VIRGINIA

Trucker's Collapse Causes I-66 Crash

A tractor-trailer veered across all six lanes of Interstate 66 in Fairfax County and slammed head-on into a 20-foot wall yesterday after the driver collapsed at the wheel, police said.

Although the truck crossed the three westbound lanes, the median strip and the eastbound lanes, just one other vehicle was involved in the incident, and the truck's driver was the only person requiring medical treatment.

The driver, Hugh Romine, 60, of Circleville, Ohio, probably had a heart attack or seizure about noon as he was driving his empty tractor-trailer in the far-right westbound lane, said state police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell. As his truck neared the Route 123 exit, it veered across the westbound lanes and clipped a car before crossing the grassy median and the eastbound lanes.

The truck smashed into a noise barrier on the other side of the highway, causing it to crumble. Caldwell said the wall prevented the truck from rolling into a nearby apartment complex.

Romine was reported in stable condition at Inova Fairfax Hospital. The accident, which blocked eastbound traffic on I-66 for about 45 minutes, was under investigation.

Pay Raises for Substitute Teachers

Arlington schools will raise substitute teacher pay from $70 to $80 a day and substitute teacher assistant pay from $51 to $65.13 on Jan. 28 to try to relieve a substitute shortage, school officials announced yesterday.

Arlington also will experiment with guaranteeing some substitutes three to five days of work each week at $82 a day. School officials said college graduates are preferred, but principals have accepted substitutes with just two years or 60 credit hours of college.

The strong economy has made it more difficult for school districts throughout the country to find substitute teachers. Arlington, like most districts, is particularly short of people willing to work on Mondays and Fridays.

MARYLAND

Arundel Hires Planning Officials

After more than a year of delays that have frustrated local developers and others, Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens has hired two people to oversee planning, permitting and zoning for the county.

Owens (D) announced yesterday she will split a department once headed by a single official into two separate agencies. Denis D. Canavan, 51, an urban planner who worked previously in Montgomery County, will take over the planning department. Walter Chitwood, 51, will head the permitting, environmental services and code enforcement office.

Local builders have blamed vacancies in those slots for slowing down several major projects. But Owens said the positions have gone unfilled, one for close to a year, because the county did not pay enough to lure many qualified applicants. Each man will make $86,511 annually.

Duncan Waives Paper Recycling Fee

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) has eliminated a $15-per-ton fee paid by hauling companies that deliver paper products to the county recycling center.

Duncan said he waived the cost because the market for recyclable paper is generating more revenue than the county needs to run the program. The waiver also will reduce recycling costs for county municipalities, including Rockville, Takoma Park and others, that have been subject to the $15-per-ton fee.

The regulation Duncan signed this week will be in effect for 90 days. He has forwarded legislation to the County Council which, if passed, would eliminate the fee permanently.

Judge Dismisses Prison Phone Case

A federal judge has dismissed a $130 million lawsuit filed by two women against AT&T and the state of Maryland contending that phone rates charged to prison inmates are excessive and unconstitutional.

The suit was identical to one dismissed by a federal judge in October as frivolous. The second suit was filed in Baltimore Circuit Court in November but was moved to federal court late last month. U.S. District Judge Frederic N. Smalkin said in his Jan. 3 ruling that the claims were identical and could not be relitigated "through the guise of filing an identical lawsuit in a different court."

The suit was filed by women who are related to an inmate being held at the Maryland Correctional Institution at Jessup. It contended that collect calls to their homes cost more than $4 for the first minute and that the high cost of collect calls from prisoners to their families was unconstitutional.

THE REGION

Police Deaths in Downward Trend

The District and Maryland had no line-of-duty deaths for law enforcement officers in 1999, and two were recorded for Virginia, according to Craig Floyd, chairman of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

The memorial fund was responsible for building the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in downtown Washington. Floyd said the low numbers for the Washington area reflect a national trend of 15 percent fewer on-duty police deaths nationwide.

"A combination of factors appears to be making life safer for our officers, including better training, improved equipment, the increased use of bullet-resistant vests and the overall drop in crime," Floyd said.

According to memorial fund records, the deadliest years ever for law enforcement officers in the District were 1929 and 1971, with five deaths each; in Maryland, the deadliest year was 1968, with eight deaths; and in Virginia, it was 1872, with 11 deaths.

C&O Canal Being Drained for Repairs

The C&O Canal between Georgetown and the Maryland line is being drained so the stone walls can be inspected for leaks and repairs made to Locks 3 and 4, according to a National Park Service spokesman. The work is expected to be completed and the water levels restored by Jan. 14.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"I'm not letting down my guard. I got the handle on it. This isn't over, not by a long shot. A computer glitch here and there, and we're in trouble. . . . Got those South American countries with their computer-controlled oil pipelines--one mistake with a computer chip and it's ka-blooey."

-- Melvin Bowers on the lack of problems caused by the Y2K computer glitch. He has devoted himself for the past year to getting ready for the biblically forecast apocalypse.

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