MARYLAND

Entertainment Taxes Fall by $4 Million

Golfers and movie fans did their part to help out, but overall spending on entertainment dropped in Maryland during the fiscal year that ended June 30.

That translated into a $4 million drop in entertainment tax revenue from the previous year, with about half of the drop from taxes collected by the Maryland Stadium Authority for sporting events and half in revenue to local governments, according to a report by State Comptroller William Donald Schaefer (D).

Marylanders spent about $636.6 million on entertainment during the fiscal year that ran from July 1, 1998, through June 30, 1999, down about 3.5 percent from the previous fiscal year.

They spent $136 million on sports events, a 22 percent drop from the previous year. Schaefer blamed the decline on less successful seasons for the Orioles and Ravens.

Golfing was a bright spot, with golfers spending $87.4 million on green fees and cart rentals, 15 percent higher than the previous year.

NAACP Seeks Bias Hearings in Arundel

The Anne Arundel County branch of the NAACP has asked the County Council to hold hearings on job discrimination in county government.

"We have received complaints from past and present county employees who alleged that they have been the victims of racism, sexism and other unlawful actions of discrimination," branch President Gerald Stansbury wrote yesterday in a letter to council Chairman Daniel E. Klosterman (D-Glen Burnie). Stansbury also asked for assurances that employees who speak about discrimination would be protected from retaliation.

Klosterman said in an interview he was not inclined to hold hearings. "The county's hiring practices are the responsibility of the county executive and the administration. The council should not be micromanaging their business," Klosterman said. He said County Executive Janet S. Owens (D) was concerned about minority hiring and "she should be given more time to implement her policy."

Stansbury could not be reached for comment.

Annapolis Woodworker Impaled

An Annapolis woodworker was seriously injured yesterday when he was impaled by a piece of wood.

City police said Caldwell Nash Jr., 51, the owner of Annapolis Mill Works, was working on a molding machine when the piece of wood it held kicked back and lodged in his upper torso. He was found by a customer and flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Hospital officials said Nash was in serious but stable condition.

THE REGION

VRE, MARC Among Fastest-Growing Lines

The Virginia Railway Express commuter rail service between downtown Washington and Fredericksburg and Manassas was the third-fastest-growing commuter rail service nationwide in the first quarter of this year, after similar lines in San Diego and Dallas.

Ridership on VRE increased by 15 percent compared with the first quarter of 1998, according to figures collected by the American Public Transit Association.

Maryland's MARC service, with three lines bringing Maryland commuters to Washington, saw its ridership grow by 13.5 percent, making it the nation's fourth-fastest-growing commuter line. There are 15 commuter rail services nationwide, Sheridan said.

VRE spokesman Matt Benka attributed the increase in riders to service improvements, better marketing and commuter fatigue with long car trips.

Free Admission to 7 Area Parks

Tomorrow The National Park Service is waiving entrance fees at seven area parks tomorrow in recognition of the 83rd anniversary of the founding of the national park system, said spokesman Earle Kittleman.

In Maryland, Great Falls Park, Fort Washington Park and Antietam National Battlefield will be free for the day. Manassas National Battlefield Park, Prince William Forest Park and Great Falls Park in Virginia and Harpers Ferry National Park in West Virginia will not charge admission, according to Kittleman.

VIRGINIA

Technology Aids Civil War Grave Search

Radford University researchers are conducting a high-tech search for a century-old mass grave that could answer questions about a Civil War massacre of black soldiers.

Historians don't know many details of the 1864 Saltville massacre.

Confederate soldiers defeated a larger Union force in the first battle of Saltville in southwestern Virginia. Rebel soldiers then shot and killed wounded black cavalrymen.

But nobody knows how many black troops were killed in the massacre. Estimates range from six to 150. Local legends point to 10 sites as the possible location of the mass grave. The researchers are using aerial images from NASA to try to pinpoint the grave and provide clues to the details of what occurred.

Gas Leak Brings Evacuation in Great Falls

A break in a natural gas pipe forced the evacuation of 14 homes and 22 people in a Great Falls neighborhood yesterday.

A Virginia Department of Transportation crew installing street signs ruptured the four-inch pipe at Columbine Street and Lunenburg Road about 10:30 a.m., according to the Fairfax County Fire Department.

Fairfax fire spokesman Dan Schmidt said gas company workers were able to shut off the leak about noon, and people were allowed to return to their houses later in the afternoon. There were no injuries.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"There was a time when "there was a focus on creating sound internal policies, being the best we could be from the inside out. We have lost that focus, and it is not the fault of Congress, it's not the fault of GAO or the press. It's about the lack of leadership."

-- Nancy Cohen, who has worked for the D.C. Superior Court for 23 years, speaking to the judges who oversee the court.