Reston, VA

One Life Fitness Workers Put Out Sauna Fire — Fairfax County Fire and Rescue units responded to a “small fire” in the One Life Fitness Reston sauna room yesterday, but maintenance workers put out the blaze before firefighters arrived. An employee told Reston Now that the fire just caused some damage to the wood. It was the first day the sauna had been turned on in more than a year. [Patch]

CVS Allows Walk-in Vaccine Appointments — CVS Health is now offering COVID-19 vaccinations to walk-in appointments and same-day scheduling at all stores in Virginia, joining Giant, which started allowing walk-ins at its pharmacies on Monday (May 3). There are five CVS stores in Reston and three in Herndon. [Patch]

D.C. Judge Vacates National Eviction Moratorium — A D.C. judge ruled that the CDC lacks the authority to institute a nationwide moratorium on housing evictions, but even if the ruling ultimately stands, experts say it likely won’t have an immediate impact on D.C. area tenants. Virginia has a patchwork of protections but no statewide ban.” [DCist]

Air and Space Museum Reopens in Chantilly — Yesterday, the Udvar-Hazy Center became the first Smithsonian museum to open since last fall, when the institution largely shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. New additions include a display commemorating the late Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins and an X-Wing Starfighter from the most recent “Star Wars” movie. [WTOP]

South Lakes Girls’ Basketball Celebrates Recent Success — “#WCW In the past 2 seasons, your Seahawks went a combined 22-1 in Liberty District competition, & won back to back championships for the 1st time since 1985-1986.” [South Lakes Girls Basketball/Twitter]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Southgate Community Center is getting a new name.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted yesterday (Tuesday) to approve Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn’s suggestion that the community center be renamed after his predecessor, Catherine Hudgins, who retired from the board at the end of 2019.

The board directed staff from Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services, which operates the facility, to “work with the community” and report back with a plan for implementing the change.

Located at 12125 Pinecrest Road, the Southgate Community Center provides a variety of recreational, cultural, and educational programs, along with access to county and community resources. Recently, the facility has hosted regular COVID-19 vaccination clinics.

According to Alcorn’s board matter, Hudgins was instrumental in establishing Southgate as an essential community facility during her nearly two decades as supervisor.

“It was her vision and dedication that has made Southgate Community Center the success that it is,” Alcorn said.

The full board matter is below:

Mr. Chairman, for two decades, Cathy Hudgins tirelessly served our communities in Hunter Mill District, from 2000 until 2019 when she retired from the Board of Supervisors. She was a community builder with a passion for improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods that are often overlooked. One of Supervisor Hudgins’ biggest accomplishments and one that is a lasting legacy is the re-creation of the Southgate Community Center as a County-owned facility in Reston in 2006.

From the day this renewed facility’s doors opened, Southgate Community Center has been a mainstay of the surrounding neighborhoods, providing residents of all ages a place to meet, learn and play. There is a gymnasium, teen center, computer lab, multi-purpose rooms, and other accommodations. Children in need have been fed, pro bono legal advice has been given, English lessons have been provided, COVID vaccinations delivered, and teens have had a safe place to go after school.

Supervisor Hudgins worked tirelessly to negotiate the land lease with the Reston Association, secure the financing, review the building design, monitor its construction, and support the center’s program activities. It was her vision and dedication that has made Southgate Community Center the success that it is.

Therefore, Mr. Chairman, in honor of Cathy’s passionate and successful efforts, I move that the Department of Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) work with the community to re-name Southgate Community Center in recognition of Supervisor Catherine M. Hudgins, and I further request that NCS to report back to the Board about the name change and an implementation plan.

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Morning Notes

New Police Chief to Speak at Public Input Session — Community members will get their first chance to talk to new Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis at 7 p.m. on Thursday (May 6). Local civil rights groups have criticized Davis’s past record and a hiring process they say lacked transparency and public involvement, prompting the county board to issue a statement last night reaffirming its support for Davis. [Supervisor Rodney Lusk/Twitter]

Fairway Apartments Sold to Swedish Investor — Swedish investment firm Akelius has acquired Fairway Apartments, a 346-unit apartment community near Reston Town Center, from JBG for $93 million. Akelius says it plans to add new washers and dryers, renovate some kitchens and bathrooms, and make other minor upgrades to the property, which is 97% occupied. [Bisnow]

More Spots Open for Tour de Hunter Mill — More registrations are now available for the Tour de Hunter Mill bicycle ride that will take cyclists through Reston, Vienna, and Tysons on May 15. The event has expanded in response to Virginia easing restrictions on public gatherings that day, according to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn’s office. [Walter Alcorn/Twitter]

Herndon IT Firm Acquired by McLean Contractor — “McLean, Virginia-based government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton will acquire Herndon, Virginia-based Liberty IT Solutions LLC for $725 million. Liberty IT Solutions has about 600 employees…Its work includes IT modernization projects for government agencies and in the health care industry.” [WTOP]

Nonprofit Food Pantry Distribution Helps 260 Local Families — “We’re happy to have assisted 260 families from the Herndon, Springfield, Chantilly, Alexandria, and Centreville area with groceries, toiletries, fresh produce and store gift cards to help with pantry staple purchases.” [Cornerstones/Twitter]

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Updated at 4:10 p.m. — The National Weather Service has now upgraded Fairfax County to a Severe Thunderstorm Warning, advising people to move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a building.

In effect until 4:45 p.m., the warning was issued at 4:01 p.m. after a severe thunderstorm was spotted near Middleburg. The storm was reportedly moving east at 30 miles per hour.

Here is the full alert:

The National Weather Service in Sterling Virginia has issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for…
Southeastern Loudoun County in northern Virginia…
Northwestern Fairfax County in northern Virginia…
Northeastern Fauquier County in northern Virginia…
Northwestern Prince William County in northern Virginia…

* Until 445 PM EDT.

* At 400 PM EDT, a severe thunderstorm was located near Middleburg, or 8 miles west of Brambleton, moving east at 30 mph.

HAZARD…60 mph wind gusts.

SOURCE…Radar indicated.

IMPACT…Damaging winds will cause some trees and large branches to fall. This could injure those outdoors, as well as damage homes and vehicles. Roadways may become blocked by downed trees. Localized power outages are possible. Unsecured light objects may become projectiles.

* Locations impacted include…
Reston, South Riding, Herndon, Vienna, Broadlands, Lowes Island, Brambleton, Dulles International Airport, Ashburn, Oakton, Sterling, Chantilly, Wolf Trap, Great Falls, Countryside, Middleburg, Arcola, Belmont, Aldie and Sterling Park.

Earlier: Fairfax County is currently under a Severe Thunderstorm Watch, with scattered showers anticipated throughout the D.C. area this afternoon.

The alert will be in effect until 8 p.m. The National Weather Service says that a thunderstorm could potentially hit after 5 p.m.

“Some storms could be severe, with large hail and damaging winds,” the NWS forecast for Reston says.

With a 60% chance of precipitation, between a tenth and a quarter of an inch of rain could fall this afternoon, and another quarter to half inch could come in the evening.

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The Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art is expanding its reach to downtown D.C., where it is installing a sculpture by California artist Gisela Colón.

Titled “Parabolic Monolith Iridium,” the sculpture will be located at the top of James Monroe Park near the National Mall, and it will be on view starting this Saturday (May 8). It is Colón’s first public sculpture by  in the D.C. region.

“We’re thrilled to bring Gisela’s work to Washington,” Tephra ICA Executive Director and Curator Jaynelle Hazard said. “The Parabolic Monolith Iridium is an object that speaks to the future, to transformation, and especially to hope. It’s symbolism is very much aligned with how we aim to position ourselves and our perspective as an institution.”

Tephra, which was previously known as the Greater Reston Arts Center, is currently hosting Colón’s D.C.-area debut solo exhibit, which features acrylic and carbon-fiber artwork made using “advanced aerospace technology,” according to the institute’s website.

The Quantum Shift exhibition will remain on display at Tephra’s gallery in Reston (12001 Market St.) through May 29. In-person visits are limited to 30-minute appointments made in advance, but it can also be viewed through a virtual tour.

The monolith that will be on display in D.C. was part of the solo exhibit. A native of Puerto Rico who currently works and lives in Los Angeles, Colón says she wanted to explore the relationship between humans and the earth through her sculptures.

“While their outward appearance is high-tech, space-age, and futuristic, [my Monoliths] are also visceral, primitive, and reminiscent of ancient cultural artifacts,” Colón said.

The “Parabolic Monolith Iridium” project is being sponsored by Leidos and the civil engineering firm Charles P. Johnson & Associates. Tephra partnered with the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District on the display.

As part of its sponsorship, Leidos has committed to making a donation to the Puerto Rican nonprofit Hogares Teresa Toda, which provides shelter, education, and other supports to adolescent girls.

“As a leading science and technology company, creativity drives our pursuit of knowledge and solving problems for our customers,” Leidos Senior Vice President Melissa Lee Dueñas said. “We are excited to team up with Ms. Colón on this new exhibit and we look forward to partnering with her to help empower girls and young people in Puerto Rico.”

Photo courtesy Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art

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In the 210 years since it was first built, the Colvin Run Mill has outlasted the industrial revolution, a civil war, and multiple pandemics. Now, it has the capacity to keep grinding grains for at least another 15 years, thanks to a new water wheel and flume.

The Fairfax County Park Authority completed its restoration in March — 45 days ahead of schedule — but the refurbished mill saw action for the first time Saturday morning (May 2), when the new wheel took its first turns to power the mill, which ground out some corn meal and grits to be sold at the nearby general store.

The parks officials and volunteers at the ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the installation of the 20-foot-wide water wheel as the culmination of restoration efforts that stretch back to the 1970s, when the park authority first purchased the Colvin Run Mill with the goal of preserving it as a historic site.

“This celebration may mark the completion of this project, but we would be remiss if we did not recognize today’s reopening of the flume as yet another step and progression in historic restoration and preservation,” Tim Hackman, who represents Dranesville District on the FCPA board of directors, said. “It is our mission and our duty, but it is also our privilege.”

Approved by the FCPA board in May 2020, the project involved the demolition and replacement of the existing wooden wheel and flume, which had started to deteriorate. It was funded by $382,000 in park bonds and is expected to cut down maintenance costs by about $6,000 per year.

Even with the need to follow COVID-19 health protocols and work around ongoing construction on Route 7, project manager Heather Lynch says the project turned out to be “very straightforward,” benefitting from a winter largely free of storms and fortuitous timing with the availability of the right wood for the job.

That luck with timing has continued through the project’s completion, which comes amid an ebb in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We anticipate getting a lot more people out, because it’s a wonderful COVID-safe, family-safe activity,” Acting FCPA Executive Director Sara Baldwin said. “We take all the precautions here as well.”

The park authority is currently letting just one group into the mill at a time, and timed tickets will be sold in advance for grinding demonstrations, which take place on the first and third Sunday of every month.

However, the county is able to bring back a full slate of summer classes and programs to Colvin Run Mill and its other parks. Registration for all activities is now underway.

Gene Bacher, a Friends of Colvin Run Mill volunteer and board member, says he’s especially looking forward to the return of the site’s simple machines field trip program, which gives students the chance to learn about the engineering behind levers, pulleys, and other machines and to see a real-life example.

The program was canceled last year due to the pandemic, and school or mixed-group field trips remain suspended for now, though Colvin Run Mill is allowing some closed-group, private field trips.

“It’ll be reinstated as soon as the pandemic is done and kids get back into school, so having the mill work properly is important to that whole process of getting the kids in here to see what the simple machines are doing,” Bacher said. “…That program is one of the life bloods of the mill property.”

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Morning Notes

Reston Contractor to Develop National COVID-19 Hotline — “Reston-based government services company Maximus has received a potential $951 million contract to support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 national surge support and vaccine assistance hotline.” [Virginia Business]

Reston Farmers Market Opens to Crowds — Reston Farmers Market opened for the spring on Saturday (May 2) “to brisk business” at Lake Anne Village Center. Even with most COVID-19 health protocols still in place, at least 1,900 customers attended, up from 809 customers on the first day of the 2020 season, according to founder John Lovaas. [Patch]

Local Band Teacher Dies — Coates Elementary School Principal Jesse Kraft announced yesterday (Monday) that Kelsey Burch, the school’s fifth and sixth-grade band teacher, had died after a year-long battle with cancer. Before joining Coates four years go, she led the band program at Sunrise Valley Elementary School in Reston for a decade. Sunrise Valley will name its band room in her honor. [Coates Elementary]

Fairfax County Parks Open Registration for Summer Classes — Registration for summer classes, events, and programs from the Fairfax County Park Authority, including at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, begins today. Online registration is available, and spaces in each program are limited. [Friends of Frying Pan/Twitter]

Reston Hospital Named Among Top 100 in U.S. — “Reston Hospital Center has been named to the Fortune/IBM Watson Health 100 Top Hospitals list. This is the first time Reston Hospital Center has been recognized with this honor as one of the top performing community hospitals in the U.S.” [Reston Hospital Center]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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May is only three days old, but the month is already looking good for Fairfax County on the pandemic front.

The Fairfax Health District, which also includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, reported 53 new COVID-19 cases today (Monday) — the fewest since just 33 cases came in on Oct. 7. That brings the county’s seven-day average down to 82.4 new cases, which is the lowest since the weekly average stood at exactly 82 cases on Oct. 21.

However, where the Oct. 21 number was merely a brief dip in what would escalate into the area’s winter surge, this new low for 2021 is part of a decline in new cases that has lasted since April 13, when Fairfax County recorded 231 new cases and averaged 194.4 cases over the past week.

In fact, since dipping from 105.9 cases on April 28 to 98.9 cases on April 29, the county’s weekly average has stayed below 100 cases for almost a full week.

The Fairfax Health District has reported a total of 76,968 cases, 4,022 hospitalizations, and 1,101 deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The downward trend in COVID-19 cases comes as Fairfax County nears a key milestone in its vaccination campaign: almost half of the county’s residents have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

According to the Virginia Department of Health dashboard, which does not include some federally administered doses, 550,553 Fairfax County residents — 48% of the county’s total population — have gotten at least one dose. That is a higher rate than the state as a whole, which has delivered at least one dose to 3.8 million people, or 45.1% of its population.

At the same time, Fairfax County remains a tick behind Virginia overall when it comes to residents being fully vaccinated. 31.3% of the county’s population — or 359,677 residents — is now fully vaccinated, compared to 32% of the state.

Whether Fairfax County can reach that 50% mark for first-dose vaccinations this week remains to be seen.

After finally obtaining enough doses last week to vaccinate everyone who wants the vaccine, the county health department received fewer supplies from Virginia in its most recent shipments. 43,480 first and second doses came in during the week of April 26 to May 2, compared to 67,590 doses for the preceding week of April 19-25.

While Virginia lifted its pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on April 23, the Fairfax County Health Department had not yet ordered any additional batches of the one-shot vaccine as of April 30, because the county still had a small supply that it was using for its homebound and long-term care programs, according to FCHD spokesperson Tina Dale.

“We would place orders for J&J vaccine when community providers we redistribute to require more vaccine and to replenish our stock as needed,” Dale said.

FCHD Assistant Public Health Emergency Management Coordinator Colin Brody told Reston Now that the J&J vaccine has been reintroduced in the county primarily through local pharmacies, which get their supplies directly from the federal government through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.

The county says it is aware that some people may be reluctant to get the J&J vaccine after its use was temporarily suspended due to reports of a few recipients developing a rare disorder involving blood clots.

“However the data reviewed by scientists at CDC and FDA indicated that J&J is a safe vaccine to use,” Brody said in an emailed statement. “We continue to receive inquiries from residents about where they can go to receive the J&J vaccine, especially because it is a single-dose option that provides immunity within 2 weeks of the first and only dose, as compared to 5 to 6 weeks with Moderna and Pfizer.”

Images via CDC on Unsplash, Virginia Department of Health

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The cicadas are about to take over the world, or at least much of the East Coast, including Fairfax County.

After biding their time for the past 17 years, Brood X could start emerging in full force as soon as today (Monday), according to the first-ever cicada forecast by The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang.

From animals digging for a snack to holes in the earth made by cicada nymphs burrowing up from their underground lairs, signs of the insects’ impending arrival have become more plentiful in recent weeks. In fact, a few bugs have already been spotted, summoned out of their exoskeletons early by the rapidly warming weather.

The prospect of millions of winged insects crawling out of the ground might convince some people to stay inside until July, but as Fairfax County Park Authority naturalist and education and outreach manager Tammy Schwab told Reston Now in March, cicadas are harmless — even edible.

In addition, while some annual cicadas pop up every year, the once-every-other-decade appearances of the periodical variety are natural phenomena unique to the U.S., a product of the creatures’ unusually long life cycles.

Fairfax County has been doing its part to turn anxiety over Brood X into excitement, inviting community members to a game of Cicada Stroll Bingo and highlighting the environmental benefits of cicadas.

How are you planning to greet Brood X? Are you ready to embrace the swarm, or does the idea of stepping outside in the next two months fill you with dread?

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Morning Notes

Virginia Raises Minimum Wage on May Day — Effective Saturday (May 1), Virginia’s minimum wage went up from $7.25 per hour to $9.50, the state’s first increase since 2009. Wages could rise to $15 in 2026, if approved by the General Assembly in 2024. Localities now also have the authority to adopt ordinances allowing collective bargaining with public employees. [DCist]

Twin Sheep Born at Frying Pan Farm Park — “Frying Pan Farm Park’s Suffolk ewe, Bristol, delivered the last of the sheep births that the farm will see this spring. Her twin ewes arrived April 11.” [Fairfax County Park Authority/Twitter]

Dulles Greenway Hosts First “Run the Greenway” Races — The first annual “Run the Greenway” race in Loudoun County attracted more than 1,400 runners and raised over $156,000 for 27 different area nonprofits on Saturday. The event featured 5K, 10K, and 800-meter Kids Fun Run races with staggered start times for social distancing as well as a virtual option. [Loudoun Now]

Porcupine Quills Seized at Dulles Airport — Customs and Border Protection seized 100 porcupine quills from a U.S. citizen who came to Dulles International Airport from Africa on April 21. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told CBP to seize the quills, because they are a potential vector for the monkeypox virus. [CBP]

The Water Mine Seeking New Lifeguards — The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole in Reston is hiring more than 150 lifeguards for the upcoming summer season. Several drive-thru, socially distanced job fairs will be held on site (1400 Lake Fairfax Drive) throughout May, with the first event coming on Friday (May 7) from 4-6 p.m. [Fairfax County Park Authority]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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(Updated at 6:30 p.m.) More than 6,000 people in the Reston and Great Falls area are currently without power, as strong winds wreak havoc on Fairfax County’s electrical grid and traffic.

According to Dominion Energy’s outage map, there are more than 50 separate power outages in Reston, Herndon, and Great Falls, including one in Great Falls that has affected 2,524 customers.

Crews have been dispatched to all of those locations. Dominion Energy estimates that power could be restored throughout the area any time between 7 p.m. and midnight.

The National Weather Service issued a Wind Advisory that took effect at noon and was later upgraded to a High Wind Warning, which will remain in effect until 2 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday). Even though no rain or thunder was anticipated, the agency issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning at 4:38 p.m., saying that wind gusts could reach up to 60 miles per hour.

“Damaging winds will cause some trees and large branches to fall,” the NWS said. “This could injure those outdoors, as well as damage homes and vehicles. Roadways may become blocked by downed trees. Localized power outages are possible. Unsecured light objects may become projectiles.”

In addition to affecting power, the strong winds have caused at least 76 traffic incidents in Fairfax County, and the county government says that 9-1-1 and its non-emergency phone lines are experiencing “extremely high” call volumes.

The Severe Thunderstorm Warning expired at 5:15 p.m., but local residents could be dealing with the storm’s impact well into this evening.

Image via Dominion Energy

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Before we head off into another weekend of navigating evolving face mask protocols, let’s take a look back at the biggest stories on Reston Now in recent days.

  1. UPDATED: Failed switch causes power outage to hit Lake Anne area of Reston
  2. Akridge pitches additional residential development at Halley Rise
  3. JUST IN: Police investigate death of Reston man in Fairfax County jail
  4. Fairfax County chooses former Baltimore City police commissioner as new chief
  5. Herndon Planning Commission recommends review of ordinance for accessory dwelling units

If you have ideas on stories we should cover, email us at [email protected] or submit an anonymous tip. Photos from around the Reston and Herndon area are also welcome, with credit always given to the photographer.

Feel free to discuss these topics, your socially distanced weekend plans, or anything else that’s happening locally in the comments below.

Photo via BeyondDC/Flickr

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Gov. Ralph Northam, right, and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), center left, at the Tysons Community Vaccination Center on April 19 (Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

Virginians who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are officially free to go outside and visit fully vaccinated friends without wearing a face mask.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced yesterday (Thursday) that he has amended the state’s public health rules to conform with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that loosens mask-wearing and social distancing protocols for people who are fully vaccinated, meaning two weeks have passed since they received their last required vaccine dose.

Released on April 27, the CDC’s new recommendations state that fully vaccinated people face “minimal risk” of contracting or transmitting COVID-19 when engaged in outdoor activities such as exercising or eating outside. They also likely face little risk from small, private indoor gatherings and visits to public indoor spaces with other fully vaccinated people.

The CDC emphasizes that masks should still be worn indoors when unvaccinated people are present, especially if they are at increased risk of severe illness from the novel coronavirus, and in crowded outdoor settings like concerts or sporting events where maintaining social distancing is difficult.

“The CDC’s recommendations underscore what we have said all along — vaccinations are the way we will put this pandemic behind us and get back to normal life,” Northam said. “Our increasing vaccination rate and decreasing number of new COVID-19 cases has made it possible to ease mitigation measures in a thoughtful and measured manner. I encourage all Virginians who have not yet received the vaccine to make an appointment today.”

Touted as another incentive for people to get vaccinated, the new CDC guidelines came out amid news reports that COVID-19 vaccine demand has slowed in some parts of the country to the point where state and local governments are declining shipments.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay told Tysons Reporter yesterday that that has not been the case in the county, which has only just gotten enough supplies to meet demand.

As of April 29, 529,402 Fairfax County residents — or 46.1% of the total population — had received at least one vaccine dose, and 334,568 residents — 29.2% of the population — had been fully vaccinated, according to Virginia Department of Health data, which does not include some doses administered by the federal government.

Statewide, more than 3.7 million Virginians — 57% of the adult population — have now gotten at least one dose, and 2.5 million Virginians are fully vaccinated, or 39% of the adult population, according to Northam.

Fairfax County officials say they will support the new guidelines in Northam’s amended executive order.

“We will continue to follow the guidance put out by the state and follow the data, just as we always have,” McKay said in a statement. “I know everyone is looking forward to seeing their loved ones again without fear of spreading COVID. Getting vaccinated will be necessary to do so however, so I recommend that everyone make an appointment as soon as possible.”

With high school football games nearing an end and spring sports like baseball starting up, Northam also announced yesterday that he has accelerated plans to ease capacity limits on outdoor recreational sports, which are now permitted up to 1,000 spectators, effective immediately.

That change was previously scheduled to take effect on May 15, when restrictions on social gatherings, entertainment venues, and alcohol sales at restaurants will be loosened.

Northam says he anticipates removing all capacity limits in mid-June “as long as the Commonwealth’s health metrics remain stable and vaccination progress continues.”

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Morning Notes

Wind Advisory in Effect — The National Weather Service has issued a Wind Advisory for the D.C. area, including Fairfax County, starting at noon today (Friday). In effect until 2 a.m. Saturday, the alert says to expect northwest winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour with gusts up to 55 miles per hour. Gusts could blow around unsecured objects and bring down tree limbs, potentially leading to power outages. [NWS]

More Witnesses Come Forward in Sexual Battery Case — Additional victims and witnesses have contacted Herndon police about massage therapist Zachary Nelson Guzman-Orellana, 39, of Leesburg, who was arrested on April 21 on a charge of aggravated sexual battery. Police encourage any other victims or people with further information to call 703-435-6846. [Herndon Police Department/Twitter]

Rush Hour Toll Increase on Dulles Greenway Barred — Virginia’s State Corporation Commission approved a 25-cent increase for non-peak hour tolls on the Dulles Greenway but ruled that peak tolls can’t be raised now due to uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic. State legislators recently passed a law requiring the Virginia Department of Transportation to approve future toll increases on the privately operated road. [WTOP]

About 160,000 Virginians Miss Second Vaccine Dose — Virginia Department of Health data indicates that nearly 10% of Virginians who received a first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines didn’t return for their second one in the recommended time frame. Scheduling challenges and anxieties about side effects that tend to be heavier with the second dose could be factors. [Virginia Mercury]

Reston Engineering Firm to Go Public — “Reston engineering firm Bowman Consulting Group Ltd. is planning to go public, and recently priced its shares for an initial public offering that could raise up to $49.5 million.” [Washington Business Journal]

Conservatory Ballet Founder Dies — “It is with great sadness that the Conservatory Ballet of Reston announces that Founder and former Director Julia Cziller Redick passed away on April 18, 2021. Mrs. Redick founded The Conservatory Ballet in Reston in 1972 and remained as Director of the school for close to 50 years.” [Conservatory Ballet Foundation/IssueWire]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Fans of Friday Night Live! can breathe a little easier now.

The Herndon Town Council voted on Tuesday (April 27) to approve a budget for fiscal year 2022 that includes an additional $20,000 to support the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce’s popular free summer concert series, which is now tentatively aiming for a delayed start date of July 2.

“This is one of the things I think we need to build and grow upon,” Councilmember Cesar del Aguila said. “[Friday Night Live’s] got a lot of good things around it. It’s a good foundation to build an even better atmosphere for including more people.”

The vote came after a public hearing with several earnest speeches by supporters of the annual event, from longtime attendees and volunteers to an Ashburn resident whose band has performed on the Town Green as part of the series.

Speakers praised Friday Night Live as an attraction that draws both town residents and outside visitors to downtown Herndon, giving local businesses and restaurants a boost that could be especially critical now after a year of upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s an advertisement for the Town of Herndon that costs much less than the revenue it brings in,” Herndon resident Mindy Thunman said. “Dollars aren’t the only way to measure the value of Friday Night Live. There are so many other intangible ways, the most important one being the sense of community it brings, and you simply can’t put a dollar figure on that.”

After pivoting to an online-only format last year, Friday Night Live organizers hope to bring the event back in person this summer, but their ability to stage the concerts hinges on the Town of Herndon funding support services like police security and public works staff and equipment.

The possibility that Friday Night Live would be unable to go on inspired “an outpouring” of support for the event from citizens, Herndon Town Manager Bill Ashton told the town council on Monday.

According to FNL founder Doug Downer, who spoke at the public hearing, more than 90 letters of support were sent to the town council as part of the community input process for the FY 2022 budget. Councilmember Signe Friedrichs said that they received more comments on the concert series than any other issue she has voted on since joining the council in 2017.

Ashton said that he had approached FNL funding in his proposed FY 2022 budget with the expectation that the town would get federal stimulus funds from the American Rescue Plan Act in May, but it turned out that the money needs to be appropriated by the state and won’t be available until July.

Because the budget was already advertised at $55.7 million, Ashton proposed offsetting the $20,000 increase in expenditures for FNL by decreasing appropriations for a retiree health benefit program that the town ceased using for police employees in 2017 and is in the process of phasing out for all other government workers.

“What we did is we took the money from there to move to Friday Night Live,” Ashton said. “We’re going to monitor the retiree system moving into next fiscal year. Again, if we need to add additional money in there, I can under my authority maneuver up to $100,000 from one account to another.”

The town council approved the Alternate B fiscal planning resolution to adopt the FY 2022 budget by a 6-0 vote with Councilmember Naila Alam absent for the motion. Read More

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