Calvert County's expenses are approaching half a million dollars in a lawsuit brought by the Chesapeake Ranch Water Co. to prevent the county from providing water to the Lusby town center.

The dispute began in February 2003 when the county decided to supply water to the growing town center and a nearby office park instead of using Chesapeake. The water company argued that it could provide service to the area more efficiently and at a lower cost.

Chesapeake Ranch Water Co. has lost rulings in circuit court in Baltimore as well as in U.S. District Court and a federal appeals court.

Meanwhile, the litigation has resulted in a pile of legal and engineering bills for Calvert. On Tuesday, the Board of County Commissioners voted to use contingency funds to pay for the latest bill -- $23,812 in costs incurred since August. The county has spent $414,260 on the lawsuit, according to a memo from the county Department of Finance and Budget.

The budget memo also ended with this warning: "Additional expenses are expected due to the pending case and appeal."

Applicants Remain Private

More than 30 Charles County residents have applied to fill the vacant seat on the Charles Board of Education.

Last week, school board members reaffirmed their plan to pick their new colleague behind closed doors. In addition, the names of the applicants for this elected office will not be made public, the board decided.

The majority of the board said that a public process might discourage people from applying, even though the chosen candidate would have to run publicly in next year's election to keep the seat.

Although the school board will not open its selection process, that doesn't mean the identity of the nearly three dozen people seeking the post will remain secret. As one board member put it: "There's nothing stopping the candidates from saying, 'Hey world, I'm applying.' "

So the Southern Maryland Extra invites all of those candidates to let Charles County know who you are. Tell us why you want to be a member of the board that makes education policy and shapes the school budget for the county.

If you would like to say "Hey world, I'm applying," use the Extra as your soapbox. Call us, write or send an e-mail. Here's how to reach us:

The Washington Post

100 N. Oak Ave.

La Plata, Md. 20646

smextra@washpost.com

301-934-1287 or 301-934-3513

Annual Bike Giveaway

The Charles County Sheriff's Office and Bike Doctor of Waldorf are planning to give 50 local children new bicycles this holiday season as part of the seventh annual holiday bicycle giveaway program.

Each year, the sheriff's office raises money to purchase new bicycles from Bike Doctor, whose employees order and assemble the bicycles at no additional cost. Shortly before Christmas, officers deliver the new bicycles, along with new helmets, to the children.

"For the past seven years, this program has been bringing smiles to the faces of children who otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to own a new bicycle," Sheriff Frederick E. Davis (R) said in a statement announcing this year's effort. "This program is made possible by the giving spirit of the citizens and businesses of our community who make donations."

The sheriff's office works with the Charles County public schools to identify the recipients of the bicycles on a need basis. Anyone who would like to contribute to the holiday bicycle giveaway fund may call Officer Eric Leukhardt of the Community Policing Unit at 301-609-3282, Ext. 317. Checks should be made payable to the Charles County Sheriff's Office, and "Bicycle Donation Fund" should be indicated in the memo section.

Tobacco Study Funded

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) announced last week that the fiscal 2006 agriculture appropriations measure passed by the House contains $332,000 in continuing funding to study alternative uses for tobacco.

"I'm thankful that this conference report included funding to study alternative uses for tobacco," Hoyer said in a statement. "As cigarettes become increasingly less profitable, we must find innovative ways to keep tobacco producers moving."

Over the past five years, Hoyer has led the support for more than $1.7 million in funding for a tobacco-alternative study.

Tobacco production was the heart of agriculture in Southern Maryland for more than 350 years. But as tobacco growing wanes, farmers have sought new crop options.

The Alternative Tobacco Program at the University of Maryland is working to develop new non-smoking uses for tobacco and explores potential high-value uses of the plant.