Panel urges few changes in program

March 24, 1995|By JoAnna Daemmrich and Marcia Myers | JoAnna Daemmrich and Marcia Myers,Sun Staff Writers

With critics on the City Council opening their own investigation into Baltimore's troubled $25.6 million public housing repair program, a separate council panel has offered a short list of mostly gentle recommendations.

Council Vice President Vera P. Hall, who chaired a seven-hour hearing that was denounced by some of her colleagues, submitted a report that calls for reinspecting 5 percent of the more than 1,000 homes renovated in the no-bid program.

Her move came as the newly revived Legislative Investigations Committee prepared to start a review this morning of a scathing federal audit of the program.

Mrs. Hall's report is the product of the council housing committee's hearing March 7 that was billed as a thorough review of waste in the repair program. But several council members running against her for the council presidency and others denounced her tight control of the hearing, saying it was designed to protect the administration of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

The federal government is demanding that the Baltimore Housing Authority come up with $725,759 because the program's contractors inflated costs. A three-part series in The Sun last month showed that a quarter of the program's funds went to friends and relatives of housing officials and the mayor, while millions went to contractors with little or no experience, many of whom did poor work.

Mrs. Hall's committee recommended that 5 percent of the more than 1,000 homes be reinspected to determine whether the work was done properly. The committee also called for a better system for issuing no-bid contracts and for tighter supervision of construction work.

Housing chief Daniel P. Henson III has been asked to submit a report to the mayor within 90 days describing how he intends to comply with the recommendations. Any outstanding problems resulting from the investigation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also must be detailed.

"I don't have a problem with complying," Mr. Henson said last night. "We're willing to do that."

The authority already has changed its procurement policies to deal with no-bid situations, and those revisions will be presented to the mayor. "I think it will be satisfactory," he said.

Mrs. Hall said she settled on a reinspection of 5 percent of the homes after talking with HUD's Office of the Inspector General.

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