Councilmen Have Short Memory

SHURSHOTS

Trio's Vote To Build City Hall Additionin Lean Times Is Outrageous

September 08, 1991|By Edward H. Shur

Are you as outraged as I am by the Westminster Council's controversial 3-2 vote on Aug. 26 to build a $1.6 million addition to City Hall?

Did the three councilmen -- Stephen R. Chapin Sr., Edward Calwelland William F. Haifley -- not learn anything from the tumultuous election last spring?

Has the public outcry over the building a new City Hall during the public budget hearing been forgotten?

Are they unaware that we are in an economic downturn?

Don't they know that spending reserve account money is a major factor in the state's budget surplus

of several hundred million dollars two years ago turning into a projecteddeficit of more than double that amount in the coming fiscal year?

Was the Stephen R. Chapin Sr. who justified his vote with, "If I had $1.6 million in place, designated for a building, this is the decision I would make" the same man, who -- as a candidate -- assured voters, "I'm tight with my money, and I'll be tight with the city's money"?

It certainly was the same Calwell and Haifley who, all along, prove that some elected officials can't leave taxpayers' money in the bank -- rather, they feel that it must be spent.

The two other council members, Kenneth Yowan and Rebecca A. Orenstein -- far and away the top vote-getters last spring -- kept their campaign promises. Both were vociferous in the opposition to the expansion during the campaign, immediately after being elected and once again on Aug. 26.

Mayor W. Benjamin Brown, who was away on a camping trip when the council acted last month, also was angry. In a press conference in his Emerald Hill office last Tuesday, he denounced the council's action and urged it to reconsider a decision that "didn't have to be made now."

"At the very least, I thought the council would consider the possibility of leasing space rather than building more of it," the mayor said, reiterating a previous stance.

Many other people have been of the same mind -- that leasing was the direction in which council members were heading. Only 12 days before the Aug. 26 vote, the council had said it would look into possible options in the rental or purchasing markets.

And shortly after taking office, Chapin, Orenstein andYowan reversed their predecessors' decision to build onto Emerald Hill. At a June 10 meeting, all said they didn't want to see a new structure added to the historic mansion.

They also talked about havinga public hearing on any future discussions. Yet their Aug. 26 vote came without any advance notice to the public which elected them.

That also was reprehensible.

Also, keep in mind that this addition is only the first phase of a plan that would include construction of a 17,000-square-foot building, resulting in a price for the project of more than $3.4 million.

For while Chapin's motion contained the condition that the project not cost any additional taxpayer money, one has to wonder if you can believe he won't -- once again -- change his mind and ignore his promises down the road.

As resident Laurie Walters put it after the vote: "I sometimes wonder if anybody's listening to the public."

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