Over the Fencepost Newsletter

Community Focus

To view programming on the Prince William County YouTube Channel, visit

Coles District Community Focus:

Press Releases

Absentee Voting Available for Commuters and Others

There is a general election on Nov. 6, and Prince William County encourages all eligible residents to vote. If you aren’t available to vote on Nov. 6, there are plenty of opportunities to vote absentee, which starts on Sept. 21.

The list for those who are eligible to vote absentee is rather broad and allows for absentee voting under a wide array of circumstances. Those include people living outside of the country, students attending college, commuters who will be away from the county for more than 11 hours between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Election Day, first responders, those with a disability or illness, people with a religious obligation, and active duty military and their spouses, among others. Visit the Prince William County Office of Elections website at for a complete list of absentee voting qualifications.
People who wish to vote absentee will need to fill out an application and return it to the Office of Elections, located at 9250 Lee Avenue in Manassas, by Tuesday, Oct. 30, in order to request that a ballot be mailed.
The application can be completed in several ways. Registered voters, with the appropriate identification, who wish to vote absentee in-person can fill out the application at their designated absentee voting location and vote the same day. Designated absentee in-person voting locations in the county include:

  • Office of Elections at 9250 Lee Avenue in Manassas
  • Haymarket-Gainesville Community Library at 14870 Lightner Road in Haymarket
  • Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles Office at 2713 Caton Hill Road in Woodbridg
  • Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles Office at 2713 Caton Hill Road in Woodbridge

People with a Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles license or identification card can register to vote online at the Virginia Department of Elections website.

Those who are not registered to vote will have to wait five days for a ballot to be issued, with the exception of military and overseas voters, according to the Virginia Department of Elections website.

The following is a list of significant voting dates:

  • Sept. 21, 2018 – Absentee voting begins.
  • Oct. 8, 2018 – The Office of Elections and all absentee voting locations are closed.
  • Oct. 15, 2018 – The last day to register for the November General Election.
  • Oct. 30, 2018 – The deadline to request a ballot by mail for the November General Election.
  • Nov. 3, 2018 – The last day to vote absentee in-person for the November General election.
  • Nov. 6, 2018 – Election Day.

For more information, call the Prince William County Office of Elections at 703-792-6470 or email Find sample ballots at

Calling All Bicyclists in the County

​The Prince William County Department of Transportation is looking for input from bike riders in the community to help develop a Bicycle Skill Level Map. The purpose of the map is assist bicyclists – commuters and recreational – in finding routes in the county that best fit their skill level. Cyclists can help by assigning skill levels that are needed to ride the bike routes by using an online survey. The survey will run from now until Oct. 31.

Adam Weigel, the county’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, said the department has a preliminary map drawn out with skill levels assigned to various routes. However, they are hoping cyclists can help refine the map. “We’ve got this initial map based on measurable data – speed and volume of traffic and what facilities are there. Our efforts now are to try to get feedback from the public to see if those initial ratings make sense based on their experience,” Weigel said.
On the map, roads are color-coded based on rider skill level – beginner, occasional, frequent and confident/experienced. A beginning rider would need a path separated from the road to mostly avoid traffic. An occasional rider would be comfortable in neighborhoods with slower traffic, but would be willing to use bike lanes. Frequent riders, with above average skill, would be comfortable using bicycle lanes and shoulders. Confident and experienced cyclists would be comfortable navigating routes with heavy traffic and difficult intersections on roads in dense urban settings, Weigel said.
The department wants to hear from riders of all skill levels in order to draw a better map, Weigel said. “We’re not trying to build a map only for these higher skilled riders. We don’t want to tell people that they need to reach a certain skill level to ride all these routes. This is an inventory for us so that we can think about how we can improve our infrastructure. The goal is to make it as suitable for as many skill levels as we possibly can.”
Once the input from people who use the routes is gathered, staff will go out and evaluate the bicycle route and then present that information to the Prince William County Trails and Blueways Council, an advisory council established by the Board of County Supervisors to provide input for the development of trails and blueways in the county. The council will aid the County in determining modifications to the map.
At the end of the initial survey period, Prince William County will post changes to the map on its website. They will continue to accept public feedback on an ad-hoc basis.

Council is Looking for High School Students Interested in Giving Back to the Community

​Prince William County Human Rights Commission is gathering applications for next year’s Human Rights Student Leadership Council and is looking for high school students interested in learning about local, state and federal government, civics and leadership.

Sophomores, juniors and seniors enrolled in Prince William County public, private and home schools are eligible to apply for the council, said Denise McPhail, staff advisor to the Human Rights Student Leadership Council.

The council offers students the chance to meet elected government officials and county staff to learn about government through the lens of human rights enforcement.  McPhail said, “We also use the Youth at Work program to teach students how to identify discrimination in the workplace.  The students then teach their peers at an annual student leadership conference hosted by Prince William County Public Schools.”

Each year, since the council’s formation three years ago, the students have visited the Virginia General Assembly to meet with their representatives. Last year, Delegate Luke Torian and Senator Jeremy McPike introduced the students on the floor of the General Assembly.

Andrew Diaz, a rising senior at St. John Paul the Great High School who is planning to return to the council this year, said being on the council was a good learning experience where he learned about government and human rights.  “The student leadership council has helped to increase my understanding of government by allowing me to see how the government works, specifically the Virginia Assembly. I got to know my representatives better and saw the different parts of the government.”

Kamilah Coleman, the council historian and a charter member of the council, said she too enjoyed meeting Virginia delegates and senators. “My number one favorite and most memorable experience was visiting our Virginia delegates.  Being able to express our concerns and having a platform to possibly make change was very good. Before joining the HRSLC I had very little knowledge about government, but through the program I have definitely grown more insightful on that topic due to field trips and networking with local government leaders.”

Coleman, a rising senior at Potomac High School, who has been on the council for two years, said she thinks she learned to be an effective leader by being on the council. “I can see the growth in my personal leadership skills.  I have become a stronger leader outside of the program like in my mentoring group at church, as well as on my track team at school.  I’ve become more assertive and bold in my opinions and have tried to be the example for my teammates and fellow mentees.”

Curtis Porter, chairman of the Prince William County Human Rights Commission, said teaching students about government and civics develops good citizens. “It really helps the community by getting young people, through a positive youth development perspective, to give back and learn about their community and serve in their community.”

Student Leadership Council meetings will be from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 1, Dec. 6, Jan. 3, Feb. 26, and March 26, with the final program on April 18. All meetings will be held at the Edward L. Kelly Leadership Center at 14715 Bristow Road.

Applications filed in person must be turned in to the Prince William County Human Rights Commission offices at the Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo Building, 15941 Donald Curtis Drive in Woodbridge, by 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 14. Students who wish to apply online have until 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 14.

For more information, visit the county’s website at, call 703-792-4680 or email

Classes Available to Learn More About the History of Your Community and Family

Did you know that Dumfries was the site of official importance during Colonial Prince William County? During that time, the town was a bustling port and the location of the county seat.

“It’s where the courthouse was, so all of the activities in Prince William County leading up to the beginning of the Revolutionary War happened in Dumfries,” said historian Jim Bish, a long-time social studies teacher who retired from Woodbridge High School. Bish will discuss the county’s involvement in the Revolutionary War during his talk “Revolutionary Prince William County, 1765 to 1781” at the Ruth E. Lloyd Information Center for Genealogy and Local History, or RELIC, at the Bull Run Regional Library at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 21.
A document called “The Prince William Resolves” protests the closing of Boston Harbor after the Boston Tea party. That document was signed in Dumfries, said Bish. “It was also in Dumfries where they began to form the first Prince William County independent cadet company, which was the independent company that preceded the official Virginia regiments. George Washington was the head of Prince William County’s independent company in 1774 up through the time he became Continental Commander in 1775.”
Also happening this month at RELIC, Don Wilson, will discuss “Genealogy 201: Beyond the Basics” at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 16. The class delves into the intricacies of advanced genealogy research, which can be a tricky business.
Old Census records, for instance, can be confusing, Wilson said. “When you’re using Census records, it’s not just a matter of plugging in a name and getting the answer,” Wilson said. “Many times you plug in the name you want and you don’t get any results because many of the old clerks didn’t ask you how you spelled your name; they spelled it phonetically. Then when the indexers got hold of the list, they misread the names. It could have ended being almost anything.”
Wilson said people who attend the class will also learn how to use newspapers, passenger lists, maps, books, military records and manuscripts for research and to add detail to family history. “It’s the kind of research you would be doing to write a biographical article about anyone whether you are trying to find someone in the 20th century or someone in the 17th century.”
Wilson said people find RELIC useful for the amount of documentation at the library. “We have access to a wide variety of research materials and have trained staff who can show people how to use those sources to find the answers they are looking for.”
While it’s not absolutely necessary, Wilson suggests that people attend “Genealogy 101: Getting Started” before attending the 201 class. RELIC tries to run both events about once a quarter.
To register for these events, call 703-792-4540 or email

Calling for Submissions for the Journal of Prince William County History

​The Prince William Historic Preservation Division, the Prince William Historic Commission and Historic Prince William are looking to scholars, teachers, researchers, historians and history buffs to contribute to the “Journal of Prince William County History.” The journal will focus on any topics regarding local history, including biographies and events, as well as histories of institutions or businesses.

Bill Backus, with the county’s Historic Preservation Division, said the journal won’t focus exclusively on the big stuff everyone knows about. “We’re going to be focusing on the general history of Prince William County. This is not just a Civil War or a Colonial publication. We’ll be focusing on everything from the Colonial era all the way up to the 20th century.”

Submitted papers will go before a panel to determine whether they will be included in the journal, Backus said.”

The printed journal will be in the form of a small booklet with about five papers, Backus said. “We’ll be trying to make sure that each issue takes a more holistic view of Prince William County, featuring papers that explore historic individuals, events and places. We don’t want to have five Civil War articles. We’re planning to do this as an annual publication, so if something is not chosen for this year’s, it might be rolled into next year’s journal.”

Publication of the journal is set for March 2019 to coincide with the March 25, 1731 founding of Prince William County.

The papers should be written in the “Chicago Manual of Style” and include endnotes with notation in the traditional historic form. The length, including endnotes, should be 5,000-7,000 words. Email the papers as a Microsoft Word attachment to Backus at The deadline is Dec. 1.

Backus said the journal will be published for people to get an appreciation for the county’s history. “We want people to have the chance to appreciate the rich history that we have here in our community.”

County Receives Additional Funding for Transportation Projects

​Prince William County recently got word that it will be receiving $244 million from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, or NVTA, for transportation projects over the next six years.

The money will help with seven projects across the county, said Rick Canizales, the director of the county’s Department of Transportation. “It is a great piece of news for the county.”

The projects, with one underway and others set to enter design and planning phases within the next five to six years, include:

  • Route 28 corridor roadway improvements (City of Manassas to Fairfax County)
  • Construction of an innovative interchange at Route 234 and Brentsville Road
  • Construction of an innovative interchange at Prince William Parkway and University Boulevard
  • Improvements to Route 28 between Fitzwater Drive and Pennsylvania Avenue
  • Extending Summit School Road and widening Telegraph Road
  • Route 28 corridor feasibility study
  • Construction of an innovative interchange at Prince William Parkway and Clover Hill Road

A project to widen U.S. 1 between Brady’s Hill and Dumfries Roads in the Town of Dumfries is also included on the list of NVTA-funded projects.

The NVTA was created in 2002 by the Virginia General Assembly as a regional body to develop the regional transportation plan and to address transportation issues in Northern Virginia. The NVTA manages public funds for transportation projects designed to reduce congestion throughout the region. In July 2013, the General Assembly increased the Regional Sales Tax, Grantor’s Tax and Transient Occupancy Tax in Northern Virginia, with the proceeds mandated to be used for transportation projects in Northern Virginia, and to provide the revenue stream for the NVTA.

Money received by NVTA are split into two pots or categories and are classified as 30-percent and 70-pecent funding. The NVTA releases 70 percent of its total revenues, as available, on a competitive basis to fund rated transportation projects that fit in the authority’s regional long-range plan. The remaining 30 percent of revenues are distributed to member jurisdictions, on a pro rata basis, for transportation projects and purposes.

Canizales said the funding will help the county with its extensive transportation projects. “This is from the 70 percent regional source. Our program right now is nearing the $1 billion mark in the five- to six-year program, if you include all of our funding.”

For more information about transportation projects in the county, visit