Council approves $32 million bond package to revamp needy areas, attract biotech firms Voters to consider issues on Nov. 7 election ballot


The City Council last night approved an ambitious $32 million bond package that would help renovate blighted neighborhoods and schools, attract biotechnology firms, expand the Baltimore Zoo and remove asbestos from city-owned buildings.

The eight bond issues will be placed on the Nov. 7 general election ballot for approval by voters.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke approved the bond package in June, but it could not be placed before voters until it was approved by the council, which held its first meeting yesterday since its summer-long hiatus.

The bond issues would provide:

* $8 million for community development to improve housing, encourage home ownership with loans to homebuyers and to complete other public improvements.

* $2.5 million for a Residential and Commercial Financing Plan operated by the Baltimore Community Development Financing Corp. to restore vacant houses and improve commercial properties to promote neighborhood stability.

* $6.5 million for an economic development loan fund to revitalize the Howard Street corridor, and to develop a children's museum and laboratory space for biotechnology companies.

* $1 million to be borrowed by Sinai Hospital for expansion of its emergency department.

* $1 million to remove asbestos from city-owned buildings.

* $500,000 to improve the Cherry Hill Park and Swimming Pool and Bath House.

* $2,225,000 for the Baltimore Zoo.

* $10 million to equip, renovate and remove asbestos from schools.

The planning department will soon schedule public information meetings to explain the bond issues to voters. If voters approve all or some of the bonds, the city has agreed to pay back the $32 million in the next 40 years with money from the city's General Fund.

Of the proposed $10 million bond issue for schools, $5 million would be used to extensively renovate Hamilton Elementary School and Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School.

Also included in the school bond would be $2 million to remove asbestos in schools; $1.7 million to replace roofs and for other exterior renovations in schools throughout the city; and $800,000 for planning and design work at the Harbor Learning Center and Glenmount Elementary School.

The $8 million to be used for community development is slated for nine projects, including $1.4 million for a loan program to encourage homeownership, $1 million for a loan program to encourage property owners to bring their properties up to housing code standards and nearly $3 million to acquire and demolish deteriorated properties.

The $6.5 million Economic Development Loan bond issue would fund five projects: $2 million to help convert the Fishmarket in Market Place into a children's museum (Port Discovery); $1 million for improvements to industrial areas in Fairfield and East Baltimore; $1 million for cafes and art galleries on Howard Street; $1.5 million to acquire land and buildings for future economic development projects; and $1 million to lure biotechnology companies.

A $2,225,000 bond issue would be used by the Baltimore Zoo to create climate-controlled, natural habitat exhibits for plants and animals. Also, a new Earth Conservation Exhibit will be created to encourage solutions to environmental problems.

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