Intent on keeping their vow to save the old Wiley H. Bates High School, Annapolis leaders began a series of high-profile meetings Friday to find ways to pay for the renovations.
Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins was scheduled to meet with Gov. William Donald Schaefer Friday afternoon to discuss converting the abandoned brick school into a senior center.
City Council members, who rejected a plan Thursday to help pay for rehabbing the school by building town houses on the grounds, openeddiscussions with the developer and non-profit groups backing the town house proposal. Baltimore builder Leonard Frenkil and the Bates Foundation had proposed rezoning the 15-acre site for 86 town homes to offset the cost of removing asbestos from the building, which was onceAnne Arundel County's only high school for blacks.
On his way to meet with the governor, Hopkins said that he hoped to persuade Schaefer to find some money in the state budget to reopen Bates as a seniorcenter. The school has been deteriorating since it was abandoned in 1981, 15 years after it was desegregated and became a middle school.
"From the very, very beginning of this, I told both sides that my primary interest is to have that building turn into a senior citizenscenter," the mayor said. "That was No. 1."
He said he wanted to emphasize to the governor "how long Bates has been empty and how it's just continuing to go downhill." With a chuckle, the mayor added thatat age 66, "I'm in that category" to appreciate the need for a senior citizens center in the city.
"This has always been my goal," he said. "It's one of the things I campaigned for."
Alderman Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, questioned limiting the project to a senior center. Snowden, who was one of two aldermen to vote for the rezoning, saidthe mayor "is on record, in published reports, having supported a combination of a senior citizens center, multipurpose center and elderly housing."
Alderwoman Ruth Gray, R-Ward 4, talked to Frenkil and Dallas Evans, head of the Community Action Agency, which wanted to build 47 senior apartments in the school. She stressed that the city now is involved in the Bates project and has several options, includingfloating a bond and seeking state or county subsidies. One possibility is using money set aside in the state's open space program, Gray said.
"We're cranking," she said. "Now is the appropriate time to crank. The good news is now the city is a partner, and our bottom lineis to get that building off the ground."
Alderman Wayne Turner, R-Ward 6, agreed. "A lot of people are using scare tactics and gettingeveryone in the city upset," he said. "But the Bates project is not over and done. It's just started."