Mixed Views on NIH Fence

Neighbors around the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda who walk through the campus to get to the Medical Center Metro station now have limited access and must pass through a new security system.

Last month, the closing of a nine-foot high steel fence, which stretches 2.86 miles around the campus, sealed off all but two entrances to pedestrian visitors. "It was nice to be able to just walk onto the campus and pick a different route to walk every day, but that's just not the way things are now," said Stephen Sawicki, president of the Edgewood Glenwood Citizens Association.

Now, non-employee visitors can enter the 327-acre campus only through the Wisconsin Avenue-South Drive entrance or near the Old Georgetown Road-South Drive entrance on the east and west borders of the campus. Those visitors must pass through a security screening system similar to that used at airports. NIH employees with the proper identification are exempt from that screening.

Sawicki said that although his and other neighborhood groups fought the idea for a long time, he has accepted the new security measures.

"They felt required to have to put up the pedestrian fence, and we have to live with what their needs were," he said.

Lesley Hildebrand, who lives in the Huntington Terrace neighborhood, adjacent to Suburban Hospital, said problems remain. For example, people who work late can't cut through campus after 9 p.m., she said. And teenagers under 16 are barred from campus without an adult. This is especially inconvenient for youths in her neighborhood who take the Metro to schools downtown, she said.

"There are a number of people who are not well served by the current plan," she said.

The $15 million system was an answer to a federal mandate for stricter security after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. John Dattoli, the NIH's acting associate director for security and emergency response, acknowledged the inconveniences and the stark change from what the NIH used to be. He added that NIH representatives worked closely with the community to ease the transition, even adding a free shuttle bus that loops around the campus every 20 minutes.

Since the closure of the fence, the NIH has received fewer complaints than Dattoli expected.

"We are still getting suggestions," he said, "but I think it was a huge success in terms of implementation."

Elder Law Series Begins

The Holiday Park Multiservice Senior Center today will hold the first session of its six-part 2005 Elder Law Series for those 55 and older, beginning at 1 p.m. The subject: "Plan Before It's Too Late: Legal and Policy Issues Related to Health Care Decision Making After Loss of Capacity." Registration is $25 for the entire series or $5 per seminar, including information packet and a snack. 3950 Ferrara Dr., Wheaton. Call 301-468-4448 or visit www.holidaypark.us.

Town Hall Seniors Forum

The Montgomery County Council will hold a town hall meeting tomorrow beginning at 1:15 p.m. at the Holiday Park Multiservice Senior Center in Wheaton.

The meeting will focus on issues related to seniors such as senior housing, recreational programs and taxes.

Men's Health Expo

Montgomery General Hospital will host its second annual Men's Health Expo from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday in the Boyer Community Learning Center. The event will offer free screenings and risk assessments for heart disease, blood pressure and various cancers. 18101 Prince Philip Dr., Olney. 301-774-8969.

Muslim-Jewish Day

The second annual Montgomery County Muslim-Jewish Day of Friendship will be Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Button Farm in Germantown. The event is an effort to bring together people of different faiths to encourage relationships and dialogue.

Participants will be helping to clean up the farm, which is being transformed into a living history farm by the Menare Foundation, a nonprofit organization that preserves sites once used along the slave-escape network the Underground Railroad.

The farm is at 16820 Black Rock Rd.

Call-In Show on Gangs

A call-in show featuring a discussion of gangs in Montgomery County will air Monday from 9-10 p.m. on Montgomery Community Television, Cable 21.

Those with questions or comments can call 301-517-8617 during the show or email CitizensLink@aol.


Panel participants include representatives of the state's attorney's office, county police and the local gang task force.

Election Panel Seeks Input

The Montgomery County Board of Elections has proposed changing the boundaries of 18 precincts and is seeking public comments.

A meeting will be held at 2:30 p.m. Monday at the Board of Elections offices. Maps showing the proposed changes are available for review. 751 Twinbrook Pkwy., Rockville. 240-777-8585.

Library Focus on Hispanics

Montgomery County public libraries are hosting programs this month to celebrate the contributions of Hispanics to the county and the country.

Aspen Hill Library will present Kaydee Puppets at 1 p.m. on Saturday, while the Gaithersburg Library hosts a performance by the Folkloric Ballet Nuevo Paraguay.

The folk performance begins at 2 p.m. Additional events are planned later this month at Twinbrook and Aspen Hill libraries.

A Latino Health Fair is planned for Oct. 15 from noon to 5 p.m. at Wheaton Regional Park.

For more information about the events, call Yuli Estler at 240-777-0024.

-- Compiled by ARUNA JAIN