Walmart announced Tuesday that it has donated $25,000 to the Baltimore Police Department to buy a fleet of mountain bikes, even as the retailer awaits a crucial City Council vote on whether to rezone land needed to build a new store in Remington.
Officials said at a news conference attended by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake that the gift, made through the nonprofit Baltimore Police Foundation, was an act of a good corporate citizen and independent of any action pending before city officials.
Rawlings-Blake said the "major vote has already been taken" on the project and that "if they were trying to influence us, they are a bit too late."
The mayor was referring to the Oct. 6 unanimous vote to approve Wal-Mart's zoning plan by the land use committee. While that decision is viewed as a significant hurdle that has now been cleared, the plan still has to be approved by a vote of the full City Council, now scheduled for early next month, and the mayor could veto it.
Some City Council members, including Belinda Conaway, have expressed misgivings over the project and are pushing Walmart to increase workers' benefits and pay. The proposed site for the store is 11 acres at Howard and 25th streets.
City police used the donation to buy 33 Fuji mountain bikes from Light Street Cycles in Federal Hill.
Baltimore police Maj. Garnell Green said the bikes would replace the department's old fleet of 18 and would help officers patrol for burglaries, larcenies from autos and drug transactions with easier mobility and more stealth than if they were driving cars.
"It gets officers out of their cars and into communities," Green said.
Rawlings-Blake, flanked by four bike patrol officers and the 33 new bikes lined up in front of City Hall, praised Walmart for "stepping up and helping out in the community."
In addition to a Walmart, the proposal for Remington includes a Lowe's Home Center as part of a $65 million residential and commercial development project.
In 2008, when Target opened an anchor store at Mondawmin Mall, store officials gave city police $300,000 to purchase portable command posts and enhance their cell phone tracking abilities.