- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2006


VDOT to probe bridge ties to flooding

The Virginia Department of Transportation yesterday announced plans to investigate whether construction at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge contributed to flooding last month that seriously damaged about 150 homes in Fairfax County’s Huntington neighborhood.

Virginia Transportation Secretary Pierce Homer said the internal review was expected to be completed in September, with the results forwarded to an independent panel that will include local residents.

All materials generated by the review will be made available to Fairfax County officials and the Army Corps of Engineers, which also is scrutinizing the flooding that followed unusually heavy rainfall.

Some residents think a construction barge from the bridge project broke loose during the storms in late June and blocked parts of Cameron Run, causing the stream to swell as much as 14 feet in some areas. They also think gravel and silt from the project clogged the stream — perhaps another factor in the flooding.

“There isn’t a person in that community that doesn’t think the bridge construction has been a factor,” said Fairfax County Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland, who represents the Huntington neighborhood.

He noted that the area has never seen such severe flooding, even in the aftermath of Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

“It looked like a war zone,” said Geoff Livingston, who circulated a petition among residents calling for Gov. Timothy M. Kaine to investigate the flooding. “People are just depressed.”

Mr. Livingston called the decision to investigate “the right thing to do.”

He said that if the bridge project is found responsible, he hopes officials will compensate residents who have absorbed the high costs of replacing appliances and flooring.


Man shocked by 35,000 volts

An employee of a sign company was injured yesterday afternoon when he came into contact with a 35,000-volt line in front of an office building.

Spotsylvania Assistant Fire Chief Don Taylor said the man was flown to Washington Hospital Center in the District after being burned about 12:30 p.m. Chief Taylor said the man is in his 20s.

Chief Taylor said the accident caused a power surge that affected service in much of the county and in Fredericksburg.



High court approves early voting in state

Maryland will go ahead with early voting this fall after the state’s highest court yesterday said it won’t step in to allow a petition to stop it to proceed.

In a one-paragraph statement, the Court of Appeals judges sided with a lower-court judge who said the question was moot because the group Marylanders for Fair Elections did not meet a deadline to turn in one-third of the required signatures. The decision means the group’s attempt to stop early voting through a referendum is over.

With yesterday’s decision, voters will be able to cast ballots five days before the September primary and November general election.

The voting group had argued that early voting would open balloting to potential fraud.


Police crack down on prostitution

Police are cracking down on the world’s oldest profession after a new crop of prostitutes appeared on downtown streets this spring.

The department’s frequent sting operations along the first block of North Prospect Street have resulted in at least 14 arrests in recent weeks, raising the hopes of nearby church leaders who have long complained about open solicitation in the area.

“I’m very hopeful that it will, if not stop it, it will at least be lessened,” said the Rev. George Limmer, who recently retired after 31 years at St. Mary Catholic Church and School.

Sgt. Kevin Simmers said he has been running the undercover operations two or three times a week since late May. He said police aim to clean up the area around the Catholic church and the Presbyterian Church of Hagerstown, which sits on the opposite corner.

“Children being dropped off for school shouldn’t have to walk through hookers to get there,” Sgt. Simmers said.

The city of 38,000 has been known for prostitution since at least the Civil War, when troops camping nearby were guarded from sneaking off to Hagerstown for sex, police Chief Arthur R. Smith told the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

Chief Smith has ordered periodic crackdowns since he arrived from Baltimore in 1999. In 2001, undercover officers arrested two public-school principals from nearby Frederick and a prominent businessman from Cumberland, 70 miles away, who had cruised the same block on which the current enforcement is focused.

The Presbyterian congrega-tion considered moving out of the neighborhood in 2003 because of the prevalence of prostitutes and drug dealers, but ultimately decided to stay.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey applauded the recent efforts, but said he fears prostitution won’t just go away.

“No one wants it. No one wants to see it. No one also has the answer. If there are any citizens who can come up with a solution, feel free to call,” Mr. Bruchey said.


Police recruit arrested in theft from firms

Prince George’s County police arrested one of their own yesterday.

Gary Vanlee Nesbitt, 24, of the 14000 block of Bramble Lane in Laurel, was arrested on a felony theft charge, police said. Mr. Nesbitt was enrolled in the police academy class that began July 10.

Police were investigating a case in which funds were discovered missing from a Giant Food store and Dunbar Armored Car Security. The department’s Office of Professional Responsibility and detectives arrested Mr. Nesbitt yesterday.

Mr. Nesbitt was placed on administrative leave until the case is concluded.


Man pleads guilty to fatal shooting

A man pleaded guilty yesterday to second-degree murder in the death of a 21-year-old man near Morgan State University.

Payton Brown, 22, pleaded guilty in the fatal shooting of Brandon Cherry, 21.

The Baltimore city State’s Attorney’s Office said Brown and an unidentified suspect known only as “G,” tried to rob Mr. Cherry last year. Mr. Cherry resisted and was fatally shot in the Northwood Shopping Center.

Brown will be sentenced Sept. 25.


Woman sentenced for role in drug ring

A woman involved in a crack and cocaine distribution network was sentenced yesterday in U.S. District Court.

Donna Faulkner, 39, was sentenced to more than five years in prison, U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said. She was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and crack. After her sentence ends, she faces five years of supervised release.

Thomas Swinney and Wolfgang Gadsonave already have been sentenced for their roles in the 19-member drug organization.

Mr. Rosenstein said the group sold cocaine and crack in Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, Charles and Calvert counties.


Stolen puppy found with new family

A puppy stolen from a Howard County pet store a few weeks ago has been found, but police still don’t know who stole the dog.

A Waldorf man called police when a family member noticed his teenage daughter’s new dog looked like the Pomeranian stolen from Today’s Pet Store in Columbia. A scan of the dog’s microchip confirmed his suspicions, and the family returned the dog.

Because the dog is worth $1,600, the person who stole the puppy faces felony theft charges.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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