Santa Claus is coming to Westminster.
"The story here is that it's not going to be a gray Christmas downtown," Mayor W. Benjamin Brown reported yesterday.
Santa's prospects for making the holiday scene looked grim this week after the City Council denied a request for aid from the Westminster Business Association.
The merchants said they were short of money, and asked the council to donate $240 to pay Santa's salary for several Saturday visits between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The council rejected the request on the recommendation of its finance committee, headed by Councilman Stephen R. Chapin Sr. Mr. Chapin said that making the donation would set a precedent.
Mr. Brown said a volunteer, whom he refused to identify, will step into the role of Santa. He said the volunteer is well-known locally, but the mayor said he feared that naming the volunteer would transfer the crowd's attention to the individual's everyday identity.
"If I said Governor Schaefer were going to play Santa, all the focus and attention would be directed at that," Mr. Brown said.
Calls offering help began coming into City Hall after an article describing the merchants' difficulty in financing Santa's visit appeared in the Carroll County section of The Sun, the mayor said. In addition to the volunteer Santa, he said, three callers each offered to donate $240 to cover Santa's salary, and representatives of community organizations said they would contribute, too.
"If there's a will, there's a way, and there's certainly a will in this community," Mr. Brown said.
Santa is scheduled to arrive Friday, Nov. 27, on the 5 p.m. EnterTRAINment Line train. Business association members and other downtown businesses have agreed to donate treats for Santa to give children.
Mr. Brown said details of Santa's holiday schedule will be announced later.