<bt>House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) and his fellow House Republican leaders proposed on Tuesday a $938.5 million plan to help fix the state's transportation problems.
The House Republican Transportation Reform package would direct money for transportation needs throughout the state from Virginia's general operating fund and from the state tax on insurance premiums.
The Republican plan would increase funding for local traffic mitigation by $75 million. It would also create a $60 million public-private partnership incentive fund and a $33 million fund for enhancing rail transportation. A little more than $40 million would be invested in the state's outstanding transit capital needs under the plan.
The Republican transportation package exceeds a similar $824 million transportation plan proposed by Gov. Mark Warner (D) last month. Neither plan includes new taxes and both rely on a $900 million state budget surplus for funding.
The key difference between the competing proposals is that the Republican plan would earmark $552 million for future transportation projects, while Warner's plan primarily consists of a one-time $350 million investment for transit projects.
A Senate transportation plan is likely to be announced later this month.
In Fatal Fires
<bt>Slightly more Fairfax County residents died in fires during 2004 than in the previous year, according to Fairfax County Fire and Rescue reports. Ten people died in fires throughout the county 2004, up from seven fatalities the previous year. All the 2004 fires were accidental and many were preventable, said Lt. Raul Castillo, a fire department spokesman.
"We always encourage everyone to call 911 when they see a fire as soon as possible," he said. "Don't try to extinguish it yourself. Call us immediately."
Most of the 2004 fatalities were from apartment or condominium fires, Castillo said. Two deaths were from vehicle fires and one was a woman who died in a brush fire.
Fires also caused significantly more damage in 2004, Castillo said. In December alone, 26 fires in Fairfax County caused an estimated $11.5 million in damages. In December, 2003, a total of 11 fires caused only $1.8 million in damages.
Residents should make sure they leave plenty of space around portable heaters and heat lamps, Castillo said. Also, never leave candles or cooking unattended and thoroughly clean fireplaces after every two uses, he warned.
"We continue to have fires that are preventable," he said. "Fires can get out of control really easily."
<bt>Fairfax County officials are seeking individuals and families willing to host children in an effort to help find them adoptive homes. Participants in the "Weekend Miracles" program host a child during weekends for three months, introduce him or her to family and friends and attend events where potential adoptive parents are present.
Businesses and organizations are also being sought to host events for potential adoptive parents. The program is sponsored by Fairfax County's Department of Family Services and Kidsave International, a non-profit adoption organization.
Children from Russian, Kazakh and Colombian orphanages have already found homes through the program elsewhere in the country, said Carolyn Fowler, foster care and adoption program manager for the Department of Family Services.
For more information, got to www.kidsave.org or call 703-683-5437.
<bt>As part of an ongoing effort to protect the environment, Fairfax County has recycled 5,000 fluorescent bulbs over the last three months. Fluorescent bulbs contain small amounts of mercury, a toxic metal that in large quantities can be harmful to people and animals. Last September, the county launched the Fluorescent Lamp Management Program that aims to recycle 20,000 of the energy-efficient bulbs that light government buildings each year.
The program recovers the mercury from the fluorescent bulbs for re-use. The remaining components are recycled or disposed of according to federal and state regulations. Fairfax County already purchases "green tip" bulbs that contain as little mercury as possible.
Businesses or individuals can recycle their own fluorescent bulbs at either of the county's two waste sites, located at 4618 West Ox Road in Fairfax and 9850 Furnace Rd. in Lorton.
<bt>Board of Supervisors Meeting. Monday, Jan. 10 at 9 a.m. at Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax.