THE REGION

Brentwood Plant Fumigation to Begin The fumigation of the anthrax-contaminated postal plant on Brentwood Road NE is scheduled to begin Saturday, the U.S. Postal Service announced yesterday.

On Monday, postal officials received the final authorization from the federal Environmental Protection Agency to use chlorine dioxide gas to rid the building of anthrax spores.

The Postal Service has scheduled a community meeting this evening to discuss decontamination plans. The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. at the Gallaudet University Kellogg Conference Center, at 800 Florida Ave. NE.

Postal officials established a toll-free information line for questions at 1-800-527-0741 (TTY 1-800-418-5301).

BWI to Meet Baggage Screening Deadline Federal transportation security workers at Baltimore-Washington International Airport will meet a national deadline for all checked luggage to be individually screened by the end of this month, the airport's executive director said yesterday.

To comply, the airport will use 15 minivan-size explosive detection system machines and 23 explosives trace detection machines, BWI Executive Director Paul J. Wiedefeld told the Maryland General Assembly's joint committee on federal relations.

The 9,000-pound explosive detection system machines have been in clear view to passengers most of this year as they checked in at terminal ticket counters. Only two will remain in public areas after the deadline, with the 13 others in baggage areas.

THE DISTRICT

City Releases New Tax Guidelines The city's Office of Tax and Revenue has released new guidelines on the taxation of hotel services, food and medical equipment, culminating a six-month process to upgrade and improve tax rules.

The process combines online guidelines on select topics with the traditional method of providing letters when requested to do so by taxpayers, officials announced.

The revised General Guidance Charts are available at www.cfo.dc.gov by selecting the "Taxpayer Service Center" heading and then clicking on "Tax Law Guidance." Taxpayers with questions should call 202-442-6508.

MARYLAND

Hospital Wins Heart Surgery Program A Bethesda hospital won approval yesterday to launch an open-heart surgery program, winning the state's approval over three other local facilities.

The Maryland Health Care Commission voted to approve the request for a cardiac surgery, research and training program at Suburban Hospital, in conjunction with Johns Hopkins Medicine and a branch of the National Institutes of Health.

Suburban already provides angioplasty and cardiac care, but not the surgical component. It was competing with other local hospitals -- Holy Cross in Silver Spring, Shady Grove Adventist in Rockville and Southern Maryland Hospital Center in Clinton -- for the state's approval.

Montgomery School Board Elects Leaders Patricia O'Neill was elected president of the Montgomery County school board yesterday, and Sharon Cox was elected vice president.

O'Neill, who recently fought off two contenders and won a second term on the board, has previously served as president and vice president. She was an early supporter of Superintendent Jerry D. Weast and his efforts to close the achievement gap.

Cox, who was elected in 2000 out of a crowded field of candidates, chairs the board's policy committee and has been instrumental in pushing changes in early childhood programs and to the school system's grading and reporting procedures.

Howard Planning Chief Moving On Joseph Rutter, Howard County's director of planning and zoning, is leaving the position to take over the same department in Anne Arundel County, officials announced yesterday.

Rutter is a 36-year employee of Howard County, rising from a planning technician to planning director by 1990. During his tenure, he was responsible for helping the county deal with rapid growth and oversaw its general plan, which drastically reduced the number of houses that the county allows to be built each year. He starts in Anne Arundel on Jan. 17 and will be paid $110,000 a year.

VIRGINIA

Judge Blocks Ban on Wine Shipments A federal judge in New York issued an injunction yesterday blocking enforcement of that state's ban on the direct shipment of wine from beyond its borders.

Promoters of small wineries called the decision in the nation's second-biggest wine market a major victory. U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman had deemed the rules, originally challenged by Middleburg vintner Juanita Swedenburg, unconstitutional last month but provided his remedy yesterday after a hearing.

Berman stayed his injunction pending an expected appeal of the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. A similar ruling in Virginia is being appealed and will be heard early next year in the 4th Circuit.

Company's Strip Mine Plans Criticized A state agency has told a brick company that its plans to dig a strip mine next to a prominent vineyard and a historic black community in Orange County do not meet a host of state environmental requirements.

The report by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, released Friday, says that General Shale's efforts to reduce noise, dust and effects on groundwater are insufficient. The 10-page report also states that mining the 89-acre site near the tourist town of Barboursville could release uranium and pose "public safety hazards."

General Shale can still receive approval if it makes changes and addresses the problems, said Michael D. Abbott, a spokesman for the state agency.

The plan has been controversial since the Tennessee-based company first made its proposal last year. Opponents say the excavation will hurt the area's tourism and land values. But county officials, who approved the project in the spring, say it is crucial for their flagging economy.

"We don't have the cushion we once had, and it was harder to get contributions in this economic climate."

-- Jeffrey Rowan, on the scholarship program founded by his father. -- Page B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Michael Laris, Ian Shapira, Christian Davenport, Brigid Schulte, Manny Fernandez and David Nakamura and the Associated Press.