The city Planning Commission has approved a six-year, $1.4 billion capital budget that focuses on basic improvements to the city's infrastructure but also allocates money to two projects envisioned as cornerstones of Baltimore's economic future.
The $200 million Christopher Columbus Center of Marine Research and Exploration is to receive $19 million next year -- the first installment of $84 million expected to be funneled to the biotechnology project through the city capital budget over the next six years. The center, which city officials hope will help make Baltimore a center for biotechnology research, is slated be built at Pier 5 at the Inner Harbor.
Also, the Port Covington Business Park, which is near the Hanover Street Bridge in South Baltimore, is to receive $7.5 million for infrastructure improvements in the fiscal 1992 capital budget. The Baltimore Sun has built a printing plant at the site and other businesses are expected to move there.
Despite those commitments, much of the budget is dedicated to routine maintenance of city facilities from libraries to schools and roads.
"The budget emphasizes continued improvement of communities and maintenance of facilities," said Victor L. Bonaparte, assistant planning director.
The fiscal 1992 portion of the budget is $283.2 million. Projects include:
* $2 million for asbestos abatement.
* $374,000 to improve the computer system at the central branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.
* $2.2 million to renovate neighborhood parks and playgrounds. The figure includes money to pay for an erosion-control project at Federal Hill Park and for the city's contribution to the $7.2 million project to rebuild Lake Roland Dam.
* $6.9 million to rebuild Brehms Lane Elementary School and to complete the renovation and asbestos-removal project at Walbrook Senior High School. This category also includes design money for renovation of Windsor Hills and Garrett Heights elementary schools and equipment for Montebello Elementary School.
* $100 million for waste-water improvement projects, including the continuing expansion of the Patapsco Waste Water Treatment Plant. That $40 million expansion is being paid for by Baltimore and Howard counties, which use the plant.
* $28.3 million to repair city bridges and resurface and reconstruct city streets.
The capital budget reflects the city's tight fiscal condition as well as the region's weak economy. Motor vehicle revenues, for instance, have dipped to $24 million from last year's $54 million, Bonaparte said. That money, which comes from a range of automobile-user fees, goes for road maintenance.
Also, the portion of the capital budget that comes from the city's general fund has been reduced by $1 million from last year because of the city's money crunch, Bonaparte said.