Give Ambridge more authority Real estate: City needs central resource to keep track of its many properties.

August 05, 1996

HAVING ALREADY AGREED that the city's real estate officer should have more authority to review property transactions, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke should make that happen.

Former Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge has wanted to increase his powers since taking the real estate job in June. But Mr. Schmoke has refused to change the way property transactions are handled. Most come before the Board of Estimates, which the mayor controls.

The only concession Mr. Schmoke made was that he would try to "run deals" through the real estate office before taking board action. A management report issued by Mr. Ambridge indicates the mayor should do more than that to protect the public's interest in millions of dollars worth of commercial, industrial and residential property.

With authority over many of these properties spread out primarily among three city agencies and one quasi-public entity -- the Baltimore Development Corp. -- there should be stronger safeguards that leases are being adhered to, rents are being collected and adequate property insurance is being maintained. There should also be a central office, the real estate office, from which such information about a specific property owned by the city may be obtained.

Because his office isn't provided sufficient information by other agencies, Mr. Ambridge has to make too many assumptions about the status of city-owned properties.

He doesn't know if the Maryland Humanities Council has insurance on the old Greyhound Bus building at 601 North Howard Street that it leases through BDC. He doesn't know if G&L Trucking has a new lease with the Department of Public Works to replace the one that expired in 1993 for a building at 222 Calverton Road. He doesn't know why Knightco Carousel Co., whose lease with the Department of Housing and Community Development expired in 1990, still runs a merry-go-round at the Inner Harbor.

If the mayor is going to insist that several agencies retain the power to enter into various and sundry property transactions, he should at least require that records of those deals and their current status be forwarded to the real estate office. Then it can keep track of expired leases, delinquent rents and unpaid taxes and make sure the city gets all that it is owed.

Pub Date: 8/05/96

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