Hopkins withdraws request for conference center

March 15, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins withdrew yesterday legislation seeking money for an Annapolis-area conference center, saying he wants more time to think about the project.

Mr. Hopkins said that inclusion of the bill on the City Council agenda released Friday was a mistake. "It wasn't ready," he said. "There is too much uncertainty about it."

Last week, Mr. Hopkins and County Executive Robert R. Neall sent a letter to county legislators expressing "strong support" for a conference center and a pledge of $500,000 to help with design studies, pending approvals by the city and county

councils.

Mr. Neall plans to include a $250,000 request for the conference center in the county budget, which will be presented May 1.

Mr. Hopkins proposed a bill seeking authority for a bond issue to help with the conference center.

But he withdrew the bill yesterday, saying he is concerned that rising interest rates would make it too costly for the city to borrow money for the project.

"That is the concern," he said.

The mayor said he also wants more time for public discussion. He said that if the bill is introduced again, a public hearing on it will be scheduled.

"I just felt we have to give it a little more time to hear from the finance committee and the public," Mr. Hopkins said.

Tom Negri, who heads a committee of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau that is studying the conference center, said he was not discouraged by the mayor's action. "It's not something we want to push through," he said.

He said his committee was not even aware that the mayor would seek funding so soon.

His committee is seeking $1.5 million for design and engineering -- $1 million from the state and $250,000 each from Annapolis and Anne Arundel County. He said the state money would be contingent on the selection of a site. Two locations are being considered: 11 acres known as the Menke-Phipps tract at Taylor Avenue and West Street, and a 28-acre parcel owned by the Anne Arundel Medical Center on the south side of Jennifer Road near Annapolis Mall.

Several Annapolis City Council members expressed reservations about spending city money on the project.

Alderman Samuel Gilmer, a Ward 3 Democrat, said he would rather see housing built on the West Street site. "That is a solid tax base," he said.

Aldermen Dean Johnson, a Ward 2 Independent, and Carl O. Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat, said a public hearing should be held before any decisions are made.

At last night's council meeting, a number of residents expressed concerns about the project. "Once a project has funding, it takes on a life of its own," said Tom Davies, president of the Ward One Residents Association. His group has called for a citywide referendum before any tax money is spent on the conference center.

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