Westminster and the state government are near an agreement that would enable the city to buy the old National Guard Armory for a token $100, City Council President Kenneth A. Yowan reported this week.
Mr. Yowan said representatives of the state Department of General Services reached a tentative agreement with city officials last week.
The state tentatively agreed not to hold the city to a 1980 lease in which Westminster officials agreed to pay $190,000 -- the 1980 appraised value -- for the Longwell Avenue building if the city wanted to buy it when the lease expired in 2005. Westminster officials would commit themselves to renovate the building, continue to use it for community services and preserve the facade, which the Maryland Historical Trust identified as a feature contributing to Westminster's historic appearance.
The city government has been trying for nearly a year to buy the building, which houses rec programs and the Police Department.
City officials want to renovate it for additional offices and disabled accessibility, but former City Council President William F. Haifley argued strongly against investing in a building the city didn't own.
Mayor W. Benjamin Brown has been negotiating the sale with state officials.
State Del. Richard N. Dixon, who represents the 5th District, worked with Paul Schurick, chief of administration for Gov. William Donald Schaefer, on a state waiver of the fee set by the lease agreement.
"We discussed that this building is used for community use and how unfair it would be for the city to have to pay $190,000 for it," he said.
If the state Board of Public Works -- the governor, state treasurer and comptroller -- approve the sale, Westminster officials would be ready to start renovations.
Thomas B. Beyard, city director of Planning and Public Works, said his department plans to advertise next week for an architect design the renovations.
Tentative plans include moving the city Finance Department to basement space now occupied by the Police Department, scheduled to move to another building, and expanding the recreation program upstairs.
The city has budgeted $347,000 for design and construction.
Mr. Beyard said the project will involve removal of asbestos and underground fuel storage tanks and conversion from oil heat to natural gas.