THE REGION

Metrobus Gets 3-Day Supply of Transfers

Metrobus received a three-day supply of weekday paper transfers yesterday, two days after it ran out because of problems with its longtime supplier, Globe Ticket and Label Co.

The regular transfers, printed on rectangular pieces of newsprint, allow Metrobus riders to switch buses for free within a two-hour window after paying the initial fare. About 70 percent of Metrobus riders request transfers each day.

On Tuesday and yesterday, Metrobus resorted to handing out stockpiled "emergency transfers" that don't have the date stamp or other controls found on the regular ones. That allowed riders to use the transfers repeatedly over two days.

Area Communities Among Richest in U.S.

Four Washington communities continue to rank among the top 10 wealthiest in the nation, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released this week. Loudoun County topped the list locally with the third-highest national median income, after Los Alamos County, N.M., and Douglas County, Colo.

Loudoun's ranking slipped by one place since 2000, even though the median income increased from $84,695 to $89,890. Fairfax County dropped from third to fifth place during the same time, while its median income fell from $84,009 to $82,481. Howard County moved up from ninth to eighth place, and Falls Church fell from sixth to ninth.

The District came in slightly below the national average of $43,318, with a median income of $43,215. Prince William County, where the median income of $72,897 was slightly higher than 2000's $72,543, climbed 11 places from 31st to the top 20.

MARYLAND

UMUC Selects New President

Susan C. Aldridge will be the next president of University of Maryland University College, one of the country's largest virtual universities. Aldridge was vice chancellor of University College and the eCampus at Troy University in Alabama. There she built their online programs into UMUC's number one competitor among public universities, said University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. Kirwan.

UMUC enrolled almost 145,000 students in the United States and abroad in the past year, leading all distance learning programs at public universities in the country. UMUC is a key element of the system's strategy for managing a future enrollment surge in Maryland. Aldridge replaces Gerald A. Heeger, who left in August to lead a new international education initiative. She begins in February.

Howard Police Open Panel's Meetings

Howard County police said yesterday that future meetings of its citizens advisory council will be open to the public, after acknowledging that the group had met in violation of Maryland's open meetings law.

Previous gatherings of the 23-member council, which meets monthly with Police Chief G. Wayne Livesay, were not publicly advertised in advance and were not open to members of the public unless they asked to attend. The announcement came after a Columbia man filed a complaint about the council in October with the state's Open Meetings Compliance Board.

THE DISTRICT

City Told to Reimburse Tax Assessments

District officials were given 10 days yesterday to come up with a plan to reimburse thousands of homeowners for 2002 tax assessments that a judge ruled invalid.

Judge Eugene N. Hamilton of the Superior Court's Tax Division said in September that the city's 2002 assessments of 35,000 properties were "arbitrary" and "capricious.'' Many of the properties are in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, along 16th Street NW and just west of Rock Creek Park. Hamilton said the city's assessment process did not evaluate each property individually but instead used a neighborhood-based formula.

Yesterday Hamilton ordered the city to come up with a remedy along the lines of what plaintiffs in the case were requesting. City tax officials said that would cost taxpayers about $15 million. A spokeswoman for the city's attorney general said an appeal is being considered.

Water Agency Donates to Katrina Relief

The D.C. Water and Sewer Authority will present a check for $36,297.66 to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Katrina relief during its board of directors meeting today, the agency said. The gift represents donations made by employees over several months, including 775 hours of unused annual leave and cash contributions.

New Liaison to Gay Community Named

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) named a replacement yesterday for Wanda R. Alston, his liaison to the gay community who was slain, choosing a veteran health advocate and close friend of hers. Darlene R. Nipper, a Washington native, will take over as director of the mayor's Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs, a job that has been vacant since Alston was fatally stabbed by a drug-addled neighbor in March.

Williams said Nipper's "keen acumen in the areas of advocacy and outreach will greatly benefit the residents of the District." Nipper has more than 15 years of management and advocacy experience, including leadership posts at Black Entertainment Television Foundation, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and the National Mental Health Association. She has worked extensively on HIV/AIDS education.

Nipper, who lives in Ward 4 with her partner of nearly 10 years, said she was looking forward to continuing Alston's legacy.

VIRGINIA

Families to Get Help With Heating Bills

Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) announced yesterday that Virginia is making $17.9 million available immediately to low-income families unable to pay heating costs this winter.

In addition, seven Virginia utilities will provide $2.7 million in aid to families for fuel costs, which have tripled since 2002.

The state is supplementing a $30 million federal grant under the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program for households within 130 percent of the poverty level.

"I don't think they should do that. New York tries to kind of outshine us, and it is a little bit irritating."

-- David Curfman, official historian for the White House's national tree, on Rockefeller Center's habit of lighting its tree before the White House ceremony. -- A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Susan Kinzie, Lyndsey Layton, Lori Montgomery, David Nakamura, Amit R. Paley, Eric M. Weiss and Del Quentin Wilber and the Associated Press.