Morning Notes

A streetlight illuminates a school bus in Annandale (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Stringfellow Road to Partly Close This Weekend — “Northbound and southbound Stringfellow Road (Route 645) between Route 29 and Centreville Farms Road will be closed to through traffic from 7 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 17 until 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19 to install a water main.” Local traffic will be allowed between Centreville Farms Road and Autumn Willow Drive, but the road will be closed to all traffic between Autumn Willow and Route 29. [VDOT]

General Assembly Reaches Session Midpoint — “The Democratic-controlled Virginia General Assembly advanced bills Tuesday to safeguard abortion access and increase the minimum wage, just a few of the partisan priorities that ensure a showdown with Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) as this year’s legislative session reaches its midpoint.” [Washington Post]

Virginia Proposal to Ban TikTok Fails — “A GOP legislative effort to prevent Virginia children from using the popular video-sharing app TikTok — an idea backed by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin — died this week in the Democratic-controlled Legislature. The bill…was left in a House of Delegates committee after concerns were raised about how the ban would be enforced.” [Associated Press/WTOP]

Broadband for First Responders to Expand — “The First Responder Network Authority and AT&T are investing more than $6.3 billion over the next 10 years to expand FirstNet, the nation’s public safety broadband network. The upgrade will enhance 5G coverage for first responders…The FirstNet expansion was announced Feb. 13 at the Edsall Road Fire Station in Mason District.” [Annandale Today]

Temporary Franconia Metro Station Closure Planned — “The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) said in a release that Blue Line construction is expected sometime in summer 2025 from the Franconia-Springfield Metro station to the King Street Metro station. The Van Dorn Street and Franconia-Springfield Metro stations will be closed” while work is underway. [ALXnow]

New Mount Vernon School Board Rep Skeptical of Proposed Budget — “Mateo Dunne…wants Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) to be more transparent and accountable in its budget requests and spending practices.” He said at a Mount Vernon Town Meeting on Feb. 10 that “he presently cannot support” the funding increase proposed by FCPS Superintendent Michelle Reid. [On the MoVe]

Former Fairfax County Police Dog Dies — “With great sadness, we announce the passing of retired K9 Enzo. K9 Enzo served w/ FCPD for 8 years (2012-2020). He was credited with apprehending dozens of suspects & received the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce K9 Medal of Valor in 2016. Enzo will be missed by his #FCPD family.” [FCPD/Twitter]

Oakton HS Basketball Coach Wins 800th Game — “Another lofty milestone for career victories has been reached by longtime girls high-school basketball coach Fred Priester. His 800th win was achieved Feb. 12 when Priester’s third-seeded Oakton Cougars defeated the visiting South Lakes Seahawks, 51-45, in a first-round game of the Concorde District tournament.” [Gazette Leader]

It’s Thursday — Expect a mostly sunny day with a high of around 49 degrees, as light south wind picks up to 9-14 mph during the morning, potentially gusting up to 22 mph. The night will be mostly clear with temperatures dropping to around 36 degrees. []

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The bike and ride facility at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County’s new bicycle parking standards are getting refined as part of a broad effort to ensure consistency across the county’s various transportation policies.

At a transportation committee meeting yesterday (Tuesday), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors expressed support for an update to the bicycle parking guidelines — although the guidelines were not yet available for review.

The county got up to speed with the current age of telework and transit-oriented development by introducing bicycle parking requirements in September.

The “Parking Reimagined” initiative established how many bicycle parking spaces are required and basic rules for the design and general location of the spaces. But staff noted that the new requirements don’t align with guidelines formulated in 2014.

“It’s really great to know we’re thinking about this, that we’re tackling it. Doing this better will have great effects for the county,” said Dranesville District Supervisor Jimmy Bierman, who chairs the committee.

Additionally, the zoning ordinance doesn’t address parking ratios for visitor and long-term parking or provide detailed information about wayfinding signage, rack spacing, security needs and other amenities, county staff said in a presentation to the committee.

The guidelines currently being crafted would be divided by short-term parking for visitors and long-term parking, which is for employees, transit users, apartment residents and bicycle cages or lockers, according to Nicole Wynands, a planner for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

For short-term parking, the guidelines will cover location, access, markings, maintenace, rack types and spacing. Long-term parking guidance will detail similar issues, along with room layout, security recommendations, and e-charging.

Wynands noted that the guidelines will provide different ratios based on land use. FCDOT is contemplating a 90-10% split for long-term and short term parking, respectively, in residential areas and a the reverse split for long-term and short term parking respectively in retail areas.

“Retail use has a very different need,” Wyannds said.

Discussion on the proposal was limited, given that the details haven’t been officially reviewed by the board.

The county hopes to release the guidelines to the board soon so the public review process can begin in early March, followed by potential board endorsement by the summer.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said that, although the guidelines were not yet available, he was supportive of the idea.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said staff should ensure that existing bicycle guidelines for specific areas like Reston are consistent with other, similar policies.

“It seems like there needs to be some sort of normalizing across these different area guidelines,” Alcorn said.

McKay asked staff if there was some way to encourage more commercial residential properties to conform with the county’s guidelines on bicycle parking.

“I’m just wondering if we’re evaluating where we can see with our own vision today where the need for these facilities are,” he said.

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Downtown Herndon is slated for redevelopment into a mixed-use community (staff photo by Fatimah Waseem)

Building permits are still under review for the stalled redevelopment of downtown Herndon.

At a work session on Feb. 6, town manager Bill Ashton II said the town was still engaged in discussions with Comstock on the site plan process. At the time, Comstock had several items it was working on after town feedback.

A spokesperson for the Town of Herndon told FFXnow there were no further updates to report. Comstock, the Reston-based developer of the project, paused the development in April 2022, citing increased construction costs.

Under an agreement between the town and the developer last updated in late 2020, construction must begin by April 2024.

The cost of the $101 million project increased by $25 million due to issues related to materials, labor, and workforce restrictions caused by the pandemic. It’s unclear what the current estimate is.

Ashton reported in mid-November that Comstock had submitted a revised site plan to the town. Related permits are now in review.

In the works since 2017, Comstock’s plan for downtown Herndon would transform nearly 5 acres at the northeast corner of Center Street and Elden Street into a mixed-use development. The site is currently occupied by the Arts Herndon building.

The proposal calls for 273 apartments, approximately 17,000 square feet of retail space and a 16,265-square-foot arts center. The area would be served by a new, 726-space parking garage.

Read more on FFXnow…

Leslie Holt’s work “Perfect Night” will be on display at Tephra’s satellite gallery in Reston through June (courtesy Tephra ICA)

The Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art is launching an art exhibition featuring D.C.-based artists this week in its satellite gallery.

Restorative Gestures” will bring new work by artists Leslie Holt and Rose Jaffe to the Signature apartments in Reston Town Center from Friday, Feb. 16 through June 23.

According to Tephra ICA, Holt is an artist and educator with teaching experience at the college level for more than 15 years. She is also co-director of Red Dirt Studio, a warehouse studio for independent creative professionals in Mt. Rainier, Maryland.

Her previous work includes “Neuro Blooms,” a project that attempts to use mixed-media art to shed light on mental health conditions. The project has visited organizations and schools in Maryland, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

A visual artist, Jaffe’s preferred media include mural painting, printmaking and digital illustration. She previously taught middle and high school art — a career path she dropped after pursuing art full-time.

She has painted more than 30 murals nationally and internationally, including 20 in the District. Her work often explores themes related to “political activism, natural healing, and spiritual grounding” to push for social change, Tephra ICA said in a press release.

Here’s more from Tephra on the work:

Holt’s Brain Stains, draped in the language of clinical technology, use emotionally resonant color palettes, PET scan imagery, and hand stitched text, to create expansive views of mental health conditions. A number of Holt’s works in the exhibition also draw from her personal involvement as a caregiver to her ailing parents at the end of their lives.

In a series of recent monoprints, Rose Jaffe explores her own journey of healing and thriving with stylized figures that fill the page with comfort and ease. The sensuous curves of the bodies along with growing plants and her vibrant use of color–including deep purples, bright greens, and radiant oranges–give these works a sense of jubilance and peace.

Together, the work from the two artists forms a restorative gesture that challenges common narratives of illness and recovery. This exhibition aims to inspire viewers to cultivate compassion for their own interior lives and the varied experiences of others.

The satellite gallery is open from Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s located inside the Signature apartments at 11850 Freedom Drive, where Tephra will host an opening reception and artist talk for “Restorative Gestures” on Thursday, Feb. 22 at 6 p.m.

Read more on FFXnow…

Morning Notes

Capital One’s headquarters in Tysons on a winter night (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

House Passes Bill to Create Fund for New N. Va. Sports Arena — “Virginia’s House of Delegates voted to pass the arena bill 59-40, sending the proposal to an uncertain future in the Senate…The proposal to build a new arena at Potomac Yard for the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals has met with a mixed reception.” [ALXnow]

South Block to Land at Dulles Airport — In addition to new locations in Chantilly and Fairfax City, the Arlington-based company is planning to open a spot at Dulles International Airport’s Concourse D this year. Offerings will include the usual smoothies, acai bowls and juices, along with “grab-and-go sandwiches and salads from D.C.’s Wellfound Foods.” [Washington Business Journal]

McLean Group Skeptical of Tysons Development Swap — “A proposal to replace a previously approved office building with a 240-unit residential structure at the Arbor Row development in Tysons failed Feb. 7 to get support from the McLean Citizens Association (MCA), which opposed what members said was a lack of workforce housing.” [Gazette Leader]

Former Fairfax City Mayor Has Died — “Fairfax City, Va., is mourning the loss of a beloved community member, mentor, and friend. Former Mayor John Mason, who died Feb. 7 at the age of 89, served on Fairfax City Council from 1986 to 1990 and as mayor from 1990 to 2002…His impact was felt well beyond Fairfax City’s borders through his leadership of organizations such as the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton.” [City of Fairfax]

Fairfax Aerospace Contractor to Boost Capacity — “Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that Trident Systems…is investing $3.7 million to expand capacity at its operation in Fairfax County for the production of space electronic systems for the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, and U.S. Intelligence Community. The project will create roughly 50 new jobs.” [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]

Farmers’ Market Workers Secure Labor Contract — “The Monday vote in favor of ratification with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 400 makes FRESHFARM the first farmers market operator in the country whose employees have approved a collective bargaining agreement. They unionized last year, with contract negotiations starting shortly after.” [WTOP]

Tysons Tech Startup Raises $47 Million — “Software testing startup Antithesis has raised $47 million in seed funding, valuing the company at $215 million, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters…In an interview on Monday, [co-founder Will] Wilson said that Antithesis’ artificial intelligence-powered software can scan programs under development for bugs in codes.” [Reuters]

It’s Wednesday — Expect sunny skies and a high temperature near 43 degrees, accompanied by a northwest wind ranging from 10 to 16 mph and gusts reaching up to 26 mph. Night will be mostly clear with temperatures dropping to around 28 degrees and a northwest wind blowing at 5 to 9 mph. []

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Cryptid Grove is the game designed in the extension of Escape Room Herndon (via Omer Aru)

Escape Room Herndon is officially expanding this week with a new room near its current location in Herndon Centre.

The latest game — Cryptid Grove — will open Thursday, Feb. 15 in the company’s new Raven’s Nest Escape Room at 388 Elden Street.

Able to accommodate up to 10 players, the game is designed for customers between the ages of 10 and 75 and described as having “moderate” level of difficulty, according to the company.

“Cryptid Grove offers an intriguing experience inspired by the lore of mysterious creatures like Bigfoot and Mothman, designed to engage adventurers of all ages,” Herndon Escape Room owner Omer Aru said. “Raven’s Nest is our expanded new location in a few doors down in the same shopping center.”

Escape Room Herndon opened its doors in 2016. It decided to expand with Raven’s Nest in reponse to burgeoning demand from the community. The space will also feature a 215-square-foot party room, set to open in March, and a second game expected in late 2024.

Reservations for “Cryptid Grove” are now available online.

Read more on FFXnow…

Look Dine-in Cinemas at Reston Town Center (file photo)

A popular tradition for local cinema-loving seniors is returning to Reston Town Center this month.

In conjunction with Reston Association, Look Dine-in Cinemas will host “Senior Movie Day” for the first time since it opened at 11940 Market Street late last fall. The event offers free screenings of popular films for adults aged 55 and older on the fourth Wednesday of each month.

The event’s revival will kick off on Feb. 28 with a showing of “Downton Abbey: A New Era.”

In a statement, RA Director of Recreation Laura Kowalski said the association is excited to bring back the event in partnership with Look Cinemas and Reston Town Center.

“Not only has Senior Movie Day been one of RA’s most long-standing events, it’s also one of the most anticipated and popular all year,” Kowalski said.

No registration is required, and the event is free. Doors open at 9:15 a.m. for refreshments and socialization, followed by the beginning of the movie at 10 a.m.

The next scheduled screening will be “Top Gun: Maverick” on March 27.

Senior Movie Days were put on hold after Bow Tie Cinemas, the space’s previous occupant, closed in May 2022. Started in 1994, the program had attracted more than 100,000 patrons over the years, RA previously told FFXnow.

Look Cinemas opened up its dine-in movie theater on Nov. 1. The 11-screen venue is the company’s first and, so far, only location in Virginia.

Read more on FFXnow…

The Fairfax County Public Schools administrative center in Merrifield (file photo)

Fairfax County Public Schools is stepping up its requests for funding this year from both local and state leaders.

The school system is seeking an additional $254 million from Fairfax County for fiscal year 2025 — about 10.5% more than last year — to help fund a projected $301.8 million, or 8.6%, budget increase, FCPS Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid reported in a presentation to the school board on Thursday (Feb. 8).

According to Reid, the increase is necessary for FCPS to meet the needs of all its students and adequately compensate its staff, even though student enrollment remains below pre-pandemic levels and no new initiatives are included in the proposed $3.8 billion budget.

With the county government bracing for a tight budget year itself, Reid stressed that the local request could be reduced if Virginia contributes more than the $42.2 million increase currently expected based on Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposed funding plan for the state.

“What I’m presenting…is what I believe we need to resource and sustain the excellent work that our staff are doing today and compensate our staff into the future to keep us competitive, with the hope that as our General Assembly deliberates…they’ll see the necessity of actually allocating a greater amount of state funding, which will help us out in terms of our county transfer,” Reid told the school board.

The disparity between the local and state funding for public education has long frustrated both county and FCPS leaders, who argue that the formula used to calculate funding needs for each school division is outdated and shortchanges Fairfax County — one of the wealthiest counties in the Commonwealth, but also its biggest and most populous.

Those grievances got validated last year when the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission released an anticipated study that found Virginia spends about $1,900 less per student than the national average, falling below nearby states like Maryland, West Virginia and Kentucky.

If the Commonwealth matched the 50-state average, it would allocate $345 million to FCPS, according to Reid.

“So, just funding us at the average would be more than what we’re actually asking for in additional funds,” she said.

Multiple school board members acknowledged that the size of the funding request may give some community members pause, especially with only a modest growth in enrollment projected for FY 2025, which starts on July 1.

Fairfax County Public Schools student enrollment is rising but remains below fiscal year 2020 levels (via FCPS)

According to the proposed budget, FCPS expects to have 181,701 students next school year. Enrollment has ticked up over the past few years, reaching an estimated 180,398 students this year, but before the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered classrooms in March 2020, the school system had over 188,000 students.

Even though there are fewer students, the cost of serving those students has grown, Reid said. In addition to adjusting for inflation and rising costs of living, FCPS is seeing more students who need more intensive support, including those in special education, non-English speakers and low-income students.

For example, an FY 2025, FCPS projects that nearly 37% of all students will be eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, compared to 30.7% in the 2019-2020 school year, according to the budget.

Fairfax County Public Schools has more special education, English as a Second Language and free/reduced lunch students than it did in FY 2020 (via FCPS)

“The needs are constantly changing,” said Rachna Sizemore-Heizer, who represents Braddock District on the school board. “Therefore, the amount of money we need to service those needs are constantly changing, and on top of that, we’re putting more and more on what we expect public schools to do. It’s educating, it’s mental health supports, it’s supporting families.”

What’s in the proposed budget

After the school board designated teacher recruitment and compensation as a top priorities, Reid has proposed allocating $170.7 million to a 6% salary increase for all employees. Another $55.3 million would cover the cost of a 2% compensation supplement adopted by the state, effective Jan. 1, and $24.1 million would go to retirement and health insurance costs.

FCPS is also considering creating a deferred retirement option program similar to the one available to county government workers.

However, the proposal only includes enough funding — $46.6 million — to maintain current class sizes, which range from an average of 21 students per teacher for elementary schools to 25 students per teacher for high schools.

Initiatives funded by the budget include:

  • An expansion of inclusive preschool programs for kids under 5 ($2.1 million)
  • Energy and environmental goals, including future grants for electric school buses ($1.9 million)
  • “Extra duty” stipends for music and theater staff, mostly at the high school level ($1.1 million)
  • The addition of boys’ volleyball and girls’ wrestling programs at all 25 high schools ($800,000)
  • The third year of an ongoing human resources and payroll technology update ($700,000)
  • Five additional athletic trainers, continuing a multi-year plan to provide two positions at every high school ($600,000)

All of those initiatives are either already underway or have been planned for several years, according to Reid.

“We’re not launching new work. We were very clear this year,” the superintendent said. “We want to fund the work we’ve planned and set out to do over the last several years and maintain the phases of the plans we’ve already begun.”

The school board will get a more detailed presentation and discussion on the budget at a work session this afternoon (Tuesday). Public hearings scheduled for tonight and, if needed, Feb. 20 will be held at 6 p.m. in the auditorium at Luther Jackson Middle School (3020 Gallows Road).

The FY 2025 advertised budget will then be approved by the school board on Thursday, Feb. 22.

Read more on FFXnow…

Morning Notes

The Dulles Toll Road facing the Reston Parkway bridge (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Delayed Start for FCPS With Snow in Forecast — “All Fairfax County public schools and school offices will open two hours late. Central Office employees may report two hours later than their regular scheduled time, but no later than 10 a.m.” [FCPS/Twitter]

Metro Seeks Public Input on Budget — “Facing an unprecedented $750 million budget shortfall in the coming year, Metro is asking the public to provide feedback on the proposed Fiscal Year 2025 (FY25) Budget which includes drastic service cuts, fare increases, layoffs, and other severe cost cutting measures.” [WMATA]

Local Vietnamese Community Celebrates Lunar New Year — “Hundreds of people filled the parking lot and restaurants at the Eden Center in Seven Corners Feb. 10 to celebrate the Vietnamese Lunar New Year and welcome the Year of the Dragon. There were lion dances, a dragon dance, firecrackers, a flag-raising ceremony, and welcoming remarks by Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Gerry Connolly.” [Annandale Today]

Vienna State Reps Address Casino Questions in Town Hall — “As if to acknowledge the elephant in the room, state Sen. Saddam Azlan Salim (D-37th) and Del. Holly Seibold (D-12th) spent the first 20-30 minutes of Saturday morning’s town hall meeting in Vienna answering questions about the possibility of a casino being built in Tysons.” [Patch]

Local Teens Invent Supercomputer Chip — “A group of teenagers in Fairfax County have created a supercomputer chip with the goal of reinventing the computer…These high schoolers are still working on the technology of the future. But this time, they have an actual prototype. Their latest invention is a supercomputer chip powered by light.” [WJLA]

County Board Expedites Dunn Loring ES Project — “The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors agreed Feb. 6 to speed up processing of Fairfax County Public Schools’ application to build a new elementary school in Dunn Loring.” The move was requested by the Fairfax County School Board “to maintain the school system’s capital-improvement-program schedule,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said. [Gazette Leader]

Teachers’ Union Distributes Free Books in Lorton — The “America Federation of Teachers and the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers joined local officials in distributing 40,000 free books to families and educators from local Title 1 schools. The event took place Saturday as part of the Reading Opens the World Literacy Fair at the Lorton Community Center and Library.” [Patch]

McLean Student Advances in Essay Contest — “American Legion Post 270 in McLean recently announced the prize winners of its Middle School Essay Contest, in which about 50 local seventh- and eighth-graders participated. Caroline Gray, a seventh-grader at Cooper Middle School in McLean, won first prize and $50 and will now represent McLean…against winners of contests in other communities later in February.” [Gazette Leader]

It’s Tuesday — Expect rain and snow before 11am, turning to a chance of rain from 11am to 1pm. Cloudy skies will clear gradually, giving way to mostly sunny conditions with a high near 44. There’s a 60% chance of precipitation and potential for under half an inch of new snow. Night will be mostly clear with a low around 33. []

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A rainy night lies ahead, as seen on a traffic camera at Gallows Road near Yorktowne Center in Merrifield (via VDOT)

Fairfax County Public Schools will start classes two hours late tomorrow (Tuesday) in case there’s snow.

No weather alerts have been issued for the county yet, but the National Weather Service’s current forecast indicates that rain is expected to continue through tonight, potentially turning into snow early in the morning.

“New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible,” the NWS says.

According to the Capital Weather Gang, weather models suggest the rain could turn into snow around 6-9 a.m., with the heaviest snowfall coming around 7-10 a.m.

Reston Community Center has already canceled all programs tomorrow, but its pool will open at 9 a.m.

Image via VDOT

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TikTok appears to be coming soon to offices on Sunrise Valley Drive in Herndon (via Google Maps)

Social media giant TikTok appears to be eyeing space in Herndon.

Fairfax County’s land use database shows that the video-sharing service has applied for a permit at 13641 Sunrise Valley Drive near the Innovation Center Metro station.

The application was accepted by the county on Feb. 8 to allow commercial additions and alterations for a new tenant layout, but it’s unclear how much square footage the company will lease or what function the space will serve.

TikTok didn’t return multiple requests for comment from FFXnow. The applicant address listed on county permits is for the company’s California office at 5800 Bristol Parkway in Culver City, according to documents reviewed by FFXnow.

The company originated in 2016 when ByteDance, a Chinese technology company, launched the video-sharing platform Douyin. After success in China and Thailand, the company expanded in 2018 under the brand TikTok, which has since become one of the world’s most dominant social media apps.

In recent years, TikTok has come under scrutiny in the U.S. for its Chinese ties, which have raised national security issues, and its possible effects on children and teens. The company’s CEO and other social media leaders testified before Congress on Jan. 31, as federal lawmakers consider privacy, safety and content regulations.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has prohibited TikTok on state government devices, and he advocated for a ban on the platform for kids under 18.

This is not the first time that permits by TikTok have surfaced in the county’s database. Last year, a permit application for an interior tenant fit-out at 1900 Reston Metro Plaza was submitted in August but then quickly voided.

At the time, the company didn’t respond to comment requests from FFXnow. A representative for Comstock, the developer that owns the property, told FFXnow there was “no deal in progress at Reston Station” for TikTok.

TikTok established its global headquarters in Singapore and Culver City in 2020. Its owner, ByteDance, also has offices in the Seattle area, New York City, Chicago and D.C., among other U.S. cities.

Image via Google Maps

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Fairfax County Animal Protection Police officers recently attended the release of a bald eagle they found injured in Fairfax Station (via FCPD)

A plan to consolidate the duties of Fairfax County’s Department of Animal Sheltering (DAS) and Animal Protection Police (APP) is drawing some pushback from the local police union.

Last month, county staff proposed to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors that DAS take charge of both animal care services and enforcement of animal protection laws, which would be carried out by animal control officers (ACOs). The recommendation came from both DAS and Fairfax County Police Department leaders.

However, the county’s chapter of the Southern States Police Benevolent Association (SSPBA), the elected union for the FCPD, argues the planned consolidation would have substantial negative impacts on the department’s existing animal protection police officers (APPOs), the community, pets, and wildlife.

“ACOs have different authorities and are not considered law enforcement officers under Virginia code, which would be a fundamental change to the position as it has been historically implemented in Fairfax County,” SSPBA Fairfax County President Steve Monahan told FFXnow.

Under the proposal, animal control officers would have a similar scope of authority as APPOs and handle all calls for service, including investigations of animal cruelty, search warrants, and rabies vaccinations. Currently, the FCPD’s Animal Protection Police unit handles encounters between humans and animals, including potential criminal situations.

ACOs would still get required training through the Commonwealth of Virginia, but they wouldn’t go through the police academy as APPOs do. The FCPD would continue to assist with criminal investigations.

“The proposed reduction of legal authority of ACOs within DAS’s model would inevitably result in FCPD patrol officers being tasked with additional animal-related responsibilities despite not having the same level of animal-related training as our current, fully sworn APPOs,” Monahan said.

The SSPBA says ACOs elsewhere in the state regularly fight for better pay, benefits, and training. The union believes Fairfax County’s proposal would exploit officers by requiring the same work with less pay.

“The county is proposing to replace the current structure with one that includes positions with less enforcement authority, less training, and fewer employee benefits and protections than their predecessors,” Monahan said. “Typically, whenever employees are asked to do the same work with less protections and benefits, this results in a high turnover rate and significant difficulty in filling vacancies.”

According to the staff presentation on Jan. 30, the county’s decision to split animal care and control functions between the DAS and the police department in 2016 didn’t “result in a successful integration of two separate departments working together to provide animal services.”

DAS currently manages two public animal shelters, one on West Ox Road in the Fairfax area and a second campus that opened in Lorton last October.

DAS Director Reasa Currier told FFXnow that having animal care and control services run by two departments with different missions is expensive and ineffective.

“Uniting animal care and control services under one department and utilizing Animal Control Officers will bring our county in alignment with surrounding jurisdictions and industry best practices, allow us to expand service delivery to our community, and reduce costs,” Currier said.

Additionally, she expressed confidence that ACOs can fully enforce animal protection laws, investigate cruelty and neglect, and rescue and transport wildlife.

DAS is also working closely with the SSPBA to ensure that APPOs aren’t negatively affected by the change and that their pay and retirement stay the same, according to Currier.

“This proposed model positions the county to meet the diverse needs of our residents and has worked successfully for decades in Alexandria, Arlington County, Prince William County, Loudoun County, the District of Columbia, Montgomery County and in jurisdictions nationwide,” Currier said.

If the proposal is included in the county executive’s advertised budget for fiscal year 2025, which will be presented on Feb. 20, the Board of Supervisors can then decide whether to adopt it.

Photo via FCPD

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Town of Herndon police (courtesy Herndon Police Department)

Updated at 6:55 p.m. — All lanes on Elden and Monroe streets have reopened after this morning’s crash, Herndon police said shortly after 11 a.m.

Earlier: Local police are investigating a crash at Elden and Monroe Street in Herndon involving a school bus and delivery truck this morning (Monday).

No injuries were reported in the crash, and there were no children on the bus, according to a Herndon Police Department spokesperson.

However, traffic is currently being blocked from turning onto Monroe Street from Elden Street, the police department tweeted shortly before 9:15 a.m.

Commuters are encouraged to find an alternate route.

Read more on FFXnow…

Morning Notes

Two ducks in Wolftrap Creek near Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Pastor Dies After Fire at Newington Home — “The Northern Virginia pastor who was sent to the ICU with severe burns after an explosion in his Fairfax County home last month has died, according to his daughter. Kevin Corey was burning documents in a firepit in the backyard of his townhome on Powderbrook Lane…when neighbors heard the explosion about 8:30 p.m.” [NBC4]

FCPD Targets Crime at Annandale Apartments — “The Mason Police District reports ‘significant and positive outcomes’ from a crime suppression effort at Fairmont Gardens in Annandale. Between Jan. 3 and Feb. 3, patrol officers and detectives charged 85 people with 137 crimes in the area around Wadsworth Court.” [Annandale Today]

Fairfax Connector Workers Seek Progress in Contract Talks — “Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 members held a public demonstration outside the Fairfax County Government Center on Jan. 31. Union workers are demanding Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay stand with workers during their contract talks with Transdev, a French-owned company contracted to operate the county’s transit system.” [Fairfax County Times]

Inova Opens Urgent Care Clinic in Belle Haven — “The new Inova-GoHealth Urgent Care center opened at 6218-B North Kings Highway off Richmond Highway in Belle Haven. The new facility is open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekends.” [ALXnow]

County Revises Covid Vaccine Data Dashboard — “The COVID-19 Vaccination Dashboard has been updated with a new focus on 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine data. Currently, 18.6% of residents have received the 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine. We encourage you to stay up to date with your vaccines.” [Fairfax County Health Department/Twitter]

Fairfax City Helps Fund Business Refurbishments — “Mayor Catherine Read joined Fairfax City business leaders on the porch of Hammrock’s Restaurant in Old Town on Thursday morning to celebrate 20 city businesses who benefited from the Façade and Interior Improvement Grant program…City businesses that wish to refurbish or improve the exterior or interior of their buildings, shops or offices can apply for an FCFI grant.” [Patch]

Lorton Brewery Hopes to Open by Summer — “Buildout of the new Bunnyman Brewing and Cafe has gotten underway at building W13 at the Workhouse Campus in Lorton, and one of the venue’s owners is cautiously optimistic that it will open before the busy summer season — even if it’s a soft launch during Memorial Day weekend.” [On the MoVe]

Laundry Dryers and Washers Donated to Fairfax Nonprofit — “We received an incredible donation from The Home Depot last week! The Fairfax Circle location generously gifted us brand-new washers and dryers, which we use every day at the Lamb Center to provide clean laundry for those we serve.” [The Lamb Center/Facebook]

It’s Monday — Expect rain to begin around 4pm, with a cloudy high of 50°F. There’s a 70% chance of precipitation. Rain will continue at night, with a low reaching 40°F, east winds at 6-13 mph and gusts up to 21 mph. Precipitation is certain, accumulating between half an inch and three-quarters of an inch. []

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Pradip Dhakal, who has served on the council for three terms, is running for Herndon mayor (via Pradip Dhakal)

Another town council member has thrown his name in the mix in the race for Herndon mayor.

Councilmember Pradip Dhakal, who has served on the council for three consecutive terms, is running for the position. His colleague, Councilmember Keven LeBlanc, announced his intention to run earlier this week.

“Herndon deserves a leader who can collaborate with everyone, foster open discussions for new ideas, and introduce initiatives to propel our town forward,” Dhakal said. “I am committed to working tirelessly to make Herndon an even better place for all our residents.”

Dhakal says he has the “majority support from the current town council,” adding that he hopes to champion diversity if elected.

“It’s crucial for Herndon to have leadership that mirrors the diverse background and demography of our community, ensuring inclusivity and representation for all,” Dhakal said. “If elected, I will be the first-ever mayor of color from the town of Herndon and I believe that will be historic milestone for the town.”

His top priorities are increasing affordability and workforce housing, implementing traffic calming initaitives, and increasing overall safety and security in the town.

In his campaign announcement, LeBlanc included a statement of support from current mayor Sheila Olem, state Sen. Jennifer Boysko, Del. Irene Shin and former mayor Lisa Merkel. He said he would be the first person openly from the LGBTQ community to serve as Herndon’s mayor, if elected.

Read more on FFXnow…


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