Westminster's Slimmer Rec Center

May 19, 1994

The grand strategy in the chess game to move Westminster city offices and agencies here and there, after the acquisition of the former National Guard Armory from the state, has already been thwarted by the old budget gambit.

Originally, the plan was to move the police department from the Armory into new quarters, while housing the eight members of the city finance office and the recreation office in the Longwell Municipal Center (nee Armory). The rehabilitated ex-Armory was to include expanded recreation facilities for adults and children.

The police moved into a completely renovated downtown store, at a cost of more than $1 million, to nearly everyone's satisfaction.

But the city fathers then found out that proposed renovations to the Longwell Center would cost more than $1.2 million, instead of the paltry $350,000 they had budgeted for the work, and they beat a hasty retreat this month by drastically scaling back their plans.

Rebuilding Longwell to accommodate the finance office would require far too much money, because both the first and second floors of the building would have to be renovated, or a costly rear addition built. So that city agency must find other quarters, in rented space elsewhere.

There were, of course, other factors involved in the budget squeeze. In buying the Armory for $1 (after leasing it from state government for a dozen years), the city of Westminster committed to making the building accessible to the disabled and to preserving the structure's historic facade, two of the most costly requirements of the entire project. Major improvements were also needed to update the electrical and heating/air conditioning systems. The removal of asbestos from the old basement boiler room was another expense.

The city council scrapped the plan and shrunk the renovations budget, cutting it back to $250,000. That leaves little to spend on expanded adult recreation facilities that were envisioned as a major part of the city's multipurpose family center.

We hope the city will find the money in the future to complete the recreation plans at Longwell. As planning officials note, these expanded adult programs could help the budget, by charging fees to meet overhead operating costs.

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