State delays vote again on renovating parole office

City officials trying to find Guilford Ave. alternative

April 08, 2004|By Michael Dresser and Lynn Anderson | Michael Dresser and Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

The Board of Public Works has delayed - for a second time - a vote on a proposed renovation of Baltimore's main probation office to give city officials time to find an alternate site.

Residents who live near the facility at 2100 Guilford Ave. have complained that it does not belong in their neighborhood, which is home to families with young children. An elementary school is across the street from the facility, which receives 31,000 visits a month from people on parole or probation.

At a meeting of the three-member board in Annapolis yesterday, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said he would allow the extension, but made it clear that his patience was running thin. "We're very frustrated," he said of the board.

Mary Ann Saar, the state public safety secretary, said the department has been asking for the renovation for more than 20 years. She said state officials will consider another site as long as it meets certain conditions, including access to public transportation and similar office space.

"We recognize ... that nobody really wants these people in their neighborhoods," she said. "But [the parolees] are city folks, and we have to locate it somewhere in the city."

City officials and residents won a 60-day extension from the board in January. Since then, the city has come up with eight sites - but none fit the state's conditions.

The process was termed "frustrating" by Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano. "We are in no way trying to obstruct a process that's taken 20 years to get here," he said.

Saar said that if the renovations don't move forward soon, the $1.5 million set aside for initial architecture and engineering work could be lost.

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