Constellation fix-up money must be shared with Intrepid

September 30, 1994|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Sun Staff Writer

A $1 million federal appropriation for Baltimore's sagging sloop-of-war Constellation was passed yesterday by the U.S. House of Representatives.

But there's a catch.

The Constellation will have to share the money with the World War II-era aircraft carrier Intrepid, which is docked in New York. Its share apparently will be decided by the military.

Bill Toohey, a spokesman for Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, said the Maryland Democrat will ask the secretary of defense to provide "the lion's share" to the Constellation.

Gail Shawe, the former Pride of Baltimore director who is leading the Constellation's rescue effort, was surprised at the prospect of sharing the money.

But she said the Constellation probably will still get "a sizable chunk."

The House-passed measure, which is expected to pass the Senate, calls for a "survey" of the two ships.

The 141-year-old Constellation, the last all-sail warship built for the U.S. Navy, was found last year to be severely decayed and weakened. A blue-ribbon committee named in May by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has been devising a rescue plan and has sought federal money to get the wooden ship into dry dock.

Restoration experts say a thorough survey, involving the partial dismantling of the ship in dry dock, is needed to determine its true condition and needs. Estimates on the final cost of repairs run from $7 million to $25 million or more.

The Intrepid is the centerpiece of a private, nonprofit sea, air and space museum on New York's Hudson River at 46th Street. The carrier reportedly needs rust protection and flight deck repairs.

Money for the Constellation was sought by Senator Sarbanes and Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, the 3rd District Democrat.

The $1 million provision is buried deep in a conference committee's report on the Defense Department's $244 billion budget for fiscal 1995, approved yesterday by the House.

The committee's version combined a Senate item seeking $1 million for a "damage survey" on the Constellation with a House item asking for a Navy study of the Intrepid's needs, but specifying no dollar amount.

The compromise, made public this week, provided $1 million for a "survey" targeted at both ships. Ms. Shawe said she was "dumbfounded" to find the Intrepid in line for some of the money. "This was the first anybody heard of it," she said.

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