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Urban Services set to vanish as agency


Baltimore's Urban Services Agency will be abolished July 1 when its anti-poverty programs will be combined with functions of the Mayor's Stations into a new division of human services within the housing department, officials said yesterday.

The long-anticipated move is part of a restructuring of city government that included last year's consolidation of the Department of Transportation into the Department of Public Works, and the merging this year of the Fire Department's

vehicle maintenance shop into the Central Garage.

"This downsizing or reorganization has been reviewed by a number of people in government and our private sector partners and taxpayer groups. We are responding to their concerns," Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday.

Since he took office in 1987, the mayor noted, the number of full-time municipal workers has been trimmed by 4,000, to 25,000.

Mr. Schmoke made his comments during yesterday's meeting of the Board of Estimates, which approved and sent to the City Council the $2.16 billion proposed budget for fiscal year 1994.

The abolishment of Urban Services -- which was created in 1974 out of two 1960s anti-poverty programs, the Community Action Agency and Model Cities -- was the major change in the budget sent to the council from the preliminary budget submitted to the Board of Estimates April 14.

Budget Director Edward J. Gallagher, who outlined the changes yesterday before the board, said afterward that he "couldn't say" whether any of the approximately 225 employees in Urban Services and the Mayor's Stations programs would be laid off, because details of the reorganization were still being worked out.

The new division will need 164 full-time and 15-20 part-time positions, according to a summary of its operation prepared by the administration's top human services officials. Clinton R. Coleman, spokesman for Mr. Schmoke, said "every effort would be made to reach those numbers" through attrition, retirements and reassignments.

Both Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Coleman said the reorganization will result in cost savings, though they said they did not expect those savings to be realized immediately.

A director for the new division of human services in the Department of Housing and Community Development has not yet been selected, said Zack Germroth, spokesman for the housing department.

The division will have a central office and 14 neighborhood "hubs," which will provide "one-stop shopping" for delivery and referral of a wide range of services, from energy assistance to employment development, officials said. Those locations have not yet been selected, they said.

Lloyd C. Mitchner, who has headed Urban Services since 1989, will retire June 30, officials said. Wayman Henry, deputy director of the agency, referred all questions to the mayor's office.

This year, Urban Services has a budget of $27 million, down from $36 million in 1989. Of that, $2.9 million came from the city's general fund and the rest from federal and state money. The agency administers programs ranging from the Head Start preschool program to the Energy Assistance Program.

In the 1980s, it was criticized for mismanagement of a federally funded sanitation program and being top-heavy with management and slow to deliver services.

Abolishing Urban Services and combining it with the Mayor's Stations program -- which operates several neighborhood centers providing referrals for city services -- was first proposed two years ago by the mayor's Organizational Review Team.

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