A 54-year-old Alexandria woman died at the scene of a crash Friday, after veering her Dodge Ram off Interstate 95 in Hanover County and into a Volvo being repaired by its owner on the shoulder of the road. (Courtesy VSP)

“Candace S. Fields-Rogers, 54, of Alexandria, Va., was driving the Ram,” Virginia State Police reported. “She was wearing a seatbelt. She succumbed to her injuries onscene.”

The driver of the Volvo was underneath his car making repairs when the crash occurred near the 93-mile marker. He was sent to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. No one else was injured, and an investigation into the crash is ongoing, police said.

Fields-Rogers leaves behind a husband and two children. Last year, she launched a GoFundMe campaign to help her husband, a U.S. Army veteran with a traumatic brain injury. She raised $10,000 of her $50,000 goal for the still-open fundraiser.

Courtesy VSP

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It was a surprising week in Alexandria.

Our top story by far was on the venomous rattlesnake found in Old Town on Sunday. The timber snake, which also goes by the name American Viper, was discovered in the 400 block of Gibbon Street — a few blocks from the waterfront. It didn’t bite anyone, and was apprehended by the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria’s Animal Services team and later moved to a wildlife facility in Northern Virginia.

This Saturday, June 19,  is also Juneteenth, and the new federal holiday recognizes the end of slavery in the U.S. The City recognized Juneteenth on Friday, and most government offices and facilities were closed. This weekend, the Alexandria Black History Museum is partnering with Washington Revels Jubilee Voices — a group that preserves local Black traditions through a cappella music, dramatic performances and dance — for a virtual Juneteenth Celebration.

Meanwhile, in-person dramatic and musical performances are being planned for July. The Little Theatre of Alexandria is expanding capacity with their new lineup of shows, and the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra will resume in-person performing in a reduced program at the City’s birthday celebration on the waterfront on July 10.

In other good news, a pair of T.C. Williams High School Titans raised more than $4,800 to attend the Outdoor Nationals at the University of Oregon on July 1.

In this week’s poll, we asked readers how they think the millions of first allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funds should be spent, as City Council will conduct a public hearing on how to spend it on Saturday. After a rash of flooding incidents last year, a majority of the respondents want the funds prioritized for waterway maintenance.

This Sunday is also Father’s Day, and a number of Alexandria businesses are offering unique specials.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. JUST IN: Rarity as American Viper Rattlesnake found in Old Town
  2. Captain Sean Casey wins Democratic primary and is running unopposed for Sheriff in November
  3. Woman assaulted by mob and pepper-sprayed in Old Town North
  4. Man dies of apparent overdose at coworking office in Old Town
  5. T.C. Williams High School’s final graduating class walks the stage
  6. Alexandria Fire Department rescues woman from stalled car, Flash Flood Watch in effect
  7. City launches Duke Street transit overhaul process
  8. For Taco Bamba owner, newly announced Landmark location is a homecoming
  9. Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
  10. Here’s what to do when you find dead birds amid recent epidemic
  11. Java Grill closed until further notice in Old Town

Have a safe weekend! 

Courtesy AWLA/Twitter 

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If you’ve traveled along Duke Street during rush hour, you probably recognize the intersection above, and might even have a visceral reaction to it. The one-late turn from Duke Street onto Telegraph Road, and by extension to the Beltway, faces frequent backups not only along Duke Street, but in surrounding neighborhoods packed with cut-through traffic.

The bad news: the Duke Street transit overhaul isn’t going to touch that intersection.

The good news: the city says the intersection will be considered as part of a separate project launching later this year.

Jill Hoffman, a resident of the Taylor Run neighborhood just north of Duke Street, said that over the last several years navigation apps have diverted traffic off the crowded Duke Street onto smaller, residential streets that can’t handle the traffic.

“If you live on West Taylor Run, you cannot get out of your driveway during rush hour,” Hoffman said. “What has happened over the years is a lot of cut-through traffic has bailed off arterials and is using our neighborhood as a cut-through to get to that Beltway entrance. The reason they do that is because if you come down Quaker or Duke streets, the chokepoint is that intersection.”

In a presentation from 2019, city staff identified the intersection as a “high crash location” as part of the city’s Vision Zero crash analysis. In addition to the backup onto neighborhood streets, the city recognized issues of weaving through intersections and illegal left turns out of the right-turn only-lane of West Telegraph Road.

“We want to have an engineer assess the problems — or the problems,” Hoffman said. “During rush hour, this area of Alexandria comes to a standstill. It has significantly affected the quality of life… I want an engineer. Not BPAC, not constituents who think they know what’s going on, I want engineers to review that intersection and see if it can flow better — and to do that before anything changes on Duke Street, since it’s the single biggest problem on Duke Street.”

But for those hoping the Duke Street In Motion project — which launches its community outreach phase next — might help solve the problem: no dice.

“The scope of this project is not addressing the cut through and Telegraph Road interchange,” Alexandria communications officer Andrea Blackford said. “Duke Street In Motion, per grant funding, is focusing on transit (bus) improvements. Those other two topics are part of a separate project called Duke Street and West Taylor Run Project.”

The city said the troubled intersection will see progress later this year, however. The Duke Street and West Taylor Run Project will be conducting transportation analysis to determine short-term and long-term improvements for both the Duke Street and Telegraph Road interchange and the Duke Street and West Taylor Run Parkway intersection.

“In addition, the project includes design plans for the preferred alternative, which will lead to construction in 2024,” Blackford said. “Community outreach for the project is anticipated to start in fall 2021. For more information or for regular updates, please visit the city’s Duke Street and West Taylor Run Project Webpage.

Still, for Hoffman, putting the intersection improvements after the transit project casts a pall over the process.

“For me: if we want to have that conversation fine, but I’m opposed to having the conversation without addressing the root cause of the pain which is making the problem worse,” Hoffman said. “We’re just trying to get relief. We want the city to finally prioritize the root cause of the problem.”

Via Google Maps

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Despite a year of setbacks that included vocal community disagreement with Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, both from the community and within the school system, the School Board rallied around him and approved renewal of his contract.

The new contract renews Hutchings’ role in ACPS through June 30, 2025. During the discussion Thursday night, School Board members repeatedly praised his handling of the Coronavirus pandemic over the last year.

“I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge Dr. Hutchings,” said School Board member Michelle Rief. “He had to grapple with uncertainty of COVID and changing guidance from CDC… There’s no precedent or playbook on how to lead school division through global pandemic. Dr. Hutchings, you got us through this.”

Rief praised Hutchings’ work on helping to provide meals, laptops, and internet service for students who needed it.

“The past year has not been easy on anyone,” Rief said, “but we have made it to the end of the school year and are on a path to full reopening in the fall.”

The rest of the School Board more-or-less mirrored Rief’s comments, with some noting Hutchings’ present at the school as a relief from the school system’s frequent struggles with turnover.

“It’s easy to say in hindsight what this year could have or should have been,” said School Board member Veronica Nolan. “For context, this time last year, we were looking for eggs and toilet paper… I think it’s amazing what this team at ACPS has done together. That continuity is so important.”

Ramee Gentry noted that Hutchings’ tenure comes after a time when ACPS had three superintendents over five years. Another Superintendent was dumped by the School Board in 2007 in the wake of a DUI and rapidly increasing operations costs.

“ACPS has not had continuity [of leadership] for years,” Gentry said. “Turnover in superintendents leads to turnover in staff. When you do not have staff continuity, where they feel sure about where they are going, that ship isn’t going anywhere because it’s not steering in any direction.”

Hutchings’ faced his own turnover in staff — most notably the from former ACPS Chief Operating Officer Mignon Anthony who retired and published a damning letter about ACPS leadership in the Alexandria Times.

At the Board meeting, Hutchings passed the praise onto his staff.

“I need our community to know I am nothing without our team,” Hutchings said. “We are not able to accomplish anything in ACPS without our team. I am probably the most blessed superintendent in the world. I have people on my right, my left, my front my back. Our team comes together and we make it happen. We encourage each other and support each other. Thank you for continuously doing that on our behalf.”

Hutchings also thanked the board for their work over the last year, recalling individual memories and qualities of each Board Member.

“This is the best board that I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve worked with several boards in the past eight years,” Hutchings said. “This board, when you talk about courage, boldness, vision, integrity, passion: that is exactly what we have here. I tell our staff that every opportunity we get how thankful we are to have that. This is a second contract for me in the place that made me who I am today. The ultimate gift in my life is this job. I appreciate that and I thank you all.”

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The pandemic is over, right? Not for Volunteer Alexandria.

The nonprofit is still in the thick of finding volunteers to assist with food distributions, in addition to vaccination pod workers and guardians at assisted living facilities.

“We are actually seen a decrease in new people registering…only 114 people, which is really low for us,” Volunteer Alexandria’s Executive Director Marion Brunken told ALXnow. “We are still in need of people who are able to donate time to assist with food and meal distributions – ALIVE!, ACPS, and CASA Chirilagua all need people to assist.”

Brunken said there were 224 registered volunteers in April and 187 in March, and that she is now looking at a 30% shortage in school meal distribution volunteers.

“We need hundreds of people per week,” Brunken said. “Because, tutoring, mentoring — those are so important. Seniors always need food delivered, no matter if the pandemic is over or not. More people are in need now than ever. We still deliver food. We still have after school programs, and now we’re going to the summer camps, so we need to staff those as well.”

Register to volunteer here.

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The Little Theatre of Alexandria is expanding capacity and easing restrictions, but you still have to wear face masks when the 2021-22 season begins next month with Neil Simon’s Rumors.

LTA is expanding capacity to 145 patrons in LTA’s 215-seat capacity venue at 600 Wolfe Street in Old Town. Face masks will still be required for members of the audience, and the plan is to return to full capacity in January.

“The seating capacity for Rumors, Fences, Wait Until Dark and A Christmas Carol will increase to 145 patrons per performance,” LTA’s spokesperson Rachel Alberts told ALXnow. “Up to 2 patrons will sit together with one empty seat between each pair. Masks will still be required for the new season. Starting with our January musical Bright Star and continuing with Blue Stockings and Prelude to a Kiss, our plan is to go back to full capacity seating with no social distancing.”

The Little Theatre reopened last September with socially distant performances. Their first show back after the shutdown — Love Letters — featured two married actors onstage, and only allowed 40 audience members. There were also no bathroom breaks, intermission or concessions.

“We anticipate that the situation will continue to evolve (presumably for the better), allowing us to further ease restrictions soon,” LTA said in a press release. “All audience members are required to wear face masks. If a patron removes his or her face mask, we will ask them to put it back on. If it happens a second time, we will stop the show and ask them to leave.”

LTA is requiring all staff to be vaccinated, including actors and crew, by August 17.

“Put plainly, if you want to work at LTA after August 17, you must be vaccinated and be prepared to prove it,” LTA said in the release. “The most important benefit, of course, is that everyone in the LTA community–employees, contractors, teachers, students, actors, designers and crew, and volunteers–can all be confident that working at LTA is safe!”

Courtesy LTA

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Morning Notes

Alexandria government drops mask requirement — “Starting on June 15, fully vaccinated visitors and employees who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to wear a mask or practice physical distancing in City of Alexandria government facilities. Individuals who wish to wear a mask or practice physical distancing may continue to do so. Those who have not been fully vaccinated should continue to wear a mask and maintain six feet of physical distancing in city government facilities.” [Patch]

Captain Gregory’s eyes expansion — “The popular spot is expanding, looking to add about a dozen more seats… They’ll make use of unused kitchen space and likely complete the additional space by the fall.” [Alexandria Living]

How NOVA’s esports program found unexpected success during the pandemic — “NOVA’s players come from throughout the region, but all 51 of them are united by their passion for and skill in video games.” [Alex Times]

Today’s weather — “Mostly sunny skies. High 88F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph… Partly cloudy in the evening with more clouds for later at night. Low 71F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Child watch attendant — “The YMCA Alexandria invites you to apply for the Child Watch Attendant position. We are looking for a responsible and fun candidate to supervise the children and all activities by creating a fun, enriching, and safe environment for all children.” [Indeed]

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A stretch of the Carlyle neighborhood that’s been mostly empty fields could see its mixed-use development transformation approved over the next month.

The sweeping redevelopment of the east end of Eisenhower Avenue is headed to the Planning Commission next Thursday (June 24) before going to the City Council on Tuesday, July 6.

The plan is to construct four residential tower buildings with around 1,414 units and up to 15,000 square feet of retail. The site will also have a four or five story parking garage and 5 acres of open space.

A permit was originally approved for the project in 2012 as a primarily office-complex, but in 2014 concerns about finding a sizable enough office tenant led to the project being redesigned as residential and retail. The office space was halved and that, along with a potential hotel-use, are being considered as potential uses.

The latest version of the project was submitted for review last July. The project also features a visually distinct garden-design, with the urban greenery sloping down into a recreational field.

Courtesy City of Alexandria

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Alexandria’s history with slavery makes Juneteenth a particularly important holiday.

June 19 recognizes the emancipation of slaves in the United States, and the date is expected to soon be a federal holiday, even though Alexandria has recognized it since 2019.

But because June 19 falls on a Saturday this year, the City is also recognizing Friday, June 18, as a holiday.

“We should all be looking at ways that we can help our community, especially in the context of a pandemic which has particularly ravaged communities of color,” said Audrey David, executive director of the Alexandria City Black History Museum, in a recent blog post, “Start by exploring the Black History Museum’s Preserving Their Names online only exhibition, released to coincide with the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, which features images of objects and digital photographs from the new Black Lives Remembered Collection.”

The Alexandria Black History Museum is also presenting a virtual performance on Saturday with the Washington Revels Jubilee Voices.

The holiday means most, but not all, City employees will have Friday off. Parking restrictions will also be lifted at legal parking spaces throughout the city, however Alexandria City Public Schools will be open.

What’s open

City-run facilities and services that will be open include:

Closures

The following City services are closed Friday:

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Updated at 12:30 p.m. Peter Edwards was found safe at an auto shop in the 400 block of S. Van Dorn Street.

Alexandria Police combed the West End for the missing 44-year-old man with severe intellectual disabilities.

Police said that Edwards was last seen at around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday night in the 600 block of Shilling Street, which is near the Van Dorn Metro station. A police helicopter was also used to try and locate him.

“He’s not considered dangerous,” said APD senior communication officer Amanda Paga. “We don’t believe he took public transportation. He’s known to just kind of stay in the area.”

Paga said that this is the first time that Edwards has been able to get away unsupervised for an entire evening.

Edwards walks with a limp and is five-feet-two-inches tall and 120 pounds.

Police said he frequents the area of S. Van Dorn Street and Edsall Road, which is near the McDonald’s at 505 S. Van Dorn Street. Police tweeted a photo of Edwards standing in line at the McDonald’s at 11 a.m.

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