- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Smithsonian sees more visitors, money

Fundraising and attendance are up this year at the Smithsonian Institution’s museums as its fiscal year comes to a close, acting Secretary Cristian Samper said yesterday.

The Smithsonian received about $140 million in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30 — about $25 million more than its goal of $115 million, Mr. Samper said. At the same time, attendance increased about 9 percent, he said.

The gifts included a $10 million donation to the National Air and Space Museum for its education programs. Mr. Samper did not specify any of the major donors.

He said the institution’s financial outlook was welcome news after a year when the Smithsonian saw the embarrassing resignation of former Secretary Lawrence Small in March over questionable spending and excessive compensation.

“We were wondering if there would be any slip in our fundraising, in light of recent events,” Mr. Samper said. The increase “means we did very well.”

Also, the majority of funds for the ongoing overhaul of the National Museum of American History had been secured. The renovation involves the creation of a new skylight and atrium at the museum’s core with reorganized galleries around a new centerpiece exhibit of the Star Spangled Banner.

“All the key engineering is done” at the history museum, he said. Asked whether it would reopen on time in July, Mr. Samper knocked on a wooden table. “So far, so good.”

Fenty OKs deal on SE hospital

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty yesterday agreed to a deal that would facilitate the sale of the District’s only hospital east of the Anacostia River.

Under the terms of the agreement — which must be approved by the D.C. Council — the District would invest $79 million in Greater Southeast Community Hospital to allow Specialty Hospitals of America to purchase it from Envision Hospital Corp.

The District’s funding includes lending $20 million to Specialty for day-to-day operations of the hospital that the company would pay back over 10 years.

Also, $29 million from the city would go to pay off the hospital’s debts, while $30 million will pay for equipment and renovations at the facility.

“This is truly a public/private partnership to benefit the residents of the District of Columbia, particularly those living east of the Anacostia River,” Mr. Fenty said.

The deal also requires that half of the proceeds go to the District if Specialty ever sells Greater Southeast and requires the company to operate an emergency room and obstetrics and gynecology facility.

Council member Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat who has been involved in negotiating the hospital’s sale, sharply criticized the deal and said he would vote against it.

Mr. Barry also said that he was not informed of the deal’s terms until he called around to get information and that previous negotiations would have required Specialty to put $20 million of its own money into the agreement.

“It is now clear to me that the city could have purchased the hospital for half of what it is now giving away,” Mr. Barry said.

Vietnam wall oil deemed vandalism

The U.S. Park Police said yesterday officers have determined that the substance recently spread on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Mall was an act of vandalism.

Sgt. Robert LaChance said officers are in the preliminary phase of a criminal investigation, which includes looking for witnesses.

Volunteers and National Park Service workers discovered a “light, oily” substance Sept. 8 on the memorial’s wall panels and the paving stones in front of it.

The substance was spread over about 50 to 60 feet, mostly on the paving stones.

Bill Line, a Parks Service spokesman, said yesterday that the substance was sent out last week for a chemical analysis but the results have yet to be returned. He also said crews are attempting to remove the substance gently so it will not work its way into the granite.



Water restrictions go into effect

Mandatory water restrictions began yesterday in Stafford County, where the levels in the county’s two reservoirs have been dropping because of the ongoing drought.

County administrator Steve Crosby said the county has 139 days of water left.

Under the mandatory restrictions, the county is banning watering of lawns except for those that are newly seeded and athletic fields. Trees, bushes and other landscaping may be watered only with a bucket or a hose equipped with a hand-held spray nozzle.

Violators could be fined or have their water service suspended.

Stafford’s Board of Supervisors declared a water-supply emergency last month, which gave Mr. Crosby authority to impose the mandatory restrictions.


No problems found on Norris Bridge

State transportation officials say more inspections show no problems with a pin on a 2-mile-long bridge on the Northern Neck.

But the Virginia Department of Transportation will keep overweight trucks off the bridge for at least several more weeks as a precaution while consultants review the reports.

The 50-year-old Norris Bridge links the Northern Neck to the Middle Peninsula over the Rappahannock River on Route 3 and carries more than 11,000 vehicles each day. It is similar in design to the bridge in Minneapolis that collapsed last month.

Inspectors last week found a potential flaw inside one of more than 160 pins that connect the bridge’s structural elements. The 2-foot-long pins are used to connect bridge beams like pins in a door hinge.

VDOT will conduct more tests on the pin in question in coming months to ensure its condition remains stable.


Delegate hit by car near Capitol Square

A state legislator was hit by a car yesterday as he crossed a downtown street near Capitol Square.

Delegate M. Kirkland Cox, Colonial Heights Republican, was in a pedestrian crosswalk at the intersection of Ninth and Broad streets when the vehicle struck him.

Mr. Cox had parked his car in spaces designated for legislators beneath the Library of Virginia and was walking to a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee in the General Assembly Building on the opposite corner.

There were no visible injuries, and after forgoing treatment by ambulance medics, he went inside for the committee meeting.

But shortly after he got there, he told colleagues that he was not feeling well and walked to Virginia Commonwealth University’s Medical College of Virginia hospital about a block away for tests.

The tests showed no serious internal injuries, and Mr. Cox was resting at home yesterday afternoon.

Richmond police cited the driver of the car, Trece Hannah, for failure to yield to a pedestrian.



Bay surge project gets NOAA grant

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has awarded a $500,000 grant for the development of a new system to better predict storm surge in the Chesapeake Bay.

The money is going to Chesapeake Bay Observing System, which expects to receive identical grants from NOAA for two additional years.

The designers hope the new computer models will better warn the region about the potential effects of storms similar to Tropical Storm Isabel, which produced an unforeseen storm surge.

The objective is to save lives and reduce property losses.


Man attacked by two large dogs

A dog attack left a man in the hospital and two dogs dead — including one of his own.

The man was walking his dogs — a collie and a Pekingese — when two bull mastiffs attacked them about 7:30 yesterday morning in the 12900 block of Asbury Drive.

The attacking dogs then turned on the man, biting him in the legs and groin area. The man was taken to the hospital for treatment.

A police spokesman said there were many witnesses to the attack, including a federal officer. The officer fired shots that killed one of the attacking dogs. The other was taken by animal control workers.

Then, police said, one of the victim’s dogs was killed when it was accidentally run over.


Research center opens on campus

The new Maryland Pathogen Research Institute will open today at the University of Maryland.

The $69 million bioscience research building houses 35 laboratories to study infectious diseases, including those spread naturally and those that could be used in a bioterrorist attack. Director David Mosser said the increasing prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria has brought a new urgency to the research.

Construction for the building began in 2004. Most of the funding came from the state.


Off-duty officer kills armed man

An off-duty officer fatally shot a man yesterday morning in North Baltimore, police said.

Spokesman Sterling Clifford said the preliminary investigation shows that Officer Lawrence Armwood, a nine-year veteran of the force, was with a friend and was waiting for someone to pick her up about 4 a.m.

The assailant pointed a handgun at Officer Armwood’s car near Belgian and St. Georges avenues.

Officer Armwood pulled out his service weapon and shot the man twice, police said.

Mr. Clifford said detectives are still investigating to determine if a robbery or carjacking was attempted.

It was the 25th police-involved shooting this year and the 10th in which the victim died.


Artificial oyster reef ruled a hazard

An artificial oyster reef near Gibson Island was wrongly installed and must be removed, state officials said.

This is the first time that the state will have to dismantle a man-made reef.

The reef in Sillery Bay was installed in the wrong place and is a boating hazard. The reef was installed in May and was inadvertently put in an area where the water is too shallow.

Howard King, director of fisheries for the Department of Natural Resources, said it will cost $40,000 to remove the reef. It cost $150,000 to build.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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