This Week in Arlington

This Week in Arlington

<sh>Self-Serve Tax Kiosk Opens

<bt>Arlington County has unveiled a new self-serve kiosk that will allow residents to make cash or check payments of their personal property and real estate taxes.

The kiosk is located on the second floor of the County Government Center, located at 2100 Clarendon Blvd. A second kiosk is slated to arrive in January, and will allow residents to make payments 24 hours a day, seven days of week.

"This kiosk will join one of the many convenient payment locations throughout Arlington available to residents through the expanded Neighborhood Payment Program," Treasurer Frank O'Leary said in a statement. "Residents are urged to take advantage of this service; save a trip to the county offices, and avoid long lines on Oct. 5."

Oct. 5 is the deadline for personal property and real estate tax payments.

Through the expanded Neighborhood Payment Program, Arlington residents may pay taxes, parking tickets, water bills and decal fees by cash or check at any bank in Arlington, at any participating 7-Eleven stores in Virginia, Maryland and D.C.; and at 40 Global Express Financial Services locations throughout Northern Virginia.

A list of locations is online at

<sh>Police Standoff Ends in Arrest

<bt>A three-hour standoff between police and a burglary suspect in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood on Friday, Sept. 22 ended when SWAT team members stormed the home and took the suspect into custody, police officials said.

The incident began the night of Sept. 21, when Melvyn Eugene Merchant, 42, of Vienna, broke into a home in the 800 block of South 20th Street. He proceeded to assault the female resident of that home, with whom he had a prior relationship, and forced her to stay in the house against her will.

The following night at approximately 6:35 p.m., the victim was able to escape from Merchant and alerted the police. She was taken to a local hospital with minor cuts and bruises.

Police negotiators were able to establish contact with Merchant inside the home, but they were unable to persuade him to give himself up.

At 9:44 p.m., the SWAT team made entry and Merchant was captured without incident.

Police have obtained warrants for burglary and rape against Merchant, and he is being held without bond.

<sh>Board Resolution Opposes Marriage Amendment

<bt>The Arlington County Board voted last week to adopt a resolution encouraging Arlington residents to oppose the constitutional amendment appearing on the November ballot that would ban gay marriage and civil unions.

The resolution states that although the amendment is being sold as a simple prohibition on gay marriage, it in fact goes much further. The proposed amendment would prohibit a range of benefits for all unmarried couples — straight and gay — and the broad and confusing language may have "unintended and unpredictable legal consequences," the resolution said.

Noting that the proposed amendment's language "encompasses civil unions and domestic partnerships," the resolution states that it "could have the effect of discouraging high-value workers and businesses from locating" in Virginia and Arlington, "thus putting us at a competitive disadvantage relative to D.C., Maryland and many other states where no such impediments now exist."

Language of the proposed amendment "goes far beyond the constitutional proposals enacted in any other state," according to the resolution, and "makes significant and substantial changes in current Virginia law by extending the prohibition on relationship recognition to all 'unmarried individuals.'”

The resolution also states that the proposed amendment would "in effect, create a Constitutional bar to any legal recognition of unmarried relationships for both same- and different-sex couples, including a permanent prohibition on the ability of county government and the School system to offer benefits — such as health insurance — to unmarried employees that would be equal to those offered to married employees."

<sh>High School Guidelines Change

<bt>On Sept. 21, the Arlington School Board adopted new space guidelines that will reduce the square footage of high schools by 5 to 7 percent, likely saving at least $1 million, officials said.

The revised guidelines include the following changes:

* Provide space for a black box theatre and a large group room for meetings, testing, presentations and community use;

* Provide office or work space for staff including testing coordinator, mental health counselor, athletic trainer and technology support specialist;

* Improve science lab space to have both lab and lecture capability;

* Add a lab to enhance technology education in engineering, research and design;

* Refine health and physical education space by including a cardio room, converting gymnastics facilities to dance studios, reducing locker and shower rooms, and reducing storage guidelines;

* Streamline media centers;

* Adjust work space for teachers to reflect the standard that teachers will have a dedicated classroom;

* Update arts spaces to integrate darkrooms into graphics art labs and add music keyboard labs to orchestra classrooms;

* Integrate technology so that every classroom supports computer use by ensuring that each class has wireless service which will increase the use of laptops; and

* Add new aquatics facilities to include an eight-lane pool.