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Neil O. Albert, outgoing deputy mayor for planning and economic development, is not happy with some of the D.C. Council’s budget proposals. He dispatched a letter [PDF] today to councilmembers taking issue with several proposals contained in budget legislation scheduled for a second and final vote on Tuesday.
Two of the issues involve the fates of onetime public schools. For one thing, the council is proposing that the Grimke School, across Vermont Avenue NW from the east entrance of the U Street Metro stop and current home of the Fire and Emergency Medical Services department headquarters, to be reserved for the African-American Civil War Museum. That’s a project headed and championed by former Ward 1 Councilmember Frank Smith. The problem, Albert writes, is that several developers have entered into a bidding process on the property, incurring “significant expense” to do so. He asks that the council allow the bidding process to continue.
Another point of contention regards the recently closed Bertie Backus Middle School, on South Dakota Avenue NE close to the Fort Totten Metro station.
Like with Grimke, the deputy mayor’s office has started to entertain bids on the property, and, like Grime, the council has its own plans. In a plan championed by Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., the council proposes handing the school directly to the University of the District of Columbia in order to house its new community college.
However, Albert points out, “since UDC has no approved community college plan, and no resources with which to carry out such a plan, the Backus School Provision effectively requires that the school remain vacant for many
years. Because of this, the school will be a blight on the community and is likely to attract illegal and undesired activity.”
“Furthermore,” he writes, “the designation of the Backus School as the site for a community college occurred without an opportunity to consider the potential significant, positive impacts that could result from locating the community college in another area of the city, such as a location east of the Anacostia River.”
Albert suggests taking the Backus handover out of the budget bill and working out a mutually agreeable plan.