THE DISTRICT

End of Mental Health Contract Protested

About 80 people demonstrated in Judiciary Square yesterday to protest the city's decision to cancel a major contract with Andromeda Transcultural, a bilingual mental health clinic in Columbia Heights that is one of the oldest Latino community-based organizations in the city.

Ricardo Galbis, Andromeda's executive director, said the organization could be forced to shut down after 29 years of providing mental health and substance abuse treatment to the city's Spanish-speaking residents if it loses the two-year, $350,000 contract and doesn't get other funding from the District.

Andromeda has appealed a decision by the D.C. Commission on Mental Health Services to award the contract to a nonprofit group that submitted a lower bid, the Anchor Mental Health Association.

Monument Grounds Closed for Seeding

Much of the area surrounding the Washington Monument has been closed to visitors while National Park Service crews prepare the ground for fall seeding and laying sod in the spring, a spokesman for the Park Service said.

The northwest quadrant, the area closest to 17th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, will remain open, said spokesman Earle Kittleman.

THE REGION

Interfaith Events to Protest Violence, Bias

An interfaith coalition will hold two events tomorrow at churches to protest what the group sees as rising violence and bigotry in American life.

The events are part of 350 interfaith activities organized by the Washington-based Interfaith Alliance to take place across the country that day.

Called "Stop the Hate," the prayer meetings will occur on the first anniversary of the slaying of Matthew Shepherd, a gay man, in Wyoming.

An interfaith vespers service will be held at Washington National Cathedral from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m., and a community vigil against hate will be held at 6:30 p.m. at National City Christian Church. Both churches are in Northwest Washington. The public is invited.

MARYLAND

Cleaner Dies When Bus Doors Close on Neck

A bus cleaner was killed yesterday when the doors on a charter bus closed around her neck as she was reaching inside the vehicle, Anne Arundel County police said.

Cynthia M. Sienkiewicz, 45, of Pasadena, was found about 6:30 p.m. by a co-worker at Hubers Bus Service Inc., in Ferndale, police spokesman Jeff Kelly said. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

An automatic switch controlling the doors, located inside the bus, was in the "closed" position, but it was unclear whether Sienkiewicz flipped the switch, Kelly said. The Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating, he said.

Montgomery to Hear Upcounty Concerns

The Montgomery County Council is scheduled to hold a town hall-style meeting tonight in Germantown, providing a venue for upcounty residents to discuss neighborhood concerns.

Problems faced by upcounty residents often differ from those in Montgomery's more populous neighborhoods inside the Capital Beltway, such as Silver Spring and Bethesda.

The mostly rural area has the most new development, and residents have been lobbying the county government for their share of public services and recreational amenities. They also have expressed concern about the effect rapid growth has had on natural resources, primarily water wells that serve many rural neighborhoods.

The reception is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Kingsview Middle School, 18909 Kingsview Rd. The forum is to begin at 8 p.m.

Relax Law on Winery Sales, Schaefer Says

Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer (D) will ask the legislature in January to relax strict regulations that Maryland's 10 family-owned wineries say make it hard for them to promote sales and build the industry.

"Regulations now on the books say wineries can't sell a glass of wine to tourists visiting their winemaking operation," Schaefer said. "That's silly."

The root cause of what wineries say is a major handicap to building up the industry is the state's "three-tier" system of distribution, which strictly controls what must happen before an alcoholic beverage reaches consumers.

Generally, distillers, brewers and winemakers can sell their product only to a distributor, who then sells it to a retailer. Only then can a customer walk into a liquor store and buy a fifth of gin or sit down in a restaurant and order a glass of wine or a cold beer.

VIRGINIA

Tobacco Board Urged to Seek Partners

Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) urged a state panel yesterday to look for partners as it determines how to spend millions of dollars from the national tobacco settlement to combat youth smoking. Gilmore also asked the Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation's board of directors to remain flexible so it can shift money among programs as needs change.

Virginia expects to receive about $4 billion over 25 years as its share of the tobacco industry's $206 billion settlement with 46 states to cover the costs of treating ill smokers. The board will determine how to spend the 10 percent--about $400 million--earmarked for programs to curb youth smoking.

He suggested the board could get even more money by working with other foundations.

Pay Raise for Williamsburg Staff Members

Hundreds of Colonial Williamsburg employees have a private donor to thank for giving them a raise.

The donor's name has not been disclosed, nor the amount of the donation. But Colonial Williamsburg officials say they were instructed to give the money to staff members who interact with the public, such as the costumed workers who portray people living in Colonial times. Effective this week, they will get an hourly raise of $1.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I think it would be a sad thing if you say to anybody, 'If you don't make enough money or your money isn't big enough, that you can't live in the county.'" -- Jazsma Speece, 47, of Brawners Estate, a community in western Charles County built with help from a nonprofit organization, on a county commission proposal to set a minimum size for new single-family homes.--Page B1