The Board of Estimates today turned aside a protest from a community representative and extended a $450,000 loan to Saint Vincent DePaul to expand the controversial Beans and Bread soup kitchen and homeless shelter in Fells Point.
Victor Corbin, president of the Fells Prospect Neighborhood Association, said he was speaking for several neighborhood groups protesting the board’s lack of notice that it was considering a loan extension through December 2013.
He warned that neighborhood groups have appealed the zoning board decision that underlines the soup kitchen’s expansion to the Court of Special Appeals. The court is scheduled to hear the appeal in February.
“You are gambling with taxpayers’ money,” Corbin said. “The community will tear down the extension if the court rules in our favor.”
Thomasina “Tomi” Hiers, director of the Mayor’s Office of Human Services, urged the board to approve the extension, saying it has leveraged $4.2 million in foundation and state money to help finish a much-needed improvement for an underserved and vulnerable population.
“If you don’t approve the extension, you will be wasting taxpayers’ money,” she said.
The five-member board, which includes Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, approved the extension after rejecting Corbin’s request to postpone the matter until next week’s meeting. City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young abstained from voting.
“Journey Home” Homeless Plan
The board also approved today a two-year $200,000 grant from United Way and the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation to pay for a new position in the city’s homeless services office.
The money will permit the hiring of a full-time director of “Journey Home Plan – Making Homelessness Rare and Brief in Baltimore City,” the formal title of the city’s 10-year plan to end homelessness.
Baltimore’s homeless population has nearly doubled since 2005, going from about 2,600 to more than 4,000 on any given night.
The city’s new homeless shelter at 620 Fallsway – which opened in July with fewer beds than the former city shelter – was criticized for turning away homeless women at night, forcing them to sleep in the shelter’s parking lot.
The city recently opened 20 new beds for homeless women in an overflow shelter. Kate Briddell, director of homeless services, said no homeless woman has been turned away by the city since Nov. 1.
The Journey Home director will “determine what elements of the [homeless] plan can be immediately undertaken in order to have a viable citywide impact, with measurable outcomes,” according to the board’s agenda.
Other Spending Items
The board also approved the following spending items:
• $10.5 million in federal funds to Associated Black Charities to serve as the administrative fiscal agent for the HIV Emergency Relief Project Grant (Part A). The group will provide day-to-day administration, contracting and monitoring of provider expenses for the City Health Department.
• $2.5 million to Asplundh Tree Expert Co. for tree removal and maintenance. The award is an extension of a $5 million contract approved by the board in December 2008.
• $1.25 million to eight printing companies to provide printing services for the Department of Finance. The award is an extension of a $2.5 million contract approved by the board in December 2009.
• $827,480 to Louis J. Grasmick Lumber Co. to “supply and deliver lumber to various city agencies,” according to the board’s agenda. The time period of this contract is not specified.
• $570,000 in an EWO (extra work order) to Spiniello Co. to provide “urgent need” work on water and sewer lines for the bureau of water and wastewater. This is 30th EWO between the city and New Jersey-based Spiniello, which has swelled the cost of this contract from $10 million to now $22.5 million.
• $75,000 in an out-of-court settlement with Alvin L. Trotter, a work-release employee at city sanitation services, who broke his pelvis while working on a garbage truck. Trotter claimed he was not properly trained for the job and suffered $120,000 in medical costs and lost wages, City Solicitor George Nilson said today.