Permit office opens to ease backlog
The D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) yesterday officially opened a new center aimed at streamlining the sometimes-cumbersome process of obtaining building and construction permits.
The new center uses a circular design that allows applicants to move from station to station and meet face to face with officials such as planning review coordinators and zoning engineers.
The center is one of the much-maligned agency's steps aimed at improving customer service and clearing the red tape out of the permitting process.
In September, the department had a backlog of more than 3,000 zoning applications and more than 4,000 applications for structural permits.
But the backlog was greatly reduced by December. And since the agency opened a pilot of the new center in April, officials have served more than 8,900 customers and issued more than 5,100 permits.
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty — who pledged to improve the agency before taking office and yesterday officially opened the center — championed the new design as a significant stride in improving the agency's operations.
The opening came just days after interim DCRA Director Linda Argo removed Zoning Administrator Bill Crews from his post.
Agency spokeswoman Karyn-Siobhan Robinson said Mr. Crews was placed on administrative leave last week but that she could not comment on the specifics of his departure.
Dulles rail extension gets first funding
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has approved funding for the first half of a rail extension to Washington Dulles International Airport.
Yesterday's 8-2 vote came despite supervisors' misgivings about the project's elevated design through Tysons Corner.
Critics said the aboveground construction will cause more traffic disruption and will harm plans to transform Tysons into a pedestrian-friendly, urban hub.
But state officials said it is too late to change the project's design without jeopardizing an expected $900 million dollars in federal funding.
In a statement, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine praised the supervisors for their decision, calling the project "long-awaited and critically important."
Officer dies of injuries after being hit by car
A Howard County police officer who was struck by a car while on duty over the weekend died early yesterday, police said.
Officer 1st Class Scott Wheeler, 31, suffered serious head injuries Saturday afternoon when he was struck while working on a speed-enforcement detail on Route 32. He was flown to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he died.
Officer Wheeler, who had been on the force for almost seven years, was in the process of flagging down a car driven by a 24-year-old woman. Investigators think the woman did not see him in the roadway.
No charges have been filed, but the investigation is continuing.
Speedboat in race wrecks on beach
A speedboat taking part in offshore powerboat races Sunday veered off course and slammed onto the beach near 17th Street, police said. No one was injured.
Police said the 42-foot boat was severely damaged and became stuck in the sand. A crane that was brought in to remove the boat became stuck in the sand, and a second crane was called in.
Woman, 79, charged with dealing crack
Hagerstown police have filed drug-dealing charges against a 79-year-old woman, saying she sold crack cocaine from her apartment.
Thelma Walters of the 300 block of North Jonathan Street is charged with distribution of crack cocaine and six other possession and distribution charges.
The charges followed several weeks of surveillance at the address and a drug purchase by an undercover informant.
Man, children missing after threats made
Police in Montgomery County are looking for a Germantown man and his two young children.
Police said Navid Eghterafi has not been seen since Saturday in Olney. Police said family members have said Mr. Eghterafi has threatened to kill his 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son before taking his own life.
Mr. Eghterafi is divorced, but he has joint custody of the children.
He told family members Saturday that he was going to Ocean City. Police are also looking for Mr. Eghterafi's silver 1998 Honda CRV with Maryland tags.
Five found dead on cabin cruiser
Three persons were found dead yesterdayon a cabin cruiser, apparently killed by carbon-monoxide poisoning, Baltimore County officials said.
Baltimore County police last night identified the victims as Laura Jean Gladden, 34, of Middle River; John Elijah Marsh,39, of Dundalk, and Patty Mae Vento, 42, of Plantation, Fla.
About 1 p.m., authorities responded to reports of unconscious people and found two women and one man dead inside the 30-foot cabin cruiser at the Parkside Marina in Bowleys Quarters.
Police spokeswoman Elise Armacost said their identities will be released by police after relatives are notified.
Carbon-monoxide meters showed the level of the deadly gas at 30 parts per million. Miss Armacost said levels that high always require an evacuation of the area.
Fire officials do not know what caused the gas to build up in the boat, but Miss Armacost said the problem may be related to the boat's generator. She said all the boat's ventilation hatches were completely closed.
Killer, drug dealer gets life sentence
A federal judge sentenced a Prince George's County man to life yesterday for dealing drugs and murdering four persons.
Lionel Gilliam, 23, of Forestville also was sentenced on firearms charges and for two carjackings.
Federal prosecutors said Gilliam and two persons sentenced last week dealt marijuana and crack from 2000 to 2002 in the Hilmar area of Forestville.
Prosecutors said Gilliam fatally shot Donald Twitty and Juan Clark in 2002 because he thought they were cooperating with police. He also fatally shot two other persons at different times.
Rip tide carries man, 19, out to sea
A Lanham man was presumed drowned after he was swept away in a rip current while swimming yesterday near 31st Street yesterday, the Ocean City Beach Patrol said.
It happened about 2:45 p.m. Authorities said the 19-year-old man was in the surf with his brother and cousin when all three were carried away from the shore. The men told another swimmer that they could not swim.
Lifeguards lost sight of the 19-year-old but were able to rescue the others.
A search by the Beach Patrol, Natural Resources Police and the Coast Guard failed to find the man by last night.
It is the first drowning of the season in Ocean City.
Academy holds drill simulating gunman
The U.S. Naval Academy held a security drill yesterday to gauge the school's readiness in case of a terrorist attack or an incident such as the Virginia Tech shootings. The academy described the drill as "a training exercise in response to a simulated gunman on the Naval Academy complex."
Deborah Goode, an academy spokeswoman, declined to comment in detail. A statement warned of possible traffic problems in areas around the school.
Academy officials briefed members of the school's Board of Visitors, which includes members of Congress, at a meeting earlier this month on efforts to increase security on the campus. The security upgrades include a public address system and the capability to send a mass e-mail to warn of an emergency.
The academy has been working on a camera monitoring system and an emergency operations center . A system of fences, gates and barriers to protect midshipmen also is in the works.
The academy has been focusing on beefing up security at Bancroft Hall, the huge dorm that houses the entire student body of more than 4,000 midshipmen. Some midshipmen are being specially trained in anti-terrorism protection.
Strip search ruled not inappropriate
Anne Arundel County police said their investigation found no criminal wrongdoing when elementary school students were forced to strip during a check for ticks during an overnight trip at a nature center.
The third-graders from Shipley's Choice Elementary School in Millersville were told by adults to remove their clothes during the April trip to Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center.
After someone complained about the strip search, Principal Linda Ferrara was transferred to the school system's central office.
From wire dispatches and staff reports