One staffer left protecting Baltimore's past Downsizing pared CHAP's payroll BALTIMORE CITY

August 12, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

For the past month, Kathleen G. Kotarba has been fighting the battle to preserve Baltimore's past all by herself.

As executive director of the city's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, she used to supervise a staff of five preservationists. But government downsizing since 1987 has now left her alone to review any changes to 7,000 historic properties.

The shrinking of the commission's paid staff at a time when Baltimore's historic districts grew from 12 to 18 worries local and state preservation groups.

"Clearly Baltimore is a city that is blessed but also burdened with a very, very rich history of landmarks," said David Chase, director of Preservation Maryland. "This poor person is running from pillar to post."

But Ms. Kotarba maintains that CHAP has not delayed issuing permits or been forced to cancel any programs.

"We're still trying to do a little bit of everything," she said.

The leanest times will be over soon. She's interviewing candidates to replace the last preservationist, who left July 9 to return to graduate school. And she's hiring two independent contractors to research the historical significance of properties about to be renovated with federal grants.

Still, preservationists fear the agency is overtaxed.

"Another person will sort of alleviate the crisis. But I think, all in all, the staffing is smaller than it should be," said Fred Shoken, president of Baltimore Heritage, a private, non profit organization. "They aren't really able to go out and survey what buildings are historic or promote preservation in the city."

The Maryland Historical Trust relies on the commission to document the architectural history of buildings scheduled to be demolished, renovated or converted into low-income housing under federal or state programs.

"Of course, she can't do all this herself," said Michael Day, chief of planning and educational outreach for the state office.

CHAP reviews most minor changes to historic sites, meets with neighborhood organizations, designates historic landmarks and organizes workshops. Its 11 volunteer commissioners, appointed by the mayor, handle the larger and more controversial projects.

Like most city department heads, Ms. Kotarba could not replace workers who left in recent years. Soon after Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke took office, he instituted a policy to reduce the cost of government by not filling vacant positions unless they were considered critical.

The municipal work force has been trimmed by 4,000, mostly through attrition and departmental restructuring, to about 25,000 employees today.

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