City reverses parks layoffs

Council, mayor agree on budget supplement

June 10, 1999|By Ivan Penn and Amy Oakes | Ivan Penn and Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

Baltimore officials plan to rescind pink slips delivered last week to 54 workers in the city's Department of Recreation and Parks after Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and the city council reached an agreement to add $2 million to the city budget that takes effect July 1.

The budget supplement will include $1.8 million for recreation and parks, which will allow the city to avoid the layoffs and the closing of city recreation centers, a move strongly opposed by residents during recent public meetings because of concern about places for young people to go in the summer.

"Idleness is the devil's workshop," Council President Lawrence A. Bell III said at a news conference yesterday with a half dozen other council members. "We have to have an alternative for our young people. That alternative is recreation and parks."

In addition to the recreation and parks money, $100,000 is being added to the police budget to help ensure that the department is not understaffed after the expected retirement of more than 200 officers.

Another $100,000 will be used to combat the city's growing rat problem, which Bell said worsened because of a mild winter.

Councilman Martin O'Malley, chairman of the council's Finance and Taxation Committee, said the $2 million will be raised through the sale of a city-owned building at 700 W. Lombard St. for $850,000, taxes amounting to $500,000 from out-of-state natural gas suppliers that deliver to the city and money from the city's general fund.

Yesterday's budget compromises followed a week of stalemate between Schmoke and the council.

In another development yesterday, the HARBEL Community Organization was reassured that it will be allowed to remain in its building in the 5800 block of Harford Road, said Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr.

D'Adamo and Bell met with Schmoke yesterday afternoon and were told that HARBEL would remain in Northeast Baltimore, where it has been providing neighborhood, housing and substance-abuse services for more than 20 years.

HARBEL was notified May 21 that its lease with the city would expire at the end of next month. Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III said he needed to move the Northeast Service Center from Northern High School to the HARBEL building. Housing Authority officials could not be reached for comment.

After meetings and letters asking for help, HARBEL won support from city officials, including Schmoke, to remain in its location.

D'Adamo said he is pleased with the compromises, which will allow the budget to proceed in the council. "It's probably the best I've felt all year," D'Adamo said.

Sun staff writer Gerard Shields contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 6/10/99

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