A new headquarters will be "a big morale booster" for the 30 men and women of the Westminster City police force, says Chief Sam R. Leppo.
The City Council acquired a new police headquarters Monday night with a quick, unanimous decision to buy the former Westminster Auto Parts store on Locust Street for $250,000.
Mayor W. Benjamin Brown, who handled negotiations with store owner William Small, said the price was lower than two appraisals.
An appraiser retained by Mr. Small valued the store at $370,000; one retained by the city valued it at $300,000.
The city will be responsible for closing costs, Mr. Brown said.
The city may also have to pay one month's county taxes on the property, since the tax year began July 1.
The action came in the absence of Council President William F. Haifley, who has been strongly opposed to buying the former auto parts store.
Mr. Haifley, who is out of town, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The council has been interested in the former auto parts store for about five months, after at least three years of debate over how to alleviate crowded, noisy working conditions for the city police.
The police have been housed for 12 years in the basement of the Longwell Municipal Center, coping with basketball games overhead in the first-floor gymnasium and inadequate facilities such as holding cells without restrooms.
"When the word [of the purchase] got out, everyone was very excited," Chief Leppo said. He said the staff has been asking about a possible settlement on the building for the past several months.
City Public Works and Planning Director Thomas B. Beyard estimated that it will be about a year before the police department can move into the building.
"We've been through the preliminaries of figuring out how to utilize the space," Mr. Beyard said.
He said further design and bidding will take three or four months, construction eight months.
City officials estimate the renovation cost at $800,000.
The building will need a heating and cooling system, electrical and plumbing work, Mr. Beyard said.
However, the absence of partitions means the city will save money by not having to knock down interior walls, he said.
Purchase of the auto parts store and council authorization Monday night to advertise for bids on a disabled-accessible restroom at the Longwell Center signal "light at the end of the tunnel" after years of debate on the city's space needs, Mr. Brown said.
The council also discussed a suggestion from Councilman Stephen R. Chapin Sr. to install parking meters on the 94-space Sherwood parking lot between Railroad Avenue and Locust Street.
The consensus among a majority of council members was to continue two-hour free parking on the lot, although Mr. Chapin contended that the free lot gives nearby merchants an advantage that businesses near metered lots do not share.