Council Reverses Field, Discards City Hall Expansion Plan

February 19, 1992|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — An expansion of City Hall and construction of a new police department building were discarded as immediate options last night, as the City Council voted to reverse its August decision approving the $3.4 million plan.

The council voted, 4-0, to reverse the August vote. Council President William F. Haifley opposed the reversal, but votes only in the case of a tie. The vote signifies a change of direction for both Edward Calwell and Stephen R. Chapin Sr., who voted for approvalof the expansion to Emerald Hill and the construction of a new police headquarters Aug. 26.

The motion to reverse the August decision was made by Chapin, whosaid that economic uncertainty was the main factor behind his changeof mind.

"I've been criticized for changing my opinion, but I don't think it's wrong to change my opinion," Chapin said.

"The moneyI thought we had set aside for the expansion may not be there."

The vote represents yet another defeat on this issue for Haifley,who spent nearly 30 minutes passionately arguing against "backtracking" onthe decision.

"If you aren't going to listen to advice from two professional planning and architectural firms, or to the city staff orto me . . . who are you going to listen to?" he asked the council during what was to be an informal work session to discuss the city's space needs. "The council has to have the fortitude to make a decision."

It did.

The council also approved obtaining an option to purchase a 12,000-square-foot, cinder block building and land -- as yet unidentified -- as site of a new police headquarters.

An architectural and structural soundness study will be performed on the building to see how much it would cost to renovate the facility.

Since the August decision, the topic has been a hot one with the council, most recently spurring a public hearing last week in which residents spokeout against spending $3.4 million.

Last night, the priorities of the council also appeared to change from alleviating crowded working conditions for city bureaucrats in the 6,000-square-foot Emerald Hillbuilding to improving the workingconditions for the city police, nowworking from the basement of the Armory on Longwell Avenue.

Councilwoman Rebecca Orenstein, a long-time opponent of the expansion option, told the council of a recent conversation with Police Chief Sam R. Leppo, who spoke of a rape victim making a report amid the bull-horns and cheers of a basketball game above.

"That's degrading," she said. "That's almost barbaric."

Haifley, again arguing for the expansion, told her, "I don't know that one incident has greater weight than all of the city's business."

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