City to fix public restroom in Fells Point; Balog will declare health emergency


City Department of Public Works officials said last night they will renovate the Fells Point public comfort station within the next few months.

To speed renovation, Public Works Director George G. Balog said he will declare the public restroom at 1621 Aliceanna St. a public health emergency.

The funds for the project -- $48,000 from city funds and $20,000 from the department -- exist, so it's mostly a matter of executing the work, Balog said.

"I'm going to request that an emergency contract is issued so we can begin within a week," Balog said, adding that the work will take about 60 days.

Denise Whitman, vice president of the Fells Point Business Association, said she's pleased that merchants' two-year effort to improve the restroom is near a resolution. "I'm glad we have a start date and that the city is going to do the renovations, finally," she said.

Many merchants said the deteriorating public restroom desperately needs repairs. Plaster is falling off the walls, and the facility has no hot water or soap, Whitman said.

The association secured city money for the project in 1996 but no work has been done.

Whitman said the association became concerned when news spread among Fells Point merchants early this month that the city was trying to sell the comfort station. Some local elected officials and residents saw this development as the city shedding its responsibility to renovate the facility.

Balog said the department offered the restroom to Baltimore Public Markets Corp. for $1, but the quasi-private organization declined.

The department, Balog explained, doesn't have the funding to maintain the facility for the long term, but can do short-term work. He said the agency will use $20,000 left over from another project to build a required wheelchair ramp for the restroom.

Balog said he would like to work with the association to find a way to maintain the facility.

"Let's right now bite the bullet and find a way to approach this," he told the association. "I want to work with you to solve this problem."

Balog also discussed the recent enforcement of a 1935 city law requiring property owners to get a minor privilege permit for building attachments, such as cornices. Violation notices have been issued to dozens of Fells Point business owners since January. Balog said his department is studying the language of the law and how to apply it properly.

No fines or penalties will be levied for now, Balog told the association.

The seldom-enforced law requires property owners to get a minor privilege permit for certain building attachments. According to the City Charter, the sidewalk is public and anything hovering over it is governed by the city.

Pub Date: 2/17/99

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