Construction program escapes cuts

January 22, 1995|By Harold Jackson | Harold Jackson,Sun Staff Writer

Budget constraints that have hit other city services won't hamper Baltimore's 1995 construction program, which will grow -- for a third straight year -- to more than $230 million in expenditures on new buildings, renovations and repair projects.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke ordered a hiring freeze in August because tax revenues were stagnant. But Department of Public Works spokeswoman Vanessa Pyatt said last week, "We have not seen a decrease in funding for capital programs from either the federal or local level."

The public works construction budget was $130 million in 1993 and $170 million last year. This year's building schedule represents Mr. Schmoke's commitment to stimulate the local economy with an aggressive construction and design program, he said.

The largest project scheduled to be advertised in 1995 is the renovation of police headquarters and construction of a five-story annex, at an estimated cost of more than $27 million.

Federal funds will pay for more than $50 million in bridge and street work, including reconstruction of the Charles Street bridges over the Jones Falls Expressway and Pennsylvania Station Plaza, and reconstruction of Boston Street from Chester to Conkling streets.

Much of the bridge work is part of the Jones Falls Expressway Rehabilitation project that began in 1986. All of that work should be completed by 1997, Ms. Pyatt said, adding that at least half of the city's 363 bridges probably need some repairs as well.

Other major projects include building a new Ashburton Elementary School and renovating Thomas Jefferson and Cross Country elementary schools. A Northern District police station is scheduled to be built.

About $40 million will be spent on several projects at the Back River Waste Water Treatment Plant.

The Department of Public Works presented the construction program to potential bidders last week. Bids on many projects won't be taken until spring, which means that much of the construction won't begin until late this year or early 1996.

All contractors who want to bid on projects must be prequalified by the city, Ms. Pyatt said. That means the companies must be bonded, and must complete paperwork detailing their financial background and construction experience.

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