Annapolis Council Narrowly Approves Market House Money
The City Council voted 5-4 Monday night to spend $300,000 to add women's bathrooms and redesign the interior of the City Dock centerpiece.
Annapolis City Council narrowly approved spending $300,000 on another round of Market House renovations that city officials said should help make the troubled, downtown landmark more attractive and profitable.
The issue split the council Monday night, with the vote passing 5-4.
Those voting to spend the money were Mayor Josh Cohen, Aldermen Richard Israel, Classie Hoyle, Sheila Finlayson and Kenneth Kirby.
Those voting against were Aldermen Ross Arnett, Fred Paone, Mathew Silverman and Ian Pfeiffer.
"I find this request absolutely outrageous," Paone said during the meeting. "I think we have spent so much money, good money going after bad money. It's not just me, but many people in the public who have simply had it."
He said he didn't think the project to renovate the Market House would end up costing so much, or that it wouldn't re-open until August.
"I don't get it," Paone said. "This isn't the Taj Mahal. This is the Market House we're talking about."
The council had been discussing spending the money for several weeks and then passed the matter to its Finance Committee, chaired by Arnett. The committee last week voted 2-1 to spend the money.
The $300,000 will be used to create more women's restrooms and make the restrooms available for after-hours use, as well as remodeling the interior to put seating along the windows facing Ego Alley.
The idea is to cash in on the views of City Dock, officials and proponents said. The new configuration and seating are part of a plan to rejuvenate the space and attract restaurants and vendors that can help make Market House profitable.
One of council's contingencies on the funding was that any profit generated by Market House would go into a special fund that would be used to directly repay the debt.
Technically, the council approved a budget transfer. The $300,000 had been allocated to pay for planned City Hall renovations, which are now about a year off. The transfer shifted the money to pay for the Market House renovations in the meantime and the plan is to repay it in time to pay for the City Hall project.
Paone and Arnett were clearly frustrated over spending more money on the Market House, especially at the expense of other city projects.
"Frankly I just don't trust the administration that this is going to be the last request for funding," Paone said. "It's just a ridiculously bad business decision and we have to put a stop to it at some point and that point is here."
Cohen remained steadfast in his support for not only the $300,000, but also the Market House in general and the city's plan moving forward.
"I am very confident we are going to fix it," he said after the vote. "For the past eight years it's been held back by a ridiculous floor plan and we are going to fix that."