MARYLAND

Skipjack Sinks in Chesapeake Bay

One of the last remaining skipjacks sailing the Chesapeake Bay sank yesterday south of Tilghman Island in strong winds.

Capt. Wade Murphy was aboard the "Rebecca T. Ruark" with a crew of two or three when stormy weather swept through and "the wind got into his sails," said Jackie Murphy, Wade Murphy's wife.

She said watermen working nearby saw the boat in distress and went to its aid. The Rebecca T. Ruark was being towed to shore when it sank just off Bar Neck. The captain and crew were safe, Jackie Murphy said.

She said her husband and the watermen were trying to find a barge with a crane to lift the skipjack from the bay floor.

A century ago, hundreds of skipjacks cruised the wintertime waters of the bay and its tributaries, dredging up millions of bushels of oysters each season.

Today, fewer than 10 work the oyster beds; fewer still do it under sail power. Nearly all the oysters harvested from the bay are from motorized workboats.

Store Evacuated After Gas Line Break

A Hechinger store near Montgomery Mall was evacuated for two hours yesterday after a forklift struck a natural gas meter and broke a four-inch hole in a gas line.

The break occurred shortly after 1 p.m. and filled the store with "extremely high levels" of gas, a Montgomery County fire official said. Fire officials ventilated the warehouse-style building in the 7100 block of West Lake Terrace. There were no injuries.

Judicial Appointments in Prince George's

Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) reappointed Prince George's County Circuit Court Judge G.R. Hovey Johnson yesterday and promoted District Court Judges Ronald Schiff and Michael Whalen to the county's Circuit Court.

Johnson, 68, has served on the court since 1982. He is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and lives in Bowie.

Schiff, 60, fills a vacancy left by the retirement of Judge Arthur Ahalt. Schiff, a graduate of the University of Baltimore Law School, has been a District Court judge since 1996 and lives in University Park. Whalen, 53, fills the vacancy left by the retirement of Judge Darlene Perry. He, too, is a University of Baltimore Law School graduate, and he lives in Bowie.

Montgomery Funds Police Substation

The Montgomery County Council approved $200,000 yesterday for a new police substation in the Gaithersburg-Montgomery Village area that will serve as the incubator for a sixth police district in the rapidly growing section of the county.

Police officials are expected to secure a building for the substation by spring and will have it staffed with officers from the Germantown district by next fall.

Montgomery Council Backs Park Plan

The Montgomery County Council passed a resolution yesterday urging the county Planning Board to turn 190 acres once envisioned for the intercounty connector highway into parkland and remove the route from planning books.

The vote angered County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D), a strong supporter of the highway that would connect Interstate 270 with Interstate 95 north of the Capital Beltway. The Planning Board must now decide whether to proceed with the council recommendation, which could take months to carry out.

THE REGION

Storm Cuts Power to More Than 16,000

Strong afternoon winds accompanying hard, swirling rain knocked out electricity to more than 16,000 customers in Northern Virginia, Maryland and the District yesterday. Power was restored to many by late afternoon or early evening, but about 1,100 customers living near Falls Road in Montgomery County lost power about 9:15 p.m. last night.

The short-lived storm toppled power lines and sent felled tree limbs onto other lines, knocking out power for as many as 10,000 homes in Montgomery County, Prince George's County and the District. By about 10 p.m., the figure totaled about 3,500, with half of them in Montgomery County.

In Fairfax City and other Northern Virginia locations, most of about 5,000 customers suffering outages had regained power by late afternoon. About 300 were without power last night in Northern Virginia, a Virginia Power spokesman said.

Fairfax County's courthouse and jail were temporarily without power, and the storm threatened to dampen voter turnout on an Election Day when the county's electoral board office and 11 polling places suffered brief mid-afternoon outages.

THE DISTRICT

Senate Approves City Budget

The U.S. Senate narrowly approved the District's budget for fiscal 2000 yesterday, but President Clinton has said he will veto it. The vote was 49 to 48.

The $4.7 billion budget bill is merged with a labor, health and human services and education bill that the president will veto in part because it includes a 1 percent across-the-board cut in federal spending. That translates to a $4.2 million cut for the District.

White House budget director Jacob "Jack" Lew said Monday that Clinton would sign the D.C. bill if it were stripped from the other spending measure and sent to him separately or as part of another bill that he supports.

Negotiators from both houses will try to resolve the stalement by the end of the week.

Notice of Hospital's Sale Is Rescheduled

A federal bankruptcy judge granted Greater Southeast Community Hospital officials a one-day delay yesterday, rescheduling to 2:30 p.m. today their announcement of the financially ailing hospital's proposed sale.

David E. Rice, the District hospital's attorney, did not disclose the name of the firm bidding for the 286-bed hospital, saying that he would provide details today.

If hospital officials fail to find an investor that can pump millions of dollars into the facility, the judge would have to order its liquidation.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"Free at last, free at last, free at long last! Democracy has finally come to the Commonwealth!"

--Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) on the new GOP majority elected to the General Assembly.

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