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Council sidesteps president on appraisal


WESTMINSTER -- Even though the City Council president asked his fellow members to defer action on the new police headquarters, the four disregarded his wishes Monday night.

Council President William F. Haifley was out of town but circulated a letter asking his colleagues not to take any action until the next meeting, which will take place June 1 because the regularly scheduled date would have been May 25, Memorial Day.

On the council's agenda Monday was a request to spend $1,200 for an appraisal of the Westminster Auto Parts store, which the city wants to buy for the new police headquarters.

The owners had the property appraised in September 1989 for $375,000, but Councilman Kenneth Yowan said the city needs a more current appraisal.

Mayor W. Benjamin Brown pointed out that the city's option on the building expires in the first week of June. He said the city should express its interest in renewing the option before then.

None of the council members present Monday objected to authorizing payment for the appraisal.

The council also approved the first year of the city's proposed five-year construction program, including $1.2 million for the police headquarters, $231,000 for City Hall renovations and $242,000 for remodeling the Longwell Municipal Center.

And it approved the proposed tax rate of 83 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, the same as last year.

The 1993 fiscal year budget -- which calls for spending $6.6 million in general funds and $5.7 million in water and sewer funds -- passed with little comment.

"No one has really objected," said Stephen R. Chapin, chairman of the council's Finance Committee, who described the budget as "frugal and reasonable."

The council also passed a 5 percent increase in water and sewer rates, effective in September.

Brown said he would like the council to investigate a restructuring of water rates so that people who use less would be charged a different rate from those who use an excess amount of water.

"It is a matter of fairness. We have to develop a method to dissuade people from using excess water," Brown said.

During the citizen comment period of the meeting, which occurred after the passage of the budget, Westminster resident Jesse Lockard objected to the increase in water and sewer rates.

Brown said he sympathized with Lockard, but said higher rates were needed because the cost of operation had increased. He said new personnel have been added to the payroll to operate the city's new wastewater-treatment plant.

"The water and sewer program should pay for itself," Brown said. "We should not be using general fund money or borrowing to pay for water and sewer."

He asked that the council consider developing different water and sewer rates this fall.

In other action:

* The council approved obtaining a Gold Membership -- which costs $500 -- in the Westminster Business Association.

Supporting the downtown merchants is important, said Councilman Edward S. Caldwell.

* The council decided the city should designate an affirmative action officer other than Tom Beyard, who has also become the (( director of Public Works and Planning. The officer will be named later.

* The council approved the expenditure of money to cover Hepatitis B vaccine that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration now requires of police and emergency personnel who have contact with intravenous drug users. Police Chief Sam Leppo said the shots will cost about $150 a person.

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