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When the city bought the Maryland Water Works Co. 28 years ago, the purchase included John Dudderar, who is now city clerk, and a safe.

Looking to do some house cleaning, the city has decided to sell the6-foot-2 solid metal box. Dudderar, at 6 feet, though, is staying.

"When the city bought the company, it got the safe and me in the deal," Dudderar said. "It looks like I'm going to outlive the safe."

The city began seeking sealed bids for the safe last week.

There's just one catch for any prospective buyer -- the city staff doesn't know the combination. Tape has been placed over the lock and combination to prevent anyone from locking it up.

"We don't know anyone who knows the combination," said Karen Blandford, supervisor of the city's Office of Housing and Community Development.

The safe, with 3-inch solid metal walls, sits in a corner of Blandford's office, where the staff has used the double-door box to store office supplies.

"It's an old, heavy, squeaky, fire-proof safe," Blandford said. "It's been used in various ways by the city over the years."

Blandford said she needs it out of her office because her staff "simply needsmore room." She said the office needs to put up partitions so that staff can interview applicants for programs.

"The only way to make more room is to not have the safe in there," she said. "It's no secret City Hall is overcrowded."

The safe was made by the Meilink Steel Safe Co. of Toledo, Ohio. A firm spokesman estimated the safe was at least 50 years old, but he couldn't offer other details without knowing the safe's model number.

City employees were not able to locate a model number on the safe.

The city assumed ownership of the safe in 1964. Dudderar, who was working for the water company at the time, recalled that the safe was used to store money and meter books.

So far, the staff has received one phone call and at least two people have been in the office to take a look.

City employees said they had no idea of the safe's value or historical interest.

"We don't know if it has historic interest," Blandford said. "It's still functional. It's pretty hard to destroy a safe. The safe could have a fascinating history, but we don't know it."

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