WESTMINSTER — Round 2 in the debate over city government office space officially began Monday as the City Council rebuffed a proposal to consider an existing building as a future home for the police department.
Councilman Kenneth A. Yowan proposed allocating $4,720 for environmental and structural studies of a building the city is considering buying. The building was not named because the council does not want to jeopardize its bargaining position, Yowan said.
But Yowan's suggestion died when neither Edward S. Calwell or Stephen R. Chapin Sr. seconded the motion.
The discussion marks the latest in the council's ongoing and controversial debate over office space, which has pitted advocates of leased space against supporters of new buildings.
Council President William F. Haifley, joined by Calwell and Chapin, has supported strict adherence to a consultant's study that recommended an addition to City Hall, followed by construction of a new building for the police department.
Yowan, Councilwoman Rebecca A. Orenstein and Mayor W. Benjamin Brown have advocated exploring the purchase or lease of existing space, saying the costs would be much lower.
The "buy" advocates prevailed in Round 1 in August, when a split council approved a 10,000-square-foot City Hall addition for $1.6 million. That suggestion was "Phase 1" in the report submitted last summer by Baltimore-based Cho, Wilks & Benn Architects Inc. The city is soliciting bids for the expansion.
According to the $40,000 consultant's report, the second phase called for construction of a 17,000-square-foot building for about $1.8 million. The building, which likely would be constructed adjacent to City Hall, would house the police department and space for other city government operations. Currently, the police department occupies cramped quarters in the Longwell Armory.
Yowan and his allies think an existing building could be bought and renovated for use by the city for much less. His proposal on Monday called for $2,340 for an environmental assessment of the unnamed building, and $2,380 for the structural study.
"If the building in question is not sound, then it's obviously irrelevant," he said Monday.
Normally, Yowan's defeated proposal simply would have fallen by the wayside. But the councilman said that he wouldtry to get the matter before the council at a future meeting. A key to Monday's vote was that Orenstein, is on vacation and was not present.
In other business, the council rejected Haifley's proposal to rework the council's December schedule.
Usually, the council meetson the second and fourth Mondays of the month. Haifley wanted to cancel the council's meetings on Dec. 9 and 23, and schedule a single meeting on Dec. 16.
The revamped December schedule is a tradition that helps avoid meetings during Christmas week, Haifley said.
But four weeks between Dec. 16 and the council's next meeting, on Jan. 13,is an "inordinately long period," said Yowan, who added that he already had planned business obligations around the original council schedule.
Calwell and Chapin agreed, and joined Yowan in unanimously voting down Haifley's proposal. The council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 9, at the volunteer fire company at 66 E. Main St.