Waterway, storm drain maintenance cuts forecast

Public works chief projects impact of budget cuts

March 30, 2010|By Julie Scharper | julie.scharper@baltsun.com

The city would have to scale back efforts to remove trash from rivers under a preliminary budget scenario drafted by Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake's administration, the public works director said Monday.

The Department of Public Works would no longer maintain costly nets that filter garbage from waterways and would clean storm drains less frequently under the budget plan, Director David E. Scott told Rawlings-Blake, City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young and Comptroller Joan Pratt.

About $3.6 million was lopped from the department's $378 million budget in the plan to close a $121 million funding gap without new revenue. Public works lost about $5 million from highway user revenue that the state, coping with its own fiscal woes, did not turn over to the city.

Scott spoke to members of the city's spending board as part of a series of public meetings on the budget. Residents are urged to express their opinions at a taxpayers' night on April 7.

Many of the cuts laid out in the preliminary budget - including layoffs of 120 police officers and 90 firefighters and the closure of more than half the city's recreation centers - have provoked outcry from agency heads and council members. The preliminary budget is expected to help Rawlings-Blake drum up support for a $50 million package of taxes and fees she is slated to present along with a comprehensive spending plan on April 12.

Among the new fees being considered is a small storm water charge to pay for cleaning and maintenance of waterways, Scott said, adding that many other municipalities charge such a fee.

Bulk trash pickups would end and the frequency of street sweeping and graffiti removal would be cut by a third, he said. Street cleanings in 10 business districts would cease, although the Downtown Partnership would continue to clean the area it serves.

Scott said he hoped other business owners would band together to clean their neighborhoods.

Rawlings-Blake praised public works, saying it boosted recycling rates and cut costs after implementing the "One Plus One" program last year as an example of "doing more with less."

Recreation and Parks interim director Dwayne B. Thomas also spoke about cuts to the parks program at Monday's meeting. He said no new trees would be planted, ball fields would be tended less frequently and flower beds and shrubs would no longer be cared for at recreation centers and many parks.

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