Alternative to police annex rejected


Baltimore is going ahead with plans to build an annex to Police Department headquarters on East Fayette Street after all.

For the past month, the city had considered buying a soon-to-be-vacant bank operations center as an alternative to the annex -- a move that could have saved at least $5 million.

But yesterday, officials said they had decided against purchasing the Signet Bank Operations Center and a 300-car parking garage at 210-220 Guilford Ave., which is on the market for $3.9 million.

Instead, the Board of Estimates approved $10.8 million for the annex, which is designed to ease crowding at police headquarters. The vote was 4-1, with City Council President Mary Pat Clarke voting against the financing.

Acting Comptroller Shirley A. Williams, who first suggested the Signet building as an alternative to the headquarters annex, told the board that police officials said the building would need extensive renovations.

"The Police Department did several walk-throughs and determined that the building could not be easily adapted for its purposes," she said. "The cost to renovate the building would minimize any savings."

But Mrs. Clarke questioned the need for an expensive annex at a time when some police operations, including internal investigations, are being moved out of the headquarters complex.

"What concerns me is that this is a large amount of money to spend," Mrs. Clarke said.

She added, "I thought the idea the comptroller had [about buying the Signet building] was a good one."

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said he decided to support the headquarters annex only after officials told him the Signet building would not work out.

Two years ago, he announced that the city would build an annex and renovate police headquarters, which has ventilation problems and is crowded.

The total cost of the project is $32 million. That is millions of dollars less than other options considered at the time -- building a headquarters on another site or moving to the old Hecht Co. store on Howard Street.

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