Since June 1, 15 St. Mary's Today distribution boxes have disappeared in what the newspaper's editor and publisher calls a deliberate effort to block his paper's circulation.

Kenneth C. Rossignol said eight newspaper boxes were taken from locations around St. Mary's and seven from Waldorf. Two have been recovered, and those were marred by shotgun blasts to their coin boxes.

Rossignol declined to give the total number of boxes he has on the streets.

He said the string of snatchings has the mark of something more than simple theft.

"They're plucking them from between The Washington Post and the Enterprise [boxes]," he said. "Someone is trying to interfere with our distribution, and it is definitely hurting."

William Rosado, spokesman for the St. Mary's Bureau of Criminal Investigations, said authorities are looking into the thefts in his county.

"There haven't been any arrests made," said Kristen Adkins, spokeswoman for the Charles County sheriff's office. "We did recover some of the newspaper boxes and tried to obtain fingerprints, but it hasn't yielded any suspect information."

St. Mary's Today, a weekly newspaper with circulation in Southern Maryland, has had distribution problems in the past.

In November 1998, a handful of St. Mary's County sheriff's deputies swept through the county during the night before the general election, buying up thousands of copies of the paper to keep the public from reading an article critical of Richard Fritz, then a candidate for the state's attorney's office.

More recently, Rossignol said he had trouble during the Circuit Court judicial election in March 2004. The coin slots of three dozen of his machines were jammed with pipe insulation, he said.

"I know who has interfered with our distribution before because the state police and the FBI investigated it," Rossignol said. "I don't know who is doing it now, but in any crime show on TV they would say to look at the cast of the usual suspects."

Volunteers Head South

Mary Jane and Ken Cook packed their bags Monday as Hurricane Katrina was roaring ashore between New Orleans and Biloxi, Miss.

On Tuesday morning, the Charles County couple set off to be part of the disaster relief effort deployed by the American Red Cross.

The Cooks are making the trip in the Southern Maryland Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle, a specially equipped RV. The two volunteers trained in disaster relief with the Southern Maryland organization.

From the response vehicle, they will provide hot meals, drinks, snacks and cleanup kits free to anyone in need. They also will help feed other workers and volunteers involved in cleanup and recovery efforts.

On Tuesday, the Cooks were headed first to Little Rock, where the Red Cross has established a staging area for volunteers. From there, the Southern Maryland team will go wherever it is assigned in the area devastated by the hurricane.

Mike Zabko, executive director of the Southern Maryland Red Cross, said the national organization expects to serve as many as 100,000 meals a day for the foreseeable future from response vehicles such as the one operated by the Cooks.

The Southern Maryland chapter will provide information on its Web site about the travels of the local volunteers. Go to southernmaryland.redcross.org and follow the prompts to "News and Events." Visitors to the site will be able to follow a daily log called "Where in the World is ERV 1055."

In a statement, Zabko urged Southern Marylanders to consider donating to the American Red Cross National Disaster Relief Fund.

"Each of us in Southern Maryland know the devastating effects of a natural disaster," he said. "After the tornado three years ago and the hurricane just two years ago, support in the form of financial donations came in from around the United States to help our area recover."

Donations can be made through the local chapter at PO Box 507 La Plata, Md. 20646, 888-276-2767. Contributions also can be made through the national organization by calling 800-HELP-NOW or online at www.redcross.org.

An Expensive Water Fight

Who benefits from the elbows-out legal battle that has waged for two years between Calvert County and the Chesapeake Ranch Water Co.?

"The only people that are benefiting from this are the law firms," concluded Commissioner Gerald W. Clark (R-Lusby).

That was the consensus among local officials Tuesday after learning that the county has spent $388,448 on legal and engineering fees for the case. By the time the skirmish is resolved in the courts, Clark estimated, $1 million will have been spent by both sides.

Chesapeake has said that the county commissioners acted illegally when they decided that the county, rather than the community water company, would provide water to the Lusby town center. Judges in federal and state courts have repeatedly upheld the commissioners' decision; the case is under appeal.

Commissioner Linda L. Kelley (R-At Large) appeared visibly angry at the amount of money spent on the case.

"Where's the end of this?" she asked in exasperation. "The only light at the end of the tunnel with this thing is a train."

Calvert Basks in Excellence

There was near pandemonium in the Calvert County courthouse for a few brief moments Tuesday as two dozen members of the county's Department of Finance and Budget jostled to collect newly won accolades.

"Obviously we're not going to win an award for excellence in award presentation," joked commissioners President David F. Hale (R-Owings).

What the county did win was a certificate for excellence in financial reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association. It may sound esoteric, but the association says the award is "the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting."

This was the county's first application for the award -- and local officials said they were thrilled to win on their first try.

"I just want to bust, I'm so proud," said Terry L. Shannon, director of administration and finance.

In addition to naming an Employee of the Month at their meeting Tuesday, the commissioners recognized the finance and budget office by awarding all 20 or so of its staff members Team Excellence certificates.

"This is really good stewardship of the taxpayers' money," Commissioner Susan Shaw (R-Huntingtown) told them.

Calvert Cliffs Manager Named

Constellation Energy named Joseph Pollock last week the general manager of the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant.

Pollack, who previously worked at the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, succeeds David Holm, who was recently named general manager at Constellation's R.E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant in Ontario, N.Y.

"Joe's knowledge of the nuclear industry makes him a great fit for this position," said John M. "Mike" Heffley, chief nuclear officer for Constellation. "He brings with him excellent operational skills and a significant background in maintenance and work management."

Pollack, who earned an undergraduate degree in business administration from Glassboro State College, assumed his new position Aug. 22.

Alleviating a Parking Problem

The opening of the new College of Southern Maryland campus in Prince Frederick has increased enrollment in Calvert County so much that it is hard to find a parking space.

This week, college officials initiated a shuttle bus service to a satellite parking lot down the road at the Calvert County Fairgrounds. The shuttle service departs from the fairgrounds every 15 minutes from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday. Signage will be placed in the main traffic areas directing drivers where to park, and two off-duty police officers will direct college traffic to safe parking areas.

"Our biggest concern is the safety of the students coming to the Prince Frederick campus," said Charlene Cole Newkirk, dean of the Prince Frederick campus. "While the increase in enrollment is understandable and a good sign for Calvert County, I would also ask that the faculty, staff and the community have patience as the campus experiences these growing pains."

The satellite parking lot and shuttle will operate until mid-September, when college officials expect to complete a new gravel parking area on campus to provide an additional 150 to 200 parking spaces.

Parking will not be permitted on J.W. Williams Road or on Route 231 at any time. Cars will be towed if found parked illegally.

New Child Care Program

A new child care program for infants and toddlers opened this week at the Hollywood Recreation Center on Mervell Dean Road in St. Mary's County.

The program is sponsored by the county's Department of Recreation, Parks and Community Services and is operated by its Licensed Extended Day/Youth Camps Division. The program is licensed by the state Department of Education's Office of Child Care.

The program, open from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, will serve 15 children from 6 weeks to 3 years old. There is an annual $50 nonrefundable registration fee and a $100 tuition deposit; the monthly tuition for the program is $650.

Registration forms can be obtained by calling 301-475-4200, Ext. 1800 or 1801, or visiting the Recreation, Parks and Community Services main office.