Ashburton school project may still get state funds

April 22, 1994|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Sun Staff Writer

Two members of the Maryland Board of Public Works offered hope to West Baltimore schoolchildren yesterday, saying they would consider funding construction of an elementary school conspicuously absent from a list of projects the board approved Wednesday.

However, the third member of the board, Gov. William Donald Schaefer, remained opposed to the idea and called his hometown "ungrateful" after Baltimore legislators complained about being virtually shut out of the state's latest school construction grab bag.

"If I reconsider that school, I have to reconsider every school," Mr. Schaefer said of the rejected proposal to replace decrepit, 45-year-old Ashburton Elementary in West Baltimore.

"I'm not apologizing for a damn thing. I shouldn't have to defend this. I put more money into education in Baltimore than any governor in the state."

The two other board members, state Treasurer Lucille Maurer and Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, were more conciliatory.

Mrs. Maurer, who represents the legislature on the three-member board, said she would work hard to fund the $4.5 million Ashburton project from a $12 million pool the board has not yet allocated. The board is expected to make a final decision on that money in the next month or two.

Mr. Goldstein said he was not aware of the Ashburton project -- which was not on the governor's list of recommendations -- until he read about it in a newspaper yesterday. He encouraged Baltimore legislators to appeal their case to the board.

The Board of Public Works allocated $50 million Wednesday for at least two dozen school construction projects around the state, but the city, a traditional winner in the process, received a paltry $513,000. At the same time, Montgomery and Howard counties, which are among the fastest growing in the state, got a combined $23 million.

The reason for the city's poor showing -- by all accounts -- was the governor's anger with Baltimore Sen. Clarence W. Blount, whose 41st Legislative District borders the school.

Mr. Blount chairs the Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee, which killed two important Schaefer bills this year and sat on a third measure, which Mr. Schaefer supported, that would have reformed the legislature's multimillion-dollar scholarship program.

Asked yesterday whether withholding funds for the West Baltimore School was a shot at Mr. Blount, the governor said, "No. Of course not." Then he smiled.

The episode underscored the politics involved in the annual award of tens of millions for school construction projects -- as well as the power of a governor, even a lame-duck governor in his last year in office.

The board already has allocated about $94 million of the state's $106 million school construction budget. So far, Baltimore has received a total of $3.4 million -- less than half of what it got last year when the state budget was much smaller.

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