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Proceeds from sale of hotel to fund equipment for Pratt

Baltimore will use the proceeds from the sale of Harrison's Pier 5 Hotel to pay for computer equipment and multimedia reference materials for the Enoch Pratt Free Library, city officials said last night.

The approximately $1.2 million netted from the sale of the bankrupt Inner Harbor hotel complex will be used to buy CD-ROM drives for personal computers at the Pratt's 28 branches, as well as such reference materials as Microsoft's Encarta, a popular multimedia encyclopedia.

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"Each branch will be able to have a CD work station in the children's section," said Carla D. Hayden, the Pratt's director.

Specialized reference works on business and health in CD-ROM and print formats also will be bought for the Pratt's branches, and some of the money will be used for such long-deferred maintenance items as carpet replacement, she said.

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Multimedia materials also will be bought for the Central Library on Cathedral Street, she said.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke plans to brief the City Council on the spending plans for the money at a luncheon meeting today.

He said in a statement last night that the allocation of the money to the library was a vote of confidence in Ms. Hayden's stewardship.

"I believe that given her record, [the money] will be very effectively spent," the mayor said through his spokesman, Clinton R. Coleman.

The money will boost the Pratt's budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 from $19.6 million to $20.8 million -- about what the library system requested, representing a boost of nearly $2 million over this fiscal year.

The Pratt has been among the agencies hardest hit by the city's recent financial difficulties.

In February, City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who is challenging Mr. Schmoke's bid for a third term, introduced a resolution that library funding not be cut. The mayor's preliminary budget, released last month, called for an increase in funding of $634,868.

The Board of Estimates last week approved the sale of Harrison's to Pure Five Inc., an investment group headed by developer Otis Warren Jr.

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The sale price was $5.5 million. But of that money, $2 million was a city mortgage to the group and $2.3 million was earmarked for outstanding debts, officials said. That left $1.2 million, which Mr. Schmoke decided to add to the library's budget.

Baltimore assumed ownership of the nautical-style hotel-restaurant last year, after a development firm defaulted on city-backed loans.

The project was approved during the administration of Mr. Schmoke's predecessor, William Donald Schaefer. It has cost taxpayers $10.25 million in unpaid government loans -- the largest loss of any failed project in the city's renaissance.


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