WESTMINSTER -- Mayor W. Benjamin Brown yesterday denounced the City Council's Aug. 27 decision to begin a $1.6 million addition to City Hall, saying he hoped the council would reconsider a decision that "didn't have to be made now."

The controversial 3-2 vote to go ahead with plans endorsed in a $40,000 space-needs study means the city would build a 10,000-square-foot addition to City Hall at more than $1.6 million.

"I am dismayed that we are all not on the same page," the mayor said in an informal press conference in his spacious first-floor office on Emerald Hill. "At the very least, I thought the council would consider the possibility of leasing space rather than building more of it."

Others thought that was where council members were heading as well. At its Aug. 14 meeting, the council said it would look into possible options inthe rental or purchasing markets.

Currently, 25 people work in the nearly 6,000-square-foot City Hall. The space-needs study conductedby Baltimore-based Cho, Wilks & Benn Architects Inc. said the city should -- in addition to the 10,000-square-foot addition -- build a 17,000-square-foot building nearby with a total price tag of $3.4 million.

Yesterday, Brown sharply criticized moving ahead so quickly onthe matter -- especially while he was away on a Pennsylvania campingtrip.

"I was really looking forward to a specific, public discussion of how much space already exists out there," he said.

In his comments criticizing the council's decision, Brown said nothing he hasn't said before. The mayor has advocated finding existing properties in the city that could be purchased or leased by the city.

Brown said a considerable amount of office space exists in the downtown area, such as at the Winchester Exchange, a group of buildings in the first block of East Main Street.

Other possibilities, Brown said, include the Longwell Armory Building and the post office on East Main Street.

"A lot of these places would be ready to use within the year," he said. "The least we can do is look into them before we decide to spend $1.6 million of the taxpayers' money."

Should the council decide to go ahead with construction of the addition, Brown said, he would support the building only if it were financed over a long period.

"It is unfair to ask the taxpayers of today to foot the bill for something that will benefit citizens for years to come," he said.

Voting for the addition at the Aug. 26 meeting were council membersStephen R. Chapin Sr., Edward Calwell and Council President William F. Haifley.

Voting against the measure were council members Rebecca A. Orenstein and Kenneth Yowan.

The council next meets 7:30 p.m.Monday, when Brown is expected to ask council members to reconsider the decision to build.

The date of the City Council's decision was Aug. 26.
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