Newsletter

What a week in Alexandria.

Public uproar over Sunday’s flooding spilled out throughout this week, which continued to be threatened by near-daily flash flood advisories from the National Weather Service.

Our top story was on Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne, who criticized City Manager Mark Jinks on the city’s stormwater infrastructure. Mayor Justin Wilson says that multiple projects are underway and take time, and that the city is now looking into whether spot improvements and any other projects can be accelerated.

The group DrainALX has also gained popularity, as it continues to catalog stormwater issues and complaints. One Del Ray resident even told us that she’s turned to therapy after repeatedly spending thousands on a continually ruined basement.

Our weekly poll also found 55% of respondents (193 people) have experienced flood damage to their homes, 14% (74 people) have experienced other sorts of property damage and 31% (159 votes) have never had any property damaged by a storm in the city.

This weekend’s forecast is partly cloudy with a 50% chance of scattered thunderstorms on Saturday afternoon, followed by a 40% chance of thunderstorms Sunday night.

School issues

The week before school starts, the School Board unanimously approved Thursday night the requirement that ACPS staffers get the coronavirus vaccine.

“We do have authority to require testing and require vaccinations,” Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said at the board meeting. “However, there have been no cases where someone has contested that requirement. That has not occurred as of yet, and I’m sure it’s going to begin soon…”

In the meantime, Alexandria is also prepping COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. As Alexandria looks to accelerate stormwater projects, Sheriff gives city manager a D-
  2. The Four Mile Run Bridge in Arlandria will not fully reopen until fall 2025
  3. Institute for Defense Analyses announces Potomac Yard move-in later this year
  4. Woman behind DrainALX campaign shares frustrations and hopes from locals after Sunday flood
  5. HUD Secretary Fudge visits Alexandria, says affordable housing is a Biden Administration priority
  6. New census shows Alexandria not majority-white
  7. Alexandria School Board to discuss mandatory vaccinations for staffers this week
  8. After rampant flooding over weekend, another Flash Flood Watch is in effect for Alexandria
  9. Poll: Have you gotten the infamous mite bite in Alexandria?
  10. Alexandria Fire Department struggling with staffing shortage and forced overtime
  11. Stuck in quandary, Del Ray flooding victim seeks therapy

Have a safe weekend!

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(Updated 7:15 p.m.) The Alexandria Fire Department responded to 21 weather-related calls for service in the massive thunderstorm early Sunday morning, including three rescues that saved several people.

Two of the rescues were in Alexandria — one vehicle on N. Quaker Lane and a stalled vehicle on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, AFD senior public information officer Raytevia Evans told ALXnow.

The third incident was a swift water rescue in Fairfax County, Evans said.

“Do not drive in standing water,” Evans told ALXnow. “And please sign up for emergency alerts in the city.”

Evans said AFD is working in coordination with the Alexandria Office of Emergency Management to respond to emergency calls for service.

The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Warning for Alexandria that remains in effect until 8:15 p.m.

The whole week ahead looks rainy.

According to NWS:

This Afternoon
Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Some of the storms could produce heavy rain. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 82. East wind around 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.
Tonight
Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm before 7pm, then scattered showers and thunderstorms after 7pm. Some of the storms could produce heavy rain. Cloudy, with a low around 73. Southeast wind around 7 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.
Tuesday
A chance of showers and thunderstorms before 8am, then a slight chance of showers between 8am and 11am, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms after 11am. Cloudy, with a high near 87. South wind 5 to 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Tuesday Night
A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 74. Southeast wind around 6 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Wednesday
A chance of showers, then showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm after 2pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 86. Southeast wind 7 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Wednesday Night
Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm before 2am, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms after 2am. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 74. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Thursday
A chance of showers, then showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm after 2pm. Mostly sunny, with a high near 88. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Thursday Night
Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm before 8pm, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms between 8pm and 2am. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 73. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Friday
A chance of showers after 2pm. Mostly sunny, with a high near 87. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Friday Night
A chance of showers before 8pm. Partly cloudy, with a low around 72. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Saturday
A chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 89. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Saturday Night
A chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 72. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Sunday
A chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 89. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Sunday Night
A chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 72. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Monday
Mostly sunny, with a high near 89.
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Morning Notes

Police say no foul play suspected after body found in Four Mile Run Park — “Police activity in park behind 3900 block of Mt. Vernon has cleared. An adult male subject was found in the park. At this time, it does not appear to be suspicious. This is a Medical Examiner’s case.” [Twitter]

Fire Chief Smedley promotes staff — “In addition to promoting Lt. Sharpe and EMS Lt. Prodoehl, @SmedleyCorey promoted 18 other Lieutenants, EMS Lieutenants, and Captains. We’re celebrating the promotion of about 8% of our department. Congratulations to our new officers and thank you for everything you do!” [Twitter]

Ballyshaners to celebrate halfway point to St. Patrick’s Day — “On Saturday, September 18, from 11am-7pm, local Irish group The Ballyshaners welcome you to celebrate the halfway point to Saint Patrick’s Day.”

The Art League showcases the work of Bryan Sieling — “Enjoy collecting objects you’ve found? There is a new exhibit at The Art League Gallery on display through Sept.5 that takes collecting one step farther. Artist Bryan Sieling transforms objects into amazing works.” [Zebra]

Today’s weather — “Showers early then scattered thunderstorms developing later in the day. High near 80F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60%… Considerable cloudiness with occasional rain showers. Low 73F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Full-time assistant store manager at Aldi — “When you join our team as an Assistant Store Manager, you’ll take on key store management responsibilities including assisting with supervising day-to-day store activities, ensuring overall store performance, managing schedules, and developing operational action plans while identifying training opportunities to develop and grow the team.” [Indeed]

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The Alexandria Fire Department is buckling under the strain of a staffing shortage and forced overtime, as firefighters, EMTs and medics say that their operations are not sustainable.

Alexandria Fire Chief Corey Smedley says that staffing shortages within the department, which underwent a restructuring in June,  is resulting in an uptick in holdovers (forced overtime).

“Since 2016, The Alexandria Fire Department has been utilizing holdovers in order to maintain critical staffing of emergency medical and fire personnel citywide,” Smedley told ALXnow. “AFD has experienced high attrition rates, staffing relief challenges, and competition from surrounding fire departments.”

Alexandria first responders clocked in more than 8,500 overtime hours in June, according to the local chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

“We did this to ensure ALL residents of Alexandria City had access to the first responders they need when emergencies occur,” the IAFF Local 2141 said on social media. “There is no quick fix to solve this issue… At this point, we need to hire and train at least 35 additional Advanced Life Support staff members just to break even.”

Mayor Justin Wilson said “a perfect storm of factors” is leading to the crunch.

“The recent holdovers are quite disruptive for our staff and their families,” Wilson said. “Over the past several years, the City has grown Fire Department staffing, as we have moved to 4-person staffing (per engine). We have not included adequate relief staffing as we have grown positions, our dual role-firefighter/medic conversions have been slower than we would like, and we have a number of reassignments right now. Our Fire Department leadership is taking immediate actions to address the crunch we’re seeing this summer.”

Smedley says he is working on contingencies to relieve his staff. In the meantime, without any concrete moves from the city it looks like the earliest the department will start to see some relief is next spring, as the Department’s six-month training academy with 28 new recruits will kick off next month. Additionally, AFD needs to hire six funded staffing relief positions, while 20 other relief positions remain unfunded.

The Fire Department has been plagued by burnout and low morale, as AFD employees are among the lowest paid in the region. AFD currently has 285 employees, and 261 of them sworn officers. In fact, to break even the department says it needs 48 additional sworn staffers.

The union says that the reorganization plan isn’t working.

“The department reorganization plan is failing and being carried on the backs of our members and their families,” the union said in another post. “Requiring rank and file first responders to do 24 hours of forced overtime per week is unsustainable to our city and our department.”

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Morning Notes

Galactic Panther Art Gallery to open on King Street in Old Town — “Galactic Panther, a new art gallery at 1303 King St. in Alexandria, will open in early August. The art gallery is a partnership between internationally-exhibiting artist Eli Pollard and Erik Meundel, who is the current owner of ESP Tea & Coffee.” [Alexandria Living]

Alexandria Fire Department graduates three recruit schools — “The Alexandria Fire Department officially graduated Recruit School 49 on Thursday, July 22, and Recruit Schools 50 and 51 on Friday, July 23 at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial after postponing the ceremonies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. AFD welcomed and celebrated 45 new firefighter/EMTs.” [Patch]

Longtime Alexandrian librarian dies at age 100 — “Gladys Howard Davis, who was born on June 7, 1921 and raised in Alexandria, Virginia, where she was one of ten children born to Ezekial and Elizabeth “Winnie” Pollard Howard, was a witness to history and significant changes in her hometown where she helped educate generations of Alexandrians during her 60-plus years of service to the Alexandria Library system. She passed away July 10, 2021.” [Zebra]

Hot? Alexandria reopens cooling centers — “Looking to cool off? The City offers several locations as options to residents who may not have cooling in their homes, including recreation centers and libraries, as well as assistance for adults 60+ and some low-income households.” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Mainly sunny. High 94F. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph… A mostly clear sky. Low 72F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Temporary pool operator — “In pursuit of service excellence, the Temporary Pool Operator provides facility monitoring for an aquatic environment for patrons of all ages and background. This position will ensure the safety of all patrons, ensure proper pool chemistry, repair and inspect pool pumps, filters, and plumbing, provide exceptional customer service, and other duties assigned. Pool operators also perform as lifeguards and must have lifeguard credentials. Pool Operators are the aquatics shift leader and provide direction to lifeguards on their shift.” [Indeed]

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What a hot week in Alexandria.

With temperatures hovering in the mid-90s, the week started with a power outage at a 17-story apartment building in Landmark area. The outage lasted five days and residents had to find accommodations until the building reopened Friday afternoon.

On the coronavirus front, Alexandria experienced a slight uptick, and the health department says unvaccinated residents account for a majority of new cases. There have been 39 new cases reported so far this month in the city, and 13 cases were reported on July 9. That was the biggest single-day jump since May 20, when 18 new cases were reported.

In school news, this week we spoke with Alexandria High School Principal Peter Balas, who said that his staff are ready to fully reopen for full-time in-person instruction when the 2021-2022 school year starts on August 24.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Here’s the plan for Alexandria’s birthday celebration this weekend
  2. City Council approves massive high-rise project without affordable housing near Eisenhower Metro station
  3. ‘Call Your Mother Deli’ signs lease in Old Town
  4. Del. Mark Levine raises eyebrows with letter that passes buck on constituent service
  5. Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
  6. Alexandria City High School is ready to reopen at full capacity next month, principal says
  7. School Board Member Jacinta Greene faces reelection, wants race relations taught in ACPS
  8. Tropical Storm Elsa’s dregs tear through southern Alexandria
  9. Poll: Do you agree with reallocation of school resource officer funding?
  10. West End high-rise apartment building evacuated after power outage
  11. The Alexandria Police, Sheriff’s Office and Fire Department all want raises

Have a safe weekend!

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After a break last year, National Night Out is returning on Tuesday, August 3.

The annual community-building campaign brings the Alexandria Police Department, Fire Department, Sheriff’s Office and other City agencies into communities for cookouts as part of a nationwide crime and drug prevention effort.

Previous National Night Out events have brought McGruff the Crime Dog, Spider-Man and other celebrities to cookout locations, along with quick visits from elected officials and other city leaders.

The event was founded by the National Association of Town Watch in 1984. The celebration was postponed last year due to the pandemic, and now more than 20 Alexandria neighborhoods will host block parties, cookouts, and ice cream socials from 5 p.m to 9 p.m.

via Facebook

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Friendship Firehouse Festival (via Friendship Fire Company/Facebook)

The Friendship Firehouse Festival is back on this year after having been cancelled last year due to — you know.

The festival is an annual celebration of the Friendship Firehouse (107 S Alfred Street) in Old Town that opened in 1855, and has since been run as a museum focusing on fire-fighting history and fire safety. The museum hosts community events throughout the year, and holds preserved historic artifacts.

The festival is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 7.

“The Friendship Firehouse Festival is back after last year’s hiatus,” the city said in a press release. “Join us to celebrate Friendship’s 247th birthday. Visit the historic Friendship Firehouse Museum, learn about fire safety past and present and see City firefighting equipment up close. There will be displays by community organizations, craft vendors, and food and beverages available. Children receive free Friendship fire hats.”

Museum entry will be staggered to accommodate some social distancing.

Via Friendship Fire Company/Facebook

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After an underground electrical malfunction caused an early morning power outage on Monday, July 12, the management of the 17-story Key Towers Apartments says the building is likely to reopen at the earliest on Friday, July 17.

Until then, residents in the 140-unit Landmark area building have to find alternate accommodations, and its owner is advising residents to keep their receipts.

“Right now we’re testing the transformers in every individual unit,” said Gina Ramos, general manager for the property. “We let residents in and out of their apartment four-at-a-time on Monday and Tuesday until 10 p.m. We’re telling everyone to keep their receipts.”

The 1960s-era building is empty, Alexandria Fire Department Senior Public Information Officer Raytevia Evans told ALXnow.

Resident Adie Ballantyne has lived at Key Towers for two years, and is staying with friends in a nearby apartment building.

“I’m going to demand a reduction in my rent next month,” she said. “I feel bad for my neighbors who got put out. Luckily I have friends who live close by.”

Dominion Energy determined that a privately owned underground transmission line went down. The outage occurred during a heat wave, and the city opened the Patrick Henry Recreation Center for residents.

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Alexandria’s police, fire and sheriff’s offices are asking the City Council for a raise.

The city imposed a pay and hiring freeze during the pandemic, and after more than a year of operating under a City Emergency, all city and state employees got a 1% bonus and merit increases were restored with the passage of the fiscal year 2022 budget.

It wasn’t enough.

The Alexandria Police Department and Fire Department are among the lowest paid in the region, with full-time starting salaries at $$49,294 for firefighters and $51,000 for police officers.

The presidents of the Alexandria Sheriff’s Association, the local 5 chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters and the International Union of Police Associations want a 1.5% merit pay increase, instead of the 1% that all city employees received in the approved FY22 budget. They said that the city saved $6 million with the hiring freeze, and that hundreds of jobs were left vacant.

“The workload was instead picked up by other dedicated City employees so as to maintain seamless service to Alexandria’s residents and visitors,” the trio wrote in the July 8 letter to Council. “This added work caused burn-out and lowered morale as employees took on additional responsibilities.”

Mayor Justin Wilson has asked City Manager Mark Jinks to provide an update on the city’s regional comparisons to determine necessary adjustments to “remain competitive.”

Salaries are a collective bargaining issue, and earlier this year Council unanimously adopted a collective bargaining ordinance. In other words, the unions are expected to reach a collective bargaining agreement before making asks of Council.

“In a future collective bargaining environment, we will have multi-year collective bargaining agreements that dictate what raises (as well as many other things) will look like,” Wilson said. “But we’re not there yet.”

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