Senate panel OKs $500,000 for repairs to Constellation But warship's backers say $850,000 a year is needed

March 22, 1996|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF

The state Senate budget and taxation committee has approved just $500,000 of the $850,000 in capital budget money that backers of the 1853 warship Constellation say they need in order to move the ship into dry dock this summer.

"This does not make it easier," said Louis F. Linden, executive director of the Constellation Foundation. At just $500,000 a year, the Constellation's tightly choreographed repairs would have to be stretched out or postponed.

A delay, he said, would increase the risk that the leaking ship will sink in the Inner Harbor. "I can't say with any degree of certainty when it's going to sink. But sooner or later, it sinks," he said.

Mr. Linden said he told lawmakers, in testimony this month, that the Constellation was leaking at a rate of 900 gallons a day when he was hired 14 months ago. But the leak has worsened, so that pumps are running at just less than 2,000 gallons a day.

The funding request is subject to the approval of both houses of the General Assembly, and any differences would have to be reconciled in conference. The House appropriations subcommittee could act on the foundation's request as early as tomorrow.

"We're hoping that we will do better on the House side," he said.

The Constellation Foundation needs $9 million to restore the ship. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has pledged $3 million from Baltimore. The foundation is seeking $3 million from private sources, and it has asked for $3 million from the state.

The General Assembly appropriated $500,000 for the ship last year. The foundation wants the remaining $2.5 million over the next three years, about $850,000 a year.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening has urged the lawmakers to provide the full $850,000. He called the Constellation "an important historical treasure and tourist attraction" in a letter this week to the foundation.

Mr. Linden expressed his gratitude for the governor's "continuing commitment."

Pub Date: 3/22/96

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