THE DISTRICT

Spurious Letter Offers Pay for Information The DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy is warning area residents to beware of a bogus letter purportedly mailed on its behalf that offers addressees $50 per week for sensitive information about every child younger than 18 in the household.

Joyce Fourth, the campaign's spokeswoman, said her nonprofit organization contacted the FBI, D.C. police and postal inspectors this month after such a letter was received in Northwest Washington. The letter, using the campaign's name and Web address, solicited names, addresses and Social Security numbers of children younger than 18 and offered cash to those who responded. It directed people to send the information to a D.C. post office box.

Fourth said anyone with questions can call the campaign at 202-789-4666.

MARYLAND

1 Killed, 1 Injured in River Road Crash A Dickerson woman was killed yesterday after her car crossed the center line and struck another vehicle on River Road near Manor Stone Drive in Potomac, Montgomery County police said.

Priscilla Rae Smith, 25, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, which occurred about 8 a.m., police said. It was unclear whether the collision was weather-related, and the investigation is continuing, said Officer Derek Baliles.

Penelope Katherine Colbert, 56, of Poolesville, the driver of the other vehicle, was being treated at Suburban Hospital for injuries that were serious but not life-threatening, police said.

Ehrlich Orders Probe of Care of Children Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) issued his first executive orders yesterday, setting up a commission to study the way the state's Department of Human Resources manages cases involving children with complex mental health needs or severe developmental disabilities.

In his executive order, Ehrlich directed the department to reduce the number of Marylanders who have to relinquish custody of their children to ensure that they receive the care they need. Spokesman Henry Fawell said the executive order would not force the agency to make specific changes.

Ehrlich, who was inaugurated Wednesday, issued another executive order setting forth a code of conduct for his administration. The order reinforces his "commitment to Maryland citizens to bring the highest standards of integrity to Government," the administration said.

VIRGINIA

Ferguson to Lead Arlington County Board Paul Ferguson (D) was chosen unanimously yesterday to be chairman of the Arlington County Board for the remainder of 2003, filling the seat left vacant by Charles P. Monroe (D), who died Jan. 11 of a brain aneurysm. Ferguson will begin his term immediately. Barbara A. Favola (D) was elected vice chairman.

Ferguson, 37, who will be up for reelection in November, has served on the County Board since 1996 and is the most senior member of the five-member body. He said he will largely try to continue the agenda left by Monroe, who wanted to address issues of affordable housing and identifying dilapidated properties throughout the county as a first step toward getting rid of them.

Favola, who has served on the board since 1997, will be up for reelection next year.

Each year, the board chooses as chairman a member who is facing a reelection contest.

Arlington Home Assessments Rise 17% The average assessed home value in Arlington County has increased 17 percent in the past year, driven up by a hot real estate market, county officials said yesterday.

The average assessment for a dwelling -- including detached houses, townhouses and condominiums -- rose to $316,000, from last year's $269,000. About one-third of all single-family properties increased in value more than 20 percent, officials said.

Assessments for both commercial and residential property increased on average by 15.2 percent in Arlington, which matched last year's increases.

The double-digit increases will be felt most by homeowners who will again see their real estate tax bills increase this year. Virginia localities cannot tax incomes and must depend on real estate taxes for most of their revenue. Increasing assessments are the norm in Northern Virginia as the real estate market continues to soar.

Bus Driver Disciplined for Leaving Child An Arlington County schools bus driver was disciplined this week after a sleeping student was left behind on a parked bus, a school spokeswoman said yesterday.

The child, a 5-year-old boy who attends Drew Model Elementary School, had been on the bus for about five minutes when he was found by another driver, said Linda Erdos, the Arlington schools spokeswoman.

The driver, who was not identified, failed to make a full check of the bus after parking in the vehicle lot in Shirlington, Erdos said. "In this case, the driver did not follow prescribed procedures," said Erdos, who would not disclose what disciplinary measures were taken.

Erdos said all drivers have a two-day training session in August, when they are instructed on safety precautions to take after parking a bus.

Leesburg Terminal Expansion to Begin Leesburg officials break ground today on a 14,000-square-foot expansion of the Leesburg Executive Airport Terminal to be named for business leader Stanley F. Caulkins, a former Town Council member and airport commissioner. The two-story building will have a lobby, restaurant, weather briefing room and conference room, as well as space for commercial tenants such as flight schools and fuel suppliers.

The existing 4,000-square-foot terminal is too small to handle increasing traffic, said airport Director Doug McNeely. The airport has grown from a small recreational strip since it opened in 1964 to a facility with a mile-long runway, flight schools, 269 aircraft and 100,000 takeoffs and landings each year. It brings about $23 million annually to the region.

"It's a bad budget. . . . devastating to transportation. It took [former governor Parris N.] Glendening four years to flip on the [intercounty connector]. Ehrlich is flipping on transportation after two days."

-- Montgomery Executive Douglas M. Duncan, commenting on Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s use of the transportation trust fund to help balance his budget. Duncan (D) is considered a likely challenger to Ehrlich (R) in 2006. -- Page A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Allan Lengel, Phuong Ly, Jo Becker, Chris L. Jenkins, Elaine Rivera and Barbara E. Martinez.