Friday, August 29, 2008

Ask The New Council Member A Question

Council member Matt Kelly has posted on his blog asking the public what question you would ask the prospective Ward 1 council members. Here's your chance. Speak up, get involved, quiz us. I'm looking forward to see the results.

Sadness In the F'burg Restaurant Business

Condolences go out to the many friends and family of two groundbreaking entrepreneurs in the Fredericksburg restaurant business this week.
- 8/18 Samuel T. Emory of Sammy T's fame
- 8/22 Rob Ivy of Sunken Well

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Breaking NON-NEWS

No joke, the banner on MSNBC reads "BREAKING NEWS: AP reports that John McCain says he has yet to decide on his running mate".

What? It's now news, that there is no news?

If I every write a blog post like that, please, please tell me I've lost it.

Tough Business Climate in the 'Burg

2008 has not turned out so well for the city at getting new businesses inside the city boundary.

Recently, two plans for bringing businesses to the city have met with some challenges. First, a large woodworking and millwork business that the city was incentivizing, decided there were better options in their native Spotsylvania. Then the city couldn't approve tourism incentives for Blue and Grey due to their location in the industrial park. Blue and Grey has not stated where they plan to look next, or if they are still considering the industrial park. Their permit is still on the schedule for a planning commission meeting that was advertised in the paper this week.

Maybe there is hope that something good will come of the Downman house. Council met in closed session but so far no word or announcements.

Here's to hoping that the Ale House of Fredericksburg is somewhat on schedule.

VRE back on track?

Starting this week, train number 306 from Fredericksburg is back to the old cars. Long gone are the smooth riding Kawasakis. Why would that be a good thing, you ask? Because it means the train can once again accelerate and brake quickly, and all the doors open up, decreasing the wait time at stations. That means we were EARLY into Crystal City this morning for the first time in 2 months. July was miserable. August had the conductors on their toes and relatively on time, but this change is awesome. Sure it means sitting on older seats, and putting up with more noise. But in the end, time is king.

In other VRE news, the city is working with CSX, VRE and the state to start discussions on the train station. A total fix is sure to cause major interruptions, so over the next few years keep listening for comment sessions so that you can see the proposed options. Riders also received an email this week to expect another fare raise next year. The unfortunate fallout from the state failing to fix transportation funding means that $12M destined for VRE won't be available. This money was going to be spent on new locomotives, which would have been more efficient, and reduced maintenance expenses. I've heard that the proposal is anywhere from a 6%-10% increase. That's still cheaper than the increase in the cost of gas, but at what point do you start getting fewer riders?

New Baby Blog Posts

I've posted to Dad Review several new reviews:
- Our choice in the BOB Revolution stroller, with 20% of REI.
- The wide variety of digital SLR cameras that might be in the budget.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Area Landfill Goes High Tech

Why celebrate a new power plan opening? Because it's a power plant built on a power source that otherwise would be wasted. On Wednesday September 17th, the R-Board is celebrating with a ribbon cutting and grand opening of their new power plant that burns landfill gas. Without this power plant, the gases could be burned off as a flare, instead it is going to be turned into 2.14 Megawatts, enough for 1500 homes.

The ribbon cutting and open house happens at 3pm 9/17 at at the Regional Landfill, 489 Eskimo Hill Road, in Stafford.
The project has been built in partnership with Ameresco, Inc. According to Ameresco's press release, they are "the largest independent comprehensive energy solutions provider in North America." According to Zoominfo, they have $75M in revenue, with about 500 employees.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Left Lane is For Passing - Finally A Law

The other weekend I was having a discussion with another long time Virginia resident, when he pointed out that it is now illegal to camp out in the left lane. I had always thought that it was just rude, and wondered why we didn't have something like Germany where the laws are clear about slower traffic keeping right. A quick check of the VA Code, and sure enough, there it is: 46.2-842.1. It is unlawful to impede traffic when to the left and alongside another vehicle.

I had to point this out to my lovely wife, that I can now legally use "flash to pass", since the law actually spells out that this is the proper method "On audible or light signal, the driver of the overtaken vehicle shall move to the right."

Unlike Germany, where passing on the right is strictly prohibited on the Autobahn, VA still allows passing on the right if there is a clear right of way, and an unobstructed path ahead (46.2-841)

In Norfolk, it will cost you $92 if ticketed for this violation. In comments on some other blogs, it sounds like a few officers are starting to enforce this rule.

Logically, this makes sense on several levels. First and foremost, efficiency will increase if each lane is more consistent in speeds. Consistency in speeds improves throughput for the entire roadway. Blocked drivers often change lanes, disrupting the pattern of many lanes of traffic, rather than just cruising in the left lane. Finally, leaving a lane open to the left, will allow those who want to aggressively speed, to weed out the cops along the way for the rest of us to cruise on past.

This could possibly be one of the most useful laws that gets no publicity. Almost every German guidebook I've seen specifically points out the Autobahn rules on lane choice, making sure it's on everyone's mind. Even the PA Turnpike has signs up stating their laws on passing on the left.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Metts For City Council Ward 1

New link added to the blog to link directly to the "Who is Bryan Metts" page for those living in Fredericskburg that would like to know more about my run for nomination to the Ward 1 council seat.

Please note, since this is an appointment to fill out the remaining portion of a term, residents need to contact their council members before the Sept 8th meeting about which candidate you wish to fill the position. There will then be a public speaking session to speak about the three proposed candidates. Here is the official timeline:

September 8, 2008
6:00 p.m. Special meeting to pare down candidates to 3 for interview process

September 9, 2008
Regular session meeting. Public may comment on applicants during public comment time only. (Citizens must sign up with Clerk of Council before COB September 9, 2008)

September 11, 2008
6:00 p.m. Council will conduct panel style interview in Council Chambers

September 16, 2008
6:00 p.m. Special Meeting of City Council for selection of candidate replacement

September 23, 2008
5:00 p.m. work session if needed for tie vote at the September 16, 2008 meeting

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Canon Shots in Town

On Saturday we were celebrating at a block party downtown when every so often we heard these incredible booms. These were from the celebration at Chatham. This weekend has included talks every hour, along with historic demonstrations, and the firing of the canons. There is still time to catch the celebration, the fun continues from 9:30-4:30 today.

More information here:

Friday, August 15, 2008

Latin Festival this Weekend

Here's one event that I almost missed. Luckily the FLS had it on the front page of the region section today. From 10am-9pm, the Festival Latino De Fredericksburg is happening at the Fredericksburg Fairgrounds.

Union Radio is sponsoring the event. Unfortunately their website seems to be offline at the moment.

2nd River Celebration in September - Riverfest 2008

Have you seen the banners around town? The 2008 Riverfest is September 20th. The annual celebration with Friends Of the Rappahannock is sure to bring out a nice crowd. But note there is a change of location this year to the Farley Vale Farm. You may also want to purchase tickets in advance (before Sept 1st) to save some money.

Rappahannock Riverfest 2008!
Saturday - September 20, 2008 5-9pm
Join us for a fine Fall evening under the Big Top Tents, overlooking the beautiful Rappahannock. Crabs, Baby Back Ribs, Rotisserie Chicken and full open bar, live music, and our famous live and silent auctions. What better way to help protect the Rappahannock ?Tickets sold in ADVANCE only. Order now - prices go up after Sept 1. More Riverfest Details.
Check out our Auction Preview.


Bands include:
Dixie Power Trio
Susan Greenbaum Duo
Bob Gramann
Fall Line Bluegrass Band

Menu is set to include Chesapeake Blue Crabs (pending availability due to this years harvest), baby back ribs, chicken, veggies, pasta and "delicious cobbler dessert".

Farley Vale Farm is located at:
12475 Farley Vale Dr
King George, VA 22485
(Remember the place where the Coors brewing tanks were offloaded from the trains before transport to the brewery?)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Who Is Bryan Metts?

As I read the FLS this morning on who is running to fill the vacated Fredericksburg City Council seat, I realized that I need to let people know who I am. These are in no particular order.

#1 - I'm open. As many of the regular readers here will know, I like to put my position out there, and then engage the public. It's always an analysis of alternatives, it's the engineer in me. Be assured that if I take a side, you the voting public have every right to know why.

#2 - I'm a blogger (this was how the FLS referenced me), but I'm also a full time DoD contractor working as a software engineer and project manager. I work across several programs, overseeing several major software projects, either working individually, or as part of a larger management team. I currently am employed by a small business, and commute to either Crystal City or Dahlgren. Prior to this I spent ten years at a top ten Fortune 100 company with 300k+ employees. (For those interested, I have a BS in Computer Engineering from Old Dominion University and an MBA from Averett University.)

#3 - Gail and I are expecting our first child in October. If this isn't incentive to get involved in the future of the city, I don't know what is. We love the city, Gail graduated from UMW, and we want the best for our family here. You will often find us out enjoying the many great restaurants and stores around town, both downtown and in Central Park.

#4 - I want to improve on the quality of life in Fredericksburg. Here are my initial ideas, however, I plan on getting out to each of the neighborhoods and may add or modify this list. It's just a set of ideas, I want the people of Ward 1 to contribute, so please don't slaughter me if you disagree with one of them, let me know why and lets see what comes out.
a) Improve transportation, better flow around and through Central Park, Celebrate VA, and the Fall Hill corridor. I want to improve throughput on our existing roads, and petition the state and neighboring counties to improve flow through the city.
b) Better biking and walking into and around the city. Bike lanes on renovated roadways, better sidewalks and walkways.
c) Reduce the city's 6% jobless rate. Incentivize diversity in the business market, to expand the city's base from retail and tourism to include commercial and tech. Promote development of the city industrial park. Evaluate the areas slated for business vs. residential and make sure they continue to make sense. Is there interest in the community for a mixed use zoning?
d) Maintain residents' property rights. Enhance buffer zones, evaluate dark sky and anti-glare ordinances, investigate transport solutions to resolve conflicts between residential and heavy retail/commercial. Keep taxes in check.
e) Optimize government, save where we can in overhead so that we can spend on services.

#5 - I'm someone who you're as likely to see wearing shorts and a t-shirt, as a business suit. We live in Altoona subdivision off of Rt3, two stoplights from I-95. Hobbies range from doing yard work on the weekends to going scuba diving with family and friends (and writing this blog).

Again, these are in no particular order. So now I want to hear from you(click here or the Contact Author link at the right of this page), and so does City Council. Without having an election, they have put a slot on the calendar at the Sept 9th meeting to hear from residents on the candidates. I hope you support me, Bryan Metts.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Weekend Trip to Kilmarnock VA

On Saturday Gail and I took a small side trip to Kilmarnock VA. This is a town that basically is an intersection between two roads. We visited a furniture store, a consignment shop, and had lunch at Lees, which was wonderful. Unfortunately I didn't take my notebook for a proper review of the entire town, but I'll share with you a few of the photos. Check out this bike rack around the corner of one building. Every block had several racks installed, some used, some free like this one. Follow that up with the interesting brick pattern in the massively wide sidewalks, and you have a very pedestrian friendly main street.

I snapped the following photo that took me back a few years. In the last few years we were living in the Charlottesville area, the Culpeper VDOT was busy installing video sensors at each updated intersection. The controls don't require the under asphalt wires that we often see here in Fredericksburg. These wires require cutting into newly installed pavement to sense vehicles. They do require calibration, but provide a wide variety of configuration options. For example, the newly installed under pavement sensor on Rt3 into Altoona doesn't pick up my motorcycle (maybe I should send that into the FLS to ask VDOT).

Town/County Stats:
Kilmarnock is in Lancaster County, VA. Total county population is just over 11k, mostly rural. Median income as reported on is just under 40k, with a 5% unemployment. Residential tax rate is $0.53 per $100 of assessed value.

City Benefits from MC Historic Half Marathon

At the beginning of the City Council meeting last night there was some interesting data about the impacts from the spring Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon. It was overshadowed by topics later in the agenda.

Somewhere between 13k and almost 18k people visited the region. Of those, an estimated 45% had never been to the city of Fredericksburg. It's estimated that during the weekend, they spent $2 to almost $2.8M. Next year it's expected that the marathon organizers are going to increase the number of participants to 9000 runners, for even greater economic benefit.

The city and organizers have been working on feedback to ensure that concerns from this years race are addressed in setup and execution of the 2009 race. From the historic half website - "The 2009 course is being designed and will be posted this fall!"

Note to runners, I've read several reports of people expecting to be able to drive to the 'burg from DC the morning of the race. As a regular commuter to DC, unless it's 4am, don't expect consistent travel times on I-95. Within the past few years a number of national hotel chains have added properties in the Fredericksburg area. If that isn't your cup of tea, there are several smaller, very interesting places to stay around town. And even though most GPSs will take you down I-95, you might want to try 301 if coming from DC or eastern MD. It's much longer, but a scenic drive vs watching someone's brake lights on a Friday afternoon.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

InTheBurg Blogger for City Council

As widely reported last week, Marv Dixon the Fredericksburg Ward 1 City Council member is leaving council effective Sept 1 to attend to some family needs. I've often exchanged email with council member Dixon on topics covered on InTheBurg. I greatly respect the work he has done while serving on council, and have enjoyed our conversations on city topics.

As many of you know, I've closely followed Fredericksburg City Council topics to report out on what's going on in town. After discussing the commitment with my wonderful wife over the weekend, I've decided to toss my hat into the ring for representing Ward 1.

Bryan Metts For Ward 1! Spread the news!

The nomination process is going to include submitting a resume, written responses to a list of questions, and then an interview. All of these are to be open to the public. I would also point any constituents to this blog, and the contact me box if they have any questions on where I stand on topics.

A neighbor was asking about the wards over the weekend. Here is the map. It's also available on the city website here. The next election for ward members will be 2010. According to this story in the FLS, there were 3,286 registered voters in Ward 1 in the 2006 election.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Music Under the Stars This Week

The weather forecast for Wed is a high of 85F, Low of 63F. Great weather to hear the community concert band play at 7pm in Hurkamp Park, downtown Fredericksburg. The Music Under the Stars concerts happen three times throughout the year. This is the last concert under the stars this year.

Free admission, byob - bring your own blanket (or chair).
Sponsored by Fredericksburg Parks and Recreation.

Riverday back on schedule for 9/1

Technically Riverday II was never cancelled, but some were wondering after day I was taken off the schedule back in the spring.

Received this from the city last week. Get ready for River Day II coming next month. 9/1 will kick off Riverday 2008:

Monday, September 1, 2008
12:00pm—6:00pm @ Old Mill Park
Admission $7.00 for Adults (21 over)
$3.50 for ages 13 to 20
12 years and under Admission is Free!

Food, games, fun, beer, wine, music, bands, and special children’s activities.
No outside food or beverages allowed, and please no pets.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A. Flusche, F'burg Attorney

Regular visitors to InTheBurg will notice a new banner today. Area attorney Andrew Flusche is your lawyer for Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania, VA. In the past when I've tried to get a lawyer, it was all but impossible to get on someones schedule quickly. Andrew is an up and coming attorney, who has decided to branch out on his own. Just a few specialties include; small business, wills & probate, trademarks & copyright, and traffic law.

Andrew Flusche, Fredericksburg Attorney

What's more, another first for InTheBurg, our first paying customer!!! Thanks to all those customers who gave me the views to get an advertiser. Yes, I'm aware some people think blogging should be free, and compared to the number of hours of research and writing that go into the blog, it's still effectively free, definitely less than minimum wage. However, even those of us that like free should understand a little revenue to offset expenses.

Boy's & Girl's Club Museum Trip

Through the generous donation of Quicks Bus Company, the combined effort of Quicks and InTheBurg are sending some 40+ youth from the Fredericksburg Boy's And Girls Club to the NEWSEUM in DC. My thanks go out to Quicks for stepping up the challenge I posted here a few days ago. I'll be purchasing tickets for the students and their chaperons for the visit. This whole idea was spawned after seeing an article about their visit to the Holocaust museum. The Newseum tour is shows the highlights and lowlights of modern history. More importantly, it emphasizes that anyone can be responsible for capturing those moments that will go down as history. Most adults will see we are living history every day, and my hope is that some of the Boy's and Girl's youth will also see this.

More to come.... I just wanted to write this post to say thanks to Quicks Bus Company. For all of your tour needs, give them a shout and give them a shot at your bus needs.

Many local non-profits could use your help. I've previously posted a list of various organizations. I strongly encourage everyone out there to consider local donations, especially in a down economy, where many of these nonprofits pick up extra work from families in need.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Distubing Trend in Restaurant Menus

I don't know if it's because of the economy, or the steady flow of political ads stating how each candidate is going to help me be better off, but this weekend I noticed a particularly disturbing trend in dinner menus - no drink prices.

We visited two chain restaurants this weekend. Maybe that was my mistake, in tough times you should eat local so that more revenue goes into the local economy right? I'll even call them out by name, one was Applebees®, the other was Bailey's. On both menus, there wasn't a single price listed for drinks. I'm not just talking alcoholic drinks, I mean ALL drinks. Not soda, tea, beer, wine or hard liquor. And ask my friends, I'm not trying to be cheap, I love a $10-15 martini if it's made right, or a specialty beer in the tallest (non-frosted) glass.

The manager at Applebees® explained that in an effort to reduce costs, they are printing menus to cover a larger region, and with separate liquor taxes in each state, not printing prices allows them to save costs. So I followed up with why not at least print non-alcoholic prices. He went on that even their soda prices had been fluctuating in the latest economy, and this way each store could set their prices. Fine - I understand the cost savings, and corporate reasoning. I definitely do not have to like it.

Due to other issues, I didn't even bother to ask at Bailey's. The manager there couldn't make a good argument for switching off the 'Skins game to go with Karaoke, I didn't even want to ask about the drink prices. They also seem to fall more into the bar category, what I was really surprised at was the family establishments that have deleted these prices.

In an economy where some experts are suggesting the population needs to learn how to save once again, doesn't it seem counter productive to remove vital ordering information from menus? There must be some law stating that food prices are on there, I can only imaging the next bean counter figuring out that they could just print a menu with titles and pictures - take your best guess on the price...

BTW - the food at Applebees® was as expected, and the staff and management was great. Thanks to the manager that took the time to talk about this with us. The Dominion Oak Barrel Stout and bacon cheese fries (total health food kick) at Bailey's was also wonderful, its a shame their management wasn't.

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