City Life lays off 7 employees, cuts hours of 8th

February 28, 1997|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

In a last gasp to stay alive, City Life Museums has laid off several employees and further reduced hours in hopes of slowing the mounting multimillion-dollar debt that will force the institution to shut down unless the city agrees to a bailout.

The Baltimore museum laid off seven people and reduced the hours of another person this week, leaving 19 full-time staff members.

The Shot Tower on Fayette Street is closed indefinitely.

The nine-site museum also will open the H. L. Mencken House in Union Square from noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays only. The Peale Museum on North Holliday Street will be open from noon to 4 p.m. Sundays only.

Both sites had been open Saturdays and Sundays; the new hours begin this weekend.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has softened his position not to help the debt-ridden museum, which chronicles the life and times of everything that is Baltimore.

He hinted last week that he would help the museum if board members became more financially responsible. Last week, the board proposed that the city give $837,000.

Museum sources say their plan includes a major restructuring of the museum board to give the city more influence in decision-making. The plan also includes new fund-raising strategies.

Schmoke has rejected two previous bailout proposals from the museum. One asked the city for $1.6 million through December 1998. The other asked for $837,000 but lacked some features of the latest plan, a source said.

The museum is in financial trouble because it lacks enough private donations, paying visitors and corporate sponsors to cover operating costs in a city with 27 other museums, City Life officials have said.

Last year, the museum embarked on a multimillion-dollar reconstruction of its newest showpiece: the Morton K. Blaustein City Life Exhibition Center on South Front Street.

The museum's history campus at Lombard and Front streets includes the 1821 Carroll Mansion, the 1840 House, the Center for Urban Archaeology, Brewer's Park and the Courtyard Gallery.

Pub Date: 2/28/97

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