Local digest: Inspector general probe of Silver Spring Transit Center sought

April 30, 2013
MARYLAND
Investigation urged into transit center

Two Montgomery County Council members called Tuesday for an inspector general’s investigation into the $120 million Silver Spring Transit Center , which has been beset by delays, construction defects and cost overruns.

Council members Hans Riemer (D-At Large) and Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) proposed adding $100,000 to county Inspector General Edward Blansitt’s budget to pay for the probe.

“Like you, I am very troubled by the problems at the Silver Spring Transit Center. Its history of delays, defects, failures and cost overruns is deeply concerning to our residents,” Riemer said in a letter circulated to council members. Riemer said Blansitt’s expertise in “financial practices, management processes and contractor conduct” suit him to an independent probe of the train and bus hub.

The transit center was scheduled to open more than two years ago, but has been found unusable without major repairs, due to begin in the summer.

— Bill Turque

Montgomery council approves pay raises

The Montgomery County Council approved a package of salary increases Tuesday for most employees and senior managers, ending a series of lean years triggered by the Great Recession.

With little debate, the council voted to award raises averaging between 7 and 10 percent for most police officers, firefighters and other employees for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The raises, a combination of cost-of-living and step increases, total about $32 million. They represent the front end of two-year contracts negotiated by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) with International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1664, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 and the Municipal and County Government Employees Organization Local 1994. The council is permitted to consider only one year at a time.

Leggett said the raises were justified by the sacrifices county workers made during the past three years in the form of furloughs and wage freezes. He also said the county faced the possibility of paying more if contract talks reached impasses and went to arbitration.

— Bill Turque

Bikeshare sets first sites in Montgomery

Capital Bikeshare is on schedule to have bike-rental stations operating in Montgomery County by late summer, county officials said Tuesday.

The county transportation department signed a one-year contract with Alta Bicycle Share, the company that runs Capital Bikeshare, on April 24 to install bike stations, supply bicycles and operate the system, county spokeswoman Esther Bowring. The contract includes two one-year extensions.

About 20 bike stations, with 200 bikes total, will be installed in the Rockville and Shady Grove areas. Those locations will include the Rockville and Shady Grove Metrorail stations, Rockville Town Center, King Farm, Montgomery College’s Rockville campus and the Universities at Shady Grove area.

An additional 30 stations, with 250 bikes total, will be located at or near Red Line Metrorail stations inside the Capital Beltway, including Takoma, Silver Spring, Friendship Heights, Bethesda and Medical Center.

— Katherine Shaver

GOP delegates replace leader

Republicans in the Maryland House ousted Del. Anthony J. O’Donnell as their leader Tuesday, voting to replace him with Del. Nicholaus R. Kipke, a younger member who promised to do a better job of spreading the minority party’s message beyond Annapolis.

“Unfortunately, there are many voters out there in Maryland who don’t hear our message,” said Kipke (R-Anne Arundel), 34, who emerged as the victor after a contentious closed-door election that lasted more than two hours.

O’Donnell (R-Calvert), 52, had guided the Republican caucus since 2007, taking over the same year that Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) took office.

— John Wagner

VIRGINIA
Virginia motorcyclist hit, killed on I-95

A Virginia motorcyclist died early Tuesday after he was struck by a tractor-trailer on Interstate 95 in Fairfax County, police said.

Timothy E. Halpin, 68, of Dumfries, Va., was in the left northbound lane when he lost control of his motorcycle about 4:30 a.m., according to Virginia State Police. Halpin fell off the bike and slid into the center lane, where he was hit by the truck, police said. They said it was raining at the time.

Police said the driver of the tractor-trailer did not stop, and witnesses couldn’t provide a detailed description. Halpin died at the scene, and the incident was still under investigation, they said.

State police are asking that anyone with knowledge of the crash contact them at 703-803-0026.

— Suzy Khimm

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