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December 18: This Week in Potomac

A round-up of news in Potomac in brief.

The upcoming two issues of the Potomac Almanac will be our special holiday publications.

The Almanac will continue in its usual format in its Jan. 8 edition.

<sh>Propane Tank Fire

<bt>A 500-gallon underground residential propane tank in the rear of a home on the 13600 block of Maidstone Lane in Potomac caught on fire last Tuesday, Dec. 10, around 9:45 a.m., according to Fire and Rescue reports.

About 55 personnel from over 15 fire and rescue units from Rockville, Cabin John Park, Gaithersburg and surrounding areas responded to the scene. Hazardous Materials units from Gaithersburg, Chevy Chase and Bethesda also reported to the fire in the Estates at River's Edge neighborhood.

Investigators believe that a 30-year-old man working for Suburban Propane was making a propane delivery to the tank. For an unknown reason, a fire started near the tank and hose connection.

"He tried to put fire out and was unsuccessful," said Eugene Roesser, of Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department. "

The man received second-degree burns to 10-15 percent of his body and was flown to Washington Hospital Center.

A fence and bushes near the tank caught on fire, and firefighters quickly contained the fire and protected the area. Although it was briefly extinguished, hazmat personnel decided the best course of action would be to burn the remaining product off, approximately an hour later, according to Roesser. Crews remained on the scene over 9 hours to monitor the scene, according to Pete Piringer of Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service.

<sh>Friends of the Library

<bt>This year, the Friends of Potomac Library have provided funding for music and art programs, additional books on tape and CD, storytellers and entertainers for the children's summer program, book sale carts and supplies, magazine boxes to display children's periodicals and series books, and display racks for books on tape and on CD.

The group's goal this year is to raise $11,000 for periodical shelving for the library, something that cannot be supplied by the County.

A one-year membership to be a Friend of the Potomac Library costs $25; a patrons contribute $50, and benefactors contribute $100. Two-year memberships cost $45, $90 and $180, respectively. Members receive newsletters and other membership benefits.

Checks payable to Friends of the Library-Potomac may be sent to Friends of the Library, Potomac, MD Chapter, Inc., 101 Glenolden Dr., Potomac, MD 20854.

Call 240-777-0690.

<sh>Smallpox Response Teams

<bt>According to county documents:

50 public health workers will be immunized as part of a federal plan for the formation of "smallpox response teams" throughout the United States. Approximately 500 hospital personnel from the five Montgomery County hospitals will also begin receiving the vaccine later this month.

Immunization will be offered in two phases, beginning with those who would be most likely to encounter a smallpox patient. Phase One, being implemented at this time, includes public health workers responsible for investigating and confirming suspicious cases of smallpox and hospital and emergency room personnel who are likely to be in contact with patients infected with smallpox. Phase Two may include immunizing up to 5,000 county public health, police, fire/EMS and other emergency first responders.

It is not recommended that the general public be immunized at this time.

Smallpox was eradicated worldwide two decades ago, but health and government officials fear the contagious — often fatal — disease could return through a terrorist attack. Routine vaccinations ended in the U.S. in 1972, leaving nearly half the population without any protection from the virus.

Because the current smallpox vaccine may have serious side effects, county officials will work closely with potential recipients and their private physicians. A safer vaccine is expected to be available early in 2004, which will be more suitable for immunizing the general public.

If a smallpox outbreak were to occur before that time, sufficient amounts of the current vaccine are available and a plan exists to immunize county residents.

For more information about smallpox, see www.montgomerycountymd.gov or call the Bioterrorism Information Line at 240-777-4200.

<sh>To Pave or Not?

<bt>Park and Planning intends to add new chapters to its Countywide Park Trails Plan.

"Many citizens have expressed confusion about how park trails are planned and implemented. During the Muddy Branch Trail Corridor Plan process in particular, citizens testified that the process needs to be better explained and the role of citizens in the process should be better defined," according to staff documents. "In response to these concerns, the Board directed staff to prepare an overall explanation of the process and include it in the Countywide Park Trails Plan."

Last Thursday, Dec. 12, the Planning Board approved the staff draft of the Countywide Park Trails Plan, which will be used during public hearings on the Trails Plan.

The new additions should clarify criteria the board will use when it makes decisions regarding natural-surface and hard-surface trails and what uses will be allowed on particular trails in the county.

The public will have opportunity to testify at hearings or submit testimony in writing in January.

In January, the public can call the Communications Office of Park and Planning at 301-495-4600 for the date and time of the meeting.

<sh>Bethesda Homicide

<bt>According to police report:

The body of Carmen Garcia, 37, a privately-contracted custodian for the National Retina Institute in Bethesda, was found by an employee in a first-floor bathroom of the office, 5300 Wisconsin Ave., on Friday, Dec. 13, at approximately 7:20 a.m.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled the death of Garcia a homicide. Garcia lived on the 400 block of University Boulevard East, in the Franklin Knolls community of Silver Spring.

Detectives from the county's Major Crimes Division-Homicide Section have issued a warrant for first-degree murder for Nelson Villatoro-Reyes, 22, the boyfriend of the victim. Villatoro-Reyes is described to be 6 feet tall, of medium build, with black hair, a light complexion and a very noticeable lazy left eye.

Many of his family members live in the greater Silver Spring area, including the 2100 block of Dexter Ave., the 2400 block of Ross Rd. and the 700 block of Roeder Rd. according to police reports.

The suspect does not drive and has not been formally educated, police said. He and his brothers are known to be armed with knives and have been known to carry and discharge a handgun, according to police.

Anyone with information about the suspect is asked to call the Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5070 or Crimes Solvers of Montgomery County at 1-800-673-2777.

* This is the 30th homicide of 2002, including six which were the result of the sniper shootings. Police report that 21 of the 30 cases have been closed.

<sh>Merge Ahead

<bt>The Planning Board approved the Planning Staff Draft of Master Plan of Highways Amendment — to be used in future public hearings — last Thursday, Dec. 12.

The amendment, if ultimately approved by the Planning Board and then the Council, would include carpool — or High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) — lanes on the Beltway between the American Legion Bridge and the I-270 West Spur. Two carpool lanes — one in each direction adjacent to the median — would connect the existing HOV lanes on I-270 with proposed HOV lanes on the Virginia segments of the Beltway.

The Planning Board will schedule public hearings sometime in mid-to-late February to give the public the opportunity to voice their opinions on the draft plan.

Call 301-495-4600 in January to determine the date and time of the Public Hearing.

<sh>Gift Giving

<bt>Mary Mills, a Potomac resident, is the current president of the Montgomery County Federation of Republican Women. For the 24th consecutive year, Sylvia Hermann, a Bethesda resident, organized the group's annual Holiday Gift Giving Party, which was held at the home of Betty Straus.

The 10 local Republican women's clubs throughout the county collected approximately 400 gifts that the Department of Social Services will distribute to children in foster care, under-privileged children, people with disabilities and elderly people. See www.geocities.com/mcfrw

<sh>Snooze to the Super Bowl

<lst>Snooze you lose, unless winning a trip to January's Super Bowl in San Diego, Calif.

CNS, Inc., maker of Breathe Right products, is holding a contest to search for a snorer who can set a new world record. The loudest current snore — Melvin Switzer's of South Hampton, England — was recorded at 92 decibels, comparable to heavy traffic at a busy intersection.

The grand-prize winner will receive a complete bedroom makeover, a trip for two to the Super Bowl in San Diego and a one-year supply of Breathe Right products.

According to a survey by CNS, Inc., 41 percent of partners surveyed sleep in a separate room to escape the noise, 46 percent describe snoring loud enough to wake someone from their sleep and 20 percent said snoring negatively affects their sex life. Some 60 percent of snorers and 71 percent of their partners have not sought professional advice.

Dr. Jeffrey Hausfield, a Potomac resident, medical director of the Washington Center for Laser Medicine and author of “Don't Snore Anymore: Your Complete Guide to a Quiet Night's Sleep,” offers the following advice:

* watch weight, quit smoking, avoid alcohol before bed (alcohol causes throat muscles to relax, which constricts air passages), sleep on one's side (sleeping on one's back increases the chance of snoring), avoid over-the-counter antihistamines or decongestant nasal spray that can dry mucous membranes of the nose and throat.

See www.breatheright.com for contest rules.

<sh>Top Doctor

<bt>Athena Economides, a Potomac resident and a doctor practicing with the Institute for Asthma & Allergy, was selected as one of the "top doctors" in her field, as listed in the November 2002 Washingtonian magazine survey. She and two colleagues were among the 34 doctors who received the greatest number of recommendations in their specialty of allergies and immunology. The survey includes over 800 responses from physicians and covers the Baltimore and Washington area.

Economides serves on several committees for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, including the Asthma Camp Committee and the Clinical Immunology Committee. She chairs the Committee on Women in Allergy. She held academic appointments at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical School and the Children's Hospital in Los Angeles. She developed the Food Allergy Center. See www.instituteforasthmaallergy.salu.net.

<sh>Snow Ball

<bt>A Father–Daughter Snow Ball dance to benefit teens living in group homes and foster care is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 12, 2003, from 2 to 4 p.m., at the St. James Episcopal Church Social Hall in Potomac, 11815 Seven Locks Road, Potomac.

In addition to music and dance instruction for dads and daughters, the Snow Ball will feature crafts, beverages and dessert.

The event is sponsored by Senior Girl Scout Troop 1643. The Girl Scouts, all 15 years old, decided to help teens in foster care and group homes after hearing about some of the problems these teens face. Three scouts, two at Wootton and one at Churchill high schools, remain in the troop from their days together as Brownie Scouts in first grade. All three girls were awarded the Girl Scout Silver Award earlier this year.

Admission is $8 per father-daughter couple plus either body wash and nail polish or acne face wash and lip gloss. Additional daughters are $4 each and one of the personal care items. Additional cash donations and personal care items are welcome, as are decorative gift bags and sports logo memorabilia, such as hats and water bottles. All items should be in new condition. The scouts will be making gift bags for both boys and girls.

For information and reservations, call 301-299-6757.

For further information, contact Sheila Moldover, troop publicity, at 301-424-9318 or Karin Harrison, troop leader, 301-299-6757.

<sh>Civic Associations

<bt>The Planning Board's Community Relations Office is updating its civic and homeowners associations database. Call 301-495-4600 any time of the day or night with the current president's name, address and phone number.