Water Main Break Near Courthouse — Updated at 8:10 a.m. — “Emergency Water Main Repairs: Crews working on a 3-inch main at 2000 N. Adams St. The area includes high-rise buildings and some 100 customers could be affected. Traffic is detoured around the work site.” [Twitter]
Gun, Drug Arrest at Pentagon City Metro — A man is facing a litany of gun and drug-related charges after being arrested by Metro Transit Police officers for alleged fare evasion at the Pentagon City station this past Thursday. [Twitter]
APS Hits Full Bus Driver Staffing — “The school year began with full staffing of drivers and bus attendants, who serve 18,000 eligible students over 154 routes, using 200 buses.” [InsideNova]
DCA Starbucks Closing Permanently — “Beginning on or about Monday, September 9, Starbucks on the Ticketing level of Terminal B/C will close to make way for construction of a steel-framed glass divider.” [Reagan National Airport]
Nearby: Alexandria Metro Stations Reopening — “Alexandria Metrorail stations will reopen at 5 a.m. on September 9, with full service following Metro’s summer Platform Improvement Project. Metro closed all four Metrorail stations in Alexandria (as well as two in Fairfax County) for safety repairs on May 25.” [City of Alexandria]
Woman Arrested for Burning Flag Near W-L High — “A woman was arrested for burning an American flag on an overpass over I-66 in Arlington, police say. Kayla Caniff, 22, was charged with property destruction after police say she burned a flag attached to a chain link fence on the N. Stafford Street overpass, north of the Ballston area, at about 11:55 p.m. Thursday.” [NBC Washington]
County Website Goes Down — The Arlington County website was down for an extended period of time over Labor Day weekend. [Twitter]
Lucky Dog Takes in Pups from Hurricane’s Path — “While Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamas — thousands of miles away in Arlington, Lucky Dog Animal Rescue plotted a rescue mission… The Carolinas are projected to be in the storm’s path and Lucky Dog Animal Rescue is partnered with a shelter in South Carolina. So the organization’s volunteers met an animal control officer part of the way there to take 19 of the shelter’s dogs.” [WJLA]
APS to Review Westover Tree Plan — “Facing community unrest in Westover, Arlington Public Schools plans to take another look at the potential of saving more trees during construction of a new elementary school on North McKinley Road near Washington Boulevard. Following an Aug. 29 meeting with residents, the school system has directed that ‘before the trees are removed, we have the contractor stake out the site and renumber the trees.'” [InsideNova]
Energy Plan Concerns: Feds and Trees — Arlington County’s impending update to its Community Energy Plan, which sets a net zero carbon emissions goal, is an important step in fighting climate change, some advocates say, though additional action is still needed on the state and federal level. Others, despite supporting the goal, are concerned that achieving it may come at the cost of the area’s tree canopy. [Washington Post, Arlington County]
Arlington’s Many Advocacy Orgs — “My viewing [of the Netflix documentary ‘The Family’] got me thinking of the many newsmaking organizations — of all political stripes — that have long populated our suburb so close to the action of the nation’s capital. Wilson Blvd. and Crystal City alone are home to enough colorful groups to generate a slew of political and public policy contretemps.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Reminder: Be Careful on the Roads Today — It’s the first day of school, kids will be walking to school and there are new traffic patterns around some schools. Arlington County Police are conducting “a high-visibility traffic enforcement campaign in and around school zones and bus stops” today. [ARLnow, Arlington County]
Photo courtesy David Johnson
Arlington is training hundreds of people to use the opioid overdose-reversing drug naloxone in hopes of saving lives amid the opioid crisis.
The free trainings last a little over an hour and teach participants how to recognize an opioid overdose and to administer naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan. As of Tuesday night, officials said Arlington has trained 644 people and given away 518 boxes of the drug.
Studying to Save Lives
Emily Siqveland is the county’s coordinator for the state-funded Revive program, which provides the training materials for the classes.
“I often remind people that addiction is similar to diabetes,” said Siqveland, in front of the half a dozen people who showed up to the Arlington Mill Community Center Tuesday night to take one of the classes.
“You can make lifestyle adjustments to manage your diabetes,” she said. “Addiction is the same. You can make lifestyle changes to manage the addiction, and you still need treatment. It’s still a chronic and relapsing disease.”
In addition to talking about how addiction works, Siqveland showed attendees how to administer the little white nasal spray as part of the county’s “multi-disciplinary approach” to tackling the opioid crisis.
Arlington began marshaling representatives from county agencies, local non-profits, and APS in 2017 to form an Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative (AARI) to find solutions and hold several town halls.
One of the group’s more recent tasks was choosing how to spend $258,000 in state grants for treatment and prevention services.
One way AARI allocated the funds is a new ad on the side of local Metrobuses, featuring the county’s opioid resources page, plus “remembrance trees” currently on display in the Shirlington, Columbia Pike, and Central libraries until September 3. People can add a leaf to the trees in memory of someone they know who died from opioid addiction.
Addiction by the Numbers
In Arlington, police reported 53 overdoses in 2018, 11 of which were fatal.
The data indicated that seven fewer people died overdosing on opioids in 2018 compared to 2017 (19). However, the overall number of opioid-involved incidents (153) in 2018 remained steady after jumping to 157 incidents in 2017. In all, 50 opioid overdose deaths have been reported in Arlington since 2014.
Arlington Companies in Inc. 5000 — “Inc. Magazine named 34 Arlington companies to its annual list of the nation’s 5,000 fastest-growing companies, the Inc. 5000, while five were part of the exclusive Inc. 500.” [Arlington Economic Development, InsideNova]
Predator or Victim of Injustice? — “On Monday, the Circuit Court in liberal Arlington County will be the scene of a heavy-handed morality play, with prosecutors seeking lifelong incarceration for a young gay man who has already paid an extraordinary price for youthful, nonviolent sexual indiscretions.” [Washington Post]
DCA Construction Update — “Floor framing is underway on a new concourse to replace #Gate35X that will offer new shopping and dining choices and 14 gates with direct jetbridge access to your flight.” [Twitter]
Focus on County’s Vehicle Maintenance Shop — “At 2700 S Taylor St., you’ll find Arlington’s Recycling Drop-Off Center, Earth Products Yard, Inert Materials and Scrap Metal Drop-Off Facility (get your free paper shredding!), Fire Training Academy, and more. It’s also home to the Equipment Division, a full-service vehicle maintenance and repair facility that operates 17 hours a day.” [Arlington County]
Profile: HQ2’s People Person — “Despite being head of workforce development for Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters, Ardine Williams has yet to sit in on an interview with any potential HQ2 employees. While Amazon plans to have 400 workers in its Arlington offices by the end of this year, Williams appears much more focused on the 25,000 it looks to hire in the next decade.” [Washington Business Journal]
Photo courtesy @artsytatiana
(Updated at 10:15 p.m.) If you are someone whose home or business was damaged in the July 8 flooding, Arlington has launched a temporary Local Recovery Center (LRC) to help get your life back together.
The center helps connect residents with a variety of resources — like senior services or a table detailing what to do if you find mold in your home — but the main feature of the LRC is the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which is offering flexible, low-interest loans for those impacted by the floods.
The LRC is located on the second floor of the Arlington County Trades Center (2700 S. Taylor Street). The Center is scheduled to operate for the next week:
- Today-Thursday: 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
- Friday: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
- Saturday: 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
- Monday: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (SBA loan center only)
A similar center will operate in the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library (7584 Leesburg Pike) in Fairfax County.
Locals who experienced flood damage in Arlington, Alexandria or Fairfax County may be eligible for SBA loans.
“Our qualifications are not as stringent [as a bank loan],” said Julie Garrett, a public affairs specialist for the SBA. “You must demonstrate that you can pay back the loan, but it’s very flexible.”
There are three categories of loans available:
- Business Physical Disaster Loans — These loans are for businesses to repair or replace disaster-damaged property, like merchandise and machinery, though the loans are also available for non-profit organizations. Businesses of any size can apply.
- Economic Injury Disaster Loans — These loans are aimed at helping small businesses or agricultural cooperatives make up for lost revenue from days that they were closed. Garrett said these can be especially important for mom-and-pop businesses that operate on monthly or quarterly cycles that may have difficulty paying their bills.
- Home Disaster Loans — These loans are for homeowners or renters to repair or replace flood-damaged homes or property, which can range from clothing to cars.
All applicants are required to have a credit history and must be able to show that they can repay all their loans. Garrett said there is no collateral required for loans under $25,000. If the loan is approved, Garrett said the applicants have 60 days to decide whether they want to accept it.
Many of those whose homes or businesses were impacted by flooding have already started work on repairing their property, and Garrett said loans can also be applied to damages paid for out-of-pocket. Those who have already paid to fix their damages are required to have receipts of their purchases and photos of the damage.
“We loan based on the amount of damage,” Garrett said. “Most insurance offers a depreciated value [for property], but we look at replacement value.”
The loans may also cover damages to fences, decks, garages, tree removal and property considered in the “immediate vicinity” of a house.
Aaron Miller, director of emergency management for Arlington County, said the County has received just over 1,000 reports of damages from people and businesses across Arlington. Garrett said only 26 individuals had applied for home disaster loans so far, but more are expected as people learn of and visit the LRC.
Applicants requesting a loan for physical damage are required to file by Oct. 7, while filings for economic injury have a deadline of May 7, 2020.
Meanwhile, Miller said the County is working through financing its own flood recovery — a process that could take months.
“We are continuing to go through assessments for public assistance,” Miller said. “That’s everything from emergency repairs to the longer recovery process.”
Arlington County is hoping to launch part of its digitized permitting systems next month.
Starting September 9, residents and businesses will be able to apply for some permits online, as well as ask questions and check on the status of pending applications, in what officials hope will be a “welcome relief” for local businesses.
“The new system will lead customers seamlessly from the County’s website into online permit applications,” said county planning department spokeswoman Jessica Margarit.
“Customers will be able to apply online 24/7 from their computers or mobile devices,” Margarit said in an email Wednesday. “The system will accept completed applications, uploaded plans and supporting documents and online payments. Customers will be able to check the status of their applications, track their permit’s process and receive email notifications about their application(s).”
Officials tested the system over the summer, which found bugs related to how users upload files, search for permits, and receive update notifications. All of those problems have been addressed, according to Margarit.
In a second, future phase of the project, the county will digitize 21 additional types of permit, including those for building permits, inspections, and accessory dwelling units (for which the Arlington County Board recently loosened the requirements.) For now, residents will need to continue applying for the second phase permits in person at the county’s Courthouse office.
Arlington Board Chair Christian Dorsey previously acknowledged the digital database was a long time coming, but said it would be a “a welcome relief for many of our community’s businesses.”
The county is hosting public meetings about the changes at county government HQ in Courthouse on Thursday, August 22 and Tuesday, September 17 from 3-8 p.m., and on Wednesday, September 18 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
County Releases Statement on ART Crashes — “We are incredibly thankful that no one was seriously injured in these incidents, which the County and ART take very seriously. ART’s number one priority is the safety of our riders and others on the road.” [Arlington County]
More I-395 Nighttime Closures — “Motorists should expect significant lane closures on the general purpose lanes along I-395 North this weekend, August 9-11, from Duke Street (Exit 3) to past Pentagon City/Crystal City (Exit 8C) for bridge rehabilitation work along the I-395 corridor.” [Press Release]
Arlington Opening Local Recovery Center — “Arlington County is opening a Local Recovery Center (LRC) to assist residents and businesses affected by the July 8, 2019 flood. This is in conjunction with the governor’s announcement that low-interest federal loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) are available to help homeowners, renters and businesses rebuild from storm damage.” [Arlington County]
Facts About Arlington Resident Chuck Todd — Meet the Press host Chuck Todd, who lives in Arlington, shared some facts about himself in a new local magazine profile. Todd says he does not drink beer, prefers his coffee black, sleeps five hours “on a good night,” and thinks Lost Dog Cafe serves the best pizza in town. [Arlington Magazine]
Kudos for Quarter Market in Ballston — “The big top of dining options can generate a major case of FOMO, even when the meal in front of you satisfies all your conscious needs. This is particularly true at Quarter Market, where mall operators spent years seeking out and negotiating with a smartly curated collection of local chefs, restaurateurs and producers.” [Washington Post]
Escape Room Open in Clarendon — “Bond’s Escape Room has opened a second location at Market Common Clarendon… Located just above Sephora, it offers six escape room games with a wide variety of themes.” [Press Release]
Photo courtesy @clarendonalliance/Instagram
The Arlington County Fire Department’s overtime crisis is having a ripple effect on other programs, leaving training and logistics to take a hit.
Between the 2016 and 2018 fiscal years, the department exceeded its overtime budget every year.
At a meeting yesterday (Thursday) at county government headquarters, County Auditor Chris Horton met with Arlington officials and ACFD staff to review the recent audit of the department’s chronic overtime usage and suggestions to fix it.
One area where all involved parties agreed was that the overtime was the main source of the department’s fiscal troubles.
“Overtime use in the fire department has caused budget management challenges in 2016-2018 fiscal years,” Horton said. “What we did here was to look and see if there was actual, clear evidence mathematically that it was overtime driving the overages in the budget. What we’re seeing is strongly indicative that the callback overtime — that is increasing the overruns with total personnel costs — is increasing the overruns with total department costs.”
There were several issues cited as contributing factors to the overtime overuse, but one of the main problems is insufficient staffing. According to the audit:
At the core of the budget management issues are staffing challenges ACFD experiences throughout the department, including significant attrition in ACFD Operations. ACFD has been operating with decreases in staffing that continue to result in an average loss of more than two employees per month. With the rigorous screening processes and training required for new recruits, it takes almost 12 months and costs almost $100,000 per recruit to recruit, hire and train firefighters… Therefore, ACFD continues to face struggles with deploying adequate staffing even with recent budget increases to fund additional recruit classes.
Horton and fire department officials explained that staffing is required to be maintained at certain levels, and if there aren’t enough staff on hand to meet those levels, off-duty firefighters are either called back or asked to stay past their shift to meet those staffing levels. This callback overtime — as opposed to discretionary overtime — has exceeded its budget every year the audit studied.
“It’s very difficult to be fully staffed in public safety,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz. “We have to call people back and they come back. It’s not a healthy cycle for anyone involved. Over the last three of four years, the things that haven’t been done are as much training — that’s the main thing — and logistics. The department tries to get in under budget overall but there are things that get lost in that process.”
The audit notes that cuts had to be made in expenditure categories such as training and equipment to cover overtime costs.
“To stay within our budget, sometimes we have to throttle back stuff that’s not mission-critical,” Capt. Ben O’Bryant, a spokesman for ACFD, told ARLnow. “Training we’d like to send four people to maybe we’d send three, or equipment that we’d like to put in service, maybe we hold back on that. Nothing that’s mission critical for delivery of services… but sometimes we have to adjust our activities. Anything required to provide services to the county, we get that, but sometimes we don’t send as many people to elective training as we’d like to or we hold off on getting equipment.”
(Updated on 07/22/19) Office Vacancy Rate Dropping — “The commercial vacancy rate in the County continues to improve. The vacancy rate as of the second quarter of 2019 stands at 16.6%, down nearly 5% from its historic high of 21% in 2015. Arlington Economic Development also announced it successfully closed 26 deals in FY 2019, representing 7.2 million square feet of office space and 43,000 jobs.” [Arlington County]
County Adopts New Bathroom Policy — “The Arlington County government has adopted what amounts to a […] policy for government-building restrooms and locker rooms. The policy, outlined to County Board members on July 16, will formally allow any individual to use a male or female restroom ‘that corresponds with gender identity or expression,’ county staff said.” [InsideNova]
Human Remains Found Near GW Parkway — Human remains, in a skull, have reportedly been found near the GW Parkway and Reagan National Airport, in the same area where a D.C. cadaver dog was hurt earlier this week, prompting a medevac flight. The dog is now recovering from serious injuries. U.S. Park Police are investigating the source of the remains. [Fox 5, Washington Post, WTOP]
New Provost, Plans for Marymount — “Marymount is proud to welcome the university’s new Provost, Hesham El-Rewini, Ph.D., P.E., who officially begins his duties on campus this week… ‘We have bold plans for the future of Marymount as we strive to become an elite Catholic institution that is nationally recognized for innovation,’ said Dr. Irma Becerra, President of Marymount University.” [Marymount University]
GoFundMe for Westover Residents — A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to benefit residents of Westover whose homes were damaged by flash flooding last week. So far more than $8,000 has been raised. [GoFundMe]
Big Crane Assisting With DCA Project — “A 250 ft. crane is being used to lift and put steel into place for a new 14-gate concourse that will replace Gate 35X” at Reagan National Airport. [Twitter]
Pentagon City Apartment Sold for Big Bucks — “Dweck Properties Inc. has picked up another multifamily property in Pentagon City, not far from where Amazon.com Inc. is settling into its second home. A Dweck affiliate paid $117 million July 9 for the Park at Pentagon Row, a 299-unit apartment building at 801 15th St. S.” [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
HQ2 to Include Banana Stand, Local Businesses — “Schoettler said the outdoor areas will likely include elements from its Seattle headquarters, such as a community vegetable garden and a banana stand… Amazon’s in-house food program will only serve about one-quarter of the HQ2 workforce, encouraging the majority of the employees to each lunch at nearby businesses. And because Amazon will own the buildings, Schoettler said it will be able to curate the retail to focus on locally owned businesses.” [Bisnow, WAMU, Washington Business Journal]
County Again Recognized for Tech Savvy — “Arlington County is once again among the top ranked digital counties in the nation. The Center for Digital Government and National Association of Counties 2019 award designated Arlington second place in the 150,000-249,999 population category.” [Arlington County]
Legion Development a National Model? — “Post 139 and APAH’s partnership should serve as an example for addressing the issue of homeless veterans, said Darryl Vincent, chief operating officer of nonprofit U.S.VETS… In 2018, there were 12,806 American Legion posts across the country, a huge inventory of property that could be repurposed as affordable housing.” [Politico]
Helicopter Noise Amendment Passes House — “The House of Representatives adopted a set of amendments to H.R. 2500, the National Defense Authorization Act, including two offered by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) which would address helicopter noise in the National Capital Region.” [Press Release]
ACPD: Lock Your Car and House — “The Arlington County Police Department is joining law enforcement agencies throughout the country in a public safety campaign aimed at promoting crime prevention strategies to reduce and prevent thefts from vehicles and homes. The campaign, known as the 9 P.M. Routine, encourages residents to conduct security checks in their homes and vehicles each evening to ensure their property is secure.” [Arlington County]
APS Teacher Receives National Recognition — “Wilfredo Padilla Melendez, teacher at Claremont Immersion School, received Instructure’s 2019 Educator of the Year Award. Wilfredo was recognized as one of six educators who go above and beyond to redefine traditional classroom activities.” [Press Release]
Photo courtesy Arlington VA/Flickr
(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) Residents hit hard by floods across Arlington are worrying about how to pay the repair costs.
Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz declared a state of emergency two days after Monday’s flash floods wrecked homes and destroyed businesses. The County Board now needs to approve the emergency declaration, which could pave the way for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) aid.
For several residents in Westover, flood waters reached several feet high in their homes, destroying wood floors and appliances as well as cars and finished basements. Residents are still totaling the cost of the damages, but the majority said their homeowner’s insurance isn’t covering it — and most do not have flood insurance.
‘It happened very fast’
When ARLnow visited the Westover neighborhood Wednesday afternoon, mud still caked the pavement and friends and families were carrying out furniture to the county’s waiting trash truck.
“It happened very fast,” said neighbor Melinda Root. “I looked at my door and it was like looking at a weird aquarium.”
Root said at around 9 a.m. Monday, brown water rushed into the first floor of her house after rising outside, pouring up from the floorboards and in from the doors.
The inundation lasted about an hour, filling the basement to the ceiling and rising almost three feet on the first floor where it destroyed the carpet, kitchen appliances, as well as photographs and clothing. Outside, the water rose several feet high and flooded the engine of her car.
“The first thing I thought of was my cat,” Root said of her 13-year old friendly feline Chloe.
Root’s husband John DeMarce was at work when the storm hit, and was able to get Dominion Energy to cut the power to the house. When he arrived back in Westover, the floods had damaged thousands of dollars worth of tools in his woodworking shop in the basement and contaminated the carpet throughout the first floor.
“I’ve thrown away hundreds of books and CDs,” said DeMarce. Since then, he’s been ripping up the carpet himself and worries that the floor is now a mold risk, too.
He and his wife said they were very grateful to friends who are giving them a place to stay and are trying to clean 14 loads of laundry for them to save some of their clothes.
“We’re all in these same boat,’ said Root. “But that’s kind of a weird thing to say about a flood.”
Across the street, Athena Burkett, her husband Kenny Puk, and their friends were carrying away all her furniture to the curb after the water rose two feet inside her house and filled her basement.
Silt caked the hardwood floors in the first floor, and a light smell of sewage still pervades on Wednesday afternoon in the home even with the windows open and several fans running for days.
“It so much better than it was,” she said.
Burkett says she tried to come back to house Monday morning when she heard about the flooding but couldn’t drive through the river that filled her street.
“I stood right there up on that hill and watched as it happened,” she said of the top of the street.
The currents were so strong they lifted her shed and moved it almost two feet into her neighbor’s yard, half-crushing a floating chair that Kenny Puk jokes is now “the wicked witch of the west Adirondack chair” or “Excalibur.” Her family’s car is also totaled. A group of friends set up a cleaning shop in the backyard to salvage some metal shelves from the house.
Now plastic lines the second floor staircase inside the house to where she’s stored the few pieces of furniture that survived. The plastic is held down with neat stacks of books that with waterlogged covers. Storm water ruined the rest of her furniture, most of her appliances — and her wedding album.
“Yeah. I’m kind of in shock,” said Burkett, who’s only owned the house for two years.
Like Root and DeMarce, Burkett also lost her HVAC system, hot water heater, washer and dryer, and car to the floods. Both sets of neighbors said their homes are uninhabitable right now.
And as for homeowners insurance? “We’re getting nothing,” Burkett said.
“There were produce boxes from Westover Market in peoples’ front yards,” said another neighbor, Nicole Bender. “The path of the river cut across several yards and broke through fences along the way.”
Bender hadn’t seen anyone form the county checking on the clean-up efforts until Wednesday morning. “I don’t think they realized the level of damage,” she said.
Carpet scraps and personal effects lined 14th Street N. in Westover — one of the hardest-hit areas of the county — and for Wayne Blankenship, that includes her 30-year collection of hundreds of signed vinyl records. He spread racks of records on bed slats in his front yard under the hot sun, but Blankenship isn’t sure they’re salvageable.
He’s also worried about the hardwood on the first floor, which is starting to buckle after flood waters rose 6 inches in the home and filled his finished basement in “thirty seconds.” The rise was so forceful it exploded an egress window in the basement, and ripped two basement doors in half.
The power stayed on even though the circuit breaker was underwater, and Blankenship says he’s grateful that he didn’t get electrocuted when wading through the water. He’s also thankful for friends who’ve given them a place to stay and helped rip out drywall in the basement.
“There is humanity,” he laughs. “It does exist.”
Blankenship bought pumps from Home Depot to help his neighbors clear out their own floodwater. Others banded together to buy wagons full of food for each other or loan a hand with ripping out drywall.
Blankenship has lived on the street for 23 years with his husband Maxwell Tourgersen, with whom he recently celebrated his 35 anniversary. Together the two recently spent $30,000 renovating their basement.
“We just got the house the way we wanted it!” Blankenship lamented.
He estimates it will cost at least that, plus $18,000 for a new water heater and furnace, to do it again. Upstairs, he thinks it will cost $26,000 just to repair the kitchen. Like Beckett, he didn’t have flood insurance and his homeowner’s insurance isn’t paying a dime.
“This is going to be all out of pocket,” he said.
‘Too Early to Tell’
The Arlington County Fire Department responded to at least 25 swift water rescue calls on Monday as commuters were trapped on roads turned to rivers. All told, the floods caused an estimated $3.5 million in damage to county-owned infrastructure alone. Private donations have also poured in for Westover businesses swamped with stormwater.