By CN Staff
BALTIMORE, Md.— The Baltimore City Board of Estimates recently voted to approve a lease to move the Baltimore Police Department to the former downtown building of the Baltimore Sun this July.
The Baltimore Sun recently reported that city’s spending panel approved the three-year, multi-million-dollar lease over an objection that the project is too costly to undertake at a time when Baltimore is facing a major budget deficit because of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Approximately 170 officers assigned to the Central District have been working out of a cramped space in department headquarters for more than a year after its former offices were shut down more for emergency repairs.
In a statement, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said moving from their “dilapidated and deteriorating” former office to a soon-to-be renovated building at 501 N. Calvert Street sends an important message.
“If we expect professionalism from our officers, we owe them no less than a professional work environment in return, and a place that they can now call home—a place they can now have pride in.”
A preliminary draft of the city’s 2021 budget states that police will use $1.2 million in asset forfeiture funds to help pay for the move.
Comptroller Joan Pratt said at a recent Board of Estimates meeting that she could not vote in favor of the lease because of the cost. Atapco Properties, which owns the building, will charge between $1.7 million to $2.6 million a year in rent, along with additional charges.
“I’m concerned this lease is not a good value for the taxpayers,” she said.
It is expected that Baltimore officials will end the fiscal year with a $42.3 million deficit, due to restrictions the coronavirus pandemic has had on the local economy.
Baltimore Mayor Jack Young said, in a statement, that the new building will end up saving the city money. In addition to the Central District, other public safety units will move into the renovated building at 501 N. Calvert St., including fire department medics, the Warrant Apprehension Task Force and the Citywide Robbery unit.
Consolidating those operations into one building could save the city $800,000 in deferred maintenance over the next four years. The facilities that the units used to occupy can also be monetized in the future.
Commissioner Harrison said the new location will improve public safety in the downtown neighborhoods surrounding the building.
Young added that the move is also a symbolic one.
“We’re moving from outdated buildings to a centralized location—a location that once housed one of the city’s chief accountability mechanisms: the press.”