- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 15, 2008


Metro, Belgian bank make deal on loan

Metro has reached an agreement with a Belgian bank that has been seeking $43 million from a financing deal gone bad.

The deal soured after the near collapse of insurer American International Group, and the settlement may help other transit agencies facing billions of dollars in similar costs.

Metro and KBC Group made the deal after three days of talks overseen by a federal judge. Terms were not disclosed on the judge’s instructions, but both sides said they were pleased with the outcome.


Honduran sentenced in beating death

A twice-deported Honduran man was sentenced in a D.C. court for beating a man to death with a baseball bat, federal prosecutors said.

Hernan Melendez will spend 20 years in prison for beating Andres Benitez, 30, in the head 15 times with a baseball bat last year. He was sentenced Friday.

In May 2008, Melendez was found guilty of second-degree murder in the beating after an argument with Mr. Benitez, who worked as a dishwasher at the Old Ebbitt Grill, in the 1200 block of 11th Street in Northwest.

Witnesses told police that Melendez hit Mr. Benitez 10 times in the head until a bystander intervened. But Melendez hit that man, who fled, and struck Mr. Benitez at least five more times.

Security guards who witnessed the crime chased a blood-covered Melendez, captured him with the bat in hand and held him until police arrived.



More public schools meet new standards

Eighty-three percent of public schools in Maryland met federal No Child Left Behind standards in the 2007-08 school year, state education officials said.

The number is up from 77 percent last year, and the increase comes despite tougher standards for meeting what is known as “adequate yearly progress.”

Nine high schools also have exited the federally mandated improvement process. A school is designated as needing improvement when it fails to meet No Child Left Behind standards for two years running.

The number of high schools statewide needing improvement is 45, down from 71 in 2005.

Baltimore city and Prince George’s County have the most schools that failed to meet the standards.


City facing budget gap of $65 million

Baltimore is facing a $65 million budget gap for the new fiscal year that begins in July, Mayor Sheila Dixon said.

Officials have not yet decided where the cuts for fiscal year 2010 will be made, Mrs. Dixon said Friday. She said each city department and agency has been asked to look at where money can be saved.

The mayor said the levels of requested cuts vary by agency, but the average, across all agencies, is nearly 13 percent.

Revenue is dropping off just as the cost of providing services is going up, Mrs. Dixon said.

Last month, Mrs. Dixon cut more than $36 million from the current budget. The mayor has been warning that steep cuts are coming, even floating a proposal to reduce trash and recycling pickups.


Wal-Mart robber gets 38-year term

A Baltimore man who participated in a plot to steal more than $50,000 from a Howard County Wal-Mart store will spend 38 years in prison.

A federal judge Friday sentenced Troy Henley, 30, for the August 2006 armed robbery in Ellicott City and another armed robbery in December 2006 at a check-cashing store.

Witnesses said Henley was a recruiter and supplier for the robberies.

During the Wal-Mart robbery, two employees were forced at gunpoint to put bags of Wal-Mart’s money into shopping carts. Prosecutors said several Wal-Mart employees fought with the robbers and took some of the money back.

Authorities said the robbers escaped with $52,000. The theft from the check-cashing store totaled $36,000.


Firefighter charged in restaurant fire

The Prince George’s County Fire Department has arrested a firefighter and charged him with arson at a restaurant.

Michael Murphy is responsible for setting fire Nov. 1 to Asian Carry Out in the 2500 block of University Boulevard, fire officials said. He was being held on $150,000 bond.

The blaze caused about $1,000 in damage but no injuries.

The incident occurred when some cardboard was set on fire behind the building, fire department spokesman Mark Brady said.

The firefighter, 42, was placed on leave without pay from the Chillum-Adelphi Fire Station. Mr. Murphy is from Huntingtown and is a 19-year veteran of the fire department.



Slow revenues beat expectations

The state government’s October tax collections were slightly better than the lower targets Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, set for them last month.

Total October operating revenues were down 1 percent from the same month last year.

They were down 3.5 percent for the first four months of the fiscal year, but that beats the newly revised forecast for a 4 percent annual decline.

October income tax collections were up 6 percent from October 2007 and 4.1 percent higher for the year to date. Income taxes constitute about two-thirds of the state’s general-fund revenue.

Troubling signs persisted for retail-sales taxes, which fell 4.2 percent, and for the tax paid on home sales, which was down 38 percent for the month and 24 percent for fiscal 2009.

From wire dispatches and staff reports



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