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The Dripby Mark Reutter12:37 pmMay 9, 20120

Towanda Rec Center turned over to private operator

Park Heights Renaissance was today awarded $100,000 in “seed money” to take over the Towanda Rec Center from the Recreation and Parks Department, in an agreement signed off by the Board of Estimates.

The seed money, the largest granted so far under Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s plan to privatize some rec centers, will insure that youth athletic, summer recreation and senior programs continue at the facility, Julius Colón, CEO of the group, said today.

When it submitted a proposal in January, Park Heights Renaissance requested $50,000 in seed money from the city.

“I made a mistake,” Colón said today. As a facility with more than 10,000 square feet of space, Towanda was eligible for a $100,000 city grant.

“I decided to go ahead and submit the correct amount” in an amended proposal, which was accepted by the Rec and Parks committee that reviewed the plan.

Several Other Bids Rejected

At the same time, the committee rejected submissions made by other operators for other centers. The rejected suitors are the Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge (Parkview), John Darrell Brantley Financial Services (Oliver) and Diamonds on the Rise (Hilton).

The Parkview center has been placed on the endangered list. The Rawlings-Blake administration says it will close the facility, located near Reservoir Hill, if a suitable operator, or the city school system, does not submit a plan.

Oliver and Hilton are among the 10 centers that may close if a qualified operator is not identified in a joint process to be undertaken by Rec and Parks and the Family League.

To qualify for its grant today, Park Heights Renaissance is required to find a woman’s business enterprise to fulfill its minority business commitment.

Four Recs Privatized in December

Located at 4100 Towanda Avenue, the Park Heights center joins four other facilities that were turned over to outside parties in the first round of bidding last fall.

They are Brooklyn O’Malley (Boys and Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore), Easterwood (Omega Baltimore Foundation) and Collington Square and Lillian Jones (Reclaiming Our Children and Community Project). The three operators each received $50,000 in city seed money.

In addition to municipal funds, the Towanda center will be funded by the Family League, Sinai Hospital and the annual slots allocation provided to the Park Heights Master Plan, according to Colón.

Young Votes “Yes”

City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, a fierce critic of the mayor’s plan to turn over rec centers to private parties, voted in favor of the Towanda takeover by Park Heights Renaissance, as did City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt.

Young had voted against the previous rec center takeovers, calling the mayor’s plan “absurd.”

Rawlings-Blake abstained from voting on the Towanda deal.

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