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Westminster to renovate former bank to use as new government seat; heavy vault doors a challenge

The Westminster Common Council voted to move forward with renovations of the former BB&T bank at 45 W. Main St., Westminster so it can serve as the new government seat for the city.

The new space will allow the city to let go of the $178,000 per year lease of their current administrative offices at 56 W. Main St. and improve working conditions for city staff. But first they had to hire someone to get rid of the four vault doors in the basement that weigh hundreds of pounds each.

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“I’m excited about this," Councilman Tony Chiavacci said Monday during the meeting of the Westminster Mayor and Common Council. “It’s a lot of money. But the reality is we’ll probably recoup this in less than 20 years. Especially the more we make downtown viable and keep working toward that, the more rents are going to go up, and the more expensive it’s going to cost us to continue to rent space downtown.”

At their regular meeting Monday, Nov. 11, the Common Council voted unanimously to award a $4,435,000 contract to Warner Construction, a Division of R.W. Warner, Inc., for the Administrative Office Building Renovations & Alterations Project.

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The bid includes the renovation of all floors in the building. The city received nine bids ranging Warner Construction’s which was the lowest to bids topping $6 million, according to a memo from city staff included with the meeting agenda. Gant Brunnett Architects, the project architect, reviewed the bids.

The project architect’s analysis found that the bid process was competitive, partly by observing that the low bid was $824,848 below the cost estimate for the project.

The city’s budget for the current financial year included $5,395,798 for the project that includes not only the renovation but “associated architectural, engineering, and construction management services; and the purchase of furniture and equipment.”

“This is also an investment in the city’s team members and staff," Councilman Benjamin Yingling said. "They deserve to have a modern, functional place that they can work.”

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Without those people, the city could not embark on any of its ongoing or upcoming projects and ambitions, he added.

One consideration was whether to exclude the basement ground floor from renovation. The city chose to include this in the renovation. Another cost was $22,000 for the removal and disposal of the four vault doors of the bank, which Matthews said are too heavy for everyday use in those spaces.

Council President Gregory Pecoraro said the city’s Finance Committee, which he chairs, had reviewed the option in their meeting and found it to be the best financial decision for the city.

Chiavacci asked what the lower floor renovation would include. “So the conference chambers, the council chambers is included in that?” he asked?

“There is a large meeting space," Matthews replied. "Whether or not you all choose to relocate official city meetings there is obviously a decision, I believe, yet to be made by this body.”

City meetings are most often held at City Hall, 1838 Emerald Hill Lane.

The lower floor renovations would also include updating the bathrooms to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and would include a computer training room and an employee break space.

Mayor Joe Dominick said a lack of space for employee training has been an annual problem and that municipal security training is especially important in the wake of the ransomware attack that blindsided Baltimore City this year.

The building at 45 West Main opened as the main branch of the Carroll County Bank & Trust Co. in September 1964 and has undergone various renovations over the years. The building became the property of BB&T in 1999 when Carroll County Bank was purchased by BB&T.

The city announced their intentions to purchase the property in November of 2017 for $1.6 million.

Dominick said the currently leased property at 56 W. Main, known as the Winchester West Building “has a lot of really great [possible] uses that aren’t office space."

“It’s right there kind of on the retail row of a Main Street and that could end up being something really, really cool for the community,” he said. "And and we’re moving into a building that probably had almost no other use than an institution like a government moving into it.”

As part of the contract for renovation, the construction company must complete the work within 300 days or face a penalty, known as “liquidated damages.”

Chiavacci asked city staff if the fee would be enough to cover the cost to the city for continuing to lease their current office for longer that expected. Mathews said they took that into consideration when determining the fee.

The council also voted unanimously to add additional services for project on-site representation to their contract with Gant Brunnett.

They chose to hold off on awarding a contract for about $35,000 to the Baltimore-based firm for interior design and furniture purchasing

Chiavacci questioned whether there was a more local firm that could provide those services. Pecoraro directed city staff to research whether there were any local companies who provide the services they are looking for before they decide between putting the project out for bid and employing Gant Brunnett’s services.

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