Board of Estimates OKs $216,540 to rebuild garage

April 25, 1991|By Martin C. Evans

The Board of Estimates approved $216,540 yesterday to tear down and redesign parts of a new municipal parking garage that the city started building in a flood plain of the Jones Falls without getting necessary permits from the state.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources ordered construction of the garage halted on March 14 after it learned that city public works officials had completed the foundation and three stories of the $7.7 million, eight-story garage without a state waterways construction permit.

State officials said that unless the building, which is just north of the War Memorial, was redesigned, a torrential flood from the Jones Falls could trap people in the lower level of the garage, or the garage could divert floodwaters to nearby properties.

Construction on the garage resumed yesterday, after the state reviewed proposed changes to the garage design and issued a waterways construction permit, according to city public works director George G. Balog. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke acknowledged that a mistake had been made by the city in going ahead with construction without the permit but said he believed that the city's control procedures are adequate.

"We have built other garages in this administration, and I think people are confident in us," Mr. Schmoke said. "I think the process we have in place is a good one, it is just that in this case, it wasn't followed. I really haven't had any problems with the process itself."

But pressed further, the mayor said those procedures should be checked to ensure that the city is on sound legal footing should it decide to sue the firm that designed the building -- Desman Associates of New York City -- to recover the $216,540 the city will spend to alter the garage. "If we decide to sue someone, we can't go in and sue if the city's process was flawed," Mr. Schmoke said. "That process will be reviewed."

Mr. Schmoke said yesterday that he would have Mr. Balog, who oversees the Bureau of Construction Management, organize a review of construction control measures, but he added that the review process would be secondary to getting the garage construction under way again.

"We want to make sure the garage is back under way, so there won't be a rush," to start the review, Mr. Schmoke.

Under an agreement with the state that was approved yesterday by the board, the city is required to tear down walls blocking water from passing through the lower level of the garage and to install an alarm system that would warn of an imminent flood threat.

The building also must be altered so that the elevator and other mechanical equipment remain above an elevation of 17.6 feet.

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