Balto. has spent $1.3 million of empowerment funds so far $5.8 million committed to various programs

June 27, 1996|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

Baltimore has spent $1.3 million of its $100 million federal empowerment zone money on administration and other expenses, and has committed spending up to $5.8 million more this year on programs for business development, home ownership and public safety.

From the time the city received the coveted designation in December 1994 through May 31 of this year, the Empower Baltimore Management Corp. spent $725,000 of the federal money on administrative costs, according to an accounting made public yesterday.

Actual administrative costs for the 17-month period were $920,000, the accounting showed, but the Annie E. Casey and Morris Goldseker foundations picked up $195,000 of the costs.

The empowerment zone's total costs for salaries, equipment and operating expenses for the two-year period that ends in December are projected to be $1.27 million.

"We're about $6,000 over what we first estimated, which is pretty close," said Diane Bell, president of the empowerment zone corporation and the organization's highest-paid employee at $95,000 a year.

Besides administrative costs, as of the end of last month, another $175,000 in federal money was spent on developing a plan for the revitalization of dilapidated areas of East, West and South Baltimore; $155,000 was spent for economic development, and $51,000 was spent to set up a network of community councils, called village centers, the accounting shows.

For the remainder of the year, the corporation has pledged to spend up to $2.3 million on economic development, including $1 million to set up a high-risk loan fund for businesses and $700,000 to fund a Business Empowerment Center to help companies in the zone with financing and other business problems. It also has agreed to spend $945,000 for mobile police stations and intensified community policing, and $550,000 to fund the village centers.

Yesterday, the executive committee of the board overseeing the empowerment zone approved spending $2 million to provide zone residents with up to $5,000 to help purchase homes in their neighborhoods. "This is our big mechanism to increase home ownership in the zone," where 7 of 10 residents are renters, said Sister Bobbie English, an executive committee member.

The Business Empowerment Center is scheduled to open in the next several weeks in The Brokerage, a city-owned building on Market Place near the Inner Harbor, just outside the empowerment zone in East Baltimore.

Several buildings within the empowerment zone had been considered, officials said, but the costs of renovating the buildings was prohibitive.

"We didn't want to use up the money on overhead," said Leslie Bender, who has been an economic adviser to the Empower Baltimore Management Corp. and who will head the center.

The empowerment zone corporation will pay $51,000 a year in rent to the city to cover base operating costs, she said.

Pub Date: 6/27/96

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