- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 25, 2009

MARYLAND

ANNAPOLIS

Furloughs to range from 3 to 5 days

Maryland budget officials have outlined a furlough plan for state employees to help address a big budget shortfall.

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration has been negotiating with labor unions for weeks on how to implement furloughs.

Under the Maryland Department of Budget and Management plan, the government will be shut down for five days in which employees who do not work in essential emergency services will not be paid.

Employees who make less than $40,000 will have the option to use earned, personal or compensatory leave to make up for two of those days, and the overall loss in salary will be spread out over the fiscal year.

Employees who make $40,000 or more will take and additional three to five furlough days of their choosing.

The furlough days under the plan are scheduled near holidays, including Sept. 4, Nov. 25, Dec. 24, Dec. 31 and May 28.

ANNAPOLIS

$360 million sought for rail improvements

Maryland officials are applying for $360 million in federal economic recovery money to improve passenger rail service.

State transportation officials announced Monday that they had sent in an application for the money, which would be used for commuter travelers in the Northeast Corridor on Amtrak and MARC commuter rail.

The administration said the money would be used for the study and engineering or construction of a variety of projects.

The projects include a tunnel replacement in Baltimore, expanding the Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Rail Station and building a new rail yard to ease congestion at Union Station.

The money also could be used for reconstructing several rail bridges, and for a GPS-based train-locating system for the Amtrak/MARC Penn Line and Brunswick Line.

COLUMBIA

Man, age 87, charged in homicide

Howard County police have charged an 87-year-old man in the county’s first homicide this year.

Earl Wilder has been charged with second-degree murder and two other assault charges, after he was taken into custody Aug. 17. Police said Mr. Wilder repeatedly struck the head of another resident at the assisted living home where the two resided. Police said the attack was unprovoked.

The victim, 91-year-old James Brown, was taken to Laurel Regional Hospital and died Saturday from head trauma. Police do not think Mr. Wilder knew the victim before the incident.

The case marks the first homicide in Howard County since October 2008. There were a total of four murders in the county last year.

DISTRICT

2 workers injured in explosion

Authorities say two workers were hospitalized with injuries after an explosion in an electrical vault near Dupont Circle.

D.C. Deputy Fire Chief Kenneth Crosswhite said the two men were contract employees working in an outdoor electrical vault when an explosion occurred in the 1500 block of 19th Street Northwest. Chief Crosswhite said one man was critically burned and the other suffered smoke inhalation.

He said the vault contains various feeds of high voltage. It was not immediately known what caused the explosion.

Consumer advocate reviews Pepco bills

The D.C. utility consumer advocate charged that significant increases in some Pepco customers’ heating bills may have been caused by flawed meters.

The Office of the People’s Counsel received about 400 complaints from customers earlier this year as their bills increased.

People’s counsel Elizabeth Noel told the D.C. Public Service Commission that her staff found that about 70 percent of the high bills studied were the result of recorded increased consumption. She also said random faulty meters may account for the high bill readings for more than 43 percent of consumers.

Pepco disputed Ms. Noel’s figures and said a test last year found that meters were 95 percent accurate. Pepco blamed a colder-than-average winter, longer billing cycles, an increase in customer usage and higher electricity generation rates for the increases.

From staff reports and wire dispatches

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