City officials pull plug on koban contract Fells Point, Penn Station police kiosks delayed tTC

June 18, 1998|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

Fed up with months of delays, Baltimore leaders pulled out of a contract yesterday to build two police kobans promised to be operating by last November in two neighborhoods.

Residents of Fells Point and near Penn Station, who have lobbied and trumpeted the koban -- or mini-police station -- as an essential crime-fighting tool, will have to wait until the city can complete another bid process.

That could take months.

"Good grief!" said Holly Wilson, a Fells Point resident, who was eagerly awaiting the koban in Broadway Square. "Only the city can mess up something as easy to build as this."

But Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, one of the five Board of Estimates members who voided the $120,000 contract with Cells America Inc., said the contractor was to blame because the company was trying to build a koban that was too fancy for the city's needs.

Cells America is "giving us a Cadillac when we ordered a Chevrolet," Schmoke said.

Sal Sabatino, president of Cells America, said the delay was caused by having to plan for steel floors, roofs and bullet-proof louvers. Schmoke countered that the city didn't ask for such amenities.

In the Penn Station area, residents are expecting a koban to be built on the 1700 block of N. Charles St.

A koban has been erected at the northwest corner of West Lexington and North Howard streets. The blue, boxy building has a police officer on duty 12 hours a day and is equipped with a computer, a telephone, four television monitors fed by images from 16 video cameras keeping a watchful eye on a six-block area around Lexington Market.

Police records show that burglaries, assaults, shootings and theft have dropped nearly 50 percent at Lexington Market since the substation opened there in June 1995. Consequently, residents are anxious for the city to build kobans in their neighborhoods.

Pub Date: 6/18/98

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