City Dock renovation is placed on hold Lack of state funding cited

more defined spending plan needed

April 10, 1996|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

A high-cost, high-profile project launched last year to renovate Annapolis' City Dock has been put on hold because "anticipated state funding never materialized," city officials said yesterday.

Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins included only $539,000 to renovate City Dock and replace the bulkhead in the proposed $61.3 million capital budget. The figure is a fraction of the $10 million the city had planned to spend for a waterfront makeover in anticipation of the arrival of boats from the Whitbread 'Round the World yacht race in April 1998.

"We didn't get the money from the state for it, so we're just going to have to do the best we can with what we've got," said Alderman Louise Hammond, who represents the historic district and the City Dock area.

"Part of the work will be done with a smaller amount of money, and part of it will be withheld for another time," she said.

Local officials have said the international sailing event could pump $15 million into the city's economy.

Last year, the General Assembly voted to give Annapolis $250,000 as seed money -- about a third of what the city requested for the project, which included widening sidewalks, replacing bulkheads and pilings, landscaping, burying utility lines, and building a wraparound walkway by the water's edge.

The city received no state money for the project this year.

Ms. Hammond said she was not surprised that the state did not contribute more money because "we didn't know what we needed when the whole idea to renovate the docks came up. We need someone to draw up some plans first to figure out how money will be spent."

Meanwhile, city Finance Committee members renewed their pledge to reduce the property tax for the fifth consecutive year, even though the tax rate stays the same and the budget increases by only 2 percent under Mr. Hopkins' spending plan.

Last year, the committee trimmed the tax rate by five cents to $1.73 per $100 of assessed value. To cut a penny from the tax rate, the committee has to cut expenditures by a little less than $100,000.

"I'd like us to go back to the 1991 tax rate, which was $1.71," said Alderman Carl O. Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat and chairman of the committee. "That was the lowest tax rate we've had in the last five years, and that's our minimum goal, I think. We may do better."

Members of the Finance Committee said they would begin examining the budget next week to study which departments could be trimmed. To make last year's cut possible, said Alderman Dean Johnson, a Ward 2 independent, "several departments across the board were squeezed."

For example, two employee positions were cut from the Public Works Department, two positions in the Fire and Police departments were converted to civilian positions, and the Parks and Recreation Department received no additional funding, said Mr. Johnson, a member of the Finance Committee.

But homeowners should not be deceived by the decrease in tax rates, Mr. Johnson said, because the value of their homes has increased and they likely will pay more taxes anyway.

And while the city seems fiscally sound, Mr. Johnson and other officials said, there is a need to look to the future.

"We shouldn't have a false sense of security," said Alderman Shep Tullier, a Ward 4 Democrat who serves on the committee. "When I look at what is going on in state government and county government, I think we are going to see more difficult times ahead."

Pub Date: 4/10/96

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