Fairfax's O'Neill to Resign

County Executive to Head Think Tank

For the second time in three years, the area's most populous county is about to lose its top leader.

Fairfax County Executive Robert J. O'Neill Jr., who was often frustrated in his efforts to trim the county's 11,000-employee bureaucracy, will step down in January to head a government think tank called the National Academy of Public Administration.

O'Neill acknowledged that his job is unfinished.

"Fairfax is a very political environment, so change is going to be tough, and it's going to take a long time," he said.

Who's next? The Board of Supervisors has agreed to wait until after county elections Nov. 2 to start looking for a replacement.

But the county's number two official may have the inside track. Some members of the county board questioned the need for another search, saying Deputy County Executive Anthony H. Griffin is ready, willing and able to take over. The 52-year-old longtime senior county manager was a finalist with O'Neill after a national search two years ago.

Land Preservation Proposed

Parcels Scattered Across Montgomery

Montgomery County planners are proposing to spend $100 million over the next decade to preserve vast stretches of undeveloped land and historic property.

The program, known as Legacy Open Space, would rely on a mix of public and private money to connect trail networks, protect stream beds and preserve environmentally and historically unique land from development.

The targeted parcels would be scattered across a broad swath from the Potomac River to Georgia Avenue in western and northern Montgomery, and include land near Travilah, Sandy Spring and along the Patuxent River. The purchases would require a dramatic increase in county funding for land purchases, an effort now financed almost entirely by the state.

Jury Deliberating Clark Case

Man Accused of Killing 6-Year-Old

A Montgomery County jury has begun deliberating whether to convict Hadden Clark of murder charges in one of the county's most notorious missing-children cases.

In their closing remarks, prosecutors and defense attorneys argued over the merits of testimony by prison inmates who said the former cook confessed to killing 6-year-old Michele Dorr. Clark, 47, is charged with first-degree murder in the disappearance of Michele, who was last seen May 31, 1986, in a pink-and-white bathing suit splashing around a play pool in her father's Silver Spring back yard. The jury will resume deliberations tomorrow.

A Helping Hand From Fairfax

Churches Aiding Flooded Va. Town

After the deluge, the small southern Virginia city of Franklin is still wringing itself out from Hurricane Floyd--with the help of hundreds of people from across the country.

Two Fairfax County churches collected more than 60 boxes of clothes and toys, and a Washington area food bank added 2,000 pounds of food to the truckload of aid that the Rev. Ronald Winters of Resurrection Baptist Church in Herndon brought to the city near the North Carolina border. "I've never seen anything like it," city spokeswoman Donna Napier said of a Columbus Day weekend volunteer drive that brought more than 1,000 outsiders to the city.

"They came with such a heart to help. There were people who lost everything, and I saw them smiling and shaking hands" with the volunteers.

Only eight of the downtown area's 182 businesses had flood insurance, and city manager Bucky Taylor said it will be several months before they can reopen. But the volunteer effort continues. This weekend, about 100 flood-damaged homes are being cleaned up.

Across the Region

Metro Glitch; Escapee Captured

* The bad news is that Metro officials can't figure out why the electronic devices that help prevent collisions among trains in the subway system have been failing. The good news: They're going to rip out the relays--all 20,000 of them--and replace them with new ones. The process, which will take seven months, will allow Metro to resume operating trains by computer, instead of solely by drivers.

* A schizophrenic who killed his infant son six years ago was captured in Tennessee, 11 days after he walked out of a Silver Spring group home. Michael Anthony Lazas, 32, was taken into custody without incident at the home of a family friend near Nashville after he used an ATM card at a convenience store.

* Prosecutors say the owner of a D.C. liquor store hit the lottery--nearly $300,000. But there was one problem: He hadn't played the lottery. Police arrested Soo Young Bae in Los Angeles, alleging that he helped himself to thousands of lottery tickets, and then cashed in on the winnings. It would be the biggest scam ever committed against the D.C. Lottery, which began in 1982.

* A federal appeals court said Fairfax County can't bar the woman known as the Creche Lady--or anyone else--from putting up religious displays at the county's government center just because she doesn't live in the county. The full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision earlier this year by a panel of the same court.

* The District's chief financial officer said the city department that oversees 3,128 foster children has "very serious financial management problems." Valerie Holt said Child and Family Services failed to receive millions of federal dollars because of inadequate documentation and that the agency paid some foster parents twice, while others got nothing. Holt referred some of her findings to the inspector general's office for investigation. Ernestine F. Jones, the court-appointed receiver of the agency, blamed an antiquated computer for financial troubles and defended the department against Holt's charges of sloppy management. Jones said a new computer system will prevent duplicated payments and future backlogs of checks.

* It looks like the Calvert Cliffs plant could become the country's first nuclear power plant to win approval for renewal of its license. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is recommending approval of the 40-year license, saying that "the significance of the potential environmental effects . . . is small." Critics say the public didn't get enough chance to weigh in on the renewal, which could come as early as March.

-- Erica Johnston

Fishing Tournament Marks a River's Rebound

Hundreds of Anglers Turn Out for Bass Event on the Potomac

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson condemned the Potomac River as a ribbon "of decaying sewage and rotten algae."

Six years later, the D.C. Council made it illegal to swim there because of the river's "extraordinarily high" pollution level. And as recently as 1983, algae blanketed the surface for several miles from the District into Virginia.

"It was bright green," said Ted Graham of the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments. "It looked like it had been painted."

But thanks to nature's resilience--and many millions of dollars in federal aid--the Potomac is back. And so are the fish that make it their home and the anglers who make those fish their prey.

Three hundred people took to the water in a four-day quest to hook the biggest large-mouth bass--and a share of the $409,450 prize money--in a nationally televised tournament.

"Once given a chance, [the river] rebounded quicker than anyone would have thought," said Ken Penrod, a fishing guide. "The overall health of the river is excellent."

Rockville Puts Moratorium on Big-Box Stores

Officials to Perform a 6-Month Review of Retailers' Impact, Issues

Big-box stores. We flock to them for their low prices and nearly boundless selection, yet many of us also blast them as architectural eyesores and cold-blooded killers of traditional Main Street retailers.

And now, Rockville officials have joined the ranks of the opposition--or, at least, the seriously skeptical. The mayor and council decreed that none of the econo-size stores can be built for six months while the city takes "a serious look" at the issues they pose and endeavors to find out "what the citizens of Rockville want."

Mayor Rose G. Krasnow says Rockville Pike is nearing its peak, traffic-wise, and that super-size stores such as Costco, Wal-Mart and Target "tend not to be attractive." Nevertheless, she allows, she does patronize a Costco--in nearby Gaithersburg. Ronald Cohen, who has applied to build a Costco at Congressional Plaza South, says the moratorium is drastic, unlawful and disastrous for his bottom line. He has already shut down several stores in the shopping center to make way for a 135,000-square-foot emporium.

Nationally, big-box stores are gaining ground, even as opposition builds. Wal-Mart announced plans two years ago to open 100 stores of 188,000 square feet each--or the size of about 94 average-sized homes. Target announced around the same time that it would build 800 stores in the Northeast alone.

CAPTION: Anglers return with their day's catch after the Bassmasters fishing tournament.

CAPTION: Darryl Burkhardt watches the weigh-in process at Smallwood State Park.

CAPTION: Rockville Mayor Rose G. Krasnow