Hillsboro Charter Academy Names Interim Principal

The Hillsboro Charter Academy Board of Directors has appointed veteran educator and Middleburg resident Craig Mueller to lead the public charter elementary school through the remainder of the school year. Mueller, who has held positions as a middle school assistant principal, high school principal, and Montessori School campus director, served as educational consultant to Middleburg Community Charter School in 2014/2015.

“The board of directors is very pleased to bring Craig in to lead our faculty, staff and scholars through the end of this school year,” said Board President Rebecca Baldwin Fuller. “We are confident he will continue to build upon the strong foundation created by our outstanding team at Hillsboro Charter Academy.”

Mueller replaces Dr. Virginia Minshew, a long-time Loudoun principal who has been serving as the school’s temporary, part-time interim principal during the extended leave of absence of Principal Trisha Ybarra-Peters—who subsequently resigned her position in February. Dr. Minshew, who had a prior commitment to assume another temporary position at the end of March, will work with Mueller as he steps into the position. The Hillsboro Charter Academy Board has initiated a nationwide search for a permanent principal who will be hired before the start of the 2017/2018 school year.

Mueller, a Virginia native who grew up in Vienna, holds a Masters Degree of Education from New Hampshire’s Plymouth State University and a Bachelor’s of Arts from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. He was principal at New Ipswich, New Hampshire’s Mascenic High School from 2001 to 2010 before becoming campus director at Chantilly’s Boyd Montessori School in October 2011. He has been a member of the Middleburg Community Charter School board of directors for three years.

Keep Leesburg Beautiful Campaign Begins April 1

The Town of Leesburg’s 13th annual “Keep Leesburg Beautiful” community clean-up and beautification campaign will begin on April 1and will run the entire month of April.
Keep Leesburg Beautiful is an opportunity for all Leesburg residents to get involved in helping clean up the Town’s streets, alleyways and streams,” said Mayor Kelly Burk. “I invite everyone to join us, the Leesburg Town Council, in picking up trash around town.   Come down to Town Hall for free orange vests, gloves and bags, join with your family, a church group, a civic group, or by yourself to pick up trash and help keep Leesburg beautiful.”

Again this year, the Town is asking for particular assistance with storm sewer inlet inventories. Last year, 119 people walked their neighborhoods and noted inlets that were blocked by vegetation and debris or needed repair. The Public Works and Capital Projects Department provided them with maps and inventory forms. After they returned the completed forms, the Street Division used that information to dispatch crews to address problems.
“Last year, volunteers identified 35 inlets that needed to be cleared or repaired,” said Renée LaFollette, Leesburg’s Director of Public Works and Capital Projects. “Blocked inlets are a primary cause of localized street and yard flooding during rainstorms. With over 6,000 storm sewer inlets in the Town, Town staff are hard-pressed to inspect every inlet, so these volunteer efforts go a long way to improving stormwater management in the Town.” For more information about the storm drain inventory program, including how to sign up, visit the Town website at www.leesburgva.gov/KLB.
The other major Keep Leesburg Beautiful program is litter collection throughout Town. Residents, neighborhood and community groups, and businesses are encouraged to participate by forming teams to collect litter along roadsides, stream beds and other public common areas. Groups and individuals interested in participating should visit the Town of Leesburg website for details about how to volunteer and suggestions for litter collection locations. The Town of Leesburg will provide safety vests, gloves and trash bags and will collect the filled bags and larger items like tires and appliances.
Each year, the Leesburg Town Council and Town staff hold a clean-up challenge as part of Keep Leesburg Beautiful month. The winners receive the “Golden Trash Can” award. Last year, the two groups collected a combined total of 1,520 pounds of trash. 

Purcellville Named Tree City USA

The Town of Purcellville has been named a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation in honor of its commitment to effective urban forest management.  This is Purcellville’s 10th year achieving this national recognition.
Mayor Fraser stated, “The Town of Purcellville takes great pride in this distinction as it confirms our commitment to the environment and the value of having a green and healthy community.”

Everyone benefits when elected officials, volunteers and committed citizens in communities like Purcellville make smart investments in urban forests,” said Matt Harris, Chief Executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Trees bring shade to our homes and beauty to our neighborhoods, along with numerous economic, social and environmental benefits.

Trees provide multiple benefits to a community when properly planted and maintained. They help to improve the visual appeal of a neighborhood, increase property values, reduce home cooling costs, remove air pollutants and provide wildlife habitat, among many other benefits. 

Tree City USA is a national program that began in 1976.  It is sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and National Association of State Foresters.  More information about Tree City USA can be found at www.arborday.org/TreeCityUSA.

Interruption In Loudoun County’s Online Services To Occur March 18-19

Loudoun County has scheduled a planned outage of the county’s computer network and applications and phone systems beginning at noon, Saturday, March 18. The planned outage is expected to last approximately 24 to 28 hours, ending between noon and 4:00 p.m., Sunday, March 19.
The planned outage will not affect the operation of critical public safety systems, such as the 911 emergency call center; however, the public’s ability to conduct some online transactions will be impacted. While the Loudoun County website, www.loudoun.gov, will be accessible during the planned outage, some online systems that are hosted on the website will not function. The systems that will be interrupted temporarily include, but are not limited to:

  • Tax payments
  • Credit card payments
  • RecTrac and WebTrac (registration and payment systems for the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services)
  • Dog licensing payments
  • Issuing of building permits and scheduling construction inspections
  • Online mapping/GIS platforms, including the Floodplain Mapping resource
  • Library online services, including access to customer accounts and ebooks
  • Land records
  • Some online forms

In addition, the county’s email system and telephones in county facilities will be interrupted temporarily during the planned outage. As a result, delivery of emails sent to county addresses will be delayed as will responses. While most county offices will be closed during the planned outage, some telephone lines at open facilities may be interrupted.

County facilities that are open to the public on weekends, such as those operated by the Departments of Animal Services and Parks, Recreation and Community Services and the Loudoun County Public Library will be open on their regular schedules during the planned outage. These facilities may make adjustments to on-site services to accommodate any interruptions in technology caused by the planned outage and to minimize the impact on the public.
The planned outage is necessary to repair and replace equipment damaged during electrical failures that occurred at a county facility in January.

Mobile Hope Awarded Grant To Help Homeless Youth

Last spring, Mobile Hope began experiencing an enormous increase in the number of young people (18-24 years of age) in need of its assistance. In response, it created its Critical/Crisis Care program.  Since many of these young people are homeless and facing many challenges, Mobile Hope decided that it needed to more effectively position itself to provide more extensive and dedicated case management and to offer more options for housing.  

To that end. it reached reached out to the Virginia Department of Housing (VHDA) to apply for a capacity building grant. It was recently awarded the grant.  The funding was awarded to create a strategic plan that will incorporate the needs of the 18-24-year-old age group using a Housing First model. 

Funding was also awarded to build a new database which will be designed to house client, volunteer and donor information all in one place.  This database will also allow Mobile Hope to record data in the Homeless Management Information system (HMIS). These two components will help Mobile Hope to more effectively support and grow its service delivery to this age group.  

Mobile Hope is dedicated to providing assistance to this at-risk, precariously housed and homeless group of young people. Even nationally, Mobile Hope is one of a very few organizations that support homeless youth.  Donations can be mailed to: P.O. Box 4135; Ashbury, VA 20148.

Catoctin Elementary Students Launch Drive To Fill Care Packages for Pediatric Cancer Patients

Fourth graders from Catoctin Elementary School in Leesburg are collecting care package items for Team Mathias. The care packages will be given to pediatric cancer patients and their families. The donation drive began on Monday, March 13, and will run through Thursday, April 6.
At the February 28 Leesburg Town Council Meeting, six students asked the Town Council for permission to place collection boxes at the Leesburg Town Hall and Ida Lee Park Recreation Center. In making their request, the students explained that the care packages cheer up kids undergoing treatment for cancer and help get their minds off their treatments. The care packages include items for all members of the family, even pets. Fourth grade teacher Sara Webber coordinated the student’s efforts.
The Town Council enthusiastically supported the students’ effort and praised their efforts. “I want to congratulate you and thank you for what you are doing,” said Kelly Burk, Leesburg’s Mayor. “I know it’s not easy to get up and speak.”
Donation boxes are located at the Leesburg Town Hall, Ida Lee Park Recreation Center, the Loudoun County Public Schools Administration Building, Catoctin Elementary School, J.L. Simpson Middle School and Loudoun County High School.  Items being collected include coloring books, crayons, markers, playing cards, word puzzle books, Sudoku books, gift cards, fleece blankets, travel size games, Legos, books and toys.
For more information about Team Mathias and their care package program, visit www.teammathias.org.

Lane Closures on Tysons Boulevard, Galleria Drive March 20 to 24

Lane closures will take place Monday, March 20, through Friday, March 24, on Tysons Boulevard and Galleria Drive near the Tysons Corner Metro Station to permit the realignment of the curb.

Drivers are asked to use caution and remain attentive to all signage, barricades and speed limits.

See below for more detailed information. All work is weather permitting.

Tysons Boulevard Southbound

When: Monday, March 20 – Thursday, March 23, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Friday, March 24, 9:30 a.m. to noon
What: Turning lane to left closed
Where: From north side of Galleria Drive to Route 123
Why: Curb realignment

Galleria Drive Eastbound

When: Monday, March 20 – Thursday, March 23, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Friday, March 24, 9:30 a.m. to noon
What: Turning lane farthest to left closed
Where: On approach to Tysons Boulevard
Why: Curb realignment

Leesburg Police Investigating an Abduction and a Robbery

Shortly before 6:00 p.m. on March 14, officers responded to the 1400 block of Campbell Court in reference to a possible abduction. The victim alleges that he was forced into a vehicle but was later able to jump out of the moving vehicle and call for help. The investigation resulted in the identification of two suspects along with the vehicle used in the abduction. The suspect vehicle was later located and one suspect was taken into custody along with a female companion. The second suspect was able to avoid apprehension. During the search for the second suspect, a 9-1-1 caller reported a robbery at the Exxon gas station located in the 900 block of Edwards Ferry Road. Officers responded and upon interviewing the clerk, it was determined that the suspect had attempted to rob the store but fled prior to officers arrival. A bloodhound from Fairfax County was requested and responded to assist but the K9 track yielded negative results.

The suspect has been identified as Victorious Minter of Leesburg.

The Leesburg Criminal Investigation Section is currently investigating this incident and asking anyone with any information to contact them at 703-771-4500.

If you have any information and wish to remain anonymous, please call the Leesburg Crime Line at 703-442-TIPS (8477). Information can also be sent using TIPSUBMIT via text. Text 274637 (CRIMES) and begin with LPDTIP.
Wanted - Victorious V. Minter

Loudoun County Online Auction Features Heaters, Ladders, Metal Lockers, Popcorn Machine & More

The Loudoun County government’s current online auction features a variety of government surplus items, including heaters, ladders, metal lockers, computers, books, DVDs, a popcorn machine and more. The auction will close at 12 noon, Thursday, March 16.

Detailed information and photographs of the items for sale are online.

Loudoun County sells selected items online through Public Surplus, which was created specifically for public agencies. Anyone interested in bidding on the items must be registered with www.publicsurplus.com. Registration is free, however, a ten percent buyer’s premium is charged to all purchases. Loudoun County government and school employees are subject to bidding limitations under the auction terms and conditions, which are available on the Public Surplus site.

Loudoun County has new hours for buyers to pick up their items at 14 Cardinal Park Drive, Suite 106, in Leesburg. Items must be picked up by appointment between 9:00 a.m. and noon or from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. The dates for items to be picked up are noted on each auction item listed on the Loudoun County auction site.

More information about the sale of Loudoun County government surplus items is online at www.loudoun.gov/surplus.

Purcellville Police Blotter – Week of March 2, 2017

03/02/2017 – Kirkbridge Ct. Suspicious Event

Complainant came home and found a hole in their ceiling. The home was checked and there were no signs of forced entry, and nothing was taken.

03/02/2017- Queenscliff Ct. Identity Theft

An unknown person used the victim’s identity to open a Comcast account. A letter from a collection agency made the victim aware. The victim believes this has occurred from his identity being stolen years prior.

3/03/2017- 300 Block S. 12th Street Suspicious Event

During the hours of Midnight and 0400 hours, a person was heard yelling outside a residence. It was discovered that someone attempted to gain entry into a locked vehicle.

03/05/2017- 1000 E. Main St Shoplifting

Sherry Anne Simpson, 59 years old of Charles Town, West Virginia was arrested and taken into custody for shoplifting at the Giant Food Store. She was transported to the Adult Detention Center and is being held.

03/06/2017- Swan Point Ct. Domestic Dispute/ Crisis Intervention Call

Officers were dispatched to the residence for a Domestic dispute. The family member damaged property inside the home and left. He was located by officers and had injuries that required rescue to respond. He was transported to the hospital and voluntarily checked himself in for evaluation.

03/07/2017- Route 7 and Berlin Turnpike DUI

Officer had pulled over a vehicle for speeding on Route 7. It was determined Galina Petrovna Barefoot, of Purcellville, was driving while intoxicated. She was arrested for DUI and transported to the Adult Detention Center.

03/07/2017- Woodgrove High School Destruction of Property

Officers were dispatched to Woodgrove High School for a report of destruction of property. It was determined that a faculty member’s vehicle had a window smashed out. Investigation is continuing.

Purcellville Emergency Meeting Postponed to March 10

At the end of the business day on Monday, March 6, Purcellville Mayor Kwasi Fraser called for an emergency meeting for 7:00 p.m. the same evening. The subject given for the meeting was to discuss an alleged threat a Town government employee made against a Town Council Member.

A majority vote is needed to proceed in a closed session meeting. However, in this case, the Town Council voted 4-3 against going into executive session. Council Members Doug McCollum, Ryan Cool, Nedim Ogelman and Chris Bledsoe voted against going into the closed session, and Mayor Fraser, Vice-Mayor Karen Jimmerson and Council Member Kelli Grim voted for the motion. The Council then voted unanimously to reschedule the meeting for Friday March 10, 7:00 p.m.

For meetings in general, Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act requires the public body to give three days notice. But, emergency meetings are exempt from this rule and can be called and held on the same day.

Town Attorney Sally Hankins quoted the FOIA “emergency” definition from the Virginia code: “Emergency means an unforeseen circumstance rendering the notice required by this chapter impossible or impracticable and which circumstance requires immediate action.”

McCollum argued that the situation did not rise to be defined as an emergency. He asked Grim to recuse herself and not attend the meeting as she was either a complainant or a witness.

After the meeting, Grim told the Blue Ridge Leader that McCollum was wrong on all accounts. She declined to say anything further.

Mayor Fraser said, “The definition of emergency is subjective. If you ask any one of us on this council, we might each have a different definition of what constitutes an emergency.” He continued, “I believe an alleged threat of bodily harm to a council member is an emergency.”

Grim said that the situation required immediate action and previous councils have called emergency meetings for the purchase of properties and legal matters. She said, “They were far less urgent or critical matters, and the same town manager and a different town attorney did not object to them.”

Fraser asked Town Attorney Sally Hankins if something is defined as an emergency, does the three-day rule to call a meeting apply. Her answer was no.

Strategy Session Tug of War

Grim pointed out that the residential portion of Vineyard Square (the John Chapman and Mark Nelis development on 21st Street) is 40 condos. “So we lost 39 availabilities, and that falls back to policy… that is 39 availabilities that we have lost. And that is approximately $2 million.”
– Council Member Kelli Grim

On February 22, the Purcellville Town Council held a second Special Financial Strategy Session meeting with their two consultants, David Rose of Davenport, and Eric Callocchia of Municipal and Financial Services Group. During the previous meeting, the Council asked the consultants to return with alternative scenarios, given the broad agreement that growth will not reduce the debt and utility rate burden.

However, the follow-up meeting was contentious, with the consultants backtracking on the assertion that you can’t grow out of debt, and pressing a familiar growth agenda. Members of the Town Council challenged the reversal, pressing the consultants to come up with innovative alternatives for reducing debt and utility rate burdens on citizens, by reducing costs and monetizing the Towns substantial assets.

This meeting was a follow-up with instructions from the Town Council to bring forward multiple concepts for utility rate structures and tiers, and debt finance and consolidation options to tackle the two large balloon payments due in 2020 and 2021. The previous Lazaro Town Council incurred, and then refinanced, most of its existing debt and repackaged it in restrictive nonprofit bonds.

The Town debt is currently just under $60 million. There are two types of debt: tax-supported debt consisting of the General Fund, and Parks and Recreation Fund, totaling $18.1 million; and the self-supported utility debt, consisting of the Water and Sewer Fund totaling $41.3 million. The current Town Council has not added to the debt, but instead has lowered it by well over $1 million.

The difference between the two debts is the tax-supported debt comes primarily from General Fund revenues, and the self-supporting utility debt comes from user fee rates and other charges.

Currently, the Fireman’s Field income is restricted by the nature of the nonprofit bonds and the way the current management contract is structured. If the debt is not refinanced, the other option is to change how the ball fields and the skating rink are managed. The Town could pay a firm a flat rate to manage the properties, allowing the Town to use the revenue for maintenance and debt reduction.

The recurring narrative of both consultants, along with Town Manager Rob Lohr, concentrated on growth as the primary means to paying down the Town debt. “You have a bunch of debt outstanding, no doubt about it,” said Rose.

Mayor Kwasi Fraser asked the consultants to consider a variety of operational efficiencies as part of a solution to manage the town’s high debt and utility rates.

Council Member Nedim Ogelman said, “So, you are saying if we grew a lot, that wouldn’t increase the infrastructure costs?” Rose replied, “We’ll talk about that later.” Ogelman continued, “I don’t think that you are necessarily capturing the whole variety of potential negative externalities … Did you look at other things, like cutting our government expenditures?” He pointed out that the Town has roughly 9,000 residents and, “maybe we are operating like a Town that serves 25,000 people instead of 9,000 people.” Ogelman was referring to a February statement made by Lohr who said he runs the Town as if it were a town of 25,000 residents.

Rose responded, “Whether you have one town manager or seven town managers, that wouldn’t have an impact on the Enterprise Fund.” Ogelman replied, “It will have an impact on the General Fund. But, these are all parts of our debt. Can we cut some of the expenses? Can we bring these costs down?”

“Let’s say you get additional houses, there are additional cars, there are additional other kinds of utilities that have to come in. There is additional wear and tear; there is additional stress on citizens, like traffic. You need additional staff to deal with the additional houses. I want to make sure that we are not looking at something as if there are no costs to it,” said Ogelman.

“The second thing I want to say is I am sensitive to this issue because there is a narrative politically in our town that tries to push the idea that there are no solutions other than significant additional growth … and I am not just willing to accept that on its face,” said Ogelman. Rose responded, “Maybe it does require one or two new policemen or another public works person, and those things have to be taken into account.”

Council Member Kelli Grim suggested using a portion of the Meals Tax to pay down the debt. “Two percent of the Meals Tax could be used for capital and maintenance, for example,” said Grim. Rose answered, “You don’t rob Peter to pay Paul.” However, Grim pointed out that the Lazaro Council used one percent of the Meals Tax to pay for legal fees.

Fraser echoed this point saying that the Meals Tax could be used for the General Fund and the Utility Fund as long as it does not create a deficit in another fund. “Right?” he asked. Rose confirmed that it can be used for any fund. But, for years Lohr had been saying that the funds could not be mixed.

“When you are talking about the Meals Tax and this is robbing Peter to pay Paul concept, what is the analogy for chargebacks? Is that also robbing Peter to pay Paul?” asked Ogelman. Rose said that he wasn’t “qualified enough to give an answer on that one.”

Chargebacks are a portion of expenditures, charged to different funds, for staff work, since staff members do multiple jobs in different departments. Since the Town has separate funds and they are supposed to be self-supporting, the Town bills that way. The Town currently charges each fund $500,000 (General and Sewer) for the chargebacks, which started in 20008.

Grim pointed out that the residential portion of Vineyard Square (the John Chapman and Mark Nelis development on 21st Street) is 40 condos. “So we lost 39 availabilities, and that falls back to policy… that is 39 availabilities that we have lost. And that is approximately $2 million. So if there is a policy that hurts us – there is a policy that allowed that.”

Grim was referring to managements recommendation of charging a single tap fee for the 40 condos, instead of separately metered taps for each of them. Lohr said, “We never really dealt with condominiums, same way with apartments. Condominiums are relatively new in western Loudoun.”

The growth scenario stuck throughout the whole meeting with Rose repeating that the Town has to grow. Ogelman said, “Of course, this all just assumes the closed system. That is to say your whole model is operating in the context of just water and sewer, not all other aspects of a town.” “Absolutely,” replied Callocchia.

“More houses bring additional service needs, and other infrastructure and capital improvement needs,” said Ogelman. “But so, the real challenge we are facing is not how to deal with this closed system that has capital improvement costs and has scale issues. To me, the real issue is how do you look at the costs and potential added revenue from the whole system, and how can we overcome the challenges of getting that potential revenue, and being able to invest it in our sewer and utility. That is the real challenge that we are facing,” said Ogelman.

Ladies Board Seeking Nursing Scholarship Applicants

The Ladies Board of Inova Loudoun Hospital is now accepting applications for nursing school tuition assistance. Scholarships are available to eligible students in various programs of study, including degrees at the associate, bachelor, master’s and doctoral levels. Since the Nursing Scholarship Fund was created in 1959, nearly 1,100 scholarships have been awarded, totaling over $1,500,000. 

Qualified applicants must: 

  • Reside or work in Loudoun County
  • Be enrolled in or accepted into an accredited school of nursing
  • Have a 3.0 cumulative grade point average 
  • Have completed 1 semester of nursing school or 30 undergraduate college credits.

Applications and more information are available online at ladiesboard.org or by calling 703-777-6357. The deadline for applications is April 11.