- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 20, 2006



Unusual request nets fugitive

A construction worker was more than a little suspicious when a man in handcuffs walked up and asked whether he could borrow some bolt cutters.

The suspicion led to the arrest of a wanted man.

A handcuffed Jerry Bowen approached the construction worker yesterday, but the worker was wary and called for help, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office said. Authorities said Bowen had escaped from West Virginia authorities.

Deputies caught up with Bowen a short time later — still in handcuffs. They took him to a hospital to be treated for dehydration, and now he is at the county jail.

The sheriff said Bowen is from Poolesville and is wanted in Montgomery County on drug-possession charges, for which he was being held in West Virginia.


VDOT installs cameras on western highways

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has installed cameras along Interstates 81, 66 and 64.

The cameras are roughly in the Shenandoah Valley, as far north as Winchester, as far west and south as Covington and as far east as Afton Mountain on I-64.

VDOT spokeswoman Sandy Myers in Staunton said the cameras will begin transmitting their images onto the Internet at 6 a.m. today.

Miss Myers said the images will be available only at www.vdot.org, www.511virginia.org and www.trafficland.com.

The cameras are part of the Intelligent Transportation Systems and were paid for with federal funds.

Miss Myers said they will help motorists plan trips and find out about traffic delays caused by accidents or road construction.


Helicopters hault rees from refuge

Helicopters are hauling downed trees away from the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge to help save the swamp’s rare Atlantic white cedar population.

Refuge officials yesterday said the first stage of a logging project to clear 1,100 acres was about half done. The project should be finished by the end of the year.

Hurricane Isabel in 2003 devastated more than 3,000 acres of mature Atlantic white cedar. It was one of the last significant stands of this species, also known as juniper.

Removing damaged and dead trees exposes the swamp’s soil to sunlight, allowing cedar seeds in the soil to germinate, and reduces a fuel source for wildfires.

Carson Helicopters Inc. is removing the logs for free in exchange for the right to sell the wood.

The swamp consists of more than 111,000 acres of forested wetlands through Suffolk and Chesapeake in southeastern Virginia and into northeastern North Carolina.



Public schools chief to step down

The chief executive officer of Baltimore’s financially and academically troubled public school system said yesterday that she will step down next month.

Bonnie S. Copeland is leaving the post nearly three years after taking over a school system saddled with a $58 million deficit.

No reason was given for the departure of Mrs. Copeland, who has pushed for reforms and staff reductions to address the deficit.

“I take pride in knowing that we have made significant progress over the last several years,” Mrs. Copeland said. “It is now time for a new leader to build on that success.”

A joint statement from the board and Mrs. Copeland said members and the CEO “have agreed” that she will finish her tenure July 1.

Mrs. Copeland is leaving the job when the public school system said it is without a deficit for the first time in seven years. However, the school system has been struggling with controversy and difficulties under her tenure. Many of the problems have troubled the school system for many years.

In March, the Maryland State Board of Education voted to use the federal No Child Left Behind Act to justify a state takeover of four failing inner-city high schools and to order city officials to find a third party to run seven poorly performing middle schools.

The move, which was supported by the governor, was later blocked by the Maryland legislature.

The 85,000-student school system also has been locked in a battle with state education officials over providing services to special-education students.


Man indicted in abortion-clinic plot

A Forestville man accused of planning to attack an abortion clinic with a pipe bomb and handgun was indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury on weapons and explosives charges.

Robert Weiler, 25, was charged with possessing and making an unregistered destructive device, illegally possessing a firearm and possessing a stolen firearm.

According to court documents, Mr. Weiler called the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on June 8 from a Western Maryland rest stop to confess to the plan. Authorities said he told them that he planned to attack a clinic in Greenbelt that performs abortions.

The pipe bomb exploded that morning in the Riverdale house of Mr. Weiler’s friend as a bomb technician tried to defuse it.

Each count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for a conviction. A preliminary hearing is set for Thursday.


Democrats hit governor’s hearing

State Democrats yesterday took aim at the governor’s plan to hold a hearing on the bill providing temporary rate relief for more than a million customers of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. (BGE).

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican seeking re-election, said today’s hearing will help him determine whether to veto the bill the Democrat-controlled legislature passed last week in special session.

Democrats called the hearing an attempt to mislead the public.

State Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lierman called the hearing “a total sham.”

Mr. Ehrlich said the hearing will help cut through the political rhetoric and give the public a chance to speak.

Witnesses will be allowed to speak for three to five minutes, with the duration of the testimony depending on the number of people who wish to testify.

Mr. Ehrlich set aside five hours for the hearing but said he would stay longer to give everyone a chance to talk.


Park Service builds in Georgetown

The National Park Service yesterday began construction on the long-awaited Georgetown Waterfront Park along the Potomac River.

The park eventually will replace a parking lot with a waterfront promenade that will include three overlooks with sculpted granite slabs etched with images of Georgetown’s maritime heritage.

There also will be trees, flowers, benches and pathways.

The first phase of the park will stretch upstream from Wisconsin Avenue Northwest toward Key Bridge.

The next phase will be built at the foot of Wisconsin Avenue, where a plaza and fountain will connect the riverfront to the street.

Construction on that phase will not begin until more funds are raised.

Planning and fundraising efforts for the park began about 25 years ago.

Officials said the park will be the largest created in the District since Constitution Gardens was completed on the Mall in 1976.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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