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Cold Weather Causing Stress on Power Grid

by Katie Pyzyk | January 7, 2014 at 11:45 am | 1,607 views | No Comments

Thermostat(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) The cold temperatures have a lot of people cranking up the heat, but that’s putting stress on the region’s power grid. Dominion Power is asking customers to reduce any unnecessary use of electricity and alter the hours for major appliance use.

Dominion is one of the power providers in the 13 states and District of Columbia that use the PJM Interconnect power grid. PJM informed all of its clients that the power grid is currently under stress because of the increase in electric heat use due to the frigid temperatures. It’s asking customers to help conserve energy.

“We are asking customers to consider altering their normal pattern of power usage to mitigate the draw that is on the electrical grid right now,” said Dominion Power spokesman Chuck Penn. “We are confident today, as we were yesterday, that we have sufficient power capacity to meet the demand, there are just some steps utilities are asking customers to take to ease the load. We are just responding to the request from PJM Interconnect.”

Customers are asked to avoid using major appliances — such as stoves, dishwashers and clothes dryers — during the peak morning hours of 6:00-9:00 a.m. and the peak evening hours of 3:00-7:00 p.m. Customers are asked to lower their thermostats to between 65 and 70 degrees during the day in order to conserve energy. Dominion has additional energy saving tips on its website.

Arlington’s Emergency Winter Shelter in Courthouse (2049 15th Street N.) opened for around-the-clock services on Monday and will stay open, as a wind chill advisory remains in effect until 6:00 p.m. The shelter has been used by 75 people during the cold snap, and another 10 were provided with cots and blankets in the lobby of the nearby Detention Center. On Tuesday afternoon, DHS made the decision to keep the shelter open continuously on Wednesday as well.

“The good thing about this cold snap is that we had plenty of advance warning so we were able to let people know they needed to get off the streets and come inside,” said Department of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick. “A-SPAN did a great job of letting unsheltered homeless people in the community know that it was going to get really, really cold, and that we would have a warm bed for them.”

Peter’s Take: Lessons from the $1 Million Super Stop Fiasco

by Peter Rousselot | March 26, 2013 at 3:00 pm | 2,365 views | 75 Comments

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column published on Tuesdays. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotThe Arlington County Board needs to learn some lessons from the Rolling Stones:

Yeah, a storm is threatening
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Lord, I’m gonna fade away

As ARLnow reported last week, the cost of the new “Super Stop” at the corner of Walter Reed Drive and Columbia Pike will be more than $1 million. This is a cost escalation of over 100 percent from the original estimate.

Shouldn’t we say, “superexpensive?”

With due credit to Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and the rest of the Rolling Stones (who know a lot more about rock and roll than the County Board knows about transportation infrastructure), here are three lessons to be learned from the Board’s Super Stop fiasco:

1. Since the County Board did such a poor job on just this one superstop, the County Board can’t possibly be ready to choose the managers and contractors for a project like the streetcar currently estimated to cost 250 times more than this one stop.

Trying to counter the tsunami of public criticism about the enormous cost overrun on this Super Stop, county officials have tried to deflect blame onto WMATA – the Super Stop’s project manager. They say WMATA won’t be chosen to play such a role again. This begs the question: how can we rely on the County Board to make the right choice of managers for much larger projects if they failed to recognize WMATA’s poor performance on this one? Are you ready for the $500 million streetcar?

2. Since the County Board failed to recognize the many design flaws in this one Super Stop, the County Board can’t possibly be ready to recognize the design flaws in much larger and more complex transportation infrastructure projects.

Disregarding the advice of the Rolling Stones, the County Board approved a design for this Super Stop that failed to provide one of the fundamental things that many bus stops in other parts of Arlington already provide: adequate shelter from rain and wind. How can we rely on the County Board to make good design decisions about much more complex transportation infrastructure projects that contain many elements they have never seen before?

3. The County Board displays no public understanding of the multiple ways in which the costs of large transportation infrastructure projects take funding away from core services.

Hiding behind erroneous claims that the costs of mammoth capital projects have no impact on proposed operating budget cuts, various spokespeople for the County are turning themselves into pretzels arguing that watering down child care standards or cutting back on community policing are completely unrelated to financing large transportation infrastructure projects. As anyone with a mortgage or a car loan knows, this defies common sense: the bigger your loan payments, the less you have left over for your other needs.

A fiscal storm is threatening Arlington’s life today. Gimme shelter!

Peter Rousselot is a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

Homeless Census Today, Shelter Use Increases

by Katie Pyzyk | January 30, 2013 at 9:50 am | 1,325 views | 45 Comments

Homeless man on a bench outside Arlington Central LibraryVolunteers and staff from Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) are canvassing the county today for the annual census of homeless people.

The local Point-in-Time Count is part of a nationwide count that occurs during the last 10 days in January each year. The census helps to highlight trends, justify requests for federal funding and measure community progress towards preventing and ending homelessness.

Last year, the Point-in-Time count of both sheltered and unsheltered homeless people dropped to 451. That’s down two percent from 461 in 2011.

“In this ‘great recession,’ the number of homeless people in Arlington has actually been trending downward for the last three years,” said A-SPAN Executive Director Kathleen Sibert. “Arlington non-profits and the county have done a great job of connecting people with housing; and we hope this year’s count will be even lower now that the 100 Homes Campaign has already housed 47 homeless adults.”

From 6:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m. todady, census teams will visit areas frequented by homeless individuals such as Metro stations, parks, malls and meal serving sites. Additionally, there are six indoor meeting places used for the count, and meals are served to encourage participation. Staff members will also distribute hygiene kits and socks donated by Marymount Women’s Basketball team.

“Survey questions go beyond headcounts and ask about instances of domestic abuse, veteran status, and disabilities in order to learn more about the specific homeless population in Arlington and what resources are needed,” said Sibert.

The annual report for Arlington’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness was presented to the County Board yesterday (Tuesday). It showed that 708 individuals used Arlington homeless shelters at some time in 2012, which is a six percent increase over 2011. However, the average length of time a person stayed in shelter decreased by 28 percent. The average stay for homeless families showed the most significant improvement, dropping from an average stay of 5.4 months to three months.

“The goal of the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness is that no individual or family lack access to decent, affordable housing,” said County Board Chairman Walter Tejada. “That is a tall order in these troubled economic times, but this report, the progress we are making in housing Arlington’s most-at-risk homeless persons who were identified last year, and the County’s many programs aimed at getting those in need into housing shows that we intend to meet that goal.”

Morning Notes

by Katie Pyzyk | January 24, 2013 at 9:45 am | 693 views | 24 Comments

Snowy branches

Metro Closing Several Pentagon Escalators — Metro will begin its third major escalator replacement at the Pentagon station on February 4. Three of the six “southside escalators” at the station entrance will be shut down for replacement with new, more reliable units. Customers will still be able to use the three other escalators on the north side. [WMATA]

Proposal to Extend Voting Hours Fails — The proposal by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) to extend voting times in Virginia has failed in committee. The measure would have pushed poll closing time from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. [Sun Gazette]

Claremont Elementary School Earns Health Award — The Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) and Sodexo presented Claremont Elementary School with the Healthy Schools Award for being one of five schools having the most participants in the MCM-organized Healthy Kids Fun Run in October. The Claremont P.E. department received $1,000 and each student received a healthy snack pack from Sodexo. [Arlington Public Schools]

Emergency Winter Shelter Open — Because of the extreme cold, the county’s Emergency Winter Shelter, which is usually only open at night, will be open all day today. If you see someone in Arlington needing shelter from the cold, call 703-228-7395.

Board Approves Purchase of Property for Homeless Shelter

by Katie Pyzyk | November 19, 2012 at 10:40 am | 7,159 views | 111 Comments

(Updated at 11:25 a.m.) At its meeting on Saturday, Nov. 17, the County Board unanimously approved the controversial acquisition of an office building (2020 14th Street N.) in Courthouse that will house county offices and a homeless shelter.

The shelter, which will occupy two of the building’s seven floors, will be open year-round and will replace the current emergency winter shelter, located about two blocks away. Like the winter shelter, it will be operated by the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN).

“Arlington is making good on its declaration that in this county, every person is important” said County Manager Barbara Donnellan. “It’s not enough to merely provide beds in an inadequate emergency winter shelter during the coldest months of the year. It is not enough just to keep the homeless alive. We want to give them an opportunity to rebuild their lives.”

County staff recommended the Board approve the deal, because they found that particular building to be most suitable for county offices and storage. Staff members also said they found a portion of the building adequate for renovating into a homeless shelter, to replace the emergency winter shelter located at 2049 15th Street N.

County staff had been working to reach a purchase agreement with the property owner since November 2010, and last year the County Manager was authorized to acquire the property for $25.5 million by purchase or eminent domain. The price finalized at the Board meeting on Saturday was more than $27 million. Staff said although the cost is greater than the county’s appraisal, it’s less than the seller’s appraisal.

More than a dozen people took turns speaking to the Board about the controversial issue, both in favor of and against the building purchase.

Kip Laramie, who owned Santa Fe Cafe (1500 Wilson Blvd) in Rosslyn, said he hasn’t had trouble with homeless people at any of his businesses in Arlington throughout the years. He likes the idea of helping homeless people and giving them a place to go.

“The homeless population was much lower when the emergency winter shelter is open than when it’s closed,” Laramie said. “It would be nice to have that year round lower level of people on the streets.”

Safety was a concern of many residents who live near the shelter.

“I don’t care if my property values go down, what I care about are people outside of my building threatening the safety of my wife and my daughter,” said Nathan Kleekam. Supporters of the homeless shelter argued that the shelter’s location — directly across from Arlington police headquarters — will actually improve safety. Also, they say, A-SPAN has done a good job of addressing safety concerns with the existing shelter.

Another topic of concern was the financial impact of the county purchasing the property.

“I’m not necessarily against the homeless shelter. I do think $25 million in order to build the homeless shelter is quite a lot of money, considering that Arlington County is having a very difficult time building enough schools to educate its children,” Kleekam said.

One common theme that emerged was that neighbors did not feel the county had taken adequate steps to work with them throughout the entire process. Some residents said the county did not do a good job of notifying them about meetings regarding the building purchase.

(more…)

Condo Owners, Homeless Advocates Face Off Over Shelter Plan

by ARLnow.com | December 8, 2011 at 3:25 pm | 7,610 views | 343 Comments

(Updated at 3:35 p.m.) Arlington County’s plan to buy a Courthouse office building and place a year-round homeless shelter on two of the floors is drawing intense opposition from residents of a nearby condominium building.

Residents of the Woodbury Heights building (1301 N. Courthouse Road) have been distributing flyers (pictured), emailing officials and calling media outlets with a litany of concerns over the plan. Chief among them: worries about safety, property values and neighborhood “charm.”

“I work long hours, which often means I am in this area when it is dark,” said one female resident, in a letter to County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman. “I would feel considerably less safe with the shelter’s entrance so close to what is in essence the front door of my home.”

“The shelter will drive down property values in the area, especially the values of the homes in Woodbury Heights,” the resident continued. “Considering the weak housing market, my home will be even less attractive and competitive to prospective buyers.”

Residents brought their concerns to a Tuesday night meeting with Deputy County Manager Marsha Allgeier and Kathy Sibert of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, which runs the current emergency winter shelter and would run the new shelter.

Sibert said the meeting was “very emotional” for residents but added that she can understand the worries.

“Anytime there’s a change in your neighborhood, you’re very, very concerned, and I understand that,” said Sibert, A-SPAN’s Executive Director. “What I can assure them is that we will have staff there 24/7, and they will have our number, and we will be their neighbor, and we will address any concern they have.”

Sibert pointed out that the office building, at 2020 14th Street N., is directly across the street from the entrance to Arlington County Police headquarters, and only two blocks from the emergency winter shelter. By being open year-round, she continued, the shelter will actually keep homeless individuals off the streets of Courthouse.

“The design… is such that there will be less loitering, less homeless living on the street,” Sibert said. “The police are literally across the street. That can’t get any safer. And we have a really good working relationship with the police.”

(more…)

Emergency Winter Shelter Opens Tonight

by ARLnow.com | November 1, 2011 at 11:25 am | 1,673 views | 19 Comments

Arlington’s Emergency Winter Shelter, which gives the homeless a warm place to sleep during the coldest months of the year, will open for the season tonight.

The 88-bed shelter, located at 2049 15th Street N. in Courthouse, remains open from Nov. 1 through March 31. Operated by the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, the shelter provides not only a place to sleep and meals to eat, but case management, nursing and mental health services.

“The Emergency Winter Shelter has been protecting homeless persons from winter’s cold since 1991,” said Anita Friedman of the county’s Department of Human Services. “In recent years, we have expanded the EWS’s capacity and additional safety plans we can turn to in extreme situations such as last year’s ‘Snowmageddon.’”

Friedman noted that Arlington County is working to “eliminate homelessness altogether” through its 100 Homes initiative.

For those interested in helping out, A-SPAN is seeking volunteers and donations for the shelter. The organization is also working with the county to try to eventually open a year-round shelter.

With Shelter Closed, Arlington’s Homeless Look for New Places to Sleep

by ARLnow.com | April 1, 2011 at 3:26 pm | 2,135 views | 56 Comments

Arlington County’s emergency winter shelter is now closed, and the dozens of homeless individuals who stay there will be looking for a new place to sleep tonight.

About 50 percent of the shelter’s clients will stay in Arlington County over the summer, according to shelter director Olivia Payton. Most others will go to Fairfax, Bailey’s Crossroads, Alexandria and the District, where shelters remain open year-round.

Those who do stay in Arlington will sleep in parks, under bridges, and in wooded encampments. John Rotalsky, who slept at the shelter last night, said he will likely sleep in an encampment near Gateway Park and the Mt. Vernon Trail in Rosslyn tonight.

“We can go to the national parkland, stay there at night, and pack out in the daytime,” he said. “They let us do that.”

Rotalsky, whose religious convictions are documented in a recent online video, said the service provided to the homeless in Arlington “is a huge blessing.”

“Arlington County is just light years better than anything else in this area,” Rotalsky said. “I have not been threatened in the three and a half months that I have been living there. No one has tried to shake me down or rob me, and that’s normal stuff in D.C. shelters.”

The county mandates that the shelter only remain open from Nov. 1 to March 31. The Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN), which runs the shelter, has been pushing for a year-round shelter in Arlington for some time now. Such a shelter is needed, especially during spring cold snaps and summer heatwaves, they say. The County Board formally set the goal of establishing a new, year-round shelter last month. First, however, a location for the new shelter must be found.

While A-SPAN does not operate a shelter in the warmer weather months, it still provides services via volunteers who travel the county bringing food and supplies to homeless individuals and through its Opportunity Place headquarters in Shirlington. A-SPAN also tries to place homeless individuals into permanent housing, but those resources are limited.

Rotalsky says he looks forward to the day when the county is able to open a year-round shelter.

“It’s a real treat staying here at the A-SPAN shelter,” he said. “I don’t want to leave.”

Flickr pool photo by Chris Rief

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | December 15, 2010 at 7:20 am | 775 views | 7 Comments

Pentagon Metro Station Closed — The Pentagon Metro Station has been closed due to a suspicious package, reports Dr. Gridlock. Trains are still passing through the station.

Boy Scouts Enter Homeless Shelter Debate – At the county board meeting over the weekend, there was an unusual moment when a speaker used his time at the podium to ask questions rather than pontificate. That questioner was Spencer Cobb of Boy Scout Troop 167, who was inquiring about the possibility of a year-round homeless shelter as part of his citizenship project. There are 530 homeless individuals in Arlington, county officials estimate. More from the Sun Gazette.

Eventide General Manager Departs – Changes may be in the works at Clarendon’s Eventide restaurant, which just lost its general manager and bar manager to “differences” with restaurant partners. More from TBD.

SoberRide Nears Milestone — The regional SoberRide program, which funds free cab rides for people who’ve had too much to drink on certain holidays, is approaching its 50,000th ride. Organizers hope to reach that mark by New Year’s Day. Of note: Arlington’s Red Top Cab provides and staffs the call center that dispatches the cabs, a service worth nearly $50,000. More from the Washington Post.

Flickr pool photo by Reid Kasprowicz

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | November 4, 2010 at 9:02 am | 331 views | No Comments

Aurora Hills Roof Replacement — The Aurora Hills library and senior center is getting a new roof. The $240,000 project is set to begin on Thursday, Nov. 18. It will take about two months to complete, but the facilities will remain open — work will be done performed in the morning. More from the Library Blog.

Emergency Winter Shelter is Open — Arlington’s emergency winter shelter has opened for those in need of warmth, food and a roof over their head. The Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network is seeking volunteers 18 years or older to work at the shelter, at 2049 North 15th Street in Courthouse. More from ASPAN.

Civil War “Living History” Event in North Arlington — Civil War buffs will be flocking to Fort Ethan Allen Park (3829 North Stafford Street) on Saturday, for an event featuring reenactments and historical interpretations. Attendees will also enjoy marching reenactments, a Civil War medical exhibit, a women’s history exhibit, and activities for kids.  The event is happening from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. More from Arlington County Parks.

As Temperatures Drop, Winter Shelter Remains Closed

by ARLnow.com | April 28, 2010 at 5:30 pm | 440 views | No Comments

Arlington’s Emergency Winter Shelter will remain closed tonight despite gusty winds and temperatures dropping into the upper 30s.

Kathy Sibert, executive director of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN), says that illustrates the need for a year-round shelter. A-SPAN has been lobbying the county board for funding for such a shelter.

“Homelessness is not just a winter problem, it’s a problem that exists year-round,” Sibert said.

A-SPAN volunteers will distribute bus tokens to individuals who want to head to shelters in Alexandria, Fairfax County or the District tonight.

Anyone who sees someone experiencing a life-threatening emergency — because of the cold or for any other reason — should call 911, said Kurt Larrick, spokesman for the Arlington County Department of Human Services.

Volunteer Opp: Doorways for Women and Family

by ARLnow.com | April 13, 2010 at 10:25 am | 409 views | No Comments

Doorways for Women and Families, an Arlington-based crisis shelter, is looking for a volunteer to support its mission of ending family homelessness and domestic violence.

The volunteer would help answer the shelter hotline, support women in need, and assist with day-to-day operations. Doorways expects volunteers to work at least 8-12 hours per month after completing 20-30 hours of training. Click here to apply.

If you’d like to help out but can’t make the time commitment, Doorways is also asking for donations. The organization has an Amazon.com wish list with items that families at the shelter need; all purchases go directly to the shelter.

Also, this Saturday, Rockland’s Barbeque (3471 Washington Blvd) is hosting a “Pooches on the Patio” fundraiser to benefit Doorsways. Bring your dog and any non-perishable items you’d like to donate (grocery gift cards, paper towels, toilet paper, etc.) between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m. Tips given to the guest bartender, Clarendon Alliance Executive Director Susan Anderson, will also be donated to Doorways.

Volunteer Opp: Bring Extra Food to the Winter Shelter

by ARLnow.com | February 9, 2010 at 12:50 pm | 359 views | No Comments

Arlington’s Emergency Winter Shelter has been helping homeless individuals weather this year’s brutal winter storms. Now the folks running the shelter need our help. A-SPAN, the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, announced on Facebook this morning that the shelter is running low on food, specifically cereal, snacks, bread and jelly.

If you have any to spare, call the shelter at 703-228-7395.

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