Update on 3/18/11 — The channels are now available.
In a mailing that went out last month, Comcast told Arlington County customers that they would be getting “The World of More” — the company’s phrase for a slew of additional high-definition channels — on March 15.
Alas, that date has come and gone and the channels are nowhere to be seen. In fact, the only noticeable change in the past two weeks is that customers can no longer receive basic cable channels without a digital converter.
We’ve been unable to get in touch with Comcast’s PR department, but Arlington County Cable Administrator Rob Billingsley says the company has told him that it will be at least a week until the first batch of new HD channels reaches local television sets.
March 24 is now the date when channels including Comedy Central HD, BET HD and truTV HD will be switched on. The lack of truTV in HD will be a big disappointment for college basketball fans — the channel will be airing nearly a dozen NCAA March Madness games this week, including two first-round games tonight.
Other HD channels are now scheduled to come online on April 7. Those channels — including ESPNews HD, Fox Business HD and IFC HD — were originally promised on March 15, as well.
Update on 3/17/11 – A Comcast rep says all HD channels that were originally scheduled to come online on March 15 will be available no later than March 24.
According to Billingsley, the company said they were delayed in turning off the analog cable channels earlier this month. By making those channels digital-only, Comcast freed up bandwidth for the HD channels. However, no formal explanation was given for why the HD channels were still delayed.
The confusion comes at a time when Comcast’s cable monopoly in Arlington is up for review. The Comcast franchise expires on June 30, 2013, and over the weekend the county board approved a resolution that will start an official evaluation of the company’s performance.
Billingsley says the review will likely consist of public hearings and surveys that will look at Comcast’s technology, performance and customer service. Our informal poll of satisfaction with Comcast revealed strong negative opinions about the company.
The Harry W. Gray House in Arlington View is on the National Register of Historic Places for its unique architecture and its significance to local African American history. And now it’s for sale for a mere $291,000.
The house was built in 1881 by Harry Gray, a bricklayer and a former slave in the Arlington household of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Despite the fact that the house stood alone on a 10 acre piece of farmland at the time, Gray built it in the Italianate style of fashionable townhouses he had seen in the District. The architecture was a statement about how far freed slaves had come since the Emancipation Proclamation.
“The dwelling represents the monumental shift from slaves to freedmen for African Americans in the years following the Civil War,” a National Park Service document states. The house sits at present-day 1005 South Quinn Street, near Columbia Pike and adjacent to what was once a thriving Freedman’s Village.
The house remains a sturdy structure, its longevity a testament to Gray’s workmanship. Its yard is fairly well-kept, and the brick exterior itself doesn’t look much older than other houses in the area . However, the interior needs some work thanks in part to what we’re told is water damage under a second-floor wooden deck and some outdated fixtures (wood stove, anyone?).
That’s not to imply that the interior is from the 19th century. Indeed, the house was largely gutted and renovated in 1979 after being sold by Gray’s descendants.
“There’s really nothing of significance left” inside, according to county historic preservation planner Rebeccah Ballo.
The home is a foreclosure. The bank took possession of the house late last year, county property records show. Also hurting the value of the home is the fact that the owner won’t have much latitude to make changes to the exterior.
Update at 1:55 p.m. — Dominion spokeswoman Le-Ha Anderson says: “Approximately 5,000 customers lost power this afternoon for about 30 minutes. We are still investigating the root cause of the outage, but in the meantime, were able to reroute the flow of electricity to get customers restored quickly and safely.”
A major power outage has been reported along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.
The outage seems to be centered in the Clarendon area, where numerous traffic lights are reported to be dark. There have also been several reports of stalled elevators, including one at the Arlington County police station in Courthouse. The fire department has responded to the police station to try to free an officer who’s said to be trapped in the elevator.
On its web site, Dominion says nearly 6,000 North Arlington customers are without power due to a damaged power line. Police just reported that Dominion expects to have power restored within the hour.
The board’s 3-1 vote to reject the proposal came after nearly 75 speakers — including neighbors, student athletes, nuns and local gadflies — spoke both strongly in favor and strongly against the O’Connell lighting plan.
(Board member Barbara Favola recused herself due to her work for Marymount University. The lighting proposal called for Marymount’s athletic teams to be granted partial use of the fields.)
The nearly three hours of public comment produced a bit of consensus — that Bishop O’Connell was generally a good neighbor and that its plan to renovate the athletic fields themselves was more or less acceptable to the East Falls Church and Williamsburg communities. Otherwise, the two sides were at loggerheads with little hope of an acceptable compromise.
Sister Bernadette McManigal, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Arlington, asked that Bishop O’Connell be granted the same privileges as Arlington’s public high schools, which have field lights in “neighborhoods comparable to O’Connell.”
“I ask for the same consideration,” she said. Many of the O’Connell student athletes who spoke last night made the same plea — that they wanted the same level of facilities as their public school peers.
In fact, the school argued that its proposed facilities were more modest than the athletic facilities at other Arlington high schools, and insisted that it was being careful to minimize neighborhood impact.
But one resident said that O’Connell’s proposal would have negative effects not experienced in other neighborhoods, according to a lighting consultant hired by neighbors.
“The school’s current design will result in light spillage far in excess of national standards,” said John Seymour, who identified himself as a 20-year resident of the neighborhood. “The spill will significantly impair the lives of neighbors subject to it. It will also impair the values of their homes.”
Arlington has had to make service cuts in each of the past two budgets as taxes and other revenue sources dried up. After 2009, assessed property values suffered their first year-over-year decline since 1995, prompting the county to hike property taxes to make up for what otherwise would have been a dramatic loss of revenue.
When it comes to real estate taxes, the county can always increase the tax rate for an expected revenue shortfall. But one area that’s largely out of the county’s control is the funds it receives from the state. And in the past four years, overall state funding to Arlington County — excluding schools — has dropped $18 million.
County Board Member Barbara Favola cited the figure at a board meeting yesterday afternoon.
Starting in FY 2008 and up to the current FY 2011, Arlington has lost progressively more revenue each year:
- FY 2008: -$438,214
- FY 2009: -$2,603,394
- FY 2010: -$7,045,368
- FY 2011: -$7,900,610
Although state revenue still makes up about 6 percent of the Arlington’s budget, the overall decline has meant greater reliance on local sources of revenue, including taxes. As of February, state revenue was expected to decline by $600,000 to $62.6 million in the FY 2012 county budget that’s currently under consideration by the board.
On-going utility work has kept the far left-hand westbound lane closed well past its originally planned July 2010 reopening date. We heard in September that the lane would likely be closed through the end of last year. Alas, construction crews are still working and westbound Route 50 is still reduced to just two lanes.
VDOT spokeswoman Jennifer McCord says the lane will reopen in mid-April “if the weather cooperates.”
Photo courtesy Todd DuBois
Last American WWI Vet Buried in Arlington — Army Cpl. Frank Buckles, the last surviving U.S. World War I veteran, was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday. Earlier in the day, President Obama and Vice President Biden stopped by to pay their respects as Buckles lay in repose in a cemetery chapel. [American Forces Press Service]
Underground Explosion Rocks Pike Townhouse Complex — An underground explosion caused a manhole cover to fly across the backyard of a townhouse complex near Columbia Pike yesterday morning. Firefighters are still trying to determine what caused the blast, but a strong gasoline-like odor could be smelled in the area. The gas also apparently caused fires to start near water heaters inside the townhouses. The complex is across the street from an auto repair shop and next to Four Mile Run. [ABC 7]
County Offers Tree Grants to Neighborhood Groups — Arlington is offering grants to local groups that want to plant trees on private property in the county. Grant applications are due in July, but groups must file a notice of intent next month. [Sun Gazette]
Pike Apartment Community May Be Redeveloped — Renovations or an out-and-out redevelopment may be in the works for the Greenbrier Apartments at 4975 Columbia Pike. The garden-style apartments were built in 1949 and are considered market-rate affordable. Arlington recently revised its affordable housing goals. [Pike Wire]
Nottingham PTA 5K This Weekend — The Nottingham Elementary PTA 5K Run/Walk is being held this weekend, with a course that will wind through part of North Arlington. Registration for the race ends tomorrow morning. [Active.com]