Bricks used for building debated CENTRAL -- Union Mills * Westminster * Sandymount * Finksburg

March 15, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer Staff writer Donna E. Boller contributed to this article.

Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown wants City Council to hit the bricks.

He doesn't care if the bricks are red or white. He just wants council members to walk around town and look at brick buildings.

In the process, he hopes they will reconsider their decision to use white bricks on the outside of the city's new police headquarters. They may be able to find a better bargain on bricks, and red bricks might be cheaper, he said.

Mayor Brown doesn't claim to have better taste than council members, but he said he wished they had done more price comparisons before they voted for white brick at last Monday's council meeting.

The council voted unanimously to use a brick called "Arctic White" for the exterior of the police headquarters building, a former auto parts store on Locust Avenue near City Hall.

The white brick was recommended by architect Paul Clarke of Colimore-Clarke Associates Inc. of Annapolis, who was hired by the city to help renovate the building. The brick costs $375 per 1,000 bricks. The city will need about 30,000 bricks for the project.

Mr. Brown had the flu and didn't attend Monday's meeting. "This isn't meant as a criticism of what the council has done," he said Friday. "I really don't have great taste. I think we could do a better process."

But three of the four voting council members -- Stephen R. Chapin Sr., Rebecca A. Orenstein and Kenneth A. Yowan -- said Friday they won't budge from the white brick. The fourth -- Edward S. Calwell -- said he was willing to listen to Mr. Brown's suggestion.

Council President William F. Haifley, who only votes in case of a tie, and Mr. Brown appear to agree that the white brick may not be the best choice. But don't try to tell them that. "He's the one who's agreeing with me," Mr. Haifley said Friday.

"I wouldn't go so far as to say we agree on this," said Mr. Brown.

Mr. Haifley said the council should not have made a decision about the brick without seeing more price comparisons. Also, white brick will clash with Locust House Apartments, the brick structure that's next door to the building, he said.

Mr. Haifley said he asked City Planning and Public Works Director Thomas B. Beyard to compare prices of red and white brick. Mr. Beyard found that a comparable red brick would cost $370 per 1,000 bricks. If the council chose this brick, the city would save $150 on the headquarters project.

The cheapest red brick would cost $250 per 1,000 bricks, Mr. Beyard said. This would save the city about $3,600 on the project.

Mr. Haifley said he would present the numbers to the council at its next meeting.

"From the very beginning, this building has been like a white elephant. You don't have to put white brick on it to prove it to me," he said at last week's meeting.

"I can't believe what's gone on this week with the brick," Mr. Yowan said Friday.

Council members and staff have wasted a lot of time on the issue, Mr. Yowan said. He received about 15 calls about it last week.

He suggested a sequel to the movie "Color of Money," called "Color of Brick," and a headline for this article that says, "Much ado about nothing."

The white brick is good quality and not extravagant, Mr. Yowan said, and the whole renovation project is about $150,000 under budget.

The city paid $250,000 for the building and will pay about $800,000 to renovate it, he said.

Friday, Mayor Brown met with a brick salesman who offered the city a special price on red bricks. Kirk Taylor of Boral Bricks Baltimore Division said he would take $50 off the price per 1,000 on certain red brick styles.

Mr. Yowan said the city has a contract with Hostetter Construction of Baltimore, which will buy bricks for the project. The contractor was the low bidder, and the council shouldn't tell the company where to buy materials, Mr. Yowan said.

The brick salesman also showed the mayor a red brick called "Westminster Antique." It was the cheapest of all the samples -- $235 per 1,000 bricks.

The mayor said he's not advocating red brick for the building, but said the council should consider other bricks in order to get a better price and possibly a better look for the neighborhood.

Ms. Orenstein said the architect chose white brick for a reason. "It wasn't an arbitrary decision by him," she said. White bricks will help make "an ordinary-looking building a worthy companion to Emerald Hill [City Hall]," she said. The white will make the headquarters "a dramatic building and aesthetically harmonious with Emerald Hill."

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