Ehrlich Aide Tours National Harbor

A top aide to Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) paid a visit yesterday to the National Harbor project in Prince George's County, which has played a role in the debate over legalization of slot machines.

Steven L. Kreseski, the governor's chief of staff, said he visited out of interest in economic development in the county. "Things are slow during the summer," he said, and "we just wanted to get out and see" the massive project.

He said the issue of slot machines was only peripheral to the visit, "not the primary focus," since the project "will still go forward" whether or not slot machine gambling is legalized.

During the debate over the governor's proposal to legalize slot machines, Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.) and state legislators advocated a full-scale casino at the site in preference to the governor's plan.

Officials Give WSSC Deadline

Two Montgomery County Council members issued an ultimatum yesterday to the governing board of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, saying they would consider steps to "restore responsible direction" to the WSSC if the board does not resolve its five-month dispute with the agency by Wednesday.

"It is time to act now," Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) and Michael L. Subin (D-At Large) said in a statement. "If the commissioners cannot respond in this time frame, then they will be affirming the alleged serious problems at the WSSC."

The commissioners of the giant water and sewage utility, which serves 1.6 million customers in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, have been accused of paralyzing the agency since trying to oust the general manager in February. Council members from both counties have been urging the six commissioners to quickly resolve the situation.

The commission was scheduled to meet Wednesday, but the session was canceled because half the members said they could not attend. The next scheduled commission meeting is Aug. 11.

Floreen said the impasse needs to be resolved before then. "This is just no way to run a business," she said. "This is a $600 million agency, and we need to get commissioners who can make decisions."

Baltimore Sues CSX Over Derailment

Baltimore filed a lawsuit against CSX yesterday, accusing it of causing the 2001 derailment of a train loaded with chemicals that burned for five days in a tunnel beneath the west side of downtown.

The city is seeking $10 million to cover, among other things, the costs of fighting the fire and repairing a water main and damaged streets, according to the complaint filed in Baltimore Circuit Court.


State Signs Emergency Radio Contract

The state signed a $329 million contract yesterday with Motorola to design and build a digital radio system that authorities say will revolutionize emergency communications in Virginia.

"This is a day that is long, long, long overdue," said Robert P. Crouch Jr., chief deputy secretary for public safety.

In the post-Sept. 11 world, "no priority is more important than the ability of law enforcement and first responders to communicate with each other," Crouch said.

The Statewide Agencies Radio System, or STARS, ultimately will link 20 state agencies and local law enforcement agencies with state-of-the-art digital voice and encrypted data communication.

The first phase of the program is set to become operational in central Virginia by December 2005. Installation statewide will be completed in seven phases, with the project becoming fully operational in September 2009.

STARS will replace a 27-year-old analog radio system that officials say is dangerously unreliable.

Jamestown Researchers Find Wine Cellar

Archaeologists at historic Jamestown have unearthed a brick-lined wine cellar and more than a dozen empty wine bottles dating to the late 1600s.

The head of the archaeological project that turned up the site of America's first permanent English settlement said that there is evidence that the wine cellar might have belonged to someone with wealth and status.

Yesterday, diggers found bottles from between 1680 and 1700. One of them bears the initials of royal governor Francis Nicholson.

Virginia Tech Student Dies of Hantavirus

State health officials said that a Virginia Tech student who was conducting field studies of small mammals in West Virginia has died of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.

Jeffrey A. Kaminski, 32, a graduate student in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, died last week. Health officials say he was most likely exposed to the virus through extended contact with rodents.

It is the second reported case of hantavirus in Virginia and the first fatal case. A person who contracted the disease in 1993 survived, health officials said. Hantavirus is a severe infection of the respiratory system spread by rodent urine, feces or saliva. The virus can become airborne as mist or dust when rodent droppings or nests are stirred up. There is no cure for hantavirus.

Road to Be Renamed for Emily Couric

A small stretch of road in Nelson County will be named for the late state senator Emily Couric.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board approved naming a short portion of Route 151 in front of Rockfish River Elementary School the "Senator Emily Couric Memorial Highway" in memory of the Charlottesville Democrat.

County officials said they wanted to honor Couric for putting turn lanes in front of the school.

Couric died of cancer in 2001 at 54. She was the older sister of "Today Show" host Katie Couric.

The District

Police Officer Convicted of Assault

A D.C. police officer was convicted in D.C. Superior Court this week of simple assault in connection with an off-duty altercation at a Northwest gas station, the U.S. attorney's office said.

Prosecutors said Barron Brown, 45, was found guilty by a jury Thursday in a May 27, 2000, incident at an Amoco station at 13th and N streets, which began when the officer gave another man "a hard stare." After a confrontation, Brown shoved the barrel of a handgun into the man's cheek, prosecutors said. Sentencing will be in September.

"It goes hand in hand with the effort to show students what they should and should not do."

-- Linda J. Schutjer, associate general counsel at George Washington University, explaining the school's decision to pay an online music library so students can download music without taking it illegally. -- Page A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Amit R. Paley, Karlyn Barker and Martin Weil and the Associated Press.