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Metrobus Involved in Accident on Columbia Pike

by ARLnow.com | April 2, 2013 at 8:10 pm | 1,425 views | 48 Comments

Metro logoAn accident involving a Metrobus on Columbia Pike sent three people to the hospital tonight.

The wreck happened just before 7:00 p.m. at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Queen Street. According to Metro spokesman Dan Stessel, a driver in a white Kia pulled out from Queen Street in front of a 16G Metrobus heading eastbound on the Pike. The bus and the car collided head-on, police said. The Kia then spun around and made contact with another vehicle heading westbound on the Pike, causing minor damage.

Firefighters had to extricate the adult female driver and adult male passenger from the Kia. They were transported to George Washington University Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.

The driver of the Metrobus was transported to Virginia Hospital Center, complaining of back pain, Stessel said.

As of 7:50 p.m., westbound Columbia Pike was still shut down and traffic was being diverted onto Washington Boulevard. The lanes were expected to reopen shortly after 8:00 p.m.

Board: County Childcare Inspections to Continue

by ARLnow.com | April 2, 2013 at 6:55 pm | 2 Comments

Sign at the County Board budget hearing on 3/26/13The Arlington County Board has taken a proposal to eliminate local childcare inspections off the table for the 2014 budget.

The recommendation, one of numerous spending cuts in County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s proposed budget, was met with controversy. Hundreds of parents and residents signed a petition against the elimination of Arlington Child Care Office, which would have turned inspections over to the state and resulted in more lax oversight.

The county issued the following press release about the Board’s decision tonight.

Arlington County Board Chairman J. Walter Tejada today said that the County will continue its inspections of childcare centers and family childcare homes and will continue to train providers. County Manager Barbara Donnellan had recommended in her Proposed Fiscal Year 2014 Budget that the County eliminate childcare inspections and provider training.

“The Board is committed to maintaining Arlington’s inspections of childcare facilities and training for providers,” Tejada said. “Although most localities in Virginia rely on the State alone to conduct inspections of childcare facilities, Arlington has, for more than 40 years, provided an extra layer of inspections and training for providers – and the Board is committed to continuing both of those elements.”

Tejada made his statement at the start of a Board public work session on the Department of Human Services’ proposed FY 2014 Budget. In her Proposed FY 2014 Budget, had recommended that the County rely on the state to inspect childcare centers and family childcare homes, and cut provider training, as part of her effort to cut costs across departments. The proposed cuts to inspection services had raised concerns within the community about the safety of Arlington’s childcare facilities.

The measure would have saved about $250,000 per year. The County Board will approve a final Fiscal Year 2014 budget on April 20.

Plans Underway for Police Shooting Range

by Katie Pyzyk | April 2, 2013 at 5:30 pm | 833 views | 2 Comments

Police Firearm Training Facility at Dulles (photo courtesy MWAA)Proposals are in the works for constructing a permanent firearms training facility for the Arlington County Police Department and Sheriff’s Office. The preferred plan involves upgrading and expanding a facility on the Dulles International Airport property, which Arlington police currently shared with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) police.

Arlington does not have its own facility for such training, and had been sharing Alexandria’s until 2008. At that time, it was determined that Alexandria’s use had grown to such a point that it could no longer accommodate the more than 350 ACPD members and more than 100 Sheriff’s Office members as well. Arlington has been using the MWAA police shooting range since then.

The Dulles facility is said to need upgrades and an expansion. Right now, it houses a 15 point outdoor range, but under the new plan would expand to include two 25 point firing ranges and a 300 yard rifle deck. The facility currently has no shelter from weather, no running water or fixed restrooms and no classroom space.

An alternative to upgrading the Dulles range would be to find enough land on which to build a training facility within the Arlington County limits. That, however, does not appear to be a viable option, according to Deputy County Manager Mark Schwartz.

“We don’t have the land to do it. Having a firing range within the confines of the county would present some difficulties,” said Schwartz. “Try to find 21 acres in Arlington and just think of the cost.”

Arlington County lists the project in its 2013-2022 Capital Improvement Plan. The proposed price tag of $12 million, $7 million of which would be provided by Arlington County, may seem daunting to some, such as former Arlington County Board candidate Audrey Clement. She spoke at the County Board Public Budget Hearing last Tuesday (March 26), likening the firing range to other county funded projects she considers wasteful, such as Artisphere, the aquatics center at Long Bridge Park and the Columbia Pike streetcar.

“The project’s justification says that the firing range is needed because the one currently in use at Dulles lacks running water, fixed restroom facilities and covered firing points,” she said. “Does providing those facilities actually cost seven million plus dollars? If so, the NRA has a state-of-the-art shooting range just off the I-66, Route 50 exit that offers training for law enforcement personnel. If this range works for the NRA, and they are highly successful, why won’t it work for Arlington police?”

Partnering with the NRA is not feasible, according to Schwartz.

“That comment, I could spend an hour telling you why her suggestion was impractical,” Schwartz said. ”I really think the perception would be that this is a ‘nice to have thing.’ I don’t think the county manager or the police chief or sheriffs think this is a ‘nice to have thing.’ This is a very basic part of their training and skills that they need to have.”

ACPD Deputy Chief Jay Farr added that the current cost is a good deal when taking into consideration that MWAA is footing $5 million of the total bill, in addition to supplying the land, which Schwartz estimates to be worth at least $5 million.

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Construction Begins on Glebe Road Pedestrian Improvements

by Katie Pyzyk | April 2, 2013 at 3:50 pm | 1,690 views | 45 Comments

Construction at Glebe Road and N. Fairfax DriveWork has begun in Ballston on one of the three Glebe Road intersections slated to receive safety upgrades this year.

Last week, workers began construction on the intersection of Glebe Road and N. Fairfax Drive. The improvements are part of a pedestrian safety improvement project along Glebe Road that will spread to the Wilson Blvd and Carlin Springs Road intersections later this year.

The upgrades include installing new traffic signals, pedestrian crossing signals, street lights and trees. The intersections will also be reconfigured to improve safety. For example, the pedestrian “pork chop island” will be removed in front of Marymount University’s “Blue Goose” building, according to Tom Hutchings, Capital Project Manager with Arlington’s Department of Enviromental Services Division of Transportation.

“It tightens up the crossing distances at each intersection,” he said.

The red light camera that monitors northbound Glebe Road traffic at Fairfax Drive will remain in use during construction. Although the timing of the traffic lights will not change immediately, it will be evaluated later and tweaked as necessary.

“The timing is continually analyzed with every project we do,” Hutchings said. “It will be studied upon completion of the new lane geometry to optimize the intersection.”

Construction at Glebe Road and N. Fairfax DriveThe new traffic lights that were strung over the intersection last week are temporary; the permanent lights will be mounted on upgraded poles with mast arms. The previous poles were based on standards from the 1970s and did not meet the electronic wiring and mast arm standards in the current codes.

The improvements at the three intersections are part of a $2.5 million VDOT project that is locally administered by Arlington County. About 80 percent of the funding comes from federal and state sources, and about 20 percent comes from the county.

Although a number of pedestrian-vehicle accidents have occurred along this stretch of Glebe Road in recent years, such as the deadly cab accident last July, the intersections have been the subject of extensive studies since 2000.

“It is precipitated from acknowledgement of the high level of pedestrian activity in the area,” Hutchings said. “It’s to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety along Glebe Road where a lot of development has occurred over the past 10 years, and pedestrian use of Glebe Road has increased.”

According to Hutchings, the addition of a bike lane for eastbound cyclists on Fairfax Drive occurred during an earlier phase of this project, as did the installation of traffic lights last year at N. 9th Street and N. Vermont Street.

Work on the Fairfax Drive intersection is expected to be finished by mid-June. The Wilson Blvd. intersection should be completed in August, and Carlin Springs in October.

Moran Visits School for World Autism Awareness Day

by Katie Pyzyk | April 2, 2013 at 2:45 pm | 1,261 views | 26 Comments

(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) In honor of World Autism Awareness Day, Rep. Jim Moran (D) spent the morning reading to first graders at Barcroft Elementary School and talking with them about autism.

After meeting with some students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Moran read the first graders a story about everyone being different and how everyone’s differences should be celebrated. He explained that autism is another difference, just one that can’t be seen.

“Nobody is the same as everybody else, which is wonderful! Some children have different challenges,” Moran told the children. “Some children have autism. Autism is a challenge that affects the way our brains work. So some children have different ways their brain works.”

One of the students noted his brother has autism, to which Moran responded, “So he’s different and special and wonderful.”

Moran also talked to the students about the “AUTISM Educators Act,” a bill he is re-introducing to request funding for training educators how best to work with students with autism. Barcroft is one of the schools currently offering special services for students with autism, and training all staff members how to work with students with ASD. It is considered a model for other schools across the country.

“We’re going to try to teach other teachers around the country how to be as good of teachers as you have at Barcroft Elementary,” Moran told the students. “We’re going to use Barcroft Elementary as a model for other schools to learn from.”

The bill would establish a five-year pilot program to provide the special training for teachers and school staff. There would also be a focus on recruitment and retention of trained personnel and implementation of a program for parental support and involvement.

“I actually think this bill is going to become law. This is one that I think is going to make an enormous difference in the classrooms around the country that have children on the autistic spectrum,” Moran told ARLnow.com. “This is going to be groundbreaking legislation. I know it’s going to be bipartisan, I already have Republican sponsors. So I think we’re going to get it passed in the House, and I’m confident we’ll get it passed in the Senate as well. It’s going to become law all because the parents in the Arlington school system worked with the superintendent and the principals and the teachers and the teacher aides to make it happen in a way that other school systems can learn from.”

Moran is requesting up to $5 million for the pilot program and could ask for more once the program expands around the nation. We’re told the funds will come from existing teacher development accounts.

ACPD K-9 Dies Suddenly

by Katie Pyzyk | April 2, 2013 at 1:40 pm | 2,923 views | 23 Comments

ACPD K-9 DutchMembers of the Arlington County Police Department are mourning the loss of one of their K-9 partners.

Dutch suddenly became ill on Sunday (March 31) and passed away later that day after undergoing emergency surgery.

Dutch joined the K-9 Unit in September of 2007 and was certified in multiple disciplines including tracking, police dog I certification (apprehension, obedience, agility and search) and narcotics detection. He had located narcotics on a number of occasions and assisted with apprehending multiple suspects.

In a press release, ACPD said, “Dutch will be greatly missed by his handler and all the members of the K-9 Unit.”

Last year, ACPD lost Lobo, one of its retired K-9 members.

Major Renovations Start at Pentagon Row

by ARLnow.com | April 2, 2013 at 11:55 am | 456 views | 29 Comments

The owner of Pentagon Row announced this morning that major renovations to the shopping center’s plaza are now underway.

The renovations, approved by the Arlington County Board last March, will include an expanded ice rink during the winter, a turf lawn during the summer, revamped outdoor dining areas, 1,500 square feet of new retail and dining space, lighted water fountains and a stone fire pit.

Pentagon Row on 4/2/13Work on the project began on Monday and is expected to run through November, wrapping up in time for the grand reopening of the ice rink. Other parts of the plaza will reopen starting late this summer, according to a rep for Pentagon Row owner Federal Realty Investment Trust.

“The plaza was thoughtfully redesigned to cater to the lifestyle of the Arlington community and customer to create a year-round experience,” FRIT said in a press release, below.

This year’s Rock the Row outdoor concert series will still be held despite the construction, according to spokeswoman Molly Hippolitus, and Pentagon Row stores will remain open.

Federal Realty Investment Trust announces today that the Pentagon Row plaza will undergo a major renovation, which will include an expanded ice rink, enhanced outdoor dining areas, added retail space, and improved public gathering places with an expansive turf feature, new water fountains, and new stone fire pit. Construction began April 1, 2013 and the new plaza will be completed and opened to the public in phases beginning late summer 2013. The final project will be complete by November 2013 in time for the ice rink grand re-opening celebration.

The plaza was thoughtfully redesigned to cater to the lifestyle of the Arlington community and customer to create a year-round experience. The addition of an expansive, functional turf feature will host gatherings in warm weather and events such as the 2014 Rock at the Row Summer Concert Series, and an expanded ice rink will be available in the winter months. The additional 1,500 square feet of retail and dining space will energize the plaza core and feature a defined café dining area. The addition of an interactive water feature and stone fire pit will provide year-round amenities for visitors to enjoy.

“Federal Realty Investment Trust’s investment in the project reflects our commitment to creating public spaces for the community to gather and enjoy public events,” says Robin McBride, Vice President – Mid Atlantic Region COO, Federal Realty Investment Trust. Adding, “We are thrilled to continue our commitment to improving Pentagon Row with this major plaza renovation which will create a true 12-month experience for the community.”

Pentagon Row retailers and restaurants will remain open during construction.

Renderings courtesy Federal Realty Investment Trust

Ask Adam: Exclusive Buyer Agreements

by ARLnow.com | April 2, 2013 at 10:55 am | 858 views | 21 Comments

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013. Please submit follow-up questions in the comments section or via email.

Question:  I recently made an inquiry with a realtor and they asked me to sign an exclusive buyer’s agreement before putting in an offer. I am curious if that is a standard practice with your company as well. While I am not “actively” looking at properties, I do want to have the ability to put in an offer for a property.

Previously, we were only required to have an exclusive agreement in place when working with sellers. Individual agents and firms were free to set their only policies regarding exclusive buyer agreements. On July 1, 2012, the Virginia Agency Law was revised, now requiring all Virginia real estate agents and brokers working with a home buyer to have an exclusive buyer’s agreement in place.

We are not supposed to show homes, write contracts or otherwise act as a real estate agent on your behalf without having such an agreement in place. I’m quite certain that the intention of the agency law changes are to protect consumers. Three primary protections the agreement provides to home buyers are included in the Broker’s Duties paragraph:

  1. The agent/broker must disclose to the purchaser all material facts related to the property or concerning the transaction of which they have actual knowledge.
  2. The agent/broker must maintain the confidentiality of all personal and financial information and other matters identified as confidential by the purchaser.
  3. The agent/broker must account for in a timely manner all money and property received in which the purchaser has or may have an interest.

Agents / brokers also agree to comply with fair housing laws.

The primary duty of the purchaser is to work exclusively with the broker during the terms of the agreement.

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Weather Affecting Spring Water Flush

by Katie Pyzyk | April 2, 2013 at 9:45 am | 1,823 views | 31 Comments

Arlington water access(Updated at 10:25 a.m.) If you think this year’s annual spring water system flush is giving Arlington’s water a stronger than usual taste or smell, you’re right — and officials say the weather is actually playing a factor.

Just like every year since 2000, there are about six weeks in the spring when Arlington’s water is purified with chlorine instead of chloramine. In 2011, the chlorine level was downgraded from 3.7 parts per million to 3.0 parts per million because of a number of resident and staff concerns.

This year, however, some people have mentioned what they believe to be a stronger taste or smell to the water. Although the number of formal complaints so far hasn’t exceeded other years, ARLnow.com readers started a forum thread on the topic. One reader posted: “It’s overpowering and sickening. We’ve been clearing out the shelves of those 3-gallon jugs of water at Giant.”

Although the amount of chlorine has not changed, the cold weather appears to accentuate the taste and smell of chlorine.

“It’s a theory. Basically the warmer temperatures will generally use up a little more of the chlorine as it goes through the system,” said Dave Hundelt with Arlington County Department of Environmental Services. “We think, looking back, the reason we had so many complaints in 2011 was [the flush] started on February 1, when the temperatures were colder, and the chlorine was more noticeable. This year, we started a week earlier, during the third week instead of the last week of March. That combined with the temperatures in the region. They appear to be colder in the past few weeks than it was in March of 2012.”

Hundelt says as temperatures increase, the water warms up and the chlorine should be less noticeable. The temperature shift necessary to create a perceptible change in smell and taste is relatively small. Analysts are finding a stronger smell and taste when water temperatures are at or below 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Farenheit). Comparatively, water temperatures were around 7-10 degrees Celsius (about 44-50 degrees Farenheit) in Feburary 2011 when complaints poured in, but were at a balmy 16 degrees Celcius (about 60 degree Farenheit) last April.

Arlington’s water is purchased wholesale from the Washington Aqueduct, so much of the region experiences the same water conditions.

In addition to the chlorine change, each of the the county’s 3,500 fire hydrants will be opened for a short period to make sure the entire water system gets adequately flushed. That is too large a job to finish when the chloramine conversion ends on April 29, so residents may continue to see hydrants flushed into the month of May.

Anyone with major concerns about the water system, such as water main breaks, should call 703-228-6555 to report issues. More information about the switch from chloramine to chlorine can be found on the county’s website.

Morning Notes

by Katie Pyzyk | April 2, 2013 at 8:55 am | 670 views | 12 Comments

Bare trees in Ballston

APS to Benefit from State STEM Funding — Arlington Public Schools will be getting a boost from the Virginia Department of Education’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) grants. A $247,000 grant to George Mason University will provide support to 90 educators in seven school districts, including Arlington. Additionally, a $250,000 grant shared by four colleges and universities will support 76 teachers in 45 school districts, including Arlington. [Sun Gazette]

Public Hearing for School Boundary Changes — On Wednesday, the Arlington School Board will host a public hearing on the recommendations for boundary changes. Last month, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy presented his recommendations for boundary changes. The hearing will take place at the Education Center (1426 N. Quincy Street) at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday (April 3).

JBM-HH Works with County to Reduce Use of Energy — The Directorate of Public Works at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall (JBM-HH) has been working with Arlington County to share information about energy use and conservation. Although the two entities aren’t sharing policy yet, they’re sharing information about a community plan to reduce the use of energy. [U.S. Army]

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