Rehab of rec center faulted

Hampden officials blame contractor for building's woes

October 28, 2007|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,Sun Reporter

A little more than a year after a Hampden recreation center reopened after $1.3 million in renovations, the ceiling has partially collapsed, there are cracks in the walls and critics are blaming the problems on shoddy work done by a contractor hired by the city.

The situation at Roosevelt Park recreation center became so serious that the auditorium has been closed for about two months because of the danger posed by chunks of falling ceiling.

The auditorium's closure has angered many who use the center for community meetings and activities for young people, including dance and karate classes.

A meeting between Recreation and Parks officials and the contractor who did the renovations has been set for tomorrow.

"We're working diligently to make sure all repairs are being addressed immediately," said Portia Harris, associate director for the city's park system. "Our goal is to have it functional.

Roosevelt Park, at 1221 W. 36th St. on the western end of Hampden's main strip, has been a neighborhood mainstay since 1911. After funds from the city and about $200,000 in state bond money were secured in 2003, the rec center closed in October 2005 for one year to fix problems that included a leaking roof.

Since reopening, the center has continued to be dogged with problems, and some community leaders and center volunteers say they are the result of shoddy renovations.

The city did not provide the name of the contractor.

On Tuesday, representatives from Recreation and Parks, the mayor's office and the Hampden Community Council toured the building. Allen Hicks, president of the Hampden Community Council, said he has told the city the repairs must begin by this Thursday or he will initiate action, but he declined to say what form that action might take.

During interviews with a reporter, officials from the city's Department of Recreation and Parks acknowledged that there are problems with some of the renovation work. They also said that some problems are the result of deficiencies that were not targeted for repairs.

Harris said no activities have been canceled at Roosevelt Park. Because it is one of the city's most spacious recreation centers, activities usually held in the auditorium have moved to other areas of the building, she said.

Center volunteers say that after it reopened last year, problems persisted, including breakdowns of the air conditioning and heating systems and flooding in the basement.

But Kia McLeod, a Recreation and Parks spokeswoman, said some of the building's problems -- such as the flooded basement -- do not fall under the contractor's responsibility because they were not part of the renovation work.

Recreation and Parks officials conceded that the agency is responsible for addressing the rec center's maintenance, including new problems that arise.

"It's not like we're ignoring the issues," McLeod said. "We're aware of the work. We want to make sure the community knows it will get done."

Roger Hamilton said he teaches karate to kids and is at the center a few times a week. Hamilton said since the renovation, he has seen cracks in the wall of the computer room, locks on doors that do not work properly and a rodent infestation.

Hamilton said he is part of a group of Hampden residents that has asked the city to intervene for months.

"It's been one thing after another," Hamilton said. "The work was shoddy, no question."

brent.jones@baltsun.com

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