Fairfax County’s police helicopters have a new base of operations.
The emergency choppers and their crews will now be housed at the Fairfax County Police Department’s new David M. Rohrer Aviation Center, which was welcomed with a grand opening celebration yesterday (Wednesday).
Located at 4604 West Ox Road, the two-story, 23,000-square-foot facility replaces a smaller heliport that was built on the same site in 1984 but no longer met the helicopter division’s staffing and equipment needs.
Known by the call sign “Fairfax 1,” the division includes two helicopters and flight officers, pilots, paramedics and maintenance crews.
They were performing over 150 helicopter missions per month and more than 80 medical evacuations per year out of the now-demolished, 9,500-square-foot heliport, the FCPD reported when pitching the project for bond funding in 2015.
“Similar to a firehouse, staff remains on-site throughout their shift, but locker space, helicopter equipment space, storage areas and training space is insufficient to meet current operational needs,” the department said. “The helicopter hangers are not large enough to house the county’s two twin-engine helicopters, and the sloped landing pad causes safety issues especially during winter months.”
The project received $13 million from that public safety bond referendum, though the county ultimately approved $14.1 million, according to the current capital improvements program.
In addition to a landing pad for the helicopters, the new aviation center has a two-bay hanger, parking for 25 vehicles, and upgraded locker, storage and training spaces.
At my request, the Board honored Chief Davis’ request to name the heliport after Chief Rohrer in recognition of his 41 years of outstanding service to the County.
The operational needs of our flight officers, pilots, paramedics and maintenance crews have grown significantly. pic.twitter.com/LS0D1Kynrx
— Supervisor Pat Herrity (@PatHerrity) March 22, 2023
The facility is named after former deputy county executive for public safety David Rohrer, who retired last year after a 41-year career that he started as a patrol officer. The name was requested by Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis and Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, whose district includes the heliport site.
“The operational needs of our flight officers, pilots, paramedics and maintenance crews have grown significantly,” Herrity said after participating in the grand opening. “This new facility will provide lifesaving medical treatment and crimefighting services to our citizens.”
Speakers at the ceremony included Herrity, Davis, Rohrer, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, County Executive Bryan Hill and Department of Public Works and Environmental Services Director Chris Herrington.
Family of Man Killed by Police Sees Footage — Ahead of a public release at 1 p.m. today (Thursday), the “family of Timothy McCree Johnson, an unarmed Black man fatally shot by Fairfax County police outside Tysons Corner Center last month, watched body-camera footage of his killing. Their lawyer asserted afterward that the video showed Johnson had posed no threat to law enforcement.” [The Washington Post]
McLean Woman Convicted of Killing Daughters — A Fairfax County jury convicted 37-year-old Veronica Youngblood yesterday (Wednesday) “of killing her two daughters — Sharon Castro, 15, and Brooklynn Youngblood, 5 — on Aug. 5, 2018. The mother admitted to officials that she fatally shot her children, but she pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.” [The Washington Post]
Three Displaced by Chantilly House Fire — “On Tuesday, March 21, at 5:45 p.m., units were dispatched for a reported house fire in the 13800 block of Leighfield Street…The cause of the fire was improperly discarded smoking materials. Three occupants were displaced because of the fire…Damages as a result of the fire were approximately $185,000.” [FCFRD]
Virginia Hires New State Superintendent — “Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has hired a Tennessee education official to serve as Virginia’s chief schools officer after the previous employee in the role resigned for reasons the administration has declined to explain. Tennessee Chief Academic Officer Lisa Coons will take over the role…effective April 17” [Associated Press/WTOP]
Get Free Tequila at Banditos Grand Opening — Banditos Tacos & Tequila will have free tequila and mezcal tastings from 3-5 p.m. on Saturday (March 25) as part of the official grand opening for its Fairfax restaurant. The event will also feature giveaways and music from DJ Gottit at 2 p.m. and from the band Bravenoise at 9 p.m. [Banditos Tacos]
Centreville Students Give Away Prom Dresses — “Marketing students from Centreville High School and the Fair Oaks Classroom on the Mall program will open their Prom Dress Shop on Friday, March 24, at Centreville High School in Clifton. Since 2006, the dress shop has helped hundreds of financially challenged students attend prom in style each spring by providing dresses and accessories at no cost to students.” [FCPS]
Madison HS Girls Win Fourth Basketball State Title — “With an ‘and-one’ layup in overtime, the Madison Warhawks Girls Basketball Team defeated the Manchester Lancers (49-46) last week, making this their fourth consecutive state title. This was Madison’s ninth state final appearance — now the most in the history of Class 6 and the former Group AAA.” [FCPS]
Metro Adds Mental Health Crisis Line to Signs — “A new three-digit lifeline number is now available to help individuals experiencing a life-threatening crisis. In Metro station entrances, platforms and top garage levels, customers will see enhanced signs with the new Suicide and Crisis Lifeline number, 988.” [WMATA]
It’s Thursday — Scattered showers possible before noon. High of 74 and low of 48. Sunrise at 7:08 am and sunset at 7:23 pm. [Weather.gov]
(Updated at 6:10 p.m.) Fairfax County police are investigating the deaths of two people whose bodies were found on a trail in Reston’s Stratton Woods area.
Officers are currently at the scene in the 2300 block of Players Pond Lane, where the two people were found dead, the Fairfax County Police Department said around 3:30 p.m.
According to emergency radio reports, the two people appear to have been shot. The 911 dispatcher described the victims as two older people and said there were pools of blood around their heads.
The FCPD says a weapon was recovered near the scene. An officer told the dispatcher that the bodies appear to “have been here for some time.”
“Preliminarily, there is no threat to public safety,” the police department said.
Police believe this is a “domestic-related” murder-suicide case, though an investigation by detectives is still underway.
If confirmed, this would be the third murder in Fairfax County this year involving domestic violence and a gun, following a Feb. 28 murder-suicide in Wakefield and a fatal stabbing and shooting incident in the Frying Pan area on Feb. 24.
Officers are in the 2300 blk of Players Pond Lane in Reston for a death investigation. Two people were found deceased on a nearby trail. A weapon was recovered at the scene. Preliminarily, there is no threat to public safety. Updates to follow. #FCPD pic.twitter.com/TPSaawVcV0
— Fairfax County Police (@FairfaxCountyPD) March 22, 2023
COUPLE FOUND SHOT DEAD — near Players Pond Ln and Thunder Chase Dr in Reston area. Bodies of a man and woman have been found on the trail near the basketball court, both appear to have been shot dead. Police trying to determine what happened. h/t @HCBrght10 cc: @ffxnow pic.twitter.com/yfvikEY5pK
— Alan Henney (@alanhenney) March 22, 2023
The first few hundred of more than 2,000 residential units planned in Reston’s Isaac Newtown Square development are slated to come online.
At a Reston Planning and Zoning Committee meeting on Monday (March 20), APA Properties and Peter Lawrence Co. offered a glimpse of a final development plan for the apartment building.
Andrew Painter, a representative for the development team, noted that a previous plan for townhouses on another portion of the property was dropped due to rising mortgage rates and changes in the housing market. Amid ongoing negotiations, the team then shifted to the current development plan.
“It’s basically 10 pedestrian-friendly development blocks,” Painter said, referring to the entire development.
The first building will have a maximum of seven stories with up to 345 residential units, 47 of which will be set aside as workforce dwelling units. The site is currently in the process of being razed and cleared.
The development is bounded to the south by the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, the west by Hidden Creek Country Club, and the east by Wiehle Avenue.
The apartment building is part of a 32-acre development approved by the county in 2019. Once completed, the mixed-use neighborhood will include 2.8 million square feet of new construction, including 2,100 residential units, 300 hotel rooms, 260,000 square feet of office space and nearly 69,000 square feet of retail uses.
An on-road bicycle lane and 10-foot-wide shared-use path is proposed on the western side of Wiehle Avenue, along with an 8-foot trail as part of open space on the northern side of the building called Nature’s Edge Park. A 6-foot elevated sidewalk is proposed as part of Willow Oak Park — another park on the southern front of the building.
The conceptual development plan was approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 2019, followed by work with an arborist to find ways to maintain willow oak trees on the property. A final plan for road and infrastructure work was approved by the Fairfax County Planning Commission in October 2021.
The applicant is now working through the county review process on the final development plan for Block N2, which consists of the apartment building. Final development plans only require planning commission approval.
Planning and zoning committee memebers lauded the development team for the design of the buildings.
Mike Jennings, a committee member, said he was happy the architecture did not mirror what he called a “spreadsheet facade” that looks like an Excel spreadsheet with darkened areas.
“I really like this plan, this design…the amount of park and dog space and recreation…things that we commonly we don’t get any of,” Jennings said.
Fairfax County’s independent police auditor has published its annual report, showing an increase in police shootings but a decrease in use-of-force complaints last year.
The county’s Board of Supervisors established the Office of the Independent Police Auditor (OIPA) in 2016 to increase trust between residents and the police department “by providing accountability, fairness, and transparency in the complaint system and investigative process,” the report stated.
The auditor, Richard Schott, reviews all investigations of death or serious injury cases conducted by the Fairfax County Police Department’s internal affairs bureau as well as use-of-force investigations that are the subject of a public complaint.
According to the report released on March 14, the office monitored or reviewed 22 police investigations in 2022, covering incidents from 2019 to 2022. Automatic monitoring kicked in for 12 investigations: 10 officer-involved shootings, and two cases involving a death or serious injury. Nine investigations were for use-of-force allegations.
“The types of force used by FCPD officers in these allegations were varied and included two takedowns, two uses of force to cuff, one brandished firearm, one strike, and one assault,” the report reads.
In 2022, the office closed or published reports on eight incidents from 2019 to 2022. Five cases involved using force, two were police shootings, and one involved a patrol dog bite.
Although the auditor found that all eight investigations met the standards of “being complete, thorough, accurate, objective, and impartial,” he made three recommendations:
- Requiring a warning before releasing a patrol service dog.
- Adding non-criminal factors when considering whether force was objectively reasonable during a non-criminal situation.
- Training on the proper conduct of searches incident to a lawful arrest.
The police department implemented all three recommendations, according to the report.
In 2022, the office started reviewing investigations into 13 incidents. Twelve of the reviews remain open, continuing into this year.
As shown by police data, last year saw an uptick in shootings by officers, a trend that has drawn scrutiny particularly after a fatal shooting at Tysons Corner Center on Feb. 22.
From 2017 to 2021, the OIPA reviewed eight officer-involved shootings, including two of domesticated animals. However, in 2022, the FCPD had seven police shootings, with the victim in one being a dog.
The office received just one use-of-force complaint from the public in 2022 — the fewest ever — compared to a high of 12 in 2018.
In 2020, the office commissioned the University of Texas at San Antonio to conduct a police use-of-force study. It found that officers use force too often and more than should be expected against both Black and white civilians.
Based on the study’s findings, the county’s Use of Force Community Advisory Committee made its own recommendations to the police department. They include collecting more specific data on use-of-force incidents and clarifying in policy when force may be used.
Schott supported most of the committee’s recommendations, but disagreed with some suggested revisions to the FCPD’s use of force policy that would set a higher standard for when force can be used.
The committee recommended requiring that force be “necessary and proportional” to the circumstances, arguing that the existing “objective reasonableness” standard “has proved unfairly deferential to officers” by focusing on the moment force is used rather than the events leading up to its use.
Schott said in a memo last May that the policy should not “be overly restrictive,” stating that an officer’s conduct preceding a use of force should be considered but the “two analyses should remain separate and distinct.”
The FCPD chose not to incorporate a recommendation of replacing the term “less-lethal” with “non-deadly” force throughout the policy. That change was first recommended in 2017.
In a statement to FFXnow, FCPD Lt. James Curry said the term “less-lethal” is defined as any level of force not designed to cause death or serious injury.
“FCPD believes it best reflects the intent of the level of force and is consistent with many other agencies’ policy across the country,” Curry said.
(Updated at 2:20 p.m.) Fairfax County first responders were sent to an incorrect address during a 911 call for a cardiac arrest incident at the Reston Town Center Metro station yesterday (Tuesday), leading to a delay in the response.
Based on information provided by Metro, the Fairfax County Department of Public Safety Communications dispatched emergency crews to 1901 Reston Metro Plaza — an address next to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station, reported local public safety watcher Dave Statter.
Personnel then received an address change about 10 minutes later directing them to 12023 Sunset Hills Road, the north pavilion for the Reston Town Center station about two miles away, according to Statter.
A county spokesperson provided the following statement to FFXnow, confirming that there was a mix-up in the address:
On March 21 the Fairfax County Department of Public Safety Communications (DPSC) received a call from the Washington Metropolitans Area Transit Authority (WMATA) via the non-emergency phone line at 09:06:59 reporting a cardiac arrest at the Wiehle Metro Station. DPSC dispatched Fairfax County Fire and Rescue (FRD) to the incident at 09:08:45. The first unit arrived at the dispatched location at 09:13:10. This was identified as the incorrect location by responding personnel. Working together, FRD and DPSC redirected resources to the correct location, Reston Metro Station and arrived on the incident scene at 09:19:29.
The man later died at a hospital, according to the report.
Ian Jannetta, spokesperson for WMATA, said the organization is investigating the incident.
“Metro addresses a number of medical emergencies related to customers daily,” Janetta said. “We are looking into our response to this incident and how we can improve our efforts in the future. Our deepest sympathies are extended to our customer and their family.”
Statter says this isn’t the first time WMATA provided an incorrect address in the past.
WMATA confirmed that its control center initially gave an incorrect station address to the county fire department, noting that Metro workers were administering CPR before emergency responders arrived.
“It was rectified with Fairfax EMS during the response to the incident during which time CPR was being provided prior to their arrival,” Janetta said. “We are verifying all station addresses systemwide to ensure our control centers and jurisdictional partners have the correct information.”
(1) @fairfaxcounty confirms @WMATA gave the wrong address for the Reston Town Center #Metro Station. It delayed fire & EMS getting to a man in cardiac arrest. That man died. How did this mistake occur? #WMATA isn’t saying but it fits a pattern. (more) @wmatagm pic.twitter.com/19I8QDdiI3
— Dave Statter (@STATter911) March 22, 2023
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will get its first salary increase in eight years, starting next January.
The current board voted 8-2 last night (Tuesday) to raise the pay to $123,283 for a supervisor position and to $138,283 for the chairman — slightly lower than the ranges that were proposed on March 7.
Based on staff calculations, the approved increase for board members is in line with what general county employees received, on average, in merit and market rate adjustments since the board last got a raise in 2015, according to Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust.
“Supervisor compensation should be set at a level that would enable anyone to serve regardless of personal circumstances. To advance that goal, I think, is appropriate,” Foust said before putting the motion up for a vote.
The vote came after a public hearing that lasted over two hours, with some speakers becoming emotional as they shared stories of how they’ve struggled with the area’s rising cost-of-living or how employee vacancies and hiring challenges have affected county services, from parks to support for foster care families.
Aside from one Braddock District resident who suggested they would “not be out of line,” considering inflation over the past eight years, all the speakers voiced opposition to the originally proposed raises that could’ve increased supervisor salaries up to $130,000 and the chairman’s up to $145,000.
“Too many are just getting by, and others are on the verge of falling into crisis,” Carolyn Bivens said. “Respectfully, in my opinion, the case has not been made for making the Board of Supervisors positions full time. More importantly, a 35 to 45% increase would be viewed as tone-deaf in this environment.”
Some said they support the board getting pay raises, but the amounts advertised were “insulting” when the county is only proposing 2% market rate adjustments for workers in its next budget, rather than the 5% that was forecast.
Other jurisdictions in Virginia are advertising MRA increases of up to 6-9%, according to Fairfax Workers Coalition Executive Director David Lyons.
He acknowledged that Virginia law requires a different process for adjusting the compensation of elected officials than for other public employees, but the proposal created a perception “that you care more about yourselves than you do your workers.”
“What we do have is a shortage of human service workers. We have a shortage of cops. We have a shortage in solid waste collection that is causing the county to contract out good jobs,” he said. “And in the case of all these jobs, citizens will suffer as the vacancies grow, as the quality drops and as real experience keeps going out the door. That’s why this proposal struck people as wrong.”
Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity said board raises would be “outrageous” when the county is also dealing with employee retention and recruitment challenges as well as surging taxes and inflation.
“We need to prioritize our spending and protect critical county services, not fund board raises,” Herrity said.
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn also voted against the motion. When asked for comment, his office said his previously publicized stance that the board shouldn’t get a pay increase exceeding the cumulative MRAs given to employees hasn’t changed.
Virginia’s system of having board members determine their own raises during election years results in “a painful process,” Chairman Jeff McKay said. Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross, who will retire after this year, said it “would be a good idea” to increase board salaries annually based on a formula like other county employees, as suggested by one speaker.
Multiple board members stated that they’re committed to improving compensation for county workers in the budget, presenting a tough balancing act as they also look to lower the real estate tax rate.
“While the vote tonight must be decoupled from that larger budget conversation, rest assured that many of us will continue to fight for our employees while working to try to reduce the impact of our limited funding avenues that currently relies on our residential landowners in Fairfax County,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said.
Public hearings on the fiscal year 2024 budget will be held April 11-13. A final plan will be adopted on May 9.
Inova Gets Go-Ahead for Springfield Hospital — “Inova Health System just got the Virginia Department of Health’s green light to proceed with plans to bring a new hospital to Springfield — despite VHC Health’s attempt to block the project. The Falls Church-based health system secured the certificate of public need Tuesday afternoon for the nearly 1 million-square-foot hospital” [Washington Business Journal]
State Police Add Red Lights to Vehicles — “Virginia State Police are equipping the newest vehicles in their fleet with emergency light bars that also include red lights to improve visibility and safety…The enhanced emergency lights are on the road now in new police vehicles, which will gradually replace the older vehicles in the fleet.” [WTOP]
Street Safety “a Disaster” in Fairfax County, Advocates Say — “When Karen McCluskey of Northern Virginia Families for Safer Streets first began compiling the 2022 pedestrian crash data for Fairfax County last November on World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, she never expected the carnage to be so catastrophic.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Labor Groups Call for Investigation of Tysons Contractor — “The coalition asked for a probe into whether ‘stark discrepancies’ between the race and gender of Maximus’s employees and its upper management could violate federal policies. Maximus has worked with federal agencies including the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.” [The Washington Post]
Metro Spending Big to Combat Fare Evasion — “Metro says it will spend up to $40 million to redesign its new faregates, making it harder to jump over them and evade paying the fare. The transit agency released new data Monday saying 13% of Metrorail riders did not tap in and pay for their rides, amounting to 40,000 fare evasions each weekday during the first two-and-a-half months of 2023.” [DCist]
Founder of Major Fairfax Real Estate Firm Dies — “Wesley ‘Wes’ Foster, who co-founded real estate giant Long & Foster, died Friday at age 89…Foster launched the real estate firm, whose red signs have become ubiquitous throughout the mid-Atlantic, in 1968 with then-partner Henry Long.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Infant Formula Recalled Due to Possible Bacteria — “Perrigo Company plc is issuing a voluntary recall of certain lots of Gerber® Good Start® SootheProTM Powdered Infant Formula in the U.S., that were manufactured at the Company’s Gateway Eau Claire, Wisconsin manufacturing facility from January 02, 2023 to January 18, 2023.” [Fairfax County Health Department]
Wolf Trap Park Adds More Summer Performances — “There are more performances to look forward to this summer at Wolf Trap’s outdoor Filene Center venue…The new shows include well-known performers like James Taylor, Diana Ross, Juanes, Ms. Lauryn Hill and John Fogerty.” [Patch]
How One Tysons Company Navigated Silicon Valley Bank Collapse — “That Thursday evening, [CEO Joe Saunders] had a stark decision to make: to take RunSafe Security’s money out or keep it in the bank…RunSafe Security was one of the scores of companies regionally and nationally left in limbo after SVB quickly cratered in the past week, as many of its tech customers pulled out their deposits at once.” [DC Inno]
It’s Wednesday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 60 and low of 44. Sunrise at 7:10 am and sunset at 7:23 pm. [Weather.gov]
Spring is here, and despite a cold snap over the weekend, cherry trees around the D.C. area are rapidly approaching full bloom.
The Yoshino cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin remain on track with the National Park Service’s prediction that they will reach peak bloom — meaning that 70% of the flowers will be open — between Wednesday and Saturday (March 22-25).
Accordingly, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is now underway, though the official opening ceremony isn’t until this coming Saturday.
Since launching in the 1920s, the annual festival has expanded beyond D.C.’s borders, including to Fairfax County. For those who’d prefer not to endure the downtown crowds and traffic, there are plenty of events to catch closer to home when not taking in the flowers at local viewing spots like Meadowlark Botanical Gardens.
Celebration at the Lab
The Children’s Science Center has “transformed” its lab at Fair Oaks Mall into a scavenger hunt with various experiments to teach kids about the history and science of cherry blossoms.
Tickets are available for two-hour time slots at the lab between 10 a.m. and noon, and 2-4 p.m. from Saturday (March 25) through April 8. They cost $15 each, but there is a $2 discount for registering online.
Art Blooms at Mosaic
The Mosaic District in Merrifield has again partnered with the D.C. festival for a two-day celebration of its own that will feature live music on two different stages, crafts and farmers markets, and family-friendly activities, including a game corner and a “glamor” tent with hair-braiding and face-painting.
We're blooming with excitement for Art Blooms on April 1 and 2, featuring:
A market of handmade and vintage vendors from URBN Market
Fresh produce from local vendors presented by Fresh Farm VA
Fun activities by Vienna Singing Princesses
Live music on two stages pic.twitter.com/UAf3KxYxDl
— Mosaic (@mosaicdistrict) March 1, 2023
For adults, some restaurants in the neighborhood allow alcoholic beverages outside. A full list of Sip and Stroll participants and the festival’s performance schedule can be found on the Mosaic District website.
Complimentary shuttle service will be provided from the Dunn Loring Metro station to the festival, which will take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 1 and 2.
Into the Woods at Frying Pan Farm Park
The Fairfax County Park Authority’s free event on April 1 has already filled up. Those who managed to snag a spot will get to build a fairy house, help count birds, and search for critters at stations along the Herndon park’s nature trail.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival will incorporate Springfield Town Center for the first time with the inaugural Blossom Fest, which will be held outside the mall’s main entrance near Yard House and Maggiano’s from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 1.
Perhaps the most notable elements are a cherry tree planting and dedication at 11:30 a.m., and a build-your-own cherry blossom station hosted by Lego Discovery Center. Blossoms made by participants out of Legos will be added to a tree that will be displayed when the center opens this summer.
Other activities include ballet and jazz performances, a selfie booth with an Enchanted Teapot, food trucks and other vendors, and face-painting and balloon twisting.
Pedal With Petals
Tysons Corner Center will host this inaugural family bicycle ride from 8-11 a.m. on April 2.
We’ve partnered with the @CherryBlossFest to bring part of the festival to Tysons! The inaugural Pedal with Petals Family Bike Ride will take place at @ShopTysons on April 2nd from 8-11am.
For more information and to register, go to: https://t.co/llvsMuelC0 pic.twitter.com/5SoVVuznoE
— Tysons Community Alliance (@tysons_va) March 10, 2023
Registration is now open for the free ride, which will start in front of Tysons Tower and Vita Tysons Corner (7902 Tysons One Place) and circle around the mall. The Plaza will have a bicycle decorating station, free bicycle repairs, face-painting, snacks, a DJ and more.
Helmets are required for all cyclists. Event parking will be available, but participants are encouraged to travel via Metro to the Tysons station.
The Tysons Community Alliance and Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling, which organized the ride, hope that it will become an annual staple of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
“The Festival and Tysons Community Alliance brands are a natural match with their emphasis on community,” TCA acting CEO Rich Bradley said. “A family bike ride serves to connect the community to the mobility aspirations of our urban center. We anticipate the ride course to expand annually as we realize future trail network growth planned for Tysons.”
By the end of the March, the COVID-19 pandemic will no longer be declared an emergency in the Town of Herndon.
The move follows efforts by neighboring jurisdictions to end formalized states of emergency.
“All emergency actions in response to COVID-19 have been taken and the public health emergency triggered by COVID-19 has diminished to the point that it no longer necessitates a state of local emergency and disaster,” the draft resolution says.
Fairfax County voted unanimously last month to end its state of emergency on March 1, marking a major public health milestone. Loudoun County, Prince William, Alexandria, and Arlington all took that step last year to end their states of emergency.
Here’s more from town spokeswoman Anne Curtis:
Like other jurisdictions, the COVID pandemic triggered the town’s enactment of a local State of Emergency legislation in March 2020. This enabled the town to adopt a Continuity of Governmental Operations Ordinance, giving us the flexibility and authority to adapt operations and adopt practices that enabled us to weather the emergency, like outdoor dining and fully virtual meetings. The Continuity Ordinance expired by law in late 2021. The act of “formally” repealing will have no effect on the daily lives of town citizens.
The end of the declaration comes exactly three years after the town was in the thick of the pandemic.
The item is up for consideration at a Herndon Town Council meeting at 7 p.m. today (Tuesday).
Currently, community level transmission in Fairfax County is low.
The Fairfax County Park Authority is going to need a bigger budget to handle its running bamboo.
The agency has requested an additional $500,000 and a new, full-time staff position for an ecologist to help manage bamboo removal projects now that the county requires property owners to contain the species.
The park authority has 185 bamboo patches on its property, covering 250 acres of land — exceeding an earlier estimate and any other county agency, according to a Feb. 28 memo to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ environmental committee.
“Due to the excessive cost, bamboo management on an estimated 250 acres of Park Authority land will be a long-term management issue,” FCPA Public Information Officer Benjamin Boxer said.
While no removals have been conducted yet this year, the park authority has developed a “protocol” for prioritizing projects based on:
- Site conditions, such as the bamboo patch’s size, accessibility and proximity to rare resources
- Cooperation from neighboring landowners
- The county’s vulnerability index in terms of the impact on resources, restoration areas, high-quality natural areas, and the community
However, the county’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2024 doesn’t include funding for either the bamboo removal projects or the ecologist, who would be dedicated specifically to this issue, Boxer confirmed.
The park authority instead hopes to get the funds as part of the county’s fiscal year 2023 third-quarter review, which was presented to the Board of Supervisors today (Tuesday).
The package proposes allocating $400,000 “as initial funding” for bamboo mitigation, falling short of the FCPA’s request. It also doesn’t add any new positions, though staff identified nearly $10.7 million that the board could devote to non-recurring priorities.
“The Park Authority has requested recurring and dedicated funds for contracted bamboo removal and suppression projects on FCPA property and will proceed following the prioritization protocol with available resources as they are identified,” Boxer said.
The county’s running bamboo ordinance took effect on Jan. 1, requiring property owners to prevent the invasive species from spreading to other properties or risk getting fined.
The Fairfax County Department of Code Compliance has received 44 complaints about running bamboo since the ordinance took effect, but no fines have been imposed yet.
“We are focused on working with property owners to gain voluntary compliance. At this point no fines or litigation have been sought,” DCC Director Gabriel Zakkak said.
When the ordinance was adopted last year, Zakkak’s predecessor suggested the county may not resort to fines until cases have continued for a year or longer.
In addition to the bamboo on park authority land, the county’s Facilities Management Department identified about 1.5 acres of bamboo on eight of its properties, led by 43,000 square feet at the Mason District Government Center, according to a staff presentation.
The department said it has removed that bamboo and is in the process of treating the sites, stating that it doesn’t anticipate needing more funding to manage bamboo.
While Fairfax County Public Schools found no issues on school properties, Rose Hill and Hunt Valley elementary schools have adjacent properties with bamboo, according to FCPS spokesperson Julie Moult.
“Grounds has met with both owners and are working collaboratively to ensure that, if a small amount is on FCPS property, it is properly removed and also ensure that it does not spread onto FCPS property in the future,” Moult said.
Public hearings on the FY 2023 third quarter review package will be held on April 11, 12 and 13 — along with the proposed FY 2024 budget — before it’s adopted on May 2.
A new bank is slated to open soon at The Spectrum Center at Reston Town Center.
PNC Bank plans to open at 11842 Spectrum Center this year, according to the center’s website.
County permits indicate that a permit for electrical work was issued last month. The center has businesses like The Container Store, Harris Teeter and Not Your Average Joe’s. A Barnes and Nobles location is also expected to open soon at the center.
“We are excited to share that this new branch location is anticipated to open at The Spectrum at Reston Town Center during the third quarter. The space occupies approximately 3,600 square feet,” a PNC Bank spokesperson told FFXnow.
There are several other banking options at the center, including United Bank, First National Bank, and Trustar Bank.
The bank has one other location in Reston. An ATM is located at the Giant in North Point Village Center (1450 Northpoint Village Center).
Last year, a PNC Bank location shuttered in Reston Town Center (11932 Democracy Drive).
Hat tip to Adam Rubinstein
Electric bicycles with a brand-new look will dock at select Capital Bikeshare stations in Fairfax County this spring.
The rental bicycle-sharing service is rolling out 850 new e-bikes across the D.C. area, more than doubling its current stock and bringing its total fleet close to 7,000 bicycles, according to the Washington Post.
Initiated yesterday (Monday) and continuing through April, the rollout includes 45 e-bikes owned by Fairfax County, which will introduce them to five stations in Tysons, Reston and Dunn Loring:
- Tysons Metro North
- Dunn Loring Metro
- W&OD Trail/Sunset Hills Road & Isaac Newton Square
- Wiehle-Reston Metro South
- Reston Town Center Metro North
Manufactured by the ride-sharing company Lyft, the new e-bikes will be able to reach speeds of 20 mph with the electric assist, have longer-lasting batteries, provide better visibility with retroreflective paint, and eliminate the shift transmission on the older e-bikes, according to Capital Bikeshare.
The company intends to phase out the existing, black-painted model of e-bikes this August, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation previously said.
The county is working to expand its Bikeshare network with new stations in the Tysons, Franconia and Huntington areas in the works. Another 100 e-bikes will be ordered to support those stations this spring.
“In 2024 and beyond, Fairfax County plans to acquire approximately 200 additional e-bikes to support expansion around the Huntington and Innovation Metrorail Stations, Baileys Crossroads, Seven Corners, and Annandale,” FCDOT said in a news release.
While e-bikes are more expensive, the county has said the costs of the initial rollout will be covered by federal grant money and rider fees.
The bikes cost 10 cents per minute for annual Capital Bikeshare members, with a $2 fee for parking outside of a station. Non-members pay $1 to unlock the bike and 15 cents per minute. Members of the Capital Bikeshare for All program can ride e-bikes for free for up to 1 hour and don’t have to pay the $2 out-of-station fee.
The new model of e-bikes is also being added in D.C. and Arlington County.
Metro Adds Trains to Speed Up Service — “Metro is ramping up service across much of the rail system starting [Monday], promising ‘an infusion of trains.’ This comes as ridership has been on the upswing, hitting new post-pandemic records, and as the transit system has been allowed to bring back more 7000-series railcars.” [DCist]
County Launches Fund for Tech Startups — “The Fairfax Founders Fund (FFF), a grant and technical assistance program providing funds to early-stage Fairfax County-based startups, will begin accepting applications on April 10. FFF will provide up to $50,000 in capital to help start-ups develop their business and prepare for later-stage investment.” [Department of Economic Initiatives]
Local Parents Indicted After Infant Fatally Overdoses — “Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano announced Tuesday that a grand jury had indicted 19-year-old Juan Oliva-Ruiz and 23-year-old Shantica Tillery on involuntary manslaughter and child cruelty charges, after their 11-month-old allegedly ingested a fentanyl pill found on the floor of their Alexandria home in June 2022.” [WTOP]
Man Arrested for Reported Fairfax Knife Attack — “On March 11, 2023 at 2:45 P.M. City of Fairfax Police responded to 7-Eleven, located at 10140 Fairfax Boulevard, for a malicious wounding. Investigation revealed that during a verbal altercation, the suspect, Anibal-Guzman, assaulted the victim with a knife causing injuries to their head, neck and hands.” [City of Fairfax Police]
Halal South Asian Restaurant Now Open in Mount Vernon — “Food Flame, a restaurant specializing in Indian and Pakistani cuisine, opened March 3 at Engleside Plaza shopping center in Alexandria. Located in a space formerly occupied by Wing Zone, Food Flame is owned and operated by Zafar Khan and family.” [On the MoVe]
Reston Theater Company Cleans Up at Regional Awards — “Reston Community Players was the big winner Sunday night at the 2023 Washington Area Theatre Community Honors Awards ceremony at the The Birchmere in Alexandria. RCP racked up a combined total of 13 awards for its productions of ‘A Little Night Music,’ ‘The Game’s A Foot’ and ‘Bright Star.'” [Patch]
Herndon Thrift Store Boosts Nonprofits, Students — “The Closet of The Greater Herndon Area Inc., a nonprofit thrift store, distributed over $273,000 worth of 2022 grants, scholarships, and vouchers to local nonprofits, students and community residents.” [Inside NoVA]
Vienna Bassist Selected for National Orchestra — “A Vienna teen will be part of a residency and tour with the 2023 National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America. Joshua Thrush, 16, is a double bassist who was chosen for the National Youth Orchestra, a prestigious free summer program for the nation’s promising young musicians.” [Patch]
It’s Tuesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 59 and low of 35. Sunrise at 7:11 am and sunset at 7:22 pm. [Weather.gov]
Len Forkas, a Reston-based businessman, is skiing to the North Pole in a few weeks to break the ice on support for kids with cancer.
The 63-year-old — who is described as an “ultra-endurance athlete” — plans to ski 60 miles to the North Pole in order to raise money for Hopecam, a nonprofit organization he founded that connects children undergoing cancer treatment with their friends.
“I know some people think I’m crazy,” Forkas said. “But I think of myself as crazy about Hopecam’s kids. I hope I’ve convinced everybody that I’ll go to any length to support them.”
For Forkas, the trek is will bring him one step closer to his goal of completing the Explorer’s Grand Slam, a physical challenge that includes a trek to the North Pole, the South Pole, and all the highest mountain peaks on each of the seven continents, known as the Seven Summits.
So far, Forkas has travelled to five of the Seven Summits. He hopes to check off this physical challenge by August 2024 in time for his 65th birthday.
He plans to fly to a Norwegian village at the end of the month to meet the expedition team. They will then fly to a temporary camp in the Arctic Ocean.
Forkas founded Hopecam through personal struggle.
In 2002, his son, Matt, was diagnosed with leukemia. Forkas received permission from Fairfax County Public Schools to install a webcam in the classroom of a school in Great Falls to make sure Matt could participate. He began competing in ultra-endurance sports at the time of his son’s diagnosis.
“The exercise helped me cope with the stress of Matt’s illness,” he said. Matt, now 30, survived the bout of illness.
Forkas hopes to raise $60,000 for the nonprofit organization by matching the 60 miles he will ski to the North Pole. So far, the campaign has raised over $10,500, as of this morning.
With Hopecam, kids are provided with a tablet computer with a webcam, internet access if it’s unavailable, and assistance to work with the school so they can take part in some classroom activities and see their friends.
The nonprofit organization is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. It aims to overcome the social isolation that kids often experience while they receive cancer treatment.
“His North Pole journey presents a timely opportunity to showcase this noteworthy occasion,” Brett Fox, Hopecam’s development director, said.