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This Week in Potomac

Valuables Stolen, Wheelchair Lift Trashed on New Canal Boat

Bringing a new canal boat to Great Falls Tavern required more than three years of community effort and $545,000.

It took less than a week after the boat’s maiden voyage before vandals broke into the boat, trashed it and stole valuable equipment.

On the night of Saturday, Sept. 15 or the morning of Sunday, Sept. 16, the Charles F. Mercer was broken into, said Faye Walmsley, acting Palisades District interpreter at C&O Canal National Historical Park. The public-address amplifier was stolen, as was a replica antique horn, and there was severe damage done to a wheelchair lift that made the boat accessible to those with disabilities. Other items were thrown overboard, found after the Park Service drained the portion of the canal where the Mercer is moored.

The chairlift, one of the key features of the boat that made it accessible to those with disabilities, has been inoperable since the break-in, Walmsley said. A repair service crew is scheduled to arrive on Thursday, Oct. 5, and Walmsley hopes it will be back in operation after that day. She also said that the park ordered a new amplifier, and that as of last week, the sound system was back up and running.

The horn, which period-costume reenactors blew as the boat approached a lock, was not an antique, Walmsley said. Nonetheless, it is difficult to replace. "It’s getting harder and harder to find people that manufacture them," Walmsley said.

"We’ve taken some preventative measures to keep it from [further damage]," Walmsley said. The boat is now docked in the middle of the canal, and it’s locked with cables each night.

Walmsley encouraged anybody with information about the break-in and theft to call Park Ranger Rob Gydus at 301-767-3720. . The Mercer is back in operation, however, and admission for ride on the mule-drawn boat is $2 through the fall season. Call 301-767-3714.

— Alex Scofield

Dozens of Mailboxes Vandalized in River Falls

Between midnight on Saturday and approximately 3 a.m. Sunday morning, 35 to 40 mailboxes were toppled or destroyed in the River Falls community in Potomac, including Masters Drive, Brickyard Road, Bridle Lane and Bridle Court, according to Greg de Lissovoy, the board member for the Community Association of River Falls who oversees neighborhood safety and security.

De Lissovoy suspects that the vandals, who "hit just about every house," were traveling on foot. The damage is estimated at $10,000.

"We have filed police reports and encouraged every family affected to file a specific report for their home," said de Lissovoy. "The community is very upset. We are examining our options in terms of how to pursue this."

Isolated cases of mailbox vandalism have occurred in River Falls in the past, but de Lissovoy said that the vandals usually focused on one or two homes with teenage children.

Community members discovered articles of clothing with "logos that are pretty identifiable" near some of the damage. De Lissovoy declined to describe the evidence in further detail.

Corporal Sonia Pruitt of the Montgomery County Police Department said that as of Tuesday afternoon, only five of the mailbox incidents have been formally reported: two on Masters Drive, one on Brickyard Road, one on Bridle Lane and one on Buckboard Court.

"A blunt object was used to knock the mailboxes off the posts," she said.

Individuals with information about the crime can contact the Montgomery County Police Department at 301-279-8000, or Greg de Lissovoy at 301-765-1826.

— Mary Vause

Churchill Cross Country Hosts Page’s Run 5K

Winston Churchill High School’s cross country team hosts the 2nd Annual Page’s Run, a 5-kilometer race/walk and quarter-mile kids fun run on Sunday, Oct. 8, 8:30 a.m. at Winston Churchill High School, 11300 Gainsborough Road, Potomac. Page’s Run will benefit the Page’s Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about cystic fibrosis and to combating the disease by raising funds to support research and medical needs. Page’s Run and Page’s Memorial Foundation are named after Kimberly "Page" Whetsell, a former Whitman student who died of cystic fibrosis last year at the age of 22. Fee is $20 for 5K, $25 on race day, $10 for kids fun run. Visit www.pagesrun.com for a registration form.

Travilah Oak Day Supports Canal Boat

On Saturday, Oct. 7, from 12-4 p.m., the 275-year-old Travilah Oak will celebrate its birthday at the Potomac Oak Center, at the corner of Glen and Travilah roads. The 5th annual Travilah Oak Day, will feature family activities like hay rides, pony rides, horseback demonstrations, scarecrow building, pumpkin decorating contest, storytelling, old-time music, a quiz, barbecue and free birthday cake. A raffle will raise funds for the remaining costs of the new boat in the C&O Canal by Great Falls Tavern.

League Hosts County Executive Debate

The League of Women Voters is sponsoring a county executive debate among candidates Ike Leggett (D), Chuck Floyd (R) and Robin Ficker (I) at 7 p.m. in the Theater Arts Building at Montgomery College's Rockville Campus. Ken Muir of Montgomery Community Television is the moderator, and event co-sponsors include the Alliance of Rockville Citizens, the Alliance of Rockville Neighborhood Associations, the Committee for Montgomery and Common Cause Maryland. For more information, contact the League of Women Voters at 301-984-9585 or lwvmc@erols.com.

Capitol Steps Perform at Churchill

The musical political satire of the Capitol Steps comes to Winston Churchill High School’s Gertrude Bish Auditorium, 11300 Gainsborough Road, on Sunday, Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. Proceeds will benefit the Winston Churchill High School Education Foundation. Tickets are $25 or $30. For an order form, visit www.churchillhs.org and click on "Capital Steps," and call 301-469-1242 or e-mail capsteps@churchillhs.org with ticket questions.

Marathon Anecdotal History Walking Tour

Join the marathon series of Anecdotal History Walks from Capitol Hill to the White House on Sunday, Oct. 8 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., with all proceeds benefiting the Tourette Syndrome Association of Greater Washington.

Award-winning author and historian Anthony S. Pitch, featured on C-Span TV, the History Channel and National Public Radio, merges four of his favorite walking tours into one marathon walk to tempt well-wishers, history buffs, fitness freaks, health enthusiasts, couples, singles, and everyone else wanting to benefit this worthy cause. Pets also welcome. Pitch is a Potomac resident.

The marathon four-hour stroll includes stories about the British capture of Washington during the War of 1812 and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and his death the following morning.

Rain or shine, meet at the base of the steps leading up to the front of the Supreme Court, 10 a.m., Sunday, Oct. 8. For those joining at the halfway mark, meet about noon at the E St. NW entrance to the Old Town Trolley's Welcome Center, corner 10th St. Estimated time of the entire marathon walk is four hours. $40 for the entire marathon or $25 for those joining at the E St. entrance. Reservations required. Contact the Tourette Syndrome Association of Greater Washington to purchase tickets at www.tsagw.org or call Voice at 301-681-4133, toll free at 877-295-2148 or fax 302-945-8980.

Churchill Performs ‘Tommy’

Churchill students will The Who’s rock opera "Tommy" on Saturday, Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m. Presented by the WCHS Academy of the Creative Performing Arts, this CAPStone project features a 23-member cast, eight-member band, and a production team consisting entirely of Churchill students. Tickets cost $8 and will be available at the door the night of the show.

Rockville Library Closes Temporarily

The Rockville library will close to the public at 5 p.m. on Friday, October 6 to prepare for the moving and the opening of the new Rockville library located at 21 Maryland Avenue in the new Rockville Town Center. The library is expected to be closed for approximately two months. In the interim, the public is encouraged to use other nearby libraries.

Seniors, People with Disabilities Ride Free

Seniors and people with disabilities can ride free on Metrobus in Montgomery County and Ride On, Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Seniors must be 65 years or older and have a valid Metro Senior ID card or Medicare card and photo ID, and persons with disabilities must have a Metro Disabled ID card. For more information, visit www.montgomerycountymd.gov, then click "Transportation," then "Ride On."

Watershed Restoration Projects

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Baltimore District) is investigating aquatic ecosystem restoration opportunities in conjunction with Montgomery County. Feasibility studies for a watershed-based restoration approach will be conducted for Muddy Branch and Great Seneca Creek. Goals include study and documentation of existing conditions; identification of problems and potential improvements; and identification of stormwater management and stream restoration needs. If you have any questions regarding this project, contact Jean Kapusnick at 410-962-4771 or jean.a.kapusnick@usace.army.mil.

Global Warming in Maryland?

According to a report by Environment Maryland, Maryland is getting warmer.

In the continental United States, the first seven months of 2006 were the warmest January-July of any year on record, according to the National Climatic Data Center. In Maryland, the average temperature was 2.8° F above the 20th century average, making it the eighth warmest January-July on record. The average temperature since 2000 in Baltimore is up 0.9° F compared with the previous three decades (1971-2000).

To examine how these recent temperature patterns compare with temperatures over the last 30 years, Environment Maryland researchers analyzed temperature data from 255 major weather stations in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. for the years 2000-2005 and the first six months of 2006. This recent data was compared to "normal" temperatures for the three decades spanning 1971-2000.

Findings include: Rising sea levels, combined with sinking land, have swallowed 13 islands in the Chesapeake Bay and consume 260 acres of land in Maryland each year.

In August, Environment Maryland released a report showing how the U.S. could cut global warming pollution by nearly 20 percent by 2020 by making our homes, cars, and businesses more efficient, switching to renewable energy sources, and giving Americans more alternatives to driving, paired with strong, mandatory limits on global warming emissions.

Legacy Open Space Advisory Group Members Sought

The Montgomery County Planning Board seeks individuals to serve on the Legacy Open Space Advisory Group. The group provides public input on which irreplaceable natural resources, watershed lands and historic properties are purchased and preserved for future generations.

The Legacy Open Space Advisory Group reviews the program to protect identified Legacy Open Space sites; reviews new nominations of sites for protection under the program; comments on park management plans for already acquired properties; and identifies other funding sources, such as private donations and foundation grants.

Advisory Group applicants must be residents of Montgomery County with an interest in the future of the County’s parks and green spaces; have the ability to attend four evening meetings per year; and have an interest in learning more about natural resources, historic sites, green space preservation, and urban open space issues. Experience with these issues is a plus, but not necessary.

To apply, please send a letter expressing your interest to: Brenda Sandberg, Legacy Open Space Program Manager, 1109 Spring Street, Suite 800, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

For more information on the Legacy Open Space program and the Advisory Group, please contact Brenda Sandberg at 301-650-4360 or Brenda.sandberg@mncppc-mc.org.

Planning Board Votes on Public Golf Course Lease Agreement

The Montgomery County Planning Board voted to move forward with a long-term lease with the Montgomery County Revenue Authority to operate all nine public golf courses in the county, according to a Planning Board press release last week.

According to the press release, the transfer was proposed in order to consolidate the operations of public golf courses in Montgomery County under a single agency to address potential financial shortfalls. Last year, the Revenue Authority earned $734,000 from the five golf courses it owns and operates and Park and Planning lost close to $500,000 on its four courses.

The Revenue Authority will run the golf operations and Park and Planning will retain ownership of the land. The two agencies will sign a lease that will incorporate the terms of the operating agreement. When the lease is signed, it will be reviewed by the Montgomery County Council who has final approval authority on the transfer.

Deer Hunts Scheduled

The Montgomery County Department of Parks plans to continue its deer management strategies this fall and winter. These initiatives will include carefully managed shotgun hunts in which only hunters who meet the highest level of state and county safety standards are permitted to participate.

Each participating park location will be closed from sunrise until sunset on hunting day(s). Appropriate park closing notices will be posted throughout each park. Expertly trained Park Police officers will conduct sharpshooting operations at some of the parks. Those parks will be closed to the public from 5:30 p.m. until sunrise from January 1 through March 31, 2007. Appropriate park closing notices will be posted throughout those parks as well.

Management shotgun deer hunting is scheduled in Blockhouse Point Conservation Park on Tuesday, Nov. 14. For further information and a complete list of parks where hunts are scheduled, visit www.mc-mncppc.org/environment/deer/index.shtm or call the Department of Parks’ deer information hotline at 301/495-3585.

Important Back-to-School Safety Reminders

Montgomery County Public Schools are back in session, and Police Chief J. Thomas Manger, along with the officers of the Montgomery County Police Department, want to encourage all community members to continue to make the safety of our children a top priority.

All drivers should be on the lookout for young pedestrians who will be walking to and from school. Parents should set aside time to remind their children of the following: cross streets at marked crosswalks, look both ways before crossing the street, and don't cross the street between parked cars. If there isn't a sidewalk and it is necessary to walk in the street, walk on the left side facing traffic. Children and adults should follow the directions of our Crossing Guards who are there to assist and protect students.

Some students will be riding bicycles to school. Please remind them that they must follow all traffic rules and signs, i.e. stop signs and traffic lights. By law, all children under the age of 18 must wear a bicycle helmet when riding or being carried on a bicycle, while riding on a public street, right-of-way, or on a bicycle path.

Many students will be riding buses to school and all drivers are strongly reminded that they are required to stop at least 20 feet from school busses that are stopped with flashing red lights. It is also recommended that adults accompany young children to bus stops, and remain with them until the bus arrives.

The start of the school season is also a good time to remind children of basic safe practices. Children should not speak to strangers, and once they are home, they should not open or answer a knock at the door if an adult is not present without first determining who is there. Every child should have a list of parents', neighbors', and/or relatives' phone numbers that they can call for assistance. Children should also know when it is appropriate to call 9-1-1.

County police remind motorists that the violations of these Maryland Transportation Articles may result in the following penalties: speeding in a school zone incurs a fine of up to $1,000 and 5 points on your license, and passing a school bus with flashing red lights incurs a fine of $550 and 3 points against your license.

Parents who bring their children to school or pick them up after school, are reminded to obey the "No Parking, No Stopping, and No Standing" signs in a School Zone. A violation of this sign incurs a fine of $50.

Police Seek Help in Identifying Suspect

Using Credit Cards Taken from Bethesda Fitness Club

Detectives from the Montgomery County Police 2nd District Investigative Section are asking for help in identifying a suspect who was using credit cards stolen from a locker at a Fitness First gym.

On July 23 at approximately 9:19 a.m., officers from the 2nd District were called to the 7900 block of Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda, for a theft. Officers learned that between 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on July 22, someone entered the Men’s Locker Room of the Fitness First gym. The victim’s locker was secured by a cylinder padlock. The lock was opened by unknown means, the victim had some items taken from his wallet, and the lock was reset.

The victim was alerted by the credit card companies of some large purchases to his accounts. The victim had not made the purchases described. Detectives learned that the credit cards were used in the Rockville area by a man who made credit card purchases at the White Flint Mall. Detectives obtained pictures from a surveillance camera and are asking the public for help in identifying the man who was using the stolen credit cards. It is not known if the man was responsible for the theft or if he was just using the stolen credit cards.

The suspect is described as a 30- to 40-year-old black male, 5’8" to 6’0" tall, with a thin build, and being bald or balding. He was wearing a black shirt, black shorts, and dark-colored loafers.

Anyone who has information about the theft or the suspect in the photo is asked to call Detective Poole of the 2nd District Investigative Section at 301-657-0141. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477). Crime Solvers will pay a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information provided to them that leads to an arrest and/or indictment in this felony crime.

"Seven Signs of Terrorism" Video Recommended Viewing

The Montgomery County Police Department recommends that community members view an informational video, "The Seven Signs of Terrorism," to help them become more knowledgeable about the types of suspicious behaviors that might precede a terrorist attack. This video is available for viewing on the Montgomery County and Montgomery County Police websites.

The Montgomery County Police "Seven Signs of Terrorism" video was based on a video developed by Michigan State Police in February of 2005. The Montgomery County "Seven Signs of Terrorism" video is narrated by MCP Chief J. Thomas Manger, and the performers are police officers, civilian police employees and police department volunteers.

Reminders to the public include: If the suspicious activity of a person is right in front of you, don't hesitate to call 911. For those that are in the state of Maryland, and are aware of an on-going situation that seems suspicious, calls can be made to the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center at 1-800-492-TIPS (8477).

The video, which runs approximately seven minutes long, can be viewed on the home page of the Montgomery County government Web site under "Emergency Preparedness - Seven Signs of Terrorism video": www.montgomerycountymd.gov and at the bottom of the home page of the Montgomery County Police Web site under "Other Useful Links" - "Seven Signs of Terrorism": www.montgomerycountymd.gov/police.

What to Say When Calling 9-1-1

When somebody calls 911 for help, the men and women of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service respond. Certain types of injuries, illness and even structure fires seem to occur more often around this time of the year. The end of the summer season and impending fall weather can mean busy times for area firefighters and emergency medical first responders.

Injuries are typically those associated with slips, falls or vehicle collisions, more often than not related to changing weather conditions, while the illnesses may be associated to predisposing medical conditions related to stroke or heart disease. Over seventy percent of the calls for help are associated with emergency medical services.

Whatever the need for emergency services, Montgomery County emergency call takers will ask specific questions in order to send the most appropriate help. In doing so for medical emergencies, dispatchers use a special screening process called Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD). The 911 call taker will normally ask a series of questions to come up with an appropriate level of response based on the information provided by the caller.

The first and most important bits of information required are the address and phone number, in case there is a disconnect or other issue during the 911 call process.

If a medical call is being reported, call takers will ask questions such as age and gender, and the exact problem being reported. Next, a series of questions that may follow, for a sick person: Is he/she breathing normally? Does he/she have chest pain? Is he/she bleeding or vomiting blood? Does he/she have a history of heart problems?

The number of questions needed to produce the most appropriate response increases with the seriousness of the medical problem. These additional questions are essential in determining whether the scene is safe for victims and emergency responders, if hazardous conditions are present, or if additional or specialized rescue equipment may be needed.

Additionally, if a patient is in cardiac arrest or childbirth is imminent, there are Pre-Arrival Instructions that fire and rescue dispatchers can give to help the caller in providing life-saving actions such as CPR and childbirth assistance. These instructions follow the protocols set forth by the State of Maryland Medical Protocols.

All of these questions can take time to ask, and at times to the caller it may seem that fire and rescue personnel may not be acting quick enough to send help. However, in most cases when there are additional questions being asked or instructions given, the call has already been sent via computer to be dispatched. Often units are alerted to respond and enroute while additional information is gathered over the telephone.

The Montgomery County Public Safety Communications Center (PSCC), Fire and Rescue Emergency Operations Center (ECC) is staffed entirely by uniformed firefighters (one of only a few in the United States) all of whom are Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT), including some specially trained as Paramedics, critical incident stress management, search and rescue, hazardous materials, foreign languages and other special skills. All fire and rescue communication personnel are nationally certified as Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) personnel. Fire and Rescue communication personnel dispatch an average of nearly 375 emergency calls a day or over 100,000 per year.