Morning Notes

220-year-old garden wall at Lee-Fendall House collapses — “About 69 tons of 220-year-old bricks are lying in a pile behind the Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden after the property’s thick, historic garden wall collapsed following a torrential downpour earlier this month. This weekend, volunteers carefully moved bricks to make space for a temporary, protective wall around the rubble — and launched a fundraising campaign for the $125,000 or more it will take to rebuild the historic structure.” [Alexandria Living]

Retiring police chief to be recognized by City Council Tuesday — Retiring Police Chief Michael Brown will be recognized Tuesday by City Council, and the city proclamation says that Brown has “dutifully served for four-and one-half years.” [ALXnow]

School Board resumes in-person meetings — “Beginning Thursday, June 17, 2021, School Board Meetings will be held in person and up to 20 members of the public may attend. (This will allow for 6-foot distancing between seats.) Please note: all those in attendance must wear a mask. Please contact the Clerk of the School Board for more information at 703-619-8316 or via email at [email protected]” [ACPS]

Fire Station 203 reopens — “The City has officially completed the new Station 203.The up-to-date facility provides better support for modern fire/EMS apparatus, equipment and operations.” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Partly cloudy (during the day). Hot. High 94F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph.. Chance of an isolated thunderstorm in the evening, then variable clouds overnight with more showers at times. Low 72F. Winds W at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Tennis coach — “At Advantage Tennis we are looking for coaches/teachers who like working with all ages, and particularly children, for part-time and seasonal positions. These are hourly positions with potentially as much as 20-35 hours per week in the 3 busy seasons (about 9 months), at multiple locations.” [Indeed]

 

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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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The Alexandria Fire Department has rescued a woman in a stalled car near the Alexandria waterfront, as the City contends with a continuing Flash Flood Watch and rising water levels.

The driver called 911 at 10:46 a.m. after getting stuck on Strand Street, and said that she couldn’t open her car door because of the rising water, according to AFD Senior Public Information Officer Raytevia Evans.

AFD’s Inland Water Rescue Team arrived at the scene at 10:51 a.m., and helped the driver out of her car.

“The water was at the door or vehicle and she couldn’t get out,” Evans said.

The Flash Flood Watch was issued yesterday and remains in effect throughout the evening.

High water levels have not been reported in other areas of the City, Evans said.

“High tide in the Old Town area was at around 11 a.m. this morning,” she said. “We’re monitoring the rest of the City, but right now we’re not seeing any abnormal water levels in some of the usual places where we get flooding, like around Cameron Run, or Eisenhower Avenue and Telegraph Road.”

The fire department is asking residents to stay informed on local weather patterns and to stay away from standing water.

“Make sure you’re paying attention to local weather reports about the flooding,” Evans said. “If you see standing water do not walk through it. Do not drive through it. We’re asking people to be careful. Stay vigilant. If you find yourself in a situation please to call 911.”

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Morning Notes

Sheriff Dana Lawhorne to receive Lifetime Valor Award — “In recognition of his retirement, we are pleased to honor Sheriff Dana Lawhorne with a Lifetime Valor Award at this year’s Valor Awards. Join us virtually, on June 22nd, to honor Sheriff Lawhorne’s 43 years of law enforcement service to Alexandria.” [Chamber ALX]

West End Business Association hosting 1 p.m. conversation with Mayor — “Take this opportunity to ask questions and connect with Mayor Justin Wilson about how he would continue to serve the city of Alexandria.” [WEBA]

Chinquapin Recreation Center closing for improvements June 26 — “The City of Alexandria’s Chinquapin Park Recreation Center and Aquatics Facility (3210 King St.) will close Saturday, June 26 through Monday, Sept. 6, for several planned facility improvements and annual cleaning.” [Zebra]

Vaccine Equity Clinic on Route 1 in Fairfax County offering free transportation — “The Health Department and Fairfax Connector have partnered to offer free transportation to those who want to get vaccinated at the clinic, located in the former Safeway site at 7451 Mount Vernon Square Center in Alexandria. Fairfax Connector’s Free Vaccine Shuttle will run along Fairfax Connector’s line in that region.” [Fairfax County]

Annual Waterfront Commission walk is today — “The walk will be in person starting at (5 p.m. at) the intersection of Oronoco and South Union Streets and will proceed south to Robinson Landing. The walk is anticipated to end at 6:30 p.m.” [City of Alexandria]

Fire Department conducting community meeting on restructuring today — “The Alexandria Fire Department (AFD) will implement an organizational restructure, effective Saturday, June 12, 2021. The goals of the changes are to improve service efficiency and response times across the City; reduce cost; increase safety on the roadways; and improve response preparedness for specialty teams such as the Technical Rescue, Hazardous Materials, and Inland Water Rescue teams. AFD Representatives will present the upcoming changes to the community and answer questions.” [City of Alexandria]

Today’s weather — “Rain showers in the morning with numerous thunderstorms developing in the afternoon. High 81F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%… Thunderstorms in the evening, then variable clouds overnight with still a chance of showers. Low around 65F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 70%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Ghost tour guide — “US Ghost Adventures, a national tour operation is seeking energetic storytellers to lead 90-minute walking tour groups downtown. This part-time position is ideal for self-motivated candidates looking for a fun way to make extra income in the evenings.” [Indeed]

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What a week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

Our top story was on President Joe Biden stopping by the Sportrock Climbing Center in Alexandria last Friday with First Lady Jill Biden and Governor Ralph Northam.

Seeing the president around town is getting to be a regular thing. The president, who also visited in April, discussed “the state’s progress against the coronavirus pandemic” and the celebration of “summer as Virginia lifts all COVID-19 distancing and capacity restrictions.”

This week, we also followed up on a New York Times report about the Virginia Theological Seminary making reparations payments to slavery descendants. The program was launched in 2019, and the school issued $2,100 in annual payments to 15 families in February.

On Wednesday, the Fire Department released its restructuring plan, which goes into effect June 12, and is intended to help emergency response times by shifting resources. AFD will conduct community conversations on the restructuring on Saturday, June 5, at 10 a.m.; Monday, June 7, at 2 p.m. and Thursday, June 10, at 7 p.m.

Closing the short workweek, on Friday Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown announced that his retirement. Brown’s last day is June 25, and the City Manager is soon expected to name an acting chief to lead the department while the city’s undergoes a national search for a permanent replacement.

Election stories

Important stories

Top stories

  1. UPDATED: President Biden and Gov. Northam visited Alexandria this morning
  2. JUST IN: Virginia State Police chase U-Haul pickup truck through Alexandria
  3. Bennett-Parker says Levine mailer on Commonwealth of Virginia letterhead is ethics breach
  4. Goodie’s Frozen Custard & Treats opens in Old Town
  5. Hank & Mitzi’s Italian Kitchen closes for the foreseeable future in Old Town North
  6. Volunteers needed this weekend to help clear dangerous stretch of Mount Vernon Trail
  7. Wilson and Silberberg mayoral debate finale opens possibility of ‘tweaking’ Seminary Road Diet
  8. Homegrown Restaurant Group gives employees raise to $15 an hour, will ease COVID restrictions at 6 restaurants
  9. ‘Rock It Grill’ eyeing karaoke expansion, bringing back Halloween party
  10. Here’s the order that City Council candidates will appear on the ballot for the June 8 democratic primary
  11. Ownership of Landmark’s streets could make a big difference down the road

Photo via White House/Twitter

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Morning Notes

City responds to recent overdose increase — “The number of opioid overdoses rose about 36% in Alexandria during 2020, reflecting statewide and national spikes in both fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. According to data collected by the Alexandria Police Department and the Alexandria Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services, there were 105 total opioid overdoses, both fatal and non-fatal, in 2020. In 2019, there were 73 total opioid overdoses in the city.” [Alex Times]

Bicyclist struck and killed by vehicle in Alexandria area of Fairfax County — “The incident happened around 11:45 a.m. at Telegraph Road and Franconia Road in the Alexandria area. Police say the driver remained at the scene.” [FOX 5 DC]

First Thursday rescheduled to June 10 in Del Ray — “The Del Ray Business Association presents First Thursday: Unmask Your Superhero on Thursday, June 10 from 6 p.m. to dusk along Mount Vernon Avenue. The event features a wide range of activities that promote community while supporting the Dunbar Alexandria-Olympic Boys & Girls Club.” [Zebra]

Today’s weather — “Scattered showers and thunderstorms (during the day). Storms may contain strong gusty winds. High 82F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 50%… A mostly clear sky (in the evening). Low 64F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New job: Seasonal marina dock assistant ($18.99 hourly) — “The Seasonal Marina Dock Assistant works on the City’s Historic Waterfront at the City Marina. The City Marina provides for recreational and commercial boating operations while receiving more than 2,000,000 visitors annually. The Marina Dock Assistant performs journey-level tasks of more than ordinary difficulty and must be able to perform heavy physical labor safely and efficiently.” [Indeed]

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The Alexandria Fire Department will undergo an organizational restructuring this month that will shift resources to better respond to emergencies.

“Over the past year, our team has reviewed various data including response times, call volume, response coverage and staffing to help us make a data-driven decision that will benefit our workforce and the community,” Fire Chief Corey Smedley said in a recent AFD video.

The plan goes into effect June 12, and includes the formation of battalion management teams (BMTs), where a battalion chief and EMS captain or fire captain is on duty for all three shifts for the East and West Ends of the city. The department says the plan will “improve day-to-day operations by leveraging the experience of more tenured staff to improve daily station management, proactively address personnel and facility issues, and provide professional development opportunities for newly promoted frontline supervisors.”

The Department is plagued by burnout and low morale, said Josh Turner, president of the Alexandria Fire Fighters Inc. and International Association of Firefighters Local 2141, told ALXnow.

“I think we are limited by years and years of a lack of resource allocation and lack of facilities,” Turner said. “Right now, we need another medic unit, but we don’t have a firehouse that can handle it, and obviously we’re working towards that with this new redevelopment. We have larger city problems in our small city, but we don’t necessarily have the infrastructure right now on the public safety side to deal with them adequately.”

Other changes:

  • The Technical Rescue Team will move from Station 204 to Station 209 at Potomac Yard
  • Inland Water Rescue will also relocate to Station 209 for more efficient response to possible flooding in the area
  • The Hazardous Materials Team will move to Station 210 (5255 Eisenhower Avenue) for more efficient response to the industrial park, the Norfolk Southern Ethanol Transloading Facility and easy access to the Interstate 495
  • The Marine Operations Team will relocate to Station 204 (900 Second Street) in Old Town North
  • An addition of a ladder truck at Station 203 (2801 Cameron Mills Road) in the city’s North Ridge neighborhood

“Our department transports approximately 12,000 patients each year,” said EMS Deputy Chief Brian Hricik. “With the organizational restructuring, nearly 50% of our suppression apparatus will be minimally staffed with one paramedic.”

AFD will conduct community conversations on the restructuring on Saturday, June 5, at 10 a.m.; Monday, June 7, at 2 p.m. and Thursday, June 10, at 7 p.m.

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Morning Notes

Alexandria Black History Museum director speaks on anniversary of George Floyd’s murder — “Yes, there have been changes – Diversity and inclusion training are being taught in universities and the American workplace, some racists are being held accountable, corporations have promised new more transparent hiring procedures that would add African Americans to leadership positions, TV shows and advertisers have hired people of color in record numbers and The Oscars are not quite so #OscarsSoWhite anymore. All of this is meaningful, but it must be more than a quick fix. Everyone needs an ally, but being a true ally goes deeper than the protests. To be a real ally, you need to be there for the hard work, the messy work, and the unpleasant conversations about race and racism. You need to turn the mirror inward and make the personal changes that will help make your community a better place.” [Zebra]

Local chef appearing on FOX baking competition tonight — “Erinn Roth still can’t believe she was chosen to compete on FOX’s new baking competition show. ‘Crime Scene Kitchen’ premieres this Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET… The contestants are allowed to explore a kitchen that was recently used to bake a specific treat. They must use their baking skills and the clues left behind to determine what was baked and then they have two hours to recreate what they think it was. At the end of each episode, after two rounds, a team is eliminated.” [Alexandria Living]

Roy Rogers to reopen year and a half after Belle View Shopping Center fire — “The Roy Rogers in the Belle View Shopping Center will celebrate its long-awaited grand re-opening on June 1, the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce announced. Located at 1506 Belle View Blvd., the restaurant closed in October 2019 following a devastating multi-alarm fire that spread along the roofline of the shopping center. An investigation by the Fairfax County Fire Marshal’s office determined that fire began in a walk-in cooler at Yido Ramen and Sushi, which had opened just days before. [Alexandria Living]

Old Hat Bar opening delayed in Old Town by staffing challenges — “Residents eager to see Old Hat Bar open its doors in Old Town Alexandria will have to wait a little longer. The gastropub was set to open Friday, May 21 at 112 N. Saint Asaph Street, the former location of King Street Blues. But like other businesses in the food service industry, Old Hat Bar faces staffing challenges.” [Patch]

City to Host Town Hall on Anti-Asian Violence — The City of Alexandria invites the public to attend a virtual Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month Town Hall, “Contextualizing Anti-Asian Violence in the Age of COVID,” on Thursday, May 27, at 7 p.m. The virtual panel discussion focuses on the wave of racial incidents and attacks directed toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The panel features Elisabeth Chan, Sue Jean Cho, John Min, and Alexander Purrugganan,  faculty members of Northern Virginia Community College. Their presentation will be followed by an interactive question and answer session. The presentation is free, but attendees must register.” [City of Alexandria]

PHOTOS: Alexandria Fire Department train on the Potomac River — “Yesterday, some of our first responders participated in swift water boat operator training. #traineveryday #stayready” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Partly cloudy in the morning followed by scattered thunderstorms in the afternoon. Gusty winds and small hail are possible. High 93F. Winds SW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 40%… Scattered thunderstorms in the evening. Partly cloudy skies overnight. Low 68F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Crew at AMC Theatres — “AMC amazing. That’s the promise we deliver to nearly 35,000 associates, 240 million guests domestically, and 350 million guests worldwide each year. AMC has propelled industry innovation since 1920, and we continue to innovate by delivering premium sight and sound, new and improved food and beverage options, and diverse content in our state-of-the-art theatres.” [Indeed]

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What a week in Alexandria.

Our top story this week is on Gregory Elliott, a special education teacher at T.C. Williams High School. Elliot also goes by the name of “Sugar Bear” for the D.C.-based go-go band Experience Unlimited, and their song “Da’ Butt” from the Spike Lee movie “School Daze” was featured at the Oscars, along with actress Glenn Close dancing to it.

This week was full of news.

City Manager Mark Jinks hinted at retiring, there was a chlorine spill at Lake Cook and the Alexandria Fire Department is contending with reports of racism, sexism and favoritism.

Additionally, a cyberattack on a gas pipeline resulted in a state of emergency throughout Virginia. We asked readers about it in our weekly poll, and out of 250 responses only 31% (78 votes) considered making alternate travel plans.

Election stories

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Go-go music star-turned Alexandria teacher ‘Sugar Bear’ in the spotlight after Oscars shoutout
  2. Landmark Mall developers to field public question in forum this week
  3. UPDATE: Woman arrested for firing gun near Alexandria Courthouse in Old Town
  4. AHDC proposes nearly 500 units of affordable housing for Arlandria
  5. ALXnow’s top stories this week in Alexandria
  6. Here’s which City Council candidates signed the new ‘Alexandria Constituents’ Bill of Rights’ pledge
  7. Girlfriend of murder suspect arrested for breaking into home and beating up witness
  8. Election: Stark differences as Wilson and Silberberg face off in mayoral debate
  9. Racism, sexism and favoritism reported within the Alexandria Fire Department
  10. Here’s the order that City Council candidates will appear on the ballot for the June 8 democratic primary
  11. Wilson and Silberberg clash over new challenges, old wounds, and The Golden Girls

Have a safe weekend!

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Tensions are running high within the Alexandria Fire Department, as racism, sexism and favoritism have resulted in “considerable suspicion, distrust, and loss of confidence in organizational processes, and leaders,” according to a 2020 report.

Perceptions of racism, sexism, and favoritism undercut trust in department processes including assignment, resource distribution, discipline, and promotion,” notes the 2020 Organizational Assessment Report for the Alexandria Fire Department. “Women fight a conservative mindset that has not yet disappeared. Conflict and related conditions fester until they become serious.”

Fire Chief Corey Smedley says his staff are exhausted by COVID-19, and that he is working on addressing multiple issues. He said that race relations within the department remain a work in progress, and that he continually hears negative comments against AFD academy classes that are filled with women and minorities.

“I can tell you, based on my experience, I get sometimes a few people that treat me in a certain way that isn’t what I’ve seen my caucasian counterparts be treated,” Smedley told ALXnow. “Specifically my predecessor… When there are more women and minorities in the recruitment class, I get comments about how everybody isn’t cut out for this job… We need to improve our training practices and the philosophy of training.”

Last summer, results from the annual citywide employee engagement survey were mixed, with only about 25 percent of respondents (147 AFD employees) seeing the department as a great place to work and seeing career opportunities for advancement.

According to the report, “A few participants suggested race may have been a factor in promotions of some members, some perceive that there are members who believe that personnel trained by a minority instructor may not be as capable as those taught by white training.”

All of this comes while the department undergoes a reorganization. Just days after the city made a deal on collective bargaining, AFD announced that roughly two-thirds of AFD staff are being relocated around the city.

“The department has met a new low in moral and low level of trust in senior staff,” one AFD staffer wrote. “If senior staff does not engage its employees, seek input (and listen) from people who actually do the work, and so on, we will continue to plunge further into the lowest we have ever been. There are many talented people who work here and who care; that number is rapidly shrinking by the day.”

AFD staff said that a number of issues, including racism, sexism and pay plague the department.

“Blatant racism and sexism,” an AFD employee wrote. “Pay freeze, fools in charge. How dare you hide behind covid and the bodies of dead Americans as an excuse to not provide me with a raise. The rate of inflation is roughly 2 percent a year. So in reality I’m receiving less money because my purchasing power decreases. Data is a joke.”

The reorganization, among other things, calls for shifting more than a dozen members of the technical rescue team and its resources (including the HAZMAT team and Foam Unit for flammable liquid spills and fires) to the station at Potomac Yard from Fire Station 206 at 4609 Seminary Road in the West End.

Morale has never been lower, Josh Turner, president of the Alexandria Fire Fighters Inc. and International Association of Firefighters Local 2141, told ALXnow.

“I’ve never seen morale this low in the fire department in my 11 years here,” Turner said. “People are tired. I’ve got members that are overworked. Between COVID vaccination sites and just running the normal emergencies that we run, people are tired, and they feel like their leadership isn’t looking out for them.”

AFD Chief of Staff Chris Thompson was hired in February 2020. Thompson was a recruiter for AFD for six years before his promotion, and says that he has fought against an exclusive culture where women and minorities were held back from promotion. He said that he has recruited roughly half of the department, and has gotten a lot of feedback about recruiting “the wrong people.”

“I believe that with any change there is stress,” Thompson said. “The changes that we’re making are basically a reorganization. And that’s basically moving apparatus, changing where people might have to work, changes some of the responsibilities.”

Smedley said that staff are working on 14 initiatives outlined in the report, including developing an advisory committee with employees from various divisions; developing an administrative team; creating an EMS blueprint for promotion to higher ranks; revamping communications within the department and working with the City’s race and social equity officer to develop a Departmental Equity Core Team to train staff on race and equity issues.

“I embrace diverse thoughts and opinions,” Smedley said. “I encourage people to be courageous about their convictions and about their opinion and passion. But they have to be aligned with our values.”

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