released in midnight showings Thursday. As our Kristina Kotlus shows us, fans lined up at AMC Theaters at Potomac Mills mall to see the Breaking Dawn Part II.

The parking lot was full well before midnight, and fans lined up inside for the movie.

Dubbed the “Twilight” series named after the first book, the books and films tell the stories of teenage vampires and werewolves.

Photo: Kristina Kotlus

A parking lot outside AMC Theaters in Woodbridge was full well before the midnight start of Breaking Dawn Part II. (Photo: Kristina Kotlus)

Occoquan Starts Holidays, Lights Tree Friday Night

OCCOQUAN, Va. — The tiny village of Occoquan will light its Christmas Tree for the season on Friday, but not before some small-town community shopping fun.

The shops in the village from 4 to 8 p.m. will host an annual open house where merchants will feature several holiday items. It’s a great place to come and support the efforts of local businesses in the Potomac Communities.

More now  in a statement from Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta:

Visit Occoquan this Friday evening, November 16, for what is typically one of the most popular and enjoyable town events of the season. From 4:00 – 8:00 p.m. Occoquan will host the annual Holiday Open House organized by the Business Guild of Occoquan. The town and its shops are decorated and many merchants will be open until 8:00 p.m. with all sorts of holiday offerings.

After the stores close, folks will have time to make their way to Town Hall (314 Mill Street) where the annual Town tree-lighting ceremony will take place at 8:10 p.m. Then, promptly at 8:15, the Business Guild will hold its prize gift certificate drawing in front of Hawthorne House Fine Paper (404 Mill Street).

While walking the streets of Occoquan on the 16th, keep an eye out for Salvation Army Red Kettles staffed by town volunteers, and consider visiting the Loft Gallery for original Occoquan holiday cards designed and offered for sale by local artist Jan Moffat (card photo below). A variety of special store-specific events will also be taking place during the evening, including a book signing at the Polka Dot Divas by author Lisa Pell.

In short, almost everyone is likely to find something in Occoquan on the 16th that helps with their holiday wish list — and that supports local small businesses in the process. And, even if by some chance you do not find what you need, the holiday atmosphere in Occoquan is nevertheless something you, your family, and your friends are bound to enjoy.

Virginia Writers Club Welcomes Prince William Authors

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — Write by the Rails, a networking group of writers based in Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park, has been officially chartered as the Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club.

The announcement was made at VWC’s annual meeting Nov. 3 in Richmond. Local members June Kilpatrick and Linda Johnston of Gainesville and Terry Reardon of Woodbridge were in attendance.

The club is a statewide organization that supports and stimulates the art, craft and business of writing in the Commonwealth. Write by the Rails joins nine other regional chapters of the club: Appalachian Authors Guild, Blue Ridge, Chesapeake Bay Writers, Hampton Roads, Hanover Writers, Northern Virginia, Richmond, Riverside Writers and Valley Writers.

Write by the Rails was co-founded in 2011 by individual writer members of the Prince William County Arts Council: Cindy Brookshire, Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt, Pete Pazmino and Sheila Lamb. The group has a Facebook page and maintains

Members have participated in Arts Alive! at the Hylton Performing Arts Center, conducted a “How to Market Your Book” panel workshop, sold books at the Winery at La Grange and signed up to read books to school children for National Young Readers Day.

Currently, the group is producing New Departures, an anthology featuring the work of Robert Bausch, Carole Bellacera, Tracey E. Brooks, Chip Deyerle, Leigh Giza, Alexandra Hailey, Kelly Harman, Carole Keily, Paul Keily, Peggy Kimmey and others. Proceeds will benefit local non-profits. The group is sponsoring a book sales table at the City of Manassas 6th Annual Neighborhood Conference on Sat., Nov. 17 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at the Manassas Boys & Girls Club, which is located at 9501 Dean Park Lane in Manassas.

“I am delighted to have such a dynamic and active chapter join the Virginia Writers Club,” said VWC President June Forte, author and speech communication professor at Northern Virginia Community College. “Write by the Rails extends our organization’s reach into Prince William County and is a strong force of support for the Club’s mission of developing and encouraging the art, craft and business of writing within the county.”

The next monthly meeting of Write by the Rails, the Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club, is Thursday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 9325 West Street in Manassas. The public is welcome.

Monies Would’ve Not Gone for New Voter Machines

Voters in Woodbridge’s River Oaks precinct waited in long lines to vote Tuesday at Potomac Middle School.

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Officials failed to forecast the record turnout at polls on Tuesday.

Woodbridge’s River Oaks voting precinct has more than 4,000 active registered voters assigned to it and saw a 64 percent voter turnout rate Tuesday. Voters here waited in long lines, and in line before the polls closed at 7 p.m. waited for up to four hours to cast their votes.

President Barack Obama won handily over Mitt Romney with 84 percent of the vote at this precinct. Democrats also turned out in droves to other precincts in eastern Prince William County like Lynn in Woodbridge, and Godwin and Dale in Dale City.

The long lines – which were common across the country – initially sparked criticism during  final voting hours on Tuesday from Democrats who said voters were being suppressed because of the lack of the adequate  number voting machines.

Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank Principi blamed County Executive Melissa Peacor for not funding a request for an additional $350,000 for the county’s Electoral Board.

While mentions of the $350,000 show up in Electoral Board meeting minutes dating back to Oct. 2011, the full amount of money was never formally requested. If it had been, the minutes show the funds would have went to pay for overtime for election staff, extra training for poll workers, and to fund seasonal staff at the elections office — not for additional voting machines.

County officials did fund a request for $46,000 for voter software to be used on voting machines, and statement released last week denounced any claim the election office went unfunded.

“Uproar? Of course there is uproar. If you had to stand in line for as long as many voters did you would be mad, too,” said Prince William Electoral Board Secretary Guy Anthony Guiffre. “The buck stops with the Electoral Board. We are supposed to make the analysis and the analysis failed.”

The Electoral Board does not report to the Prince William County Board of Supervisors (which, in part, is responsible for funding its work) and is appointed by the court.

Guiffre  admits voter turnout Tuesday was higher than it was in 2008, and takes full responsibility for long lines.

“We’re not going to blame the voters for showing up. We are supposed to provide elections that are accurate of the public’s will and to make it convenient to vote,” said Guiffre.

One voting machine per 750 people was used during Tuesday’s election. Now the Board will look at increasing the number of voting machines for future elections to avoid long lines.

The scene from Tuesday has politicians talking about how to ensure this never happens again. Principi said he will call a town meeting sometime in the future to discuss election procedure. Delegate Richard Anderson (R-Prince William) said he is aware of the public outcry over the long lines and will offer support from a state level if asked.

Closures for Veterans Day 2012

Some government offices in the Potomac Communities will close Monday in observance of Veterans Day.


On Monday, Nov. 12, City of Manassas Government offices will be closed in observance of Veterans Day.

Yard waste will be picked up in the City on Monday. For questions about recycling or trash pick up visit

The Manassas Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Veterans Day and is free to veterans and active duty military all weekend.

Manassas Park Community Center

In observance of Veteran’s Day, there will be no Extended Care, Preschool or MP3 on Monday, November 12th.

Prince William County

All Prince William County Government offices and Courts will be closed on Monday, Nov. 12 for the Veteran’s Day holiday.

The landfill will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 12.

All neighborhood libraries will be closed on Saturday, Nov. 10. All libraries will be closed on Sunday and Monday, Nov. 11 and 12.

Stafford County

Stafford offices, departments and facilities will be closed on Monday, November 12, 2012, in observance of Veterans Day.

The Circuit Court, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, and General District Court in Stafford will also be closed on Monday.

The following offices and facilities will remain open:

Fire and Rescue Information (540) 658-4400

Emergency 9-1-1

Sheriff’s Office Information (540) 658-4400

Emergency 9-1-1

Magistrate (540) 659-2968

The Regional Landfill, 489 Eskimo Hill Road, Stafford, VA 22554, and the Belman Road Recycling Center, 1200 Belman Road, Fredericksburg, VA 22401, will be open on Monday from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.


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