Track Work to Close 4 Metro Stations

Four Metro stations in the eastern corner of the District will be closed this weekend for track maintenance, causing delays of at least 30 minutes for riders who want to cross the Anacostia River, officials said yesterday.

The Minnesota Avenue and Deanwood stations on the Orange Line and the Benning Road and Capitol Heights stations on the Blue Line will be closed from 10 tonight until midnight Sunday. Metro officials said free shuttle buses will run between those stations and the nearest open Metro stations on those lines every five minutes during the day.

Workers are replacing the grout that cushions the tracks on the rail bridge outside the Stadium-Armory Station.

Track work in Virginia last weekend brought several complaints about delays.


Schwartz Wants Smell's Source Revealed

D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) called yesterday for city officials to investigate the source of a mysterious odor in Northeast Washington.

In a letter to Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), Schwartz, chairman of the council's Committee on Public Works and the Environment, said that finding the odor's cause should be treated as "an urgent matter."

During a hearing of the committee yesterday, Thomas Henschen of Washington Gas said that on Tuesday and Wednesday, there were 170 calls about the odor, which is not related to a gas leak. Complaints about a foul smell first came last week, when some public schools closed early because the odor was so strong. Battalion Fire Chief Brian Lee of the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department said test results have been negative for any toxic fumes. Henschen and Lee said the source of the odor has not been determined.

Lee said the Prince George's County fire department advised D.C. officials that it had responded to two reports of odors of gas on Kenilworth Avenue near Smith's Recycling Center on Sept. 28. The recycling center is just outside the District.


Builder Sues Washington County

A Frederick developer has filed a $7.5 million suit against Washington County that accuses local officials of deliberately delaying necessary approvals for new homes in a 773-unit development already under construction.

Ausherman Development Corp. said that by altering requirements partway through the Westfields residential project on Route 65 near Hagerstown, the county is costing the company $4,600 a day. Jim MacGillivray, vice president, said the sticking point is whether there are adequate nearby schools to support the pace of building. About 60 homes are occupied, he said.

The lawsuit was filed in Washington County Circuit Court. A call late yesterday to Washington County Attorney John M. Martirano was not immediately returned.

Lawyer's Conspiracy Case Goes to Jury

Jurors began deliberating yesterday in the murder-conspiracy trial of a Bethesda lawyer whom prosecutors portrayed as a puppeteer, coldly controlling a longtime friend who shot and wounded the lawyer's former husband.

But Elsa D. Newman's defense attorney said there was no evidence Newman plotted with Margery Lemb Landry to kill Arlen J. Slobodow. And attorney Barry H. Helfand disputed the state's assertion that Landry, who is serving a 20-year sentence for the attack, planned to kill Slobodow when she broke into his Bethesda home Jan. 7, 2002.

To convict Newman, "you have to find that she actually agreed and intended that a first-degree murder be committed by Marge," Helfand said. "There is no evidence that Elsa Newman intended the murder to happen."

The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for nearly two hours yesterday. Deliberations are to resume this morning.


Tuition Program Widens Enrollment

It will cost parents 8 percent more than it did last year to prepay a year of a newborn child's tuition at a four-year state university, about the rate of this fall's tuition increase, the head of the agency that administers the program said yesterday.

The Virginia Prepaid Education Program plans to open to new participants from Dec. 1 to March 31, said Diana Cantor, executive director of the Virginia College Savings Program.

The program's board decided to open enrollment to new beneficiaries in ninth grade and younger this fall after studying trends and projections of tuition growth and the plan's investment return.

One year of prepaid in-state tuition for a four-year public college for a newborn will cost $8,849, up 8 percent from $8,193 last year. That compares with a 60 percent increase between last year's price and that of the previous open-enrollment period in 2002-03. For today's high school freshmen, one year of prepaid tuition will cost $8,257, also up 8 percent.

The new prices are based on actuarial formulas predicting that tuition at Virginia's four-year colleges and universities will rise 8 percent in 2006 through 2009 and 7 percent a year thereafter. Contract prices are higher for younger children because tuition costs are more variable over a longer time.

Purcellville Limits Water Usage

Purcellville has imposed mandatory water-use restrictions, the result of a line break that depleted the town's supply and a drought-induced drop in one of its wells. Among other measures, residents of the Loudoun County town may not water lawns or wash cars, and restaurants are prohibited from serving drinking water unless a customer requests it. Residential customers must limit daily consumption to 300 gallons a day.

First violations will bring fines of $100; those caught more than three times could have their water cut off, said Karin Franklin Fellers, director of utilities. Last weekend's line break was repaired.

"What we're asking folks to do is reduce their nonessential water use," Fellers said. "It's not essential to our health and welfare for us to have a green lawn, [but] we don't want them to stop bathing."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture declared several Virginia counties, including Loudoun, agricultural disaster areas after an extremely dry September.

"The disease doesn't destroy the industry. The reaction to the disease would destroy the industry. Nobody would want to buy Delmarva poultry."

-- Maryland state veterinarian Guy Hohenhaus,

on the potential damage of an avian flu outbreak. -- A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Jay Mathews, Yolanda Woodlee, Fredrick Kunkle and Karin Brulliard and the Associated Press.