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Week in Alexandria

Seven Stung

Seven Alexandria businesses got stung last weekend during a regularly scheduled crackdown on businesses that sell alcohol to minors. Violators include three separate 7-11 stores, a Harris Teeter, a Rite Aid, Mercado American Latino Market and Main Street Market in Cameron Station.

The sting happened last Friday, when police officials sent out a handful of confidential informants out into about two dozen businesses. The deputized volunteers, who were between the ages of 18 and 21, tried to purchase alcoholic beverages. If asked to produce identification, the informants were instructed to produce their legal identification.

“We want to make sure these businesses know it’s their duty to comply with the law,” said Chris Wemple, commander of special services. “It’s also a good opportunity to remind all businesses that they need to train all their employees to prevent the underage sale of alcohol.”

If an illegal sale happened, officers entered the business and placed appropriate charges on the seller. Penalties can range from $2,000 to a year in jail.

Taxes on the Go

The Grim Reaper might not be coming for you this week, but the taxman is.

This week, city officials mailed out personal property tax bills for every vehicle in the city. The payments, which are due by Oct. 5, can be made in person at City Hall or online. Late payments will be penalized with a fee — 10 percent of the tax due or $10, whichever is greater. Interest accrues at an annual rate of 10 percent for the first year and 5 percent for each additional year.

Alexandria’s vehicle tax rate is $4.75 for every $100 of assessed value. The city calculates the value of vehicles by using trade-in value, which is 86 percent of the National Automotive Dealers Association retail value. That adds up to about $40.3 million in revenues for the city.

Vehicle owners who don’t receive personal property tax bill by Sept. 15 should call the city’s Treasury Division — or face the dreaded boot.

Business owners are also on the hook. This week, city officials sent out personal property tax bills to all businesses that have been operation this year. Those bills are calculated by compiling information about vehicles, machinery, computers and furniture. This year, the city expects to take in about $16.3 million, a decline from 2011 when the city took in $16.9 million.

Written in Silver

Was Robert Louis Stevenson’s most famous literacy character Long John Silver based on an Alexandria silversmith? That’s the question at the heart of a new book by author Robert Prather titled “From History to Myth and Back Again: The Strange Case of the Swift Silver Mine Legend.”

“It’s research that nobody has done before,” said City Archeologist Pam Cressey. “And it’s a fascinating story.”

Lurid tales have been told and retold about his fabulously wealth silver mine, enticing an untold number of speculators to search for the infamous lost treasure. The legend of Swift’s lost treasure has endured through the ages, although historians have questioned how much of the story is based in fact and how much of the story might be propaganda.

Now, Prather says he has the answer — and he’s ready to reveal it in a Sept. 4 lecture sponsored by the Torpedo Factory at the Morrison House.

“People always say so much has been written about Alexandria history that we already know everything there is to know,” said Cressey. “I think this shows us that there’s a lot more out there that we still don’t know.”

Long John Silver is one of the chief characters in the classic 1883 novel “Treasure Island,” a coming-of-age story that is often assigned to grade-school children. Now that story may have an added local dimension, with Alexandria playing a key role in the legend that launched the famous novel.