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Vol. LXIV, No. 7
March 30, 2012

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Ever wonder about some aspect of working at NIH? You can post questions anonymously at (click on the Feedback icon) and we’ll try to provide answers.

Feedback: Since the closure of Convent Dr. due to construction, employees have to detour to get around campus. The intersection of South Dr. and Center Dr. is backed up with cars around 9 a.m. due to the high number of pedestrians getting off from Metro and walking to campus. Cars can’t move due to continuous pedestrian [crossings]. Occasionally, we have police direct the traffic at this intersection during peak morning hours, which is a big help. Why can’t we have police at this intersection every day during rush hour?

Response from the Office of Research Facilities: The Division of Facilities Planning is presently engaged with a planning and transportation engineering consultant on an intersection and crosswalk study for the Bethesda campus in order to limit potential risks at locations where pedestrians and vehicles come in contact. In parallel with the study, some immediate improvements will be conducted at the intersection of Center Dr. and South Dr. and at the South Dr. and West Service Rd. intersection in front of Bldg. 9. Look for these improvements to be conducted after hours and be in place later this spring.

The NIH Police will continue to monitor the situation at South Dr. and Center Dr. and provide traffic control as needed from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m., Monday through Friday.

Feedback: At the NIH employee pedestrian entrance next to the Gateway Center (Bldg. 66A), I often smell an unpleasant odor that seems to be coming from a pipe on the wall next to the NIH visitor’s parking garage. (I usually pass by this during lunch time—noon to 1 p.m.) If you were walking from Natcher Bldg. towards that NIH employee pedestrian gate, you can hear a hissing sound and smell the odor when you get close to the employee gates. What is this gas and where is it coming from?

Response from ORS: Out of concern for NIH staff and visitors along with our own on-site security personnel, the NIH Fire Department and Washington Gas have inspected our Gateway Center facilities for alleged odors over the years and have determined there are no dangerous gases being emitted from our facilities.

On one occasion recently, Washington Gas found that a heating unit on a roof was not burning correctly and might have been the culprit of the strange odor. However, the unit posed no danger to employees or visitors. The unit was shut down, the gas line turned off and a technician was called to service the unit.

Feedback: I just read an HHS email highlighting the federal laws prohibiting gambling on federal property. It highlighted two different federal laws and stated “A ‘game of chance’ includes, but is not limited to, a raffle, lottery, sports pool, game of cards, the selling or purchasing of a numbers slip or ticket, or any game for money or property.” As a result, how are vendors allowed to sell lottery [tickets] and pay winnings to lottery ticket winners?

Response from the NIH Office of the General Counsel: The Randolph-Sheppard Act authorizes certain vending operators in federal facilities to sell tickets for state lotteries. This is an exception to the general prohibitions on gambling on government property.

Feedback: Why doesn’t NIH provide more on-campus child care for its employees similar to other large employers? The current (and future) facilities on campus only handle a trivial (maybe 1 percent) percentage of the potential child care needs of the NIH staff. Teleworkers may have more options, but scientific not have that option.

Response from ORS: NIH currently sponsors four child care facilities, three in the D.C. area and one in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Current capacity of the centers cannot meet demand and, although a new child care center is planned for the Bethesda campus, demand will continue to exceed supply.

Photo of Children playing

With that knowledge, ORS and the NIH child care board have worked to maximize access to the existing centers through a centralized waiting list and also offer personalized child care resource and referral for all NIH employees. This referral service provides information about alternative child care options in licensed child care homes and centers specific to the needs of the employee, based on age of children, desired location, work hours and many other factors. This service is free, can refer to any NIH employee location in the nation and is available by phone or email.

Child care is an amenity that NIH has chosen to support because NIH recognizes that productivity and performance of parents in the workforce are enhanced when their children receive quality care. But, as with any amenity, there is a balancing act between what NIH leadership and employees would like and what funds are available. NIH has committed many resources to support as many employees as possible, via facilities, resource and referral, seminars, outreach events, tuition subsidy and a new back-up child and dependent care program. Some employees can use all of these resources. Some can use none. For more information about these resources, visit


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