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During the Manassas City Council meeting on February 13, 2024, three residents voiced their concerns about the use of horse-drawn carriages in the city, urging for a ban on the practice. The speakers, identified as Asteria, Moshe, and Prius Xena, presented arguments against the continuation of horse-drawn carriage rides, emphasizing both animal welfare and public safety.

“Horse-drawn carriages provide rides to Downtown Manassas visitors each year in December,” noted Asteria, a resident living off Liberia Avenue. “But every year, these rides pose significant risks to both horses and pedestrians. Horses are prey animals, easily spooked by the noise and commotion of city streets. It’s time for the council to prioritize safety and put an end to this dangerous practice.”

Echoing Asteria’s sentiments, Moshe, another concerned resident from College Park, Md., highlighted the frequent accidents involving spooked horses and the potential for serious injuries or fatalities. “We cannot ignore the dangers posed by horse-drawn carriages,” Moshe emphasized. “Cities around the world have recognized these risks and implemented bans. Manassas should follow suit.”

Prius Xena, a resident with ties to Prince William County, shared personal experiences and statistics to underscore the cruelty inherent in the horse carriage industry. “The use of horse-drawn carriages is not only outdated but also unethical,” Prius asserted. “These animals suffer physically and emotionally, and it’s time for us to take a stand against this exploitation.”

Horse-drawn carriages provide rides to Downtown Manassas visitors each year in December.

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During the February 22, 2024, Stafford County Board of Supervisors session, deliberations centered on potential fee increases aimed at bolstering funding for various county government operations.

Budget Director Andrea Light, addressing the board, outlined the forthcoming steps regarding fee adjustments. “We have assumed about $150,000 of new revenue based on the fee increases from development services.” She highlighted the proposed timeline for implementing changes, with the Board set to vote to advertise a tax rate on March 5 and the adoption of its FY2025 budget slated for April 2.

Parks and recreation fees, which have seen minimal adjustments since 2014, were also scrutinized. Light explained the proposed phased approach: “The first phase would entail a 10% increase in fees in the fiscal year 2025 budget, accounting for about $240,000 in new revenue.”

Supervisor Darrell English raised questions about fee allocation, particularly for non-residents. He suggested, “Non-residents should pay more than the residents do.” Supervisor Morris clarified that non-residents pay higher fees, albeit at a 10% increase rate similar to residents.

Supervisor Pamela Yeung advocated for investment in community infrastructure, proposing upgrades to park facilities and exploring new revenue streams through events and rentals. She emphasized, “I think if we’re looking at bringing in more fees, we should consider making [unused fields] into a turf field.”

The board agreed to advertise public hearings for the proposed fee increases, ensuring transparency and community input. County Administrator Randall Vosburg, who announced his pending resignation, reiterated, “The real debate on those fees will occur at the actual public hearings on this item.”

Supervisors also discussed increasing fees for developers. The proposed fee adjustments stem from a comprehensive evaluation conducted by consultants.

Supervisor Darrell English raised concerns about the potential impact of these fee increases on residents and developers. “We need to ensure that any fee hikes are reasonable and equitable,” he remarked.

However, others, like Supervisor Pamela Yeung, expressed cautious optimism about the proposed adjustments. “We must strike a balance between generating revenue and ensuring that the county remains attractive for development,” she noted.

The discussion also touched upon the potential benefits of the increased revenue. Deputy County Administrator Morris highlighted the importance of funding critical infrastructure projects and services. “These fee hikes will enable us to invest in vital community initiatives,” Morris said.

While the debate over the development services fee increases continues, the Board of Supervisors remains committed to transparency and public input. Supervisor Vosburg reiterated, “We will ensure that the community has ample opportunity to weigh in on these proposed changes before any final decisions are made.”

The discussion comes as Supervisors prepare to advertise a Real Estate tax rate to fund Vosburg’s proposed $1 billion FY2025 budget on March 5. Once advertised for a public hearing, supervisors, by law, may lower but can’t increase the rate.

Vanuch emphasized the importance of considering the total tax burden on residents, suggesting that future discussions include the real estate tax and the fire levy to provide a clearer picture of the overall tax rate. The current fiscal year’s total tax rate stands at 94.5 cents per $100 of assessed value, with a proposed rate of 94 cents and an effective rate of 84 cents, reflecting a blend of necessary services funding and taxpayer relief.

The board discussed various tax rate scenarios, ranging from 94 to 89 cents, and the implications of each on the county’s budget and services. Lowering the tax rate from the proposed 94 cents would necessitate budget cuts, with significant concerns raised about the impact on essential services, including education, public safety, and infrastructure. The discussion underscored the challenge of aligning the county’s fiscal needs with its fiscal responsibility and taxpayer relief commitment.

In Stafford, every two and a half-million dollars in the budget is roughly equivalent to one penny on the tax rate.

Board members voiced concerns about the increasing assessments and the financial burden on taxpayers, exploring the possibility of targeted tax relief for specific groups, such as seniors and veterans, within the constraints of state law.

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[Photo: Virginie State Police]
On Friday, February 23, 2024, the Virginia State Police will celebrate the graduation of its 140th generation of Virginia State Troopers. The ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. at the State Police Training Academy in North Chesterfield County. Governor Glenn Youngkin will deliver a speech at the event.

This graduating class is unique as it includes both traditional trainees and members of the Expedited Law Enforcement Certified Academy. The latter comprises experienced law enforcement professionals who have already been certified by the Department of Criminal Justice Services and have served at least three years elsewhere in Virginia, according to a police press release.

The new troopers underwent rigorous training, including over 1,300 hours of instruction covering various subjects such as de-escalation techniques, mental health crisis intervention, ethics, constitutional law, and public relations. The Trooper Trainees of the 140th Basic Session began their training on July 26, 2023, while those in the Expedited Academy started on December 28, 2023.

The graduating class hails from diverse backgrounds, including different states and even countries like Haiti and Jamaica. Upon graduation, each trooper will be assigned to duty stations across Virginia and undergo an additional six weeks of training with a Field Training Officer in their respective patrol areas.

Among the graduates from Stafford are Seth Andrew Chambers, Kevin Adam Darling, and Antonia Florentine Hamill. They, along with fellow graduates, will soon be serving their communities across the state, embodying the motto of the 140th Basic Session: “Out To Serve We Go 140.”

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DHL eCommerce relocated from its Elkridge, Md. distribution center to a 138,500-square-foot location in Prince William County.

The new distribution center enables DHL eCommerce to process more B2C domestic volume with 130 employees while supporting its customer base in the Mid-Atlantic states.

The new facility, at 11400 University Boulevard, near Manassas, is double the size of the previous location with 41 dock doors and combines a warehouse, meeting rooms, training, and office spaces.

The facility has environmentally friendly features, such as four EV charging stations, a Building Management System, clear story windows, and electric HVAC. In addition, it houses two large line sorters that can each process 14,000 parcels and packages per hour.

“We anticipate that the demand for e-commerce will continue to grow, and as a result, we have expanded our U.S. footprint, and Manassas is an important part of DHL eCommerce’s five-year growth plan,” said Lee Spratt, CEO of DHL eCommerce, Americas in a press release.

In 2023, DHL eCommerce relocated to larger facilities in Phoenix, Ariz.; Salt Lake City, Utah; Orlando, Fla.; Hebron, Ky.; and opened wholly owned distribution centers in Stow, Ohio; Kansas City, Mo.; and Chicago.

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Auger/Dietrich

The National Merit Scholarship Program has selected Skye Auger at Osbourn Park High School and Joseph Dietrich at Patriot High School as 2024 National Merit Scholarship Finalists.

All finalists will be considered for National Merit scholarships awarded in 2024. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation will begin notifying scholarship winners by email in March. Prince William County Public Schools posted the news to its website and congratulated to these students for demonstrating through their high academic performance, their great potential for future academic accomplishments.

Auger and Dietrich were named 2024 National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists in fall 2023.

The officials of National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) announced the names of over 16,000 semifinalists in the 69th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. These students entered the 2024 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2022 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The pool of semifinalists represents less than one percent of the nation’s high school seniors.

There are extensive requirements to become a finalist in the NMSC program, in which information is provided about the semifinalist’s academic record, employment, and awards and honors received. This information is submitted along with an endorsement from a high school official.

The finalists will be competing for one of 2,500 National Merit $2,500 scholarships. About 840 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards will be provided by approximately 160 corporations and business organizations for finalists who meet their criteria, such as children of the grantor’s employees or residents of communities where plants or offices are located. In addition, about 160 colleges and universities are expected to finance some 3,800 college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards for finalists who will attend the sponsor institution.

The winners of the 2024 National Merit Scholarships will be announced beginning in April and concluding in July.

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Manassas St. Patricks Day Parade on March 11, 2023 [Photo: Mike Beaty]
As the month of March approaches, Manassas residents and visitors eagerly anticipate the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, scheduled for Saturday, March 9, 2024. Organized by Atvale, Inc., this event promises to once again bring vibrant celebrations to the streets of Old Town Manassas.

The parade, slated to commence at 11 a.m., will kick off at the corner of Prescott Avenue and Quarry Road, winding its way down Center Street before culminating at the iconic Harris Pavilion. Led by Vince Fitzpatrick, President of Atvale, Inc., the parade is a testament to the rich Irish heritage deeply woven into the cultural fabric of Prince William County and surrounding areas.

This year’s festivities are significant as Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chair At-large Deshundra Jefferson recently proclaimed March as Irish American Heritage Month. In her proclamation, Jefferson highlighted the enduring contributions of Irish Americans to the nation’s history, from their pivotal role in shaping cities to their significant influence in government, military, and beyond.

“We welcome any and all of the board members to participate in our parade,” said Fitzpatrick in response to the proclamation. “What we have is we put the board members, all the VIPs in division one. So you get done with the parade real quick and off you can go to other events as needed.”

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a vibrant celebration of Irish culture and community spirit, uniting residents of all backgrounds in a joyous display of music, dance, and camaraderie. Spectators can expect a colorful procession featuring marching bands, traditional Irish dancers, adorned floats, and more, all paying homage to the rich heritage of Ireland.

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Yorkshire Elementary School, located at 7610 Old Centreville Road near Manassas, closed today due to a significant safety concern. The closure affects over 820 students, staff, and the School Age Child Care (SACC) program.

A total of 831 electricity customers were out in the neighboring Manassas city. Crews have been on site since 3:30 a.m. this morning, trying to reroute power. As of 7:30, all power was restored,  a city spokeswoman tells us.

The outage comes as Prince William police investigate a single-vehicle crash that struck a pole along Old Centreville Rd in front of Yorkshire ES. The driver fled—prolonged traffic impacts expected due to needed repairs. Drivers are urged to expect delays and to follow police directions.

The decision to close the school was made in response to a power line down in front of the building, posing potential hazards to students, staff, and visitors.

Prince William County Schools (PWCS) officials have confirmed that this incident impacts no other schools within the district.

Emergency crews are on-site to address the situation and ensure the area’s safety. Parents and guardians are advised to make alternative arrangements for their children today, and updates regarding the school’s reopening will be provided as soon as more information becomes available.

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Meagan Morrison-Crabill and cast rehearse for “Miscast Cabaret” at ARTFactory in Manasass.

ARTfactory is gearing up for a celebration in honor of its 40th anniversary with the upcoming Rooftop Productions’ “Miscast Cabaret.” This unique event, set to take place over two weekends in March at the Wind River Theater, promises an evening of unforgettable performances that challenge traditional casting norms.

“Miscast Cabaret” offers a twist on traditional Broadway performances, with cast members taking on roles that they wouldn’t typically be cast in. Audiences can expect to be surprised and delighted as performers breathe new life into classic and contemporary songs from beloved musicals like “Waitress’, ‘The Book of Mormon,” “Into the Woods”, “Annie’, and “Beauty and the Beast”. The event promises to be a refreshing exploration of familiar tunes presented in unexpected contexts.

Directed by ARTfactory’s Director of Theatre, Kimberly Kemp, the Miscast Cabaret boasts a talented cast including Sara Allbrandt, Lee Ann Brown, Zach Burgess, Gregg Carter, Christine Connor, Talya Conroy, Anja Dick, Hollie Dickman, Joshua Gibson, Pam Gordet, Anna Hicks-Jaco, Cheryl Lane, Joey Lane, Lou Lane, Jessica Mabry, Chris Maulden, Glenna Moore, Meagan Morrison-Crabill, Tamara Peters, Ahryel Tinker, Wyatt Underwood, Esther Wells, Vince Worthington, and Lucy Yannarell.

When asked about the significance of the event, cast member Tamara Peters remarked, “Being an actor involves the ability to portray someone who is different from yourself. What a fantastic opportunity this cabaret offers (if only for a song) to ignore typical disqualifications of who ‘fits’ a given role. It’s a fantastic and fun challenge to perform as someone truly. different”

Christine Connor, another cast member, shared her excitement, stating, “I wanted to push myself to try a different style from what I normally sing. Miscast is such a unique opportunity to share a song’s story through another perspective.”

Attendees can anticipate a diverse selection of solos, duets, and choreographed group numbers. With songs ranging from poignant ballads to energetic showstoppers, there’s something for every musical taste.

The Wind River Theater will undergo a transformation for this event, creating an intimate atmosphere reminiscent of a jazz or night club. Small tables and lounge seating will replace traditional tiered seating, while ambient lighting sets the mood for an immersive experience. The stage will be the focal point, bathed in light to showcase the extraordinary talent of the performers.

Rooftop Productions’ Miscast Cabaret, A 40th Anniversary Celebration, will run from March 8-10 and 15-17 at 7:30 p.m. at the ARTfactory, at 9419 Battle Street, Manassas. Tickets start at $20 and are available for purchase online.

The ARTfactory was founded in 1984 by a group of artists and art lovers with the goal of enriching the quality of life in the Northern Virginia region. In 2002, the ARTfactory relocated to the Hopkins Candy Factory building in Manassas and has become a cornerstone of the downtown arts community. ARTFactory offers an art gallery, theatre arts, visual arts education, dance classes, Arts on the Go™, summer camps and SummerSounds Concert Series.

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Today’s weather forecast is sponsored by Water’s End Brewery. Sometimes all you need is a Damn Beer. Take 96oz of this crisp, Golden Ale brewed fresh by Water’s End Brewery to-go with you in a 6-Pounder for just $14.99!

 

 

A frontal system is expected to bring unsettled weather conditions through this afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures range from the mid-40s to low 50s in this area, while cooler temperatures in the mid-30s to low 40s prevail to the north, accompanied by patchy fog due to trapped moisture and light winds.

As the day progresses, an upstream cold front will move through the area, resulting in west-northwesterly winds that should dissipate any lingering fog. Some shower development is possible from I-95 eastward during the late morning to mid-afternoon hours, with temperatures remaining mild in the mid to upper 50s. However, cooler temperatures are expected over higher terrain and northeastern Maryland, with highs in the low 50s and 40s, respectively. Gusts up to 25 to 30 mph are possible in mountainous areas.

Heading into the evening, showers are forecasted, continuing overnight over the Alleghenies. Colder air arriving at night may lead to light snow accumulations, primarily in mountainous regions, with lows generally in the 30s for most of the area and mid to upper 20s along the Allegheny Front.

Weekend Outlook: Chilly Start with Tranquil Conditions

On Saturday, the favorable upslope flow will persist, bringing additional light snow to the Alleghenies, with storm total snow amounts likely ranging from a trace to an inch. A shortwave trough tracking from the lower Ohio Valley to the Carolinas may spread light to moderate precipitation across the Potomac Highlands toward I-64, with 1 to 2 inches of snow expected over the central Blue Ridge.

Chilly conditions will prevail throughout the day, with temperatures largely in the 40s and north-northwesterly winds gusting up to 20 to 25 mph. Skies will be mostly cloudy, though some sunshine is possible late in the day.

Sunday will see tranquil conditions as high pressure builds, bringing more sunshine to the area. Southerly winds will lead to milder temperatures, especially west of the Blue Ridge and Catoctin Mountains, with highs around 5 to 10 degrees above Saturday’s temperatures. Clouds will increase later in the evening ahead of the next cold front, with some light precipitation possible in the Alleghenies, mainly as snow for the highest ridgetops. Lows will be in the 30s across the area.

Overall, residents can expect a mix of precipitation and mild temperatures today, followed by a chilly start to the weekend with improving conditions and milder temperatures by Sunday.

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