City of Falls Church police do not anticipate any “direct threat” to the city or Northern Virginia as a whole in connection to today’s presidential inauguration, Chief of Police Mary Gavin told the city council during a virtual work session Tuesday night.
Even with no active threat, however, Gavin clarified that the police department is still taking precautions with potential threats stemming from the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in D.C.
“As a region we have worked each and every day, and every day of the week trying to fortify the Commonwealth,” Gavin said. “Every chief and sheriff have met face to face throughout the week on different aspects of the regional position and posture.”
Gavin also noted that there was “chatter and discussion” around Jan. 6 and in the following days from extremist groups about potentially disrupting transportation into the District and disrupting the inauguration.
She stated that she and other law enforcement officials in the region are working in collaboration with Arlington County and Virginia State Police to close roadways and enhance security at local airports. Each official is also receiving several intelligence briefings per day regarding safety measures related to the inauguration.
Gavin also said focal points of concern from intercepted chatter revolved around government facilities, including federal, state, and some local buildings. However, she clarified that there was nothing specifically mentioned and law enforcement has fortified traffic patterns.
The City of Falls Church Police Department is doubling the number of officers and sheriffs on the street and around city hall throughout the day and night on Wednesday.
“Each and every police department and sheriff’s office throughout this region has taken a posture of up staffing for [Wednesday],” Gavin said.
Gavin added that high-profile surveillance will be provided at the high school, hotels, shopping centers and special landmarks throughout the city. She also said there will be response teams ready in case of “any type of assaults, protests or any assemblies.”
She also said that while there has not been any specific chatter or threats to private businesses, there will be resources in the community to watch and secure the business district.
Photo via City of Falls Church Government/Facebook
The board welcomed seven new members to its 24-member group. Those new members include: Cherylyn Harley LeBon (DBL Lawyers), Dane Scott (Seasons 52), Erik Olafsson (Reese Yeatman Insurance), Michael Bradicich (General Systems Corporation), Raea Jean Leinster (Yuck Old Paint), Sid Ghatak (GSA) and William Dyess (The Dyess Group).
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik joined the meeting to welcome the new members.
“You, as the Tysons Chamber, I think are a very important voice and presence making investments in Tysons, but also helping to transform it to make it the place we want it to be: this vibrant, cutting edge urban place that can set a model for the rest of the country,” Connolly said to the board members.
Board chairman Andrew Clark echoed Connolly’s sentiment of progress by commending the board’s efforts and accomplishments in 2020. Clark particularly emphasized the chamber’s ability to host 40 virtual seminars, its fourth annual Tysons 2050 event and its first-ever Tysons Restaurant Week.
“We want to make sure that we continue to build, not just places, but this vibrant community where people enjoy to live, to work, to play and to hopefully retire as well,” Palchik said.
The Tysons chamber has a number of items on its 2021 agenda. Among those include a federal contracting event on Jan. 25 billed as a “Bid or No Bid” webinar, a venture funding event for small businesses during the first quarter of the year, and Tysons’ first car show, which the chamber is partnering with Tysons Corner Center to host.
“One thing we’re going to continue to do is build out our business verticals because we’re focused on value propositions for our members,” Clark said.
The chamber is also planning two restaurant weeks this year, its annual Tysons 2050 event in November, a summer soiree on Aug. 18, and partnering with The Tower Club to co-host a chef series.
“I believe post-pandemic, we’re going to be looking at a really exciting place that’s connected directly to our Metro system and the airport, but that is a place where people can identify and live and see as a neighborhood themselves,” Connolly said. “I’m really proud of what we’re planning to do and what we are doing in Tysons. We’ve got to stay with it; we’ve got to pay attention to it.” Read More
The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) hosted a virtual public meeting on Tuesday (Jan. 12), with transportation leaders from Virginia and Maryland to address questions and comments about its transit and transportation demand management study for Interstate 495 and the American Legion Bridge.
The study’s focus is to “develop and prioritize transit options and travel demand management for bistate travel across the bridge,” DRPT Northern Virginia Transit Planning Manager Ciara Williams says.
Williams presented three investment packages divided into baseline, medium and high designations based on their ability to improve productivity, equity and connectivity.
The baseline package focuses on two main route connections that would provide peak-period service from Tysons to Gaithersburg and Bethesda in Maryland.
The medium package features additional routes, increased frequency, and a Bethesda-Tysons route with off-peak service. It also adds service to Silver Spring, Germantown, Frederick, L’Enfant, and Arlington.
The high package offers all-day bus service, additional route connections, and even more frequency. It has an expanded scope that includes Dunn Loring, Reston, and Dulles.
DRPT Chief of Public Transportation Jennifer DeBruhl emphasized that the study is being conducted in coordination with partners at the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Maryland Transit Association.
“This study is really about the art of the possible,” DeBruhl said. “…We’re looking forward to continuing to work with them…to put together a really seamless network that we can develop and enhance as funding resources become available to do that.”
During a question-and-answer portion of the meeting, community members questioned the exclusion of a Dulles route from the baseline and medium packages.
According to DeBruhl, there wasn’t “much demand” seen in a connection to Dulles, but transportation leaders can reevaluate the possibility, either as part of the current study or in the future.
“This evaluation of transit options in the corridor doesn’t end with this study,” she said.
Members of the public also asked about the ability to accurately predict the potential traffic patterns that transit may create over the American Legion Bridge when transit currently does not exist there.
“This is, in a lot of ways, a very technical modeling effort to try to assess and predict the demand and willingness of individuals to shift from that single-occupant vehicle to a transit option if it’s made available and competitive from a time perspective,” DeBruhl said.
With DRPT now working to finalize its recommendations, Williams noted that no decisions have been made yet on which transit agencies would operate the proposed routes.
The public comment period for the study will be open through Feb. 1. DeBruhl anticipates that a final study report will be published in March.
“This study has covered a lot of ground in a relatively short period of time, but it is our goal to bring this study process to a conclusion before we get to far into the spring,” DeBruhl said.
Comments on the study may be made online, by phone at 703-253-3324, or by sending a letter addressed to Ms. Ciara Williams at DRPT, 1725 Duke Street, Suite 675 Alexandria, VA 22314.
Staff photo by Jay Westcott; slide via Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation
With tomorrow marking the final day of 2020, many government offices and services throughout Fairfax County are altering their schedules over the next couple of days in observance of the New Year’s holiday.
Here are the closures and service changes that community members should know:
Fairfax County Government
- County government offices will be closed on Jan. 1.
Fairfax County Courts
- The Fairfax Circuit, General District, and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District courts will be closed all day on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.
McLean Community Center
- The center will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 31. It will be closed all day on Jan. 1.
Town of Vienna
- Town offices and the community center will be closed on Jan. 1.
- Waste collection for Friday, Jan. 1., will be postponed until Saturday, Jan. 2. The town requests that no brush, bulk or yard waste is included in this pickup.
City of Falls Church:
- All city offices and services, including City Hall, Mary Riley Styles Public Library and Community Center, will be closed on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.
- Fairfax County Public Schools remain closed through Jan. 1 for Winter Break. All students will resume classes virtually on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Monday, Jan. 4, is an independent day.
County Libraries and Recreation Centers:
- All Fairfax County library branches, community and regional, will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 31. They will all be closed on Jan. 1.
- All Fairfax County RECenters, except the George Washington RECenter (GWRC), will be open at their regular times and close at 4 p.m. on Dec. 31. GWRC will be closed on Dec. 31. All RECenters will be closed on Jan. 1.
- Connector buses will operate on a Sunday service plan on Jan. 1. Check here for operating routes.
- Fairfax CUE service will not be provided on Jan. 1.
- WMATA Metrorail service will open at 5 a.m. and close at 11 p.m. through Dec. 31. Service will open at 8 a.m. and close at 11 p.m. while operating on a holiday schedule with Sunday service intervals on Jan. 1.
- WMATA Metrobus will operate on a regular schedule on Dec. 31 and will go to a Sunday schedule for Jan. 1.
- Metro’s customer information call center will be closed. Automated information is available by calling 202-637-7000 or online at wmata.com
- WMATA’s regular fares and parking fees will be in effect on Dec. 31. Off-peak fares will be in effect all day, while parking will be free at all Metro-operated facilities on Jan. 1.
County Trash and Recycling:
- There will be no change in the county’s trash and recycling collection on Jan. 1. To ensure all trash and recycling is collected, the county requests that all materials be placed at the curb or street line by 6 a.m.
- County Public Works and Environmental Services administrative offices will closed on Jan. 1 and reopen on Jan. 4.
- The recycling and disposal centers at the I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex will be closed at 2 p.m. on Dec. 31 and all day on Jan. 1.
Photo courtesy Town of Vienna
As the holiday season comes to a close and the new year approaches, it may be time to throw out your old Christmas trees and greenery.
For most Fairfax County residents, live Christmas trees that are less than eight feet tall will be collected curbside in single-family and townhouse communities on regular trash collection days between Jan. 11 and 22.
Residents may schedule a brush pickup for a tree removal after Jan. 22.
Fairfax County residents can also drop off their trees at the I-66 Transfer Station or the I-95 Landfill Complex. There is a $7 recycling fee per tree at the recycling centers, and all decorations and stands must be separated before disposing of trees.
The Town of Vienna will collect trees and brush on regularly scheduled collection days through January. Decorations, tinsel, ornaments, and other trimming should be removed from the trees before setting them out for collection. Trees should also not be bagged.
The City of Falls Church will collects Christmas trees free of charge on Wednesdays throughout January and February. The city advises placing trees at the curb within the first two weeks of January “to ensure speedy collection.”
Plastic bags, rope, and all decorations, including tinsel, should be removed.
For people looking for alternatives to disposing of their holiday greenery, the National Christmas Tree Association provides some other options:
- Soil erosion barriers: Some communities use Christmas trees to make effective sand and soil erosion barriers, especially for lake and river shoreline stabilization and river delta sedimentation management.
- Fish feeders: Sunk into private fish ponds, trees make an excellent refuge and feeding area for fish.
- Bird feeders: Place the Christmas tree in the garden or backyard and use it as a bird feeder and sanctuary. Fresh orange slices or strung popcorn will attract the birds and they can sit in the branches for shelter. (Make sure all decorations, hooks, garland and tinsel strands are removed). Eventually (within a year) the branches will become brittle and you can break the tree apart by hand or chip it in a chipper.
- Mulch: A Christmas tree is biodegradable; its branches may be removed, chipped, and used as mulch in the garden.
- Paths for hiking trails: Some counties use shredded trees as a free, renewable and natural path material that fits both the environment and the needs of hikers.
- Living, rooted trees: Get a rooted (ball and burlap or containerized) tree and plant it in your yard. (It’s a good idea to dig the hole in the late fall while the soil is still soft, then plant the tree into that hole immediately after Christmas.) Living trees have a better survival rate in mild climates.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Measures to curb public safety concerns and improve how the criminal justice system can serve the community are being implemented in Fairfax County.
Before responding to audience questions, Descano highlighted three top agenda items: the implementation of body-worn cameras by police, providing appropriate resources for the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, and general criminal justice reform.
Descano said the Fairfax County Police Department’s body-worn camera program should be mostly in effect by the end of 2021, estimating that the program will include roughly 1,200 cameras.
“I really do feel that body-worn cameras are essential to creating trust in the community,” Descano said. “They are a great tool for evidence. They are a great tool for police accountability. Quite frankly, they’re also, in many ways, a tool to make sure that our police aren’t being accused of things they did not do. So, it really is a win-win-win all the way around.”
He pointed to the indictment of Fairfax County police officer Tyler Timberlake on three misdemeanor counts of assault and battery in July and other high-profile cases as examples of the difference that body cameras could make in holding police accountable.
According to Descano, footage from the cameras will be stored and transmitted in an integrated system from a server run by the company Axon Enterprise. The footage must be kept according to timeframes established by the Virginia Public Records Act.
He also said the footage is meant to be available to exonerate or prosecute people accused of alleged crimes, protecting innocent people and detecting evidence of crimes to ensure the criminal justice system produces the “right outcome.”
Descano also noted that one “flip side” of the program is that it will add to prosecutors’ workload, since they have an “ethical obligation” to review all evidence in cases they prosecute. He estimated that body-worn cameras will add roughly 89,000 hours of video footage to the approximately 60,000 hours of footage from cruiser dash cameras that must also be reviewed. Read More
The renovation of Louise Archer Elementary School is finally beginning to take shape.
The Vienna Town Council heard an update on a potential site plan and timeline during a work session on Monday (Dec. 14). The timeline moves up the completion of the project to mid-2024.
Fairfax County Public Schools design and construction lead Eric Brunner, who serves as coordinator for the project, presented the update alongside Architecture, Inc. senior project manager Brad Pierce.
The renovation project is currently in a planning and design phase that Brunner expects to be completed by mid-2021. Permitting will be the next step and should run through the spring of 2022, followed by a two-year construction process.
The projected completion of construction has moved up a year ahead of expectations. FCPS told the Vienna Planning Commission in May that construction would take three years and finish in 2025.
The potential site plans include nearly doubling the size of the school to around 103,000 square feet. The majority of the new square footage will come from a new second-story addition that will be constructed behind the existing school.
“A lot of the space is already on the site that we’re just making permanent,” Brunner said.
The current site plan concept also includes repurposing the current cafeteria for the library, adding a stage off of the school gymnasium, and creating a community room that may be utilized for community meetings. A new cafeteria and kitchen will be built “from the ground up,” Brunner said.
The current interior of the community room will be preserved as much as possible while displaying some history of the school, Pierce added.
Additional site concepts include expanding the bus loop, increasing the stormwater management system, and expanding the parking lot to about 106 available spaces, according to Brunner. The plan also shows a new playground and new basketball courts.
The project will remove temporary facilities — two trailers and a 66-foot by 180-foot modular classroom — that exist on site as construction progresses. The Town Council approved the continued use of the trailers for two years on June 15. The Board of Zoning Appeals voted on June 17 to permit continued use of the modular classroom for five years.
The modular classroom on the south side of the school will be replaced with a kiss-and-ride parking lot for student drop-off. The lot will run off the current three-way stop at the intersection of Nutley Street and Knoll Street Northwest, which Brunner said could potentially be permanently converted into a four-way stop.
According to the latest FCPS proposal, the renovation will be done in phases to allow for minimal interruption for students during the construction process. The new two-story addition would be built first, while students stay in the existing sections of the school.
Students would then move into the new addition upon its completion, allowing for renovation of the existing school to be completed.
John McGranahan, a partner with Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP, which represents Fairfax County Public Schools, said the group would like to reappear before the council with another progress report before officially submitting an application for the project.
Photo via Google Maps
The long awaited COVID-19 vaccine is reportedly on its way.
On Nov. 9, Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech unveiled their preliminary results on a potential COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer and BioNTech followed up with an announcement on Nov. 18 that the vaccine is 95% effective with a consistent efficacy across age, race, and ethnicity demographics during its ongoing trials.
On Friday, the pair formally requested an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow a faster rollout of a vaccine to the American public.
Shortly after Pfizer and BioNTech reported their preliminary results, Moderna Inc. and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) — which is part of the National Institutes of Health — announced on Nov. 17 that they had co-developed a second vaccine candidate with an efficacy of 94.5%.
Well before these announcements, though, Fairfax County health officials were preparing for the distribution and accessibility of a COVID-19 vaccine once one becomes available.
“We’re working on all of the logistics of getting the vaccine out,” said Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, the Fairfax County Health Department’s director of epidemiology and population health. “We’re working on communicating with our health care partners, health care providers, [and] health care organizations so that we can not only make sure we’re able to vaccinate them, but also if they want to deliver vaccine to their patients, that we can tell them how to do so.”
Schwartz says plans are still being made as the county and health department learn more about the two-dose vaccine and its availability in the coming weeks or months.
Though some plans will need to be finalized, Schwartz shared that a portion of the county’s plans will be to focus initially on priority groups that are most at risk for severe illness. Those groups include health care workers as well as residents and staff of nursing homes.
The county’s method for distribution will also take a variety of approaches, according to Schwartz. He detailed that the vaccine will be distributed in some cases by facility and, in others, by the local health department. He also said that some national chain pharmacies and private providers interested in vaccinating would be part of the distribution plans.
Those plans are contingent on the availability of a vaccine. The FDA has scheduled a meeting of its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) for Dec. 10 to discuss the EUA request from Pfizer and BioNTech, according to a press release from the FDA. Though the VRBPAC may provide advice to the FDA, the FDA will have the final decision on the pharmaceutical companies’ EUA request.
If the EUA request is approved, Pfizer has announced plans to distribute the vaccine as soon as possible in December.
“We will continue the work already underway to make sure we can begin shipping the vaccine immediately after authorization or approval,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a video released by the company on Nov. 20. “Based on current projections, we expect to produce globally up to 50 million doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.”
According to Schwartz, once a vaccine is approved, its distribution would be a function of the federal government, which will decide how to allocate the vaccine to the states. The state health department would then allocate the vaccine to local health departments or jurisdictions.
“We’re still communicating and learning how that’s going to work,” Schwartz said. “We are in constant communication with the Virginia Department of Health and still obviously getting more information about how that’s going to occur.” Read More
Fairfax County NAACP President Sean Perryman announced on Tuesday his bid for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia.
Perryman has been a practicing attorney for 10 years, working on policies relating to emerging technologies. He has been an active member of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee Steering Committee since 2018. He also served as counsel on the House Oversight Committee while working on the staff of late Congressman Elijah Cummings.
“I would be someone who every day would try to make sure I’m incorporating the voices of those that feel marginalized or unheard,” Perryman said. “That would be my primary goal of doing this.”
He joins a group of candidates vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination for lieutenant governor that includes Del. Elizabeth R. Guzmán (Prince William), Del. Hala Ayala (Prince William), former Democratic Party chairman Paul Goldman, and Arlington County businessman Xavier Warren.
Republican candidates include former delegate Timothy D. Hugo (Fairfax), Del. Glenn R. Davis Jr. (Virginia Beach), Fairfax County business consultant Puneet Ahluwalia, and Lance Allen, a national security company executive from Fauquier County.
Each candidate is vying for the role that will be vacated by Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), who is running for governor.
Perryman is focusing his campaign on the values learned and utilized through his advocacy work and public service, as well as his work as the first director of social impact and diversity and inclusion policy at the Internet Association.
“I would say the ‘Es’: education, equity, economics and environment,” Perryman said. “That’s really the issues I view as the most urgent problems we’re facing and what we’re going to focus on as a campaign to get us out of this mess in the years to come.”
Perryman added that his decision to run for lieutenant governor comes amidst the “inequities that we already had” that were brought to the forefront by the COVID-19 pandemic. Read More
If you are in need of a job, training or an upgrade in careers, the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) may have what you’re looking for.
The FCEDA is offering a Hiring and Reskilling Virtual Career Fair on Thursday, Oct. 8, from 1-4 p.m., and more than 20 companies hiring for thousands of jobs in Northern Virginia are involved. Participation in the online event will be free after jobseekers register online.
The event is the third virtual career fair sponsored by the FCEDA this year. The previous two events drew over 800 attendees each, according to the organization.
FCEDA’s virtual fair is an active attempt to help workers displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The economic effects of the pandemic continue to be felt particularly hard among our residents in industry sectors such as hospitality, transportation and restaurants, so I am grateful that the FCEDA is working to reach those workers,” Jeffrey C. McKay, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, wrote in a press release. “This is a great way to make sure that all of our residents have access to open jobs and opportunities to gain new skills.”
The fair is open to people of all levels of experience. Open positions will include a variety of jobs and industries, and not all will require a college degree. Some participating organizations will offer candidates opportunities to train and be placed in tech careers for free.
Among the companies and organizations seeking job candidates or job training programs are:
- Cox Communications
- Fairbrook Hotels
- George Mason University’s Continuing and Professional Education Division
- Marymount University
- Navy Federal Credit Union
- The Northern Virginia Building Industry Association
The event will allow participants to view companies in a virtual lobby, view open positions, talk with human resources representatives and engage in video conferencing.
“The FCEDA is proud to present the Hiring and Reskilling Virtual Career Fair,” Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of the FCEDA, wrote in a press release. “We thank the companies that will be interviewing candidates at the fair and the organizations that offer reskilling and upskilling programs. Many people are in need of jobs because of layoffs at this unprecedented time. Each person hired saves a household. We at the FCEDA are here to help.”
Photo by Bruce Mars/Unsplash