Council Should Opt To Rent Office Space


City Hall Renovation Comes Down To One Vote

February 09, 1992|By Edward H. Shur

Attention Westminster residents: Do you have an opinion on whether officials should spend $3.4 million to expand and renovate City Hall?

If so, tomorrow night is your long-awaited opportunity to tell your elected representatives to vote either "yea" or "nay" to the proposal.

The controversial plan to alleviate a long-time space crunch in the City Hall has been bounced around like a ping-pong ball for several years.

The previous council voted in favor of the proposal. ThenCouncilmen Samuel Greenholtz and Mark Snyder were booted out of office in the spring election.

When newcomers Rebecca Orenstein, Stephen Chapin and Kenneth Yowan (who had served on the council in the 1980s before temporarily moving to Hawaii) took office, they originally delayed the project, fulfilling campaign statements. They also promised a public hearing on the plan.

Then Chapin changed his mind lastsummer, and was the deciding vote -- which came with no public hearing -- in reinstating the project. Design bids were sought.

But questions about the propriety of the project and how it should be financed continued. And as the economy worsened, the panel reversed itself again, tabling design bids and voting for tomorrow's 7 p.m. public hearing.

Since most everyone acknowledges more space is needed, the council has two options: Either go ahead with the $3.4 million renovation and addition, or lease office space in some of the empty buildings downtown.

I would urge the council to vote for Option B, for four main reasons:

* Leasing existing space would be considerably less expensive.

* Renting would help fill some of the empty downtownoffice space, aiding the city's economy.

* An expansion and renovation would not only ruin the historic nature and architecture of Emerald Hill, but also destroy the green grass and trees.

* The moneysaved could be used for other projects (the owner of the Winchester Exchange has suggested using the money to build a parking garage) -- or even to reduce the tax rate for fiscal 1993.

Yowan and Orenstein oppose Option A; fellow Councilmen Edward Calwell and William Haifley continue to support it.

That means Chapin, chairman of the Finance Committee, remains the key vote.

"I'm a very receptive person to public opinion," Chapin said. "I'm hoping people will get out and give us the message. That's what we're here for."

So, tomorrow night's your chance to "tell it like it is" -- or at least how you thinkit should be.

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