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Occoquan Local

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

By URIAH KISER

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 writebytherails.blogspot.com.

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.

Manassas 

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 www.manassascity.org/recycling.

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.

 

Jessie Wins Occoquan School Board Seat

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Democrat Lillie Jessie is heading to the Prince William County School Board.

She beat out appointed incumbent Michael Wooten with 43 to 31 percent of the vote. Lori Bauckman-Moore placed third in a sea of four candidates.

“You don’t go in half stepping, you give it everything you got,” Jessie told her supporters.

A retired school principal, Jessie spent 35 years in the Prince William County Public School system.

She will be the permanent replacement for Grant Lattin who stepped down from the Occoquan School Board seat last spring.

 

E Book Downloads Up In Prince William

The checkout counter at Chinn Regional Library in Woodbridge. (Photo: Prince William County)

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Ahead of Superstorm Sandy on Monday came a influx of downloads of e Books from the Prince William County Library System.

Jean Ross with the library system said 276 e Books were downloaded Monday.  That’s up from their usual 180 per day.

PotomacLocal.com asked Ross about how the e Book system is used and why it’s so popular:

Q: Do you think the storm had anything to do with the demand?

A: We are quite sure that the combination of poor road conditions and office closures, with people stuck at home, contributed to this uptick.

Also, many people keep their e-readers charged and might have not had other entertainment options if their power was out, thus leading them to think about downloading an e-book. In addition, the Federal government offices were closed, and Federal workers had an unexpected day at home.

Q: How does the e book download option work?

A: You must have a current PWC library card and from there you go to the main library website and click on “Download and Go” or go directly to princewilliam.lib.overdrive.com.

Downloading is completely free and the steps required vary according to what device people are using (for example, iPads, Nooks, Kindles and others) Users can have up to 5 e-books checked out at any one time, and may place holds on e-books that are checked out.

Q: How long has Prince William allowed for e book downloads?

A:We have had free downloadable e-books since September of 2011, and the collection continues to grow, with new titles added constantly.

Unfortunately, there are some publishers who will not allow library circulation of their e-books, so we have some limits as to which titles we are able to buy.

We do, however, have a well-rounded collection of fiction, non-fiction, romance, science fiction, and other genres to offer users, and all are free with a library card.

Q. Why is this a popular service?

A: As e-readers have become more reasonably priced, more and more users are e-reading, and the library offers a source of free content for these e-readers, which has undoubtedly contributed to their popularity.

Utilities Promise All Power Restored by Thursday

Power is coming back on for the thousands in our area that lost it following Superstorm Sandy.

Outages by the numbers:

Dominion Virginia Power

Prince William County – 561

Stafford County – 0

Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative

Prince William County – 1,086

Stafford County – 46

NOVEC tells us 26,000 customers lost power during the height of the storm, and that they expect to have every one of their customers back up and running Thursday night at the latest.

Dominion has restored power to 75 percent of their 322,000 customers affected by the storm and also has set a restoration deadline of Thursday night.

 

Halloween Still a Go for Area

A mask is a simple, but always effective last minute Halloween costume idea. (Photo: Stephanie Tipple/For PotomacLocal.com)

Happy Halloween. It’s not canceled.

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy many had wondered if trick-or-treaters would still be welcome in neighborhoods – some of which on Tuesday were without power.

In Prince William County, officials there said they don’t have the power to cancel the candy-getting, costume-wearing festivities.

County spokeswoman Nikki Brown comments:

——-

The county doesn’t regulate Halloween or trick-or treating. We do recommend that people follow these safety tips: http://www.pwcgov.org/government/dept/FR/Pages/Halloween-Safety.aspx.

In addition, due to the recent weather, people need to assess whether or not they think it’s safe to go out or take their kids out. If they do go out, they need to watch for any flooding or debris. Hopefully, power will be restored by then, but if not, people should be aware of that, as well.

——

Adversely in the gated North Stafford community of Aquia Harbour, police chief Patricia Harman did have the option to postpone Halloween but chose not to.

The neighborhood was impacted by a few power outages but it wasn’t enough to order children off streets tonight.

Water Creeps into Dark Occoquan

By URIAH KISER

UPDATE — Power back on in portions of Occoquan. Mayor Earnie Porta updates us: 

Power has been restored in Occoquan’s business district (i.e. north of Commerce Street). As of the time of this writing Dominion and their contractors are working on the power lines that pass adjacent to the Route 123 bridge, travel out of town, cross Route 123, and come back into town via Washington Street.

They have indicated that once repaired these lines should bring back online almost everyone else in Occoquan except those living on Poplar Lane.

The latter will be offline at least until tomorrow, as damage to two houses must first be addressed. Dominion and contractor crews are working throughout the evening.

ORIGINAL POST

OCCOQUAN, Va. — High tide tonight brought the Occoquan River over a portion of crumbled seawall and into the basement of a building and back a back alley.

Water rose from the river’s banks behind a set of shops at 309 Mill Street in Occoquan, Va. where the Occoquan River took a portion of seawall Monday night’s bashing from Superstorm Sandy.

Water seeped into the garage area underneath of an adjacent building. According to neighbors, the building’s owner had already moved what cars had been parked underneath to higher ground. All that was left behind was an unplugged generator, and a canoe that floated in and out of the garage.

The rest of the river quietly raged on about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday as high tide set in. The roar of water coming over a nearby dam upstream was the only sound that filling the darkness.

And it was dark, as power to the town and to the surrounding neighborhoods in Lake Ridge remained without electricity. The glow of Occoquan’s iconic sidewalk gaslights served as the only dim candles in the town.

Mayor Earnie Porta spent much of the day speaking with power crews from Dominion Virginia Power and told PotomacLocal.com power could be expected back on by 8 p.m. But when technicians made their initial repairs and threw the switch, nothing happened.

That’s usually a sign there is another, yet undiscovered problem with the power source, and that crews would remain working on restoring power.

More than just Occoquan, nearby portions Lake Ridge were also dark.

Police officers directed traffic at the intersection of Old Bridge and Minnieville roads while the traffic signal the neighborhood of homes and business on the westbound side of Old Bridge Road remained dark.

Those on the opposite side of the road, including the busy Tacketts Mill Shopping Center, were lit up and open for business.

Power Restored in Occoquan

We lost one relatively low and weak sea wall at 307 Mill Street (Brambles), but luckily it did not result in flooding of adjoining properties. (Photo/ Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta)

2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012

Power in Occoquan has been restored. An update from Mayor Earnie Porta.

Power has been restored in Occoquan’s business district (i.e. north of Commerce Street). As of the time of this writing Dominion and their contractors are working on the power lines that pass adjacent to the Route 123 bridge, travel out of town, cross Route 123, and come back into town via Washington Street.

They have indicated that once repaired these lines should bring back online almost everyone else in Occoquan except those living on Poplar Lane. The latter will be offline at least until [Thursday], as damage to two houses must first be addressed.

Dominion and contractor crews are working throughout the evening.

1:25 p.m. Tuesday

OCCOQUAN, Va. — The tiny village of Occoquan remains without power this afternoon, and is cleaning up after a seawall failed.

About 1,000 customers have been without power since the height of Sandy when power lines fell on Mount High Street, just outside the town limits. A tree also fell on Popular Lane near Prince William Marina and that spelled no electrical service for town residents.

“Dominion is working on it and they tell us it is a matter of hours, not days, as to when we should expect the service back on,” said Porta.

Rushing water took down a seawall behind Brambles at 307 Mill Street, and Sandy also

Decent amount of water coming down the Occoquan below the High and Low Dams at the moment. (Photo: Occoquan Mayor Earine Porta)

claimed one of the town’s iconic gas-powered streetlights.

Officials in the town have also been watching the water levels on the Occoquan River, which in the past has flooded busy Mill Street. Porta said water levels at the Big Occoquan Dam are normal.

He added no water level problems were seen during high tide at 8 a.m.

Storm drains were also able to keep up with the pace of rain dumped on the region from the storm.

 

Roads Closed in Prince William County

Officials are telling people to stay indoors and keep of area roads so crews can clean up storm damage. And for good reason, as many roads in Prince William County are simply impassable due to downed trees, wires, and high water. A full list of closed or impacted roads in Prince William is below, provided by the county’s government’s communications office:

Ingram Dr at 1 lane bridge — High Water at the bridge

**NOT Passable**

Little River Rd / Log Mill Rd High Water / Tree Down

**NOT Passable**

Artemus Rd / Pageland Dr High Water – Cones

**NOT Passable**

2628 Alvey Dr Power pole down blocking road –

**NOT Passable**

Logmill Rd / Rock Hill Ln — Tree down on power line –

**NOT Passable**

Sudley Rd / Lee Hwy High Water

**Passable**

Logmill Rd / James Madison Hwy — High Water

**Passable**

Alvey Dr / Logmill Rd Tree down

**1 Lane Passable**

Antioch Rd / Camp Snyder — High water

**1 Lane Passable**

Featherbed Ln off Sudley near bridge — High Water

**NOT Passable**

Fayette St / Jefferson St — Lines down

**NOT Passable**

12769 Bren Forest Way — Tree on power lines –

**NOT Passable**

Bacon Race / Colonnade Ct Tree down wrapped in power lines

**NOT Passable**

North Point Rd / Purse Dr — Power Lines down

**NOT Passable**

8971 Westchester Dr — Trees down

Piper Ln / RR bridge — High Water

**NOT Passable**

6706 Groveton Rd — Trees, poles and lines down

**Passable**

Bethlehem / Balls Ford Rd — High Water

**Passable**

Sudley Manor / Garner Dr High Water

**1 Lane Passable**

Reid Ln at Vint Hill — High Water

**NOT Passable**

Fox Hound Dr / Owls Nest Rd — Power lines down

**NOT Passable**

Carver Rd / Lee Hwy — Pole & wires down

**Passable**

14992 Alaska Rd — Wires down –

**NOT Passable**

Jefferson Davis Hy/Featherstone Rd — Traffic light still out but falling light has been removed

13822 Botts Av — Tree & lines down

**NOT Passable**

18338 Sharon Rd — Trees down

**NOT Passable**

3804 Russell Rd — Large Tree down

**Passable**

Wellington Rd / Nokesville Rd — Traffic Light Out, Control Panel is underwater

 

Sandy Leaves Power Outages, Closed Roads

National Weather Service Sterling, Va. radar image at 8 a.m.

10 a.m. 

Prince William County will close the Ferlazzo Shelter at 11 a.m. this morning. A total of 40 residents used the shelter last night.

In addition, the Department of Social Services will open the Winter Shelter two days early due to the cold weather. The Winter Shelter is typically open Nov. 1 through March 31.

9 a.m. 

Prince William County will close the Stonewall Jackson High School shelter at 10 a.m. today. A total of 17 people used the shelter last night. No residents are at the shelter currently.

8 a.m.

The worst of Sandy has passed our region, but the remnants of the storm will continue to dump rain today on the Potomac Communities.

Sandy roared through our area with high wind gusts before 10 p.m. Fort Belvoir recorded one of the region’s highest wind gusts at 63 mph at 9:29 p.m., and Quantico clocked a gust at 49 mph at 7:15 p.m.

Rain will taper off later today but the National Weather Service warns flooding will be an issue for those living on or near the Potomac River.

Power outages

One of the largest areas without power this morning is in southern Fairfax County near Occoquan, where more than 3,000 Dominion Virginia Power customers are in the dark.

Some Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative customers are also without power in Prince William and Stafford counties.

By the numbers as of 8 a.m.:

Dominion Virginia Power

Prince William County – 7,059

Stafford County – 1,293

NOVEC

Prince William County – 8,285

Stafford County – 1,217

Statewide conditions

Virginia State Police have been monitoring the situation all night long and released this latest information:

——

Statewide from Sunday, Oct. 28, thru 6 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30, troopers have responded to 2,549 traffic crashes and disabled vehicles, and received a total of 4,605 calls for service.

During the height of the storm, state police were fielding 155 calls for service an hour.

——

There are more than 143 secondary roads in Prince William and Fairfax counties closed this morning due to storm impacts, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

 

Names on Police Chief Panel Leaked

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — With the names of the interview panel leaked, the man who pushed for their release reacts to the news.

The Washington Post is reporting the names of those who will work to select qualified candidates to replace now retired Prince William police Chief Charlie T. Deane:

——

The panel’s membership has not been publicly named. According to a county official familiar with the search, it consists of Peacor, two deputy county executives, Fire and Rescue Chief Kevin McGee, Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert (D), Sheriff Glendell Hill (R) and county residents Donna Widawski and W. Ralph Basham. The official who provided the list requested anonymity because supervisors have not made it public.

——-

Of the two private citizens on the panel, Basham is a consultant with a 38-year law enforcement background, and Widawski has placed herself in the public eye on the issue of immigration, has served the U.S. Secret Service and Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland as his chief of staff until she was let go.

Prince William County officials did not release the names of those on the panel because they feared the names, if made public, would prompt others in the community to approach panel members and potentially sway their decisions. Voluntary interview panels are commonplace when the Prince William County Government selects candidates to fill jobs, said spokesman Jason Grant.

Al Alborn, a county resident and blogger, pushed for the release of these names. He asked his elected county supervisor, the county’s attorney, and then filed several Freedom of Information Act requests in hopes to get the names made public. He commented on his blog he’s happy the names were released but wonders why elected officials chose to keep them secret, and notes he’s still awaiting a response for his FOIA request.

The interview panel is expected to present a list of qualified, vetted candidates to the governing body who will ultimately decide who will serve as the county’s next police chief: the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. A decision on a new chief is expected early next year.

Shoppers Stock Up Ahead of Sandy

By STEPHANIE TIPPLE

DALE CITY, Va. — As Hurricane Sandy moves its way toward the Potomac Communities, families and companies all over Northern Virginia are preparing.

Prompted by the derecho this past June that took many off guard, and leaving several people without power and supplies for extended periods, there is a bigger sense of preparedness for Hurricane Sandy.

At Pitkins Ace Hardware in Dale City supplies are flying off the shelves; with batteries, flashlights and candles being among the top most purchased items, according to Meagan Stephens, a cashier at the store. Another popular item many are flocking to are sand bags.

“People are especially buying those to keep from flooding,” Stephens said.

While they have plenty of flashlights in stock, the store is currently out of propane tanks.

Dominion Virginia Power and NOVEC are also taking preemptive measures – and are urging their customers to do the same. A press release issued Saturday by Dominion Power warned this storm is likely to be long lasting, and that customers need to be ready for long term outages.

“This storm system will build in intensity over time and will remain a force for days, not just hours, causing major damage and extensive power outages,” said spokesman Rodney Blevins. Dominion has made a commitment to have teams on the ground as soon as the worst of the storm is over, to help restore power to affected communities.

NOVEC is also prepared with teams to fix any damage and outages in the Northern Virginia area, and has stressed safety and emergency preparedness. One tip that NOVEC offered all customers was to get in touch with NOVEC and ensure that they have your up to date contact information on file, so they can get in contact with you and restore your service as quickly as possible.

“If you use a cell phone, call us at 703-335-0500 or 1-888-335-0500 to associate your number with your account,” the press release states.

Take a look at these hurricane preparedness tips, published by NOVEC:

? Designate the safest shelter location. Be prepared to leave a mobile home for better protection. Develop a plan for someone disabled.

? Have an emergency kit with non-perishable food, water, flashlights, fresh batteries, battery-operated radio, lanterns, canned fuel, matches, and first aid. If applicable, have enough prescription drugs, pet food, and baby-care items.

? Have identification and documentation ready to grab. Keep Social Security information; birth certificates; home, car, and life insurance files; and other important documents in a water-proof file box.

? Cordless phones do not work when power is out; keep cell phones charged.

? Before a storm hits, unplug TVs, DVD/ VCR players, microwave oven, and computers to protect them from power surges and lightning strikes.

What to do if Power Goes Out

? Call NOVEC at 703-335-0500 or 1-888-335-0500, or report the outage online at novec.com if you have access. The Outage Center will provide updates.

? Only open freezers and refrigerators when necessary.

? Use portable generators, camp stoves, or grills outdoors to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Alternatively, heat food in a chafing dish or fondue pot over canned fuel.

 

Area Conditions to Worsen Sunday Night

Sandy is on again, off again as the massive tropical cyclone is once again upgraded to a hurricane. Showing signs of weakening at 5 a.m. Saturday, by 8 a.m. Hurricane Sandy was once again a category one storm 335 miles southeast of Charleston, S.C. with sustained 75 mph winds.

As the storm is expected to pick up speed and make its way closer to Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic states, it’s also expected to bring a storm surge of two to four feet to the lower Chesapeake Bay, heavy rain between four and 12 inches in some spots, and high wind.

Conditions in the Potomac Communities are expected to start downhill Sunday night as rain moves in and wind picks up. Wind and rain is expected to pick up Monday as Sandy moves over the area.

As of 9 a.m., there were no watches or warnings for the Potomac Communities.

Cold air will filter into the region following the storm. The high temperature forecast for the Potomac Communities on  Tuesday is 48 degrees. 

Schools

Public schools in Prince William and Stafford counties have told parents, students, faculty and staff to monitor their respective school divisions websites for closure information. No cancelations for either institution have been posted yet.

Utilities prepare

Power crews Dominion Virginia Power, NOVEC, and crews from Manassas have all said they are monitoring the storm. In Manassas, there is a focus on monitoring Lake Manassas’ levels to prevent flooding as well as clear storm drains of debris.

The city is fortunate to have 80 percent of their power lines underground as major power outages are forecast for the region. The city issued a statement late Friday afternoon:

——-

The Manassas City Police Department has canceled all training activities for Monday and Tuesday. This will allow for more officers on the street to assist residents. The City of Manassas Fire & Rescue Department Emergency Management staff will be monitoring the storm throughout the weekend.

Fire & Rescue personnel will be checking equipment and preparing for extended operations. Prince William County Department of Fire & Rescue will have swift water rescue response boats and equipment staffed and available to assist the City of Manassas and the region should they be needed.

——

Stafford County fire and rescue officials also urged residents to also closely monitor the storm

Supplies

Lines at the grocery store on Friday afternoon were beginning to back up as shoppers gathered supplies.

Batteries, non-perishable foods, and water were just some of the items on shoppers’ lists. It’s recommended to freeze water in prior to the storm so it will be cold in the event power goes out. Officials also urged residents to have a NOAA weather radio in the event of a power loss or loss of cell phone communications, as was the case during June’s Derecho storm.

 

Prince William Withholds Names in Search for Police Chief

By URIAH KISER

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — One man’s push for transparency in government has been met with pushback.

Resident blogger Al Alborn asked Prince William County officials to the see the names of county residents who were asked to serve on a special interview panel that will help to decide the next chief of the Prince William County Police Department. The panel comes as Chief Charlie T. Deane retired Sept. 1.

The panel will also include several local government officials who will interview candidates and bring their final decisions to the Prince William County Board of Supervisors — the county’s governing board that is expected to select a new chief early next year.

“I had heard that a panel was formed to select our next Police Chief. Since it isn’t ‘rocket science’ that whomever is on that panel will influence the nature of the decision, I sent a quick email to my supervisor, Marty Nohe, asking who was on it,” Alborn penned in his blog.

That simple request was elevated to a full Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) application that was sent to County Attorney Angela Horan. She wrote back to Alborn and told him, just as county officials told PotomacLocal.com when asked about names of those on the interview panel, that information was off limits.

Alborn posted Horan’s response on his blog and that got the attention of Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland who demanded the information be public.

“…it was my understanding that the names of those individuals who were under consideration to serve on this citizens panel would be confidential until the members had agreed to serve and the panel commenced functioning…” Candland stated in a letter to Horan.

The elected leader apparently sent the letter after he read Alborn’s blog post.

Immigration debate

The changeover of a new police chief comes as the Department of Homeland Security placed Prince William’s 287(g) program – where inmates at the county’s jail have their immigration status screened by trained sheriff’s deputies – under review.

Residents like Alborn supported Deane who oversaw a department with overall high satisfaction ratings. Deane also protested a 2007 decision that was later overturned to have his officers question anyone suspected of being in the U.S. illegally.

That created friction between Prince William’s At-large Supervisor, Corey Stewart, who said one’s stance on illegal immigration will be a “litmus test” in deciding who the county’s next police chief will be, and blames the president for the putting the 287(g) program at risk.

“It’s obviously important to me that whoever we hire is a strong believer of immigration enforcement. We’ve had problems with illegal immigrants committing crimes in the past, we have a program in place which is now in jeopardy because of the Obama administration, but if we’re able to get that decision overturned by a Romney administration we expect whoever we hire is going to be a proponent of our efforts,” said Stewart.

Stewart was not in favor of releasing the names of anyone on the interview panel keeping with concern aired by county officials that if the names get out, those on the panel, and their decision, may be unduly influenced by friends and neighbors.

The police department

Prince William’s police department is currently headed by Acting Chief Barry Bernard. He’s been with the department since 1976 and served as its assistant chief from 2000 until 2009. The department has 750 sworn and civilian members that make up its ranks.

The county is no longer accepting applications for the chief’s position but has left a job description on its website to serve as a source of information about the job.

Ghost Stories Told at an Occoquan Campfire

LORTON, Va. — Scary stories told around a campfire; its a classic fall memory that was served up last night at Occoquan Regional Park.

Kay Pietrewicz, of Haunted Occoquan Tours, gathered about 30 people around two campfires at the park just across from Occoquan, and she shared tales of the tiny town’s haunted past. When she’s not sending chills up the spines of those roasting marshmallows she can be found giving walking tours of Occoquan.

Monday night’s event was billed as a community bonfire and was put on by Occoquan River Communities – an advocacy group tasked with promoting Occoquan, the river the town is named after, and the surrounding area as a region to be visited by tourists.

Before the fires and ghost stories, participants gathered at a picnic shelter where the ORC provided free hot dogs, cookies, and drinks. Live music was played, and a history of Occoquan Regional Park in Fairfax County was provided by Park Manger John Houser.

Kay Pietrewicz, of Haunted Occoquan Tours, told ghost stories of the tiny town’s haunted past. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

 

The skull of a deceased animal lies in Occoquan Regional Park. (Mary Davidson)

 

Occoquan Regional Park in October. (Mary Davidson)

 

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