Bel Air to vote on town building renovation

Cost of upgrading, expanding facility prompts debate

May 20, 2007|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,sun reporter

Bel Air officials will vote tomorrow night on whether to move forward with a $5 million renovation of the town administration building and police station, a proposal the mayor said will halt all other construction projects for the next five years.

There are no new taxes in the $13 million proposed budget, but three capital projects -- improvements to Rockfield Manor, Armory Park and Western Alley -- are on the chopping block because of fears that they could prompt a property tax increase.

Nevertheless, town officials want to move forward with the renovation and expansion of Town Hall, which was built in 1964. Proponents, including Town Administrator Christopher Schler, say the project is necessary and that costs will only rise if it is delayed.

Mayor Terence O. Hanley, who argued against the project last year, said the building meets the needs of the city employees and that the project is too large of an expenditure.

"In today's society, everybody thinks, `New, new, new,'" he said. "It's not about the buildings. It's about the personnel and the services they provide."

While he acknowledges that the police headquarters is dated, he said improvements could hinder the town's ability to fund other expenses, such as a pay increase.

"By taking on this huge capital improvements project, I don't know if we can provide competitive salaries," Hanley said.

Aberdeen and Havre de Grace have recently built administration buildings for municipal employees, and the County Council is debating a proposal by County Executive David R. Craig to build a government services building in downtown Bel Air.

There will be a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow for the public to address aspects of the proposed budget.

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