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Morning Notes

Under the virtual shark tank at Reston Station (photo by Marjorie Copson)

Austin Transit Leader Named New Metro General Manager — “Metro on Tuesday tapped the chief executive of a Texas transit agency to lead the system through safety and pandemic-related challenges that have frustrated riders and strained public transportation…Randy Clarke, 45, will replace Paul J. Wiedefeld, who announced in January that he would retire on June 30″ [The Washington Post]

Fairfax County Firefighter Gets Funeral Procession — “Tuesday marked the final farewell for Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Captain Kimberly Schoppa, who died last month from occupational cancer. Her line-of-duty funeral included a procession and escort to the church, with her flag-draped casket onboard a fire truck and then carried inside by the Honor Guard.” [ABC7]

Jury Awards Tysons Company $2B in Damages — A Fairfax County Circuit Court jury awarded Appian over $2 billion in damages after finding rival software company Pegasystems Inc. stole its trade secrets. Announced yesterday (Tuesday) after a seven-week trial, the damages are the largest ever awarded in Virginia court history, Appian says. [Appian]

County Board Approves New Budget — “On Tuesday morning, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors gave final approval to the fiscal year 2023 budget, which reduces the real estate tax rate by 3 cents. The approved budget did not change from the budget markup the board approved on April 26.” [Patch]

Teachers’ Union Calls for Continued Virtual Learning — The Fairfax Education Association sent a letter to Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand and school board members last week urging them to “continue offering a limited virtual school program for vulnerable students and staff.” FCPS announced in March that it will discontinue the option in the next school year. [WTOP]

Former Reston Association Board President Dies at 84 — “In the words of one reporter, Mike [Freeman Jr.] had a case of chronic community activism for a myriad of Reston organizations, including St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, FISH, and soccer and swim teams. He was a volunteer driver for the first local RIBS bus, and an elected board member of the Reston Association, serving as Board President 1988-89.” [Patch]

County Opens West Falls Church Transportation Survey — “The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) will hold a second round of virtual community meetings to present updates on the West Falls Church (WFC) Active Transportation Study…The public will have the opportunity to ask questions and provide input as well as completing an online survey to provide feedback.” [FCDOT]

Fairfax County Honors Hockey Team and Teachers — The Board of Supervisors recognized the Langley High School ice hockey team yesterday for winning the Northern Virginia School Hockey League championship in February while also completing the season with the least amount of penalties among teams. The board also designated May as Teacher Appreciation Month. [Fairfax County]

Veteran and Military Spouse Career Fair Starts Today — “The free-to-attend event features two days of opportunities for candidates to connect with companies, with in-person sessions between 10:00 am-12:00 pm and 1:00-3:00 p.m. ET on May 11 at the National Museum of the United States Army at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and a virtual fair taking place from 1:00-4:00 p.m. ET on May 12″ [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]

It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 69 and low of 50. Sunrise at 6:01 am and sunset at 8:12 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Wolftrap Creek in Vienna is high during a rainy Saturday (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Amazon Plans Chantilly Data Center — “Amazon.com Inc.’s data center arm is working to develop a new data center facility in Chantilly, with plans to invest nearly $36 million into the project, according to Fairfax County records. The vacant property located at 3980 Virginia Mallory Drive is part of Amazon’s 46.4 acres in Avion Parkway, which the company bought for $55.9 million in 2021.” [Washington Business Journal]

Rappelling Stunt Supports Fairfax County Nonprofit — “On Thursday and Friday, about 80 people, including two local elected officials, a Washington Post reporter, and a member of the D.C. Divas women’s football team, dressed in full pads and uniform, rappelled down the side of the Crystal City Hilton to raise funds and awareness for New Hope Housing.” [The Washington Post]

County to Choose COVID-19 Memorial Site by September — “The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is positioning the county as one of the first localities in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. to build a permanent pandemic remembrance. The Fairfax County Park Authority recently submitted a memorandum to the board, summarizing project details, including design considerations, the project timeline and next steps, including the memorial’s location.” [WTOP]

County Board Sides with American Legion After Neighbor Complaints — “The Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) voted 4-1 April 27 to overturn the zoning administrator’s ruling that American Legion Post 270 in McLean improperly was operating as a banquet-and-reception hall. Surrounding residents have complained about noise, loitering, late-night events and parties lasting until the early morning” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

FCPD Traffic Campaign Yields Citations — “On Tuesday [May 3], officers from our Traffic Division wrote over 100 citations and warnings during our extra enforcement campaign in the Annandale area. This campaign runs through May 22 and is geared towards making our roads safe for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers.” [FCPD/Facebook]

Afghan Refugees Look for Jobs in Tysons — “Job seekers, like 21-year-old Mohammad Fasih Yaqoobi, had the chance to meet with more than 30 employers hiring for roles at all skill levels. In Yaqoobi’s case, the fair represented an opportunity to provide for his family, who have already lived a lifetime of unimaginable circumstances.” [NBC4]

Chapel Road Closed in Clifton Starting Today — “Chapel Road (Route 641) between Water Street and Yates Ford Road (Route 612) will be closed to through traffic, weather permitting, Monday, May 9 through Wednesday, May 11 between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day to replace a stormwater pipe, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.” [VDOT]

It’s Monday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 60 and low of 42. Sunrise at 6:03 am and sunset at 8:10 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

The Lake Accotink dam in Springfield (staff photo by David Taube)

Oath Keepers Member at Capitol Attack Pleads Guilty — “On Jan. 5, 2021…[William Todd Wilson] drove to a hotel in Tysons Corner in Virginia with an AR-15-style rifle, a 9mm pistol, about 200 rounds of ammunition, body armor, pepper spray and a large walking stick ‘intended for use as a weapon,’ according to court records filed Wednesday.” [The Washington Post]

FCPD Seeks Help Finding Eyeglass Thieves — Fairfax County police are investigating a “smash-and-grab” larceny that occurred at My Eye Dr (6307 Richmond Highway) in Belle Haven on April 19. The suspects allegedly stole over $20,000 of eyeglass frames. Similar thefts have been reported across the D.C. area in recent months, including at a store in McLean. [FCPD]

Reston Startup Raises $9M — “Hubble Technology Inc., an early-stage cybersecurity startup based in Reston, has raised a $9 million seed round to grow its business…Hubble said in an announcement the new funding will be used to grow its D.C.-area engineering team to scale the business and meet increasing demand.” [Washington Business Journal]

Track Work to Disrupt Metro’s Orange Line Service — “During the weekends of May 7-8 and 15-16, Orange Line service will end at Stadium-Armory. The free shuttle buses offered on the Orange Line will replicate the service customers can expect to see this summer during weekdays.” [WMATA]

Fairfax Man Found Guilty After Allegedly Driving 103 MPH — “A Loudoun County jury on Wednesday returned a finding of guilt against a Fairfax man for reckless driving, a class 1 misdemeanor, by speed and recommended the maximum fine allowed under law of $2,500, according to a May 4 release from the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney.” [Loudoun Times-Mirror]

Military Veteran and Spouse Job Fair Coming — “The Veteran and Military Spouse Career Fair will be held in person from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on May 11 at the National Museum of the United States Army…A virtual career fair will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on May 12 through online meeting portal Brazen. The event is free to attend.” [Patch]

Plan for Housing Voucher Program Released — The Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority has released its draft fiscal year 2023 Moving to Work Plan, which outlines how the county will administer its housing choice vouchers and other affordable housing programs. The plan is now open for written comments, and there will be a public hearing on May 19. [Housing and Community Development]

It’s Friday — Rain throughout the day. High of 64 and low of 56. Sunrise at 6:06 am and sunset at 8:07 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Staff from the nonprofit Talent Beyond Boundaries helps an Afghan refugee create a job profile at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin (courtesy Operation Allies Welcome at Fort McCoy)

Several nonprofits dedicated to helpting refugees in the U.S. are joining forces to organize a job fair for new arrivals from Afghanistan who have resettled in Northern Virginia.

The hiring fair will take place at the Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner Center (7901 Tysons One Place) from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday (May 6-7).

More than 250 job seekers and approximately 25 employers are expected to participate in the event, according to Talent Beyond Boundaries, an international nonprofit that helps refugees and other displaced people find jobs.

“There is a substantial talent pool among Afghan new arrivals in the DMV area across sectors and yet many are still seeking employment opportunities that leverage their skills and backgrounds,” said Melissa Diamond, the lead for the organization’s Afghan Talent initiative.

Talent Beyond Boundaries partnered with fellow nonprofits React D.C., the Afghan Refugee Crisis Committee, and the Tent Partnership for Refugees to host the hiring fair. The event is being sponsored by Welcome.US, a national coalition that formed last year to organize support for refugees who fled Afghanistan in the wake of the U.S. military’s withdrawal from the country on Aug. 30.

An estimated 4,000 Afghan evacuees had been resettled in Virginia by the end of 2021, Inside NoVA reported in December. Between Oct. 1, 2016 and Sept. 30, 2021, the state saw a total of 8,560 refugees from Afghanistan — by far the most of any country, according to Virginia Refugee Resettlement Program data.

While the Fairfax County government and community mobilized to assist the newcomers last year, many refugees across the D.C. area are still struggling to find stability, as federal aid runs out, donations dry up, and demand strains the staff and resources at resettlement agencies.

With finding a job among the top challenges facing refugees, resettlement agencies have turned to hiring fairs as a way to connect job seekers with potential employers. A job fair at Northern Virginia Community College’s Annandale campus earlier this spring drew more than 500 participants, according to DCist.

In addition to meeting employers in person, attendees at the upcoming hiring fair in Tysons will get assistance in creating profiles on Talent Beyond Boundaries’ Afghan Talent job-matching platform, Diamond says.

“Registering on the platform will allow their profiles to be seen by employers in the Afghan Talent network for consideration for job opportunities even beyond those available on the day of the hiring fair,” Diamond said.

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Fairfax County police cruiser during traffic stop (via FCPD/Facebook)

(Updated at 5 p.m.) The Fairfax County Police Department has turned to advertising to help address vacancies.

The department has signed a contract with Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Epic Recruiting to deliver digital marketing services and materials. Operational expenses for police recruiting have already more than quadrupled this budget year.

“We continue to look for the best candidates to serve Fairfax County,” the FCPD said in a statement. “If you or anyone you know is interested in learning about all our department has to offer, please visit www.joinfcpd.org or contact a recruiter today at FCPDRecruit@fairfaxcounty.gov.”

According to county staff, the FCPD’s recruitment-related operating expenses were in the low $40,000s for fiscal years 2019 and 2020, rose to nearly $66,000 in FY 2021, and have exceeded $272,000 for the current fiscal year 2022, which ends on June 30.

Details of the contract were released after this story published through a public-records request, showing that the $200,000 contract includes $65,000 for a 12-month online recruiting campaign, $65,000 for video and photography work, $35,000 for a recruitment website, and more.

As of April 13, the department had 151 vacancies and 1,333 sworn officers. It said its recruiters continue to host and participate in hiring events throughout the county and are adapting and developing new and innovative ways to reach applicants.

The FCPD initially declined to comment on the contract, saying it’s not complete so there aren’t any measurable results at this point.

Epic Recruiting Chief Creative Officer Alex Johnston said his company has been working with FCPD for about a month, finding compelling stories about Fairfax County police to showcase in digital advertising. The business is slated to start filming for ads in coming weeks, though it might take two months before they launch.

According to Johnston, the Tracy Police Department in California, near Sacramento, eliminated an 18% vacancy rate in four months after Epic ran an ad campaign, noting that it was coupled with other city-led efforts, such as a $1,000 referral bonus.

“These progressive agencies are the ones that are getting ahead of this,” Johnston said of police vacancies.

The FCPD’s recruitment levels have fluctuated over the past half-decade, from a high of 73 new sworn officers in 2019 to a low of 59 in 2020. The department is projected to add 60 sworn officers this year, down from 95 in 2021, and 71 in 2023, county staff told Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity.

“Until we fix the compensation issues and are competitive in compensation, we’re going to continue to struggle,” said Herrity, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ lone Republican member. “You can recruit all you want. You’re not going to retain them if you don’t compensate them.”

He said he doesn’t necessarily disagree with the recruiting strategy, saying the county has to be more creative, but the spending sounded a little bit high to him.

With a pre-markup meeting set for today (Friday) at 3 p.m., the board plans to set aside $6.1 million for a step increase for qualified uniformed public safety workers, including police, the sheriff’s office, and firefighters who were hired on or before June 30, 2021, according to a budget document.

He previously proposed 10% raises for various police officers and said he thinks there needs to be more spent than the $6.1 million currently on the table.

Meanwhile, total personnel costs related to recruitment have climbed from nearly $365,000 in fiscal year 2021 to almost $581,000 this year, as of March 31. The FCPD is on track to reach $735,000 at the end of this fiscal year and plans to spend over $758,000 in the upcoming budget year, which starts on July 1.

Photo via FCPD/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Tulips across from Vienna Presbyterian Church (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

It’s Earth Day — The Fairfax County Park Authority launched a new Earth Day website this week to provide information on upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, and ways to promote environmental stewardship. The annual occasion started in 1970 “to generate awareness and support for environmental protection.” [FCPA]

Community Raises $20K for Young Reston Soccer Player — “Aaron, a player in the Great Falls-Reston Soccer Club, recently told his coach that he couldn’t come to practice because he didn’t have any cleats. The elite soccer player explained that he was one of the 15 people who’d been displaced by a fire at the Stonegate Village Apartment complex in Reston on April 10.” [Patch]

No Development Planned for Seven Corners Shopping Center — “The Seven Corners Shopping Center is not going to be replaced with a mixed-use development, confirms Janet McCarthy, vice president of leasing at Saul Centers Inc., at least for the foreseeable future…Saul Centers expects to announce a new tenant for the Dogfish Head Alehouse spot by June 1.” [Annandale Today]

Firefighters Reunite with Rescued Vienna Resident — “Engine 402, Vienna, and Engine 430, Merrifield, A-Shift teamed up to assist an occupant out of a house fire last week. Engine 402 was thrilled to meet occupant recently, along w/Vienna Mayor Colbert, and saw he was well. #FCFRD is happy he is doing well after horrific event.” [FCFRD/Twitter]

Kingstowne Shopping Centers Change Hands — Federal Realty will acquire Kingstowne Towne Center and Kingstowne Shopping Center for roughly $200 million, the company announced yesterday (Thursday). The real estate firm says it will “amenitize” the towne center but has no immediate plans for redevelopment. The purchase doesn’t include the Regal cinema. [Washington Business Journal]

Herndon Satellite Company Prepares for Launch — “The long-delayed first launch of a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from Virginia is now scheduled for late this year, carrying satellites for HawkEye 360. Rocket Lab announced April 19 it signed a contract with HawkEye 360 to deliver 15 satellites over three launches.” [Space News]

Spring Fest Returns to Mosaic District — Caboose Commons is bringing back its celebratory spring festival tomorrow (Saturday), promising food, live music, and games as well as beer, wine, and cocktail tastings. The festivities begin at noon and continue until 7 p.m. [Caboose Brewing Company]

Reston’s Water Mine Hiring Tomorrow — “Looking for a fun summer job? This Saturday (4/23/22) the Water Mine in Reston is hosting an open hire. Stop by anytime between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to apply, interview, and if offered a position, complete hire paperwork on-the-spot.” [FCPA/Twitter]

Marshall HS to Open Musical Next Week — “After a successful fall play, the Statesmen Theatre Department at Marshall High School is preparing to perform its spring musical on two upcoming weekends. The spring musical at Marshall High School will be the Tony Award-nominated ‘A Year with Frog and Toad.’ Performances are scheduled for April 28 and 29 and May 6 and 7.” [Patch]

It’s Friday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 72 and low of 51. Sunrise at 6:23 am and sunset at 7:54 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax County’s work release program remains shut down due to the pandemic, keeping one option for inmates off of the table for a little over two years.

Due to concerns about the transmission of COVID-19, the county’s sheriff’s office says its is unclear when and if the program will resume. The program first shut down in March 2020.

“We cannot have inmates going to places of business, potentially being exposed to COVID, and then exposing other inmates when they return at the end of their work shift,” Andrea Ceisler, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, told FFXnow.

Even when the Fairfax County Health Department gives the green light, it’s still unclear if the office has enough manpower to staff the program, according to Sheriff Stacey Kincaid.

The office doesn’t have enough resources to screen inmates and potential employers. Ceisler added that monitoring inmates offsite is a “labor intensive” activity.

Its vacancy rate has risen from 11% last year to nearly 15% this month. That’s despite launching a website dedicated to recruiting and establishing a full-time recruiting position.

“A major issue concerns pay,” Ceisler said. “Although our deputy sheriff recruits attend the same Criminal Justice Academy as Police Department recruits, complete the same training side by side, and have several overlapping responsibilities, our deputies are paid less than their police counterparts.”

At most ranks, ranks deputies receive 2.5% less than equivalent police ranks. At the rank of sergeant and second lieutenant, deputies receive 7.5% less.

“The pay disparity impacts recruiting as well as retention,” she said.

Over the last three years, the number of inmates enrolled in the county’s work-release program has decreased significantly.

In 2017, 112 inmates were enrolled, and 44 successfully completed the remainder of their sentence while in the program. In 2019, just 48 inmates were enrolled, though 32 completed the remainder of their sentence.

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A lab worker is seen at Bode Technology’s facility (via Fairfax County Economic Development Authority)

Bode Technology, which assists Fairfax County and Virginia with forensic services, will spend $2 million to hire more staff to meet its growing needs.

Announced today (Monday) by Gov. Glenn Youngkin and the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, the investment will help the company hire “additional senior and entry-level laboratory technicians, information technology and engineering professionals and other business support roles,” the news releases said.

“For more than 25 years, Bode Technology has called Virginia our home, and today’s announcement is a testament to that bond,” Bode Technology CEO Mike Cariola said. “To help fight crime, we need to hire the most talented scientists in the world, and the universities in Virginia and surrounding areas have been essential to our success.”

Located at 10430 Furnace Road, the company will get support from the Commonwealth through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program, where state funding helps businesses recoup costs of adding jobs.

“Bode Technology is eligible to receive up to $850 per job, for a total of up to $60,350 for 71 net new jobs, from the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP),” Virginia Economic Development Partnership spokesperson Suzanne Clark told FFXnow in an email. “VJIP is a performance-based incentive. Once a designated funding amount is approved, companies do not receive reimbursement until they have created the minimum net new, full-time jobs to qualify for funding and the new hires have been on the company’s payroll for at least 90 days.”

The company currently has 250 employees.

The governor’s news release noted that the state’s economic development authority worked with the Fairfax County EDA through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program, which provides consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs to support employee recruitment and training activities.

Bode Technology uses DNA to help law enforcement agencies track criminals, and it also reduces backlogs by processing sexual assault kits, among other services. According to the company, it helped identify victims of the 2001 World Trade Center attacks and the remains of U.S. soldiers dating back to World War II.

“Demand for our services has increased, and today we are recruiting talented scientists from across the country to join us here in Fairfax County so that we can continue our mission,” Cariola’s statement said.

Photo via FCEDA

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The organization’s board moved one step closer to selecting.a new CEO.

The top leadership position at Reston Association — which has sat cold since September — may soon be filled.

At a meeting Wednesday night (April 6), RA’s Board of Directors unanimously supported a measure to approve reimbursement of travel expenses for finalists being considered for the position.

Since former CEO Hank Lynch stepped down to take the same position at a nonprofit focused on protecting endangered species, Larry Butler has temporarily shifted from the organization’s chief operating officer to acting CEO.

Three senior leadership vacancies remain: the human resources director, a senior level environmental position, and an IT director.

The goal of the meeting, which was largely held in executive session, was to identify candidates for a final round of interviews. The board aims to select a new CEO before the final results of RA’s board election are announced.

Board members John Mooney, Tom Mulkerin and Aaron Webb are set to step down this month.

The timing of the move has drawn criticism by some who called on RA to delay the selection of the new CEO until after the election to give new board members a voice in the selection process.

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Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk talks to Fairfax County Economic Development Authority President and CEO Victor Hoskins (via Fairfax County)

A new innovation hub in the Lee District Community Center (7950 Audubon Avenue) is expected to open in May.

With the support of private partners and state and federal funds, the Workforce Innovation Skills Hub (WISH) is intended to expand job opportunities for residents living along the Richmond Highway corridor.

“With Amazon and Virginia Tech making significant investments a few miles to our north and the proximity to Fort Belvoir and their stream of contracting opportunities, the Richmond Highway Corridor is the ideal location for a workforce development program,” Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk’s office said.

Lusk hopes the workforce training program will give residents a chance to earn a middle-class income and end generational poverty.

“The ultimate goal of the WISH is to create an accessible community hub where residents can walk to and receive training in the trades and technology jobs of the future,” he said.

The hub in Groveton received $2.4 million from the county’s coffers and is in the process of securing $800,000 in supplemental state and federal funding.

County funds were primarily used to acquire and renovate the space, including bringing the center up to code.

Lusk and his office have been working with Amazon for more than year to determine how the online retail and web services company will support the project.

So far, as part of a recent land-use application to build a data center in Springfield, Amazon plans to work with Lusk’s office on contracting related to the construction and build-out of the data center.

Amazon received the county’s blessing in February to construct a roughly 242,000-square-foot data center at 7961 Loisdale Road in Springfield.

The company will also provide the office with the number of jobs available in the data center. Program constructors will then build a model to connect job training to existing jobs in the Lee District.

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