The D.C. City Council voted yesterday to grant a franchise to a private firm to errect shelters with advertising posters at hundreds of bus stops around the city.
Under the legislation, a single company would be selected competitively for the potentially lucrative contract. Local minority-owned firms would be granted priority in bidding for the franchise.
A proposal two years ago to award such a contract without competition to a spinoff of the self-help group, Youth Pride Inc., collapsed on the eve of council action during jockeying over the firm's selection of a partner in the venture.
Unlike the controversy that erupted at that time, yesterday's proposal did not spark any dispute. The voice vote was apparently 11 to 0, with Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3) abstaining and John Wilson (D-Ward 2) absent.
Jerry A Moore Jr. (R-At Large), chairman of the council's Transportation Committee and immediate past chairman of the Metro board, said the advertising franchise would provide the only way the city could get more than the 366 shelters already erected or planned by Metro. He said 1,500 are needed.
Two years ago, the bus shelter proposal was made by Mary Treadwell, president of Pride Environmental Services (PES) and its parent firm, Youth Pride Inc. She is the former wife of Mayor Marion Barry, who was then a council member.
The proposal in 1978 was pushed in the council by Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8), chairman of what was then called the council's Employment and Economic Development Committee.
On the eve of council consideration of the bill, Treadwell asked that it be withdrawn, and it was never revived. She explained at the time that she had broken off with a New York firm that was to have been the partner in a joint venture, and was talking with another.
The rival firms involved have since been embroiled in a still-unresolved dispute over the lucrative New York City bus shelter franchise, which is being probed by that city's Department of Investigation and is the subject of a lawsuit.
In Washington, a federal grand jury is invstigating allegations that Treadwell and two associates -- as officers of a real estate subsidiary of Pride -- diverted, misappropriated and stole at least $600,000 from the U.S. government. They have denied wrongdoing.
Apart from the omitted feature that would have awarded a franchise directly to a specific firm, the bill given tentative approval yesterday is similar in many ways to the 1978 legislation.
It provides for the franchise holder to invest its own money in erecting shelters, and to pay the city an annual fee for the privilege. Under the legislation, the mayor would choose the franchise holder competitively within one year with the first 100 shelter locations selected at that time. More locations would be selected later.
The fee at the outset would be 10 percent of the advertising revenue, or at least $300 a year for each shelter. One of every 10 shelters would have no advertising on it. Advertising would be banned next to such monumental or historic areas as the White House, the Mall and Georgetown.
Shackleton said she abstained from voting on the bill after the failure of an amendment she proposed that would have given the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts the right to approve the shelter design. The shelter franchise must be approved a second time by the council, probably on Feb. 5, before being sent to the mayor for his signature. Then it must be reviewed by Congress.
On another matter, a threatened confrontation between the council and Barry over the mayor's request to restore $601,000 to the proposed fiscal 1981 city budget, chiefly for his own office staff, was averted when the mayor withdrew his request. The mayor did so, one aide said, to meet a deadline set by the White House for submitting the $1.5-billion budget to Congress.