Mayor's actions anger officials Hopkins postpones, then reinstates vote on Inner West St. plan

December 06, 1996|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

One of the most important votes to come before the Annapolis city council this year almost didn't make it onto the agenda for Monday's meeting, surprising and angering several city and business leaders.

Yesterday, Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins yanked a resolution from the council's agenda for next week to select a multimillion-dollar revitalization plan for the Inner West Street corridor -- believed to be the most important economic development project of his tenure. Hopkins chose to delay the vote until Jan. 13 "to seek more funding for the project," he said.

But before the day was through, the mayor reversed his decision with little explanation and put the item back on the agenda.

"I don't know what's going on," said Alderman Carl O. Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat.

Hopkins originally said a vote Monday on the issue would be too early because "we cannot do West Street unless we've got financial support."

"There's no use putting it on the agenda because questions would be raised as to how much it will cost and where are you getting the money," he said.

The state has committed about $1 million to $2 million for construction of a $4.9 million traffic circle at West Street and Taylor Avenue, a key to the revitalization effort.

The plan most likely to be adopted Monday is expected to cost about $12 million, including building the traffic circle, improving sidewalks, roads, street lights and underground utilities.

But officials agree that the city does not have nearly the amount needed because it has set aside only $3.2 million in its capital budget for the project.

The city needs more time to get money from state and county officials, Hopkins contended, saying he has met with County Executive John G. Gary to ask for financial help in the past couple of weeks and is scheduled to meet with state officials Monday.

But some city officials argued that the county and state will not give the city any funding unless the city commits to the project first.

State Del. Michael E. Busch, a Democrat who represents Annapolis, agreed.

"Traditionally, any governmental agency coming for help should have at least a portion of the money in hand and a fairly clear idea as to what kind of plan they want to do," he said. "They've got to know what their investment will be and what their responsibilities will be."

Some business leaders said that pulling the item from the agenda, then returning it, was typical of indecisive city officials.

"It's unfortunate that the city has talked about this for five years now," said Diane Fraser Anderson, owner of Ciao! restaurant on West Street. "They keep putting off voting on things that are not popular or easy decisions to make, but they have to realize making that circle a reality is important to bringing businesses back to West Street."

Snowden said he was equally frustrated and urged his colleagues to move forward with the plans for the ailing corridor.

"I think it's time we show people we're committed to this project," Snowden said.

Pub Date: 12/06/96

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