City officials reject bids to renovate offices

Spending board advises two pension agencies to negotiate lower rent

August 26, 2004|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

The city's spending board rejected yesterday bids to renovate new office space for the two agencies that manage pensions for city employees and instructed them to negotiate a deal to lower their $34,000 monthly rent.

The agencies -- one administers retirement benefits for police officers and firefighters, and the other does the same for municipal workers and elected officials -- were recently criticized by retirees for their exorbitant rents and for preparing to spend $2.6 million on new offices.

The agencies are giving up free but cramped quarters in City Hall for a downtown office building where they will have nearly 10 times the space -- and a combined $34,000-a-month rent.

Under the two bids rejected yesterday, the agencies would have paid $2.6 million to renovate the 4 1/2 floors they will occupy at 7 E. Redwood St.

The expenses angered some retirees, who say agencies entrusted with $3.1 billion in pension funds shouldn't spend so freely.

But the agencies' City Hall office did not provide the privacy needed for discussing personal financial and health issues with retirees.

The new offices in the 1920s-era high-rise are owned by the city but are not rent-free to city agencies because they are managed by the quasi-public Baltimore Development Corp.

The Employees and Elected Officials Retirement Systems, which has a staff of 17, will occupy about 17,000 square feet of the building. That works out to about 1,000 square feet -- about the size of a small rowhouse -- for each worker. The Fire and Police Retirement System has about 20 employees and will move into another 17,000 square feet. Both agencies said they intend to double their staffs -- another reason, officials say, for the move to larger quarters.

Yesterday, Mayor Martin O'Malley told M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of Baltimore Development Corp., to find a way to help the agencies pay a cheaper rent.

Brodie said he would work out a compromise. The city will rebid the renovation contract and hope to find contractors that can do the work for less money.

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