Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Low Water Pressure in RosslynUpdated at 9 a.m. — “LOW WATER PRESSURE: Customers in the Rosslyn area may be experiencing low water pressure due to a water main break on Key Blvd b/w N Edgewood St and N Danville St. Crews have been dispatched. Expected completion time: TBD. An update will be provided once we have more information.” [Twitter]

Changes to Crystal City Development — “JBG Smith Properties is shrinking plans for a pair of residential towers at 2000 and 2001 South Bell Street in Crystal City in a bid to get them approved after Arlington County planners raised concerns about its height. The developer filed revised plans for the Amazon-adjacent development earlier in July, lopping off several stories of each proposed tower to appease Arlington officials.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Sheriff’s Office Employee — “On July 20, 2020, the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office welcomed Diana Fetterer to the Pretrial Section, where she will begin her new role as a member of the newly established Behavioral Health Docket Team… The Behavioral Health Docket is scheduled to start in September 2020.” [Arlington County]

Flash Flood Watch Today — “Showers with scattered thunderstorms are expected overnight through Friday. Locally heavy rainfall may produce flooding. A Flash Flood Watch is now in effect for much of the region.” [Twitter]

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Arlington County is getting $136,727 from the U.S. Dept. of Justice to help pay for coronavirus-related public safety expenses.

The federal grant was approved unanimously by the County Board over the weekend.

Among the big ticket items to be funded by the grant are:

  • 3 electronic sign boards for the Arlington County Police Department ($30,210)
  • 435 hours of officer overtime for ACPD ($19,106)
  • 994 pairs of coveralls for Arlington County firefighters ($31,063)
  • 280 boxes of nitrile exam gloves for the Arlington Sheriff’s Office ($36,736)

“Funds awarded under the [Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding] Program must be utilized to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus,” says a county staff report. “Allowable projects and purchases include, but are not limited to, overtime, equipment (including law enforcement and medical personal protective equipment), and supplies (such as gloves, masks, sanitizer).”

The expenses have already been incurred, the staff report notes, and will be reimbursed — with no local matching funds required.

Also funded by the grant are $19,605 worth of miscellaneous supplies for the police department.

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Morning Notes

Sheriff Appoints New Corrections Director — “Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur has announced the appointment of Major Gretchen Foster as the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office Director of Corrections, effective Monday, June 22. Foster is the first female Director of Corrections in Arlington’s history.” [Arlington County]

Route 50 Blocked By Police Activity — A portion of Route 50 was blocked near Rosslyn yesterday afternoon after police conducted a traffic stop on a stolen vehicle. The car had been reported stolen by a rental car company, a police spokeswoman said. [Twitter]

Grocery Stores Running Out of Coins — “‘Grocery continues to be an environment where consumers prefer to use cash, with roughly one out of every five transactions being paid with cash,’ said Greg Ferrara, president and CEO of Arlington, Va.-based [National Grocers Association]. ‘Independent grocery serves many communities throughout the U.S. that are underbanked or unbanked, and without availability of coinage, these customers are going to be hardest hit.'” [Progressive Grocer]

ARLnow Launches New IG Series — On Monday ARLnow launched a new Instagram story series featuring a local good news story each weekday evening. The #ARLGoodNews series is sponsored by Arlington Community Federal Credit Union and will run for the next month. [Instagram]

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An Arlington sheriff’s deputy has tested positive for COVID-19, raising fears of a wider outbreak in the county jail.

In a press release Thursday night, the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office said the ailing employee is “is doing well and managing the illness at home, with the full support of family and the office.”

The Sheriff’s Office performs a number of law enforcement functions in Arlington, the most prominent of which is running the Arlington County Detention Center.

“Public Health officials have initiated contact tracing of the individual to determine any potential spread to other personnel, inmates or the community whom they have come into close contact with,” the Sheriff’s Office said. “Individuals will be contacted directly if Public Health officials determine you may have been exposed. ACSO and Public Health will continue to monitor the individual’s condition and take necessary steps should any other agency personnel or inmates present symptoms.”

There have been calls nationwide — including by Arlington’s reform-minded top prosecutor —  to release non-violent offenders from jails and prisons due to the risk of rapid outbreaks in such facilities.

There are currently 225 inmates at the jail, according to ACSO spokeswoman Maj. Tara Johnson. That’s well below its capacity, which is currently in the mid-500s, Johnson said.

The Sheriff’s Office said it is taking a number of steps to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including daily temperature checks and symptom screening of staff and inmates, plus everything from daily cleanings to using disposable trays for meals.

“The steps the Sheriff’s Office has taken are continually reviewed by the Command Staff, which follows recommendations by the Virginia Department of Health,” the agency said. “These steps have and will continue to be modified regularly in order to best combat COVID-19. The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office takes the health and welfare of staff, the public and those placed into custody in the highest regard, treating every individual with dignity and respect and taking great pride and care in all work.”

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Morning Notes

Transit Union Gets Its Money Back from Dorsey — “Union verifies (to me, 5 minutes ago) that it has received [embattled County Board member Christian Dorsey’s] repayment of $10,000 campaign donation.” [Twitter]

Board Advances Reeves Farmhouse Plan — “The [Reeves] farmhouse will be preserved and protected as a historic site, the parkland around the house will stay as parkland, and the County will get much needed housing for people with developmental disabilities without our taxpayers footing the bill. It’s a win-win-win.” [Arlington County]

Va. Legislature OKs Amazon Delivery Bots — “Amazon.com Inc. package delivery robots could soon hit Virginia’s sidewalks and roadways. The General Assembly has made quick work of a bill that would clear the way for Scout, Amazon’s six-wheeled delivery robot, to operate in the commonwealth.” [Washington Business Journal]

Airport Helper Service to Launch Tomorrow — “Goodbye, airport chaos… SkySquad is launching this week at Reagan Airport to improve the airport experience for anyone who needs an extra hand. Travel is stressful for most people, especially families with young kids; and senior citizens who need extra support.” [Press Release]

A Look at Arlington’s Oldest Families — A series of articles profiling long-time local families takes a look at the Parks, the Shreves, the Smiths, the Syphaxes, the Birches and the Thomases. [Arlington Magazine]

Sheriff’s Office Welcomes New K-9 — “The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office recently welcomed its newest K-9 officer – Logan, a one-and-a-half-year-old black Labrador retriever who is paired with handler Cpl. Matthew Camardi. The duo will work in narcotics detection and other specialized fields. [InsideNova]

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A Maryland man awaiting trial in the murder of Ballston resident John Giandoni has died in jail.

Jitesh Patel, 43, “was found unconscious in his cell at the Arlington County Detention Facility” early Monday, the county said in a press release late Monday afternoon. “Arlington County Sheriff’s Office Deputies and Nurses began immediate resuscitation efforts after finding Mr. Patel, before Fire Department rescue units arrived.”

Patel was pronounced dead by paramedics just after 6 a.m.

Patel has been in jail since July 26, 2018. In a preliminary court hearing, prosecutors said that Patel brutally killed Giandoni, his lover’s ex-boyfriend, after laying in wait in Giandoni’s townhouse.

Giandoni was found dead on March 16 after being strangled, shot and stabbed.

The full press release about Patel’s death is below.

Jitesh Patel, 43, died in the early hours of November 11, after he was found unconscious in his cell at the Arlington County Detention Facility.

Arlington County Sheriff’s Office Deputies and Nurses began immediate resuscitation efforts after finding Mr. Patel, before Fire Department rescue units arrived. He was pronounced dead by Medic 110 at 0605 hours at the scene.

Mr. Patel had been incarcerated since July 26, 2018 awaiting trial after being charged with Homicide.

His family was informed of his death this afternoon.

Cause of death will be determined by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Following standard procedure, the death is being investigated by the Arlington County Police Department. Anyone with information related to this investigation is asked to contact Detective S. King of the Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703.228.4243 or at [email protected] To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 1.866.411.TIPS (8477).

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Last night, reform candidate Parisa Dehghani-Tafti was elected the next top prosecutor for Arlington and Falls Church, leaving questions about how her campaign promises could affect the area’s political and legal landscape.

Throughout her unusually contentious — and expensive — campaign, Tafti promised to stop prosecuting some marijuana possession cases, eliminate some cash bail requirements, and make it easier for defense attorneys to access case files, among other reforms.

Tafti declined to discuss details about her plans for the prosecutor’s office itself, but the other agencies most affected by her reforms say her tenure could have a big impact on their work.

Public defenders may have more time with their clients 

Chief Public Defender Bradley Haywood has been a vocal critic of outgoing Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos and donated to Tafti’s campaign. He told ARLnow her win will “absolutely” change the work his office can do, adding that her election was an “amazing opportunity” for judges, lawyers, and prosecutors to work together on criminal justice reform.

One reform Haywood said will majorly impact public defenders is Tafti’s promise to do away with the the requirement that defense attorneys hand copy all the prosecutor’s files about their criminal cases — a process several attorneys say is “horribly inefficient” and makes preparing large cases impossible.

“We estimated that there were about 1,000-1,500 hours we spent in that stupid room typing manually,” Haywood said of his office’s work in the past year. “It’s going to go down from 1,000 hours to zero probably in January. That will give us time to actually learn more about our clients.”

Tafti told ARLnow last night after the polls closed and her campaign declared victory that she was “absolutely” still committed to digitizing the document policy.

The Arlington County Bar Association, which includes private defense attorneys, declined to comment when asked how the new prosecutor’s policy priorities could affect members’ work.

The Sheriff’s Office may need a budget bump

Another one of the reforms Tafti focused on during her campaign was ending the practice of “cash bail,” which she said penalizes lower-income people who might instead remain jail as they await trial.

Outgoing prosecutor Theo Stamos announced last November she would stop seeking bail for people accused of low-level misdemeanors after seven state lawmakers urged her to fix the system. However, public defenders criticized the plan for still excluding too many defendants, calling it a “cynical PR move” to help her bid for re-election.

Sheriff Beth Arthur, who won her re-election last night, told ARLnow she didn’t necessarily oppose more changes to the bail system. But she did express concern about how to manage resources if judges choose to release defendants before trial with conditions — like weekly drug testing — in lieu of bail.

“I do have concerns from a staffing perspective and from an operational perspective on how how this impacts the poor people who are managing the program and who have a caseload of 60-65 people,” she said of her office’s pre-trial program that supervises such defendants. “That’s a lot.”

However, Arthur said she’s hopeful that the county will grant her office additional resources to staff pre-trial programs should they be affected by Tafti’s reforms — or the jail diversion program for people with mental illnesses.

In June, the Arlington County Board approved a $45.3 million total budget for the Sheriff’s Office in fiscal year 2020.

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(Updated at 1:15 p.m.) The county could soon spend up to $5.5 million to replace the Arlington County Justice Center’s old heating system, which is now in need of “constant repairs,” per officials.

The Arlington County Board is poised to vote on the replacement during its meeting this Saturday, October 19. The 13-story Courthouse complex at 1425 and 1435 N. Courthouse Road includes local courts, Arlington County Police Department headquarters, the Arlington County jail, and the the Sheriff’s Office.

“The primary intent of this contract is to replace a total of (6) six boilers and (4) four domestic hot water tanks that have reached the end of their useful lives and are in constant repairs,” staff wrote in a report to the Board.

Since 2016, the county has spent $300,000 on trying to fix the six boilers, according to Peter Golkin, head spokesman of the Department of Environmental Services.

Crews are also expected to fix the Building Automation System which “controls at the Justice Center with energy efficient equipment and for redundancy” as well as a dishwasher in the kitchen of the Arlington County Detention Facility, per the report.

The Board will vote on awarding the $5 million HVAC contract to Pittsburgh-based construction and services company Limbach Holdings, Inc. The company offered to do the work for about $1 million less the next closest contract bidder, Rockville-based mechanical contracting firm Shapiro & Duncan, Inc.

The Limbach contract up for Board review to includes $4,784,880 in base pay for the contractor, plus a change order contingency allocation of $717,732.

The staff report states that the repair work “will not impact the functionality of the building for staff or public.”

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Starting Sunday, Arlington County sheriff’s deputies will ditch their drab all-brown uniforms for slicker, black-and-tan and black-and-white duds.

In an announcement from Sheriff Beth Arthur, below, the Sheriff’s Office says the new unis will “continue to display the professionalism of the office.”

The Sheriff’s Office runs the county jail, oversees courthouse security, assists with traffic enforcement and performs other local duties.

Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur announced that sheriff’s deputies will be wearing new styles of uniforms starting Sept. 1, 2019.

The new uniforms are a change from the brown uniform that deputies in Virginia have historically worn. The new look will give black pants and a tan shirt to line staff and Sergeants, and black pants and a white shirt for Lieutenants and above.

In 2005, the Virginia General Assembly repealed a 1980s law requiring deputies to wear dark brown shirts and taupe pants. Sheriff’s offices across the state now have greater flexibility in their uniform choices.

Arlington County made the switch to new uniforms this year due to certain components of the brown uniform becoming increasingly difficult to obtain and uniform manufacturers no longer producing them. Several sheriff’s offices across the Commonwealth have already made uniform changes for the same reasons.

Sheriff Arthur and her staff are excited about the change and believe the new uniform will continue to display the professionalism of the office.

Photos courtesy Arlington County Sheriff’s Office

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Morning Notes

Merlene Accuses Favola of Sexism — “Normally, Democratic debates in deep-blue Arlington are wonky, congenial, staid, even boring affairs, where the candidates at least pretend to be cordial to each other. And tonight’s 31st State Senate district Democratic debate, between incumbent Sen. Barbara Favola and challenger Nicole Merlene, largely held to that model for the entire debate… until the closing statements, when basically all hell broke loose.” [Blue Virginia, PDF]

Metro Closure This Weekend — “[On] May 4 and 5, Metro will be closed south of Reagan National Airport– six stations in all. Trains will be replaced by free shuttle buses at Braddock Road, King St-Old Town, Eisenhower Ave, Huntington, Van Dorn Street and Franconia-Springfield.” [WUSA 9]

Arlington and Amazon Emails Revealed — “Arlington County officials worked closely with Amazon.com Inc. to present a good public relations strategy in the weeks leading to their passage of the company’s $23 million incentive package, emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show. The emails indicate some county officials were trying to develop a cozy relationship and wanted to help Amazon navigate challenges and smooth over some criticism.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Man Donates Flag Tie to New U.S. Citizen — Arlington resident Marc Johnson was trying to sell a patriotic American flag tie on Ebay after cleaning out his closet, but ended up donating it to the would-be buyer when he learned that the buyer was planning to wear the tie to his swearing-in ceremony to become an American citizen. [Washington Post]

Arlington Sheriff’s Office Turning 150 — “The 150th anniversary of establishment of the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office will be commemorated on May 7 as part of National Correctional Employees Week. The Arlington Sheriff’s Office was established at a time when Arlington (then known as Alexandria County) was being separated from the town (now city) of Alexandria and into its own self-governing locality.” [InsideNova]

History of Harry W. Gray House — “On this day in Arlington history: May 1, 1881 Harry W. Gray and his family move into their house. He and his family took years to build it and it is the only one of its kind for miles… The house remains a sturdy structure, its longevity a testament to Gray’s workmanship.” [Facebook]

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Morning Notes

Arlington Diocese Releases List of Accused Priests — “Virginia’s two Catholic dioceses on Wednesday released lists of clergy who officials say were deemed ‘credibly accused’ of sexually abusing youth… The Diocese of Arlington, which covers the northeastern corner of Virginia, released a list of 16 names.” [Washington Post, Diocese of Arlington]

ACPD Restaurant Initiative Deemed a Success — “Arlington County, Virginia, is trying to fight drunken driving, and its method may prove to be a model for the nation.” [WTOP]

Cristol Quoted in the New Yorker — “‘We have an agenda that is about equity and anti-racist goals, and I don’t think he can effectively lead on it,’ [Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol] said, referring to the governor. As for Fairfax, she said, she had thought, after the first allegation, that ‘there might be a way forward for him to recognize harm done’ and stay in office. After the second, it seemed clear to her that there was an indefensible pattern of behavior.” [The New Yorker]

Arlington Man Arrested for 2016 Rape — “Alexandria Police have arrested a man who they say abducted and raped a lifeguard in broad daylight from a pool on South Pickett Street in 2016.” [Fox 5]

Hope’s Assisted-Living Bill Passes — “The derecho that came through Arlington several years ago inspired me to bring this bill and work to make sure, at a minimum, prospective residents knew whether their assisted living facility had a generator in case of loss of power.” [InsideNova, Twitter]

Sheriff’s Office Helping With Scholarships — “The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office is helping the Virginia Sheriffs’ Institute raise college scholarship funds for Virginia residents majoring in criminal justice.” [Arlington County]

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