- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 17, 2004

BALTIMORE (AP) — A change in the way city residents apply for energy assistance has led to another dispute between Baltimore and state officials.

Since Aug. 9, residents can apply for energy aid at one location in Baltimore instead of six.

But it was the state Department of Human Resources, which funds the program, that announced the change, not the city Department of Housing and Community Development, which administers the Maryland Energy Assistance Program.

David Tillman, a city housing spokesman, wondered why the state announced a change in a city-run program.

“The implication that we’re reducing our commitment to Baltimore families in need of energy assistance is misleading and inaccurate,” Mr. Tillman said.

He added that staff who used to take the aid applications at the six offices have been reassigned to work door-to-door in neighborhoods — where, among other things, they are accepting the applications.

Norris West, a spokesman for the state agency, said the state felt it had to act because the city did not widely publicize the change.

“It was irresponsible for them to not have done that themselves,” Mr. West said. “It was kind of weird. The city didn’t send anything out. Apparently they posted a notice [at the six offices] or were handing out fliers. These are our customers, and we wanted to make sure the customers knew where the services are offered and where they’re not.”

Baltimore and the state also are embroiled in a fight over who will lead the Baltimore City Department of Social Services, a state agency overseen by the Department of Human Resources.

The administration of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. appointed Floyd R. Blair to the post in September, over the objections of Mayor Martin O’Malley, who by law has a say in the selection.

Mr. O’Malley sued, and the city and state have until late this month to find someone they can agree on to run the department.


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