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A lifeguard at The Water Mine in Reston (via Fairfax County Park Authority/YouTube)

A shortage of seasonal workers has the Fairfax County Park Authority straining to stay afloat at the time of year when many of its facilities — from swimming pools to the Scotts Run Nature Preserve — tend to be busiest.

The agency announced last week that the visitor center at Huntley Meadows Park in Hybla Valley will have reduced hours throughout August, citing difficulties in recruiting staff. While the park itself will remain open from dawn to dusk, the visitor center’s indoor exhibits and public restrooms are currently only available from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Though that has been the most long-lasting impact, the capacity limitations have also forced facilities to close early or not open at all some days, and some programs have been curtailed “on occasion,” FCPA spokesperson Judith Pedersen said in a statement to FFXnow:

It has been a very difficult season for the Park Authority in terms of hiring seasonal employees. In large measure, a shortage of applicants and COVID-19 illnesses have made it hard to staff our facilities and programs. On occasion we have had to close facilities or curtail programs or classes due to staff shortages. Conversely, our staff has stepped up to fill those gaps, work extra shifts or manage the situation to avoid closures and cancellations. We continue to be challenged with a shortage of lifeguards both for indoor and outdoor aquatic facilities.

According to Pedersen, the park authority can have as many as 1,600 to 1,700 non-merit employees, meaning part-time, seasonal or temporary workers. The agency hires 600 to 700 workers for each summer season, which runs from May through September.

Though the park authority didn’t provide the specific number of vacancies it has, its webpage for summer hires lists 15 different kinds of available positions, from lifeguards and camp leaders to a Sully Historic Site maintenance assistant.

The park authority has offered $100 sign-up and retention bonuses to summer workers, along with free access to all of the county’s recreation centers throughout the season.

Pedersen says FCPA has also increased its salaries and made a concerted recruiting push through social media, virtual hirign fairs, and drive-up interviews.

Fairfax County isn’t alone in struggling to staff pools and other recreational facilities this summer. Reston Association closed two pools for multiple days last month, and looking nationally, more than half of the pools in Pennsylvania’s state parks are closed or have shortened hours.

The American Lifeguard Association estimated in June that insufficient staff would affect a third of pools in the country, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said a slowdown in temporary international workers has contributed to the labor shortage.

In Fairfax County, the park authority continues to adapt to the changing circumstances, seeking to provide the facilities and programming that residents expect without compromising safety or the quality of its services.

“It is a balancing act between the absolute need for safety to be paramount, and our desire to meet the recreational needs and desires of the public,” Pedersen said.

Screenshot via Fairfax County Park Authority/YouTube

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Midtown Jewelers at Reston Town Center (via Midtown Jewelers/Facebook)

For more than 10 years, a family-owned jewelry boutique has called Reston home. 

That will change in the fall of this year when Midtown Jewelers leaves Reston Town Center for a new location in the Town of Herndon. 

The business has collected several accolades, including best jewelry store by Washingtonian magazine and has frequently been given the couples’ choice award by Wedding Wire. 

The business, which offers on-site jewelry and watch repair, appraisal services, and a collection of jewelry is currently located at 11990 Market Street. The new location will be at 700 Lynn Street Suite B.

A company representative did not immediately return a request for comment.

Photo via Midtown Jewelers/Facebook

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The Belgian company Neuhaus Chocolate will open a boutique at the Mosaic District (photo by Federica Carlet/Neuhaus Belgian Chocolate)

The Mosaic District has a new chocolate shop on the way to fill the hole left two years ago by Artisan Confections.

Neuhaus Belgian Chocolate will open its first Northern Virginia store in the Merrifield neighborhood this fall, confirmed Antony Verbaeys, the company’s U.S. managing director.

“Neuhaus Belgian Chocolate is indeed opening a boutique in Mosaic District,” Verbaeys said in an email. “The Washington metro area is an important market for us with stores in D.C. and Bethesda, MD. A presence in Northern Virginia is a logical next step to serve our loyal clientele.”

The store will move into 2905 District Avenue, Suite 170, which had been occupied by Artisan Confections for eight years before the Arlington-based chocolate shop opted to close that location in July 2020.

Though there were no signs indicating Neuhaus’ approach as of this past weekend, Fairfax County issued a permit for interior demolition of the space on July 26. Verbaeys says the store is currently scheduled to open in early October.

Originally opened in Brussels in 1857, Neuhaus was started by Swiss pharmacist Jean Neuhaus, who developed a method of dipping his patients’ medicine in a thin layer of chocolate. His grandson later replaced the medicine with nuts, cream, and other fillings to invent what’s now known as Belgian pralines, according to the company’s website.

Neuhaus now has eight stores in the U.S., opening its American flagship on New York City’s Madison Avenue in 2012. Its existing D.C. area locations are in Bethesda Row and Union Station.

The chocolate shop isn’t the only business expected soon at the Mosaic District, which recently welcomed the Indian restaurant Rasa. Junction Bar and Bistro has hopes for a late August arrival, and the gym BASH Boxing is on track to open in September.

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Peaceful Mind Solutions

Finally, a therapist who has time for you.

Those who have tried to find counseling in the last two years may have discovered that therapists are overwhelmed and not accepting new clients, or that first appointments are months away.

But there is good news for those who are going through a challenging life transition, struggling to cope with feelings of stress, or are looking to make a crucial change: Lauren K. Nickum, LCSW, CSAC from Peaceful Mind Solutions is now taking new clients for telemedicine psychotherapy.

Lauren specializes in helping clients work through anxiety, depression, stress, grief, trauma or anger. Her Peaceful Mind Solutions brings the experienced psychotherapist to your home by means of telemedicine, a method of therapy that has proven successful time and again.

Peaceful Mind Solutions – Lauren Nickum

She works with adults and adolescents as individuals as well as in groups and has more than a decade of experience, including five years in private practice, helping clients in Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Lauren’s proven approach to helping clients involves a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing and dialectical behavioral therapy skills that empower her clients to make changes and learn how to live the life they desire.

Her diverse client list includes people struggling with chronic illnesses, members of the recovery community and their loved ones, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

To arrange a free 15-minute initial consultation, contact Lauren via the Peaceful Minds Solutions website, by emailing LaurenNickumLCSW@outlook.com, or by calling 703-994-0300.

Are you ready to make a change?

Rain collects around a storm drain (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County is considering making all existing and future development built to lessen flooding risks from huge, 100-year event storms, as opposed to a 10-year storm.

The risk of flooding in the county is rising due to climate change, staff told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors environmental committee late last month. While preventing flooding is impossible, its impact can be mitigated, they said.

Under the staff proposal, the county would require all future development to have proper drainage, pipe conveyance, and safety measures to accommodate a 100-year storm event adjusting for climate change.

The proposal is part of the county’s Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan, which was approved last September.

A “100-year storm event” is defined by the U.S. Geological Survey as one that “statistically has a 1-percent chance of occurring in any given year.” It brings about 8 inches of rain over a 24-hour period, according to the latest data.

With climate change expected to produce stronger storms and increased flooding, that figure is likely to be adjusted in the future.

Part of the proposal is that new development would be required to be built to adjust for predicted sea level rise and severe weather risks.

Currently, all developments must accommodate a 10-year storm event, which is the 10% chance of 4.5 inches of rain falling in a 24-hour period.

In the last decade, Fairfax County and the D.C. region have experienced several flood-level storms. In 2011, Tropical Storm Lee dumped 7 inches of rain in three hours. In 2019, nearly 5 inches came down in some parts of the county, and just last month, nearby Montgomery County experienced extreme flooding from more than 5 inches of rain.

For existing structures, like houses, the plan is to “mitigate” flooding through regulation, public infrastructure projects, and recovery programs.

“There’s no right answer about what flood risk is acceptable because there’s no such thing as zero risk from flood,” Department of Public Works and Environmental Services Deputy Director Ellie Codding said. “What we can do is design infrastructure to a reasonable point and to educate the public and be ready with resources for recovery.”

With water typically passing through residential properties from upstream, a channel or flood path blocked by a fence, debris or an unpermitted addition can exacerbate flooding, preventing water from flowing where it was designed to go.

Almost all flooding in the county happens in basements, Codding said, so understanding and preventing this is a shared responsibility of residents and the county.

“With participation from residents and businesses, the county alone can’t achieve a meaningful level of flood risk reduction,” she said.

Of course, all of this will come with a cost, one that might be supplemented by increased taxes.

While board members agreed with the overall assessment, several noted that educating homeowners will be an important and more cost-effective component.

Chairman Jeff McKay said homeowners associations or community groups that own and manage stormwater facilities and common areas (like ponds) may not know how to maintain those.

“I’m increasingly concerned about the smaller subdivisions and lack of information, assistance, and oversight to even maintain stormwater facilities that they put in with their development,” McKay said.

Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw noted that some responsibility needs to fall on contractors, who might be doing home renovations or repairs. They are either not educated themselves on good practices or not passing that knowledge on to their clients.

With the board’s consent, county staff are expected to present a “proof-of-concept” study with cost estimates next spring, followed by a flood mitigation plan later in 2023.

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A historical marker for the McLean Volunteer Fire Department was installed outside the Old Firehouse Center in 2020 (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

If buildings could speak, the Old Firehouse Center in McLean would have some tales to tell — almost a century’s worth, in fact.

Originally built in 1925, the low-lying brick structure hosted the McLean Volunteer Fire Department (MVFD) as well as the wider community, which was starting to take shape.

“McLean’s fire department was the first to be incorporated in Fairfax County,” Carole Herrick, a Dranesville District representative on the Fairfax County History Commission, said. “Back then, it served as the community center of its day, and we want to preserve its rich history.”

The history commission will help honor that legacy with a belated dedication ceremony later this month for a historical marker erected outside the firehouse at 1440 Chain Bridge Road in 2020.

Delayed by COVID-19 concerns, the ceremony will take place at last at the Old Firehouse Center at 1 p.m. on Aug. 21, according to the McLean Community Center, which now uses the facility for its teen after-school programs.

Free and open to the public, this event is being sponsored by MCC, the county history commission, the McLean Volunteer Fire Department, and the McLean Historical Society.

Speakers will include Herrick and Fairfax County History Commission Chair Cheryl Repetti, and MVFD members will be on hand “to discuss various displays,” the press release says. The ceremony will open with Boy Scout Troop 128 and close with an indoor reception.

Joining a sign posted for McLean overall in 2003, the MVFD marker is one 55 installed since Fairfax County’s Historical Marker Program began in 1998. It reads:

The McLean Volunteer Fire Department incorporated in 1923 in Fairfax County. A two-bay firehouse was built and a Ladies Auxiliary formed in 1925. Construction of a rear addition in 1932 provided work during the Depression and offered space needed for equipment and community activities. For several years, the firemen organized the McLean Carnival to raise funds for the department. An air raid observation tower was added during World War II. In 1948 a four-bay station replaced the previous building. A new station opened on Laughlin Avenue in 1988, ceding the vacant firehouse to Fairfax County that the McLean Community Center converted into a teen center.

Though the department has a new home, the old firehouse still holds a special place in the memories of long-time volunteer firefighters like Clyde Clark, who joined the department in June 1962 and recently commemorated 60 years in the role.

Clark’s tenure with the fire department has included stings as chief, assistant chief, and on the board of directors. Currently on the McLean Volunteer Fire Department History Committee, he fondly recalled the firehouse’s role in the department and the community in a statement to FFXnow.

“The coffee pot was always on. People were welcome to stop by, to hear the latest local news and local gossip,” he said by email. “There really was nothing else open like that. No Starbucks like there is today. It was a delightful place to be, and it really served as the center of the community.”

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Weird Brothers’ current location in the Worldgate area is relocating (Staff photo by Fatimah Waseem)

Weird Brothers Coffee — a staple in the Town of Herndon’s coffee scene — is expected to relocate one of its locations in Herndon.

The coffee shop and roastery, a veteran-owned business that is managed by brothers Paul and Kenny Olsen, intends to move its Worldgate Metro Plaza location to Worldgate Centre.

According to co-owner Paul Olsen, the current Worldgate Metro Plaza location is expected to remain open until at least the end of October. It’s expected take up space that was vacated by Starbucks at 13035A Worldgate Drive in January 2021.

“We are currently still going through the permit process for the new Worldgate location,” Olsen wrote in a statement to FFXnow. “We have no idea how much longer it will be before we receive final approval to begin the buildout.”

Weird Brothers is a disabled-veteran owned small business that is dedicated to providing unique coffee and espresso. It was founded by the Olsen, who have had a life-long love affair with fresh roasted, quality coffee.

As the first coffee roaster in Herndon, Weird Brothers has locations and a roasting factory in the Sunset Park business center, Leesburg Village Center, and Worldgate Metro Plaza.

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The Fairfax County Animal Shelter is about to become a paw-pular place for beagle devotees, with 16 pooches saved from a Virginia research facility last month set to go up for adoption later this week.

On Monday morning (Aug. 8), a number of the spirited, tail-wagging beagles made their first public appearance since arriving at their new, temporary home. Dogs with names like Rosebud, Mint, and Bergamot hopped around in the grass, knawed on a toy, and sat in their water bowl outside of the facility.

“[They] are putting their paws on grass for the first time,” shelter director Reasa Currier said as several floppy-eared puppies pranced around her feet. “They were uncertain about the sun, uncertain about the outside. All of this is brand new.”

Last month, a judge ordered the release of thousands of beagles from an Envigo research facility in Culpepper, Virginia due to the inhumane treatment of the dogs.

In recent weeks, local shelters stepped up to help the rescue effort and find the dogs forever homes. This includes the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation in Falls Church, the Fairfax-based Homeward Trails, and the county animal shelter on West Ox Road.

The first wave of 16 dogs arrived at the shelter Thursday (Aug. 4). They ranged in age from 3 months to 6 years old. The beagles are currently receiving medical attention, tons of love, and just being allowed to adjust to life “being a dog,” Currier says.

She noted that the plan is to spade and neuter them this week, so they can be put up for adoption likely later in the week.

The phones have been “ringing off the hook” with calls from prospective puppy parents nationwide, Currier says.

The county shelter has an open adoption process, meaning people can walk in, fill out paperwork, meet with a counselor, and walk out with a new furry family member within the hour.

That process will remain the same for the beagles and will operate on a first come, first adopt basis. All the dogs are expected to be adopted very quickly, so Currier suggests monitoring the website to stay up to date on their availability.

For those that might miss out on the initial round of adoptions, more beagles are expected to arrive at the shelter in the weeks ahead. Read More

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Morning Notes

A frog statue looks up at Giant in University Mall (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Army Nurse Thanks Fairfax County Firefighters — “Sunday, August 7, was a powerful and inspiring day at Station 11, Penn Daw, C-Shift. U.S. Army Captain Paul Petrie, an OR Nurse at Fort Belvoir, stopped by to thank the shift for their role in saving his life in May. Injuries he sustained are fatal a vast majority of the time. Watch to learn more!” [FCFRD/Facebook]

Long-Term Fix for AT&T Service Issues in Reston Coming — A permanent proposal to restore full cell service in the Lake Anne area isn’t expected to come until later this fall, according to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn. Alcorn says AT&T is looking at installing equipment on the new Fellowship House roof, but that will require approvals from Fairfax County and the Reston Association Design Review Board. [Patch]

Fairfax County Parkway Targeted for Traffic Enforcement — “Officers from our Motor Squad are focusing on traffic enforcement on the Fairfax County Parkway this month. On the first day of this enforcement campaign, an officer stopped a car going 108 MPH on the County Parkway at Barta Road, a 50 MPH zone!” [FCPD/Instagram]

Vienna Trail Closed for Repairs — “The Wildwood Park trail that runs between Follin Lane SE and Niblick Drive SE, along with the Mashie Drive Park entrance, will be closed tomorrow, Tuesday, Aug. 9, between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. for repairs. Please use caution when in the area and plan for detours.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Police Seek Help with Centreville Cold Case — “One of the DNA-analysis companies that Fairfax County Police in Virginia have been working with is Texas-based Othram, which is now crowdfunding help to identify a woman who was found dead…nearly 30 years ago. Even today, there isn’t a lot that police know about the woman, whose remains were found in 1993 near a cedar tree around what’s now the corner of Sharpsburg Drive and Calvary Place in Centreville.” [WTOP]

Connector Buses Not Affected by Metro Shutdown — The closure of several Blue and Yellow Line stations next month will have no impact on Fairfax Connector routes, but instead of taking a train, passengers will transfer to free shuttle buses. Drop-off and pick-up locations at the Huntington, Van Dorn Street, Franconia, and Crystal City stations may also be slightly different. [Fairfax County Government]

Reminder to Get Kids Immunized for School — “Parents, you’ve probably reminded your kids about summer reading and started purchasing school supplies. Have you booked your immunization appointment yet? Don’t wait until the last minute, make sure your children are up to date with their school required immunizations.” [Fairfax County Health Department/Facebook]

Maryland Toll Lanes Project on Hold — “A key federal agency has delayed Maryland’s plan to build toll lanes on the Capital Beltway and I-270, the latest setback for the star-crossed project. The move was immediately criticized by Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who said the delay will imperil the state’s efforts to ease one of the nation’s worst bottlenecks.” [Maryland Matters]

It’s Tuesday — Humid throughout the day. High of 94 and low of 78. Sunrise at 6:18 am and sunset at 8:12 pm. [Weather.gov]

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This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

Approximately over 20,0000 federal employees are subject to formal discipline a year. Our nationwide federal employee lawyers represent federal employees in disciplinary cases. Each disciplinary action defense is different and requires careful planning.

Disciplinary Process for Federal Employees

There are various types of disciplinary actions for federal employees. They include letters of counseling, reprimands, suspensions, demotions and removals. For most serious disciplinary actions, referred to as adverse actions, a federal employee will first receive a notice of the proposed discipline and the opportunity to respond. A proposal will typically have an explanation of the conduct or issues leading to the proposed disciplinary action.

If a federal employee is issued a notice of proposed disciplinary action, they will have the opportunity to contest it before it becomes final. A federal employee can choose to provide a written response, an oral response or both. We often recommend providing both oral and written responses.

Request Disciplinary Materials

In most disciplinary cases, it is important for federal employees to request all of the materials that have been relied upon by the agency in proposing the discipline. We request these materials before responding on behalf of federal employees at the beginning of a case.

Draft a Written Response

It is important to prepare a full written response to the allegations in proposed disciplinary cases. These responses are typically 5 to 20 pages in length, depending on the underlying facts. Most written responses are typically due anywhere from 7 to 30 days after a proposal is given to a federal employee. We also attach exhibits to these responses, including supporting evidence, good performance records and character support letters.

Present an Oral Response

The oral response portion of a federal employee’s response can be very important. While written responses can be key to refuting specific allegations, there is something very important about personally meeting with the person that will make the decision. We think that in serious cases, oral responses can make a significant difference in outcomes. We represent federal employees during oral responses.

Appeals

If an unjust disciplinary decision is sustained by a federal agency, there are various options for federal employees to appeal further. If serious enough, an individual can appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Other potential appeals can include filing Equal Employment Opportunity complaints or whistleblower appeals, where applicable. There are also a number of other types of appeals that can be brought, but legal advice is important when making such decisions.

Conclusion

When a federal employee receives a proposed disciplinary action, it is important to have an attorney represent or advise them from the beginning. Our lawyers represent federal employees nationwide in all types of federal employee discipline. We can be contacted at www.berrylegal.com or by telephone at (703) 668-0070.

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