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2 brothers hope to buy city fire hall Robert, David Max want to purchase volunteer's building; Negotiations are off now; Officials interested in preserving landmark clock tower


Brothers David M. and Robert Max, who own two office buildings in downtown Westminster, want to buy the city volunteer fire company's historic fire hall at 66 E. Main St.

Fire company officials say they are eager to sell the building, priced at $750,000. The three-story domed structure has been the firefighters' base for 100 years but is too small to house modern firefighting equipment.

Firefighters say Main Street traffic makes it difficult to get fire equipment onto the street.

Westminster city government is not involved in the negotiations, which began about two months ago, but officials want to ensure that the buyer will preserve the century-old clock tower that has become a landmark and that appears on city logos.

"Regardless of who purchases it, we'd be interested in maintaining some kind of control over the clock tower and in maintaining the clock," said Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan.

Robert Max declined to say what plans he and his brother have for the building.

"We don't have a deal yet," he said. He said negotiations are off "for the moment," but he wouldn't say what stands in the way.

James E. Bangerd III, president of the fire company, also declined to discuss details.

"Nothing has been agreed upon yet. It would be very premature of me to get into a discussion now," he said.

The fire company wants to sell the building and lease it from the buyer until a new fire station is constructed on a 3-acre site at 28 John St., formerly occupied by Smith & Reifsnider Lumber and Home Center.

Proceeds from the sale will go toward the $1.8-million purchase price for the site.

The Max brothers' company, Winchester Exchange Ltd. Partnership, hasn't divulged its plans for the fire hall to Greater Westminster Development Corp. (GWDC), a group that tries to promote and retain city businesses.

But GWDC President James H. Dulany IV is confident that the historic building would remain an asset to the business district if the brothers buy it. David Max is a member of the GWDC executive board.

"In the past, Mr. Max has done such a good job with his downtown Westminster ventures, we'd like to see him continue to progress," Dulany said.

The Max brothers bought the Winchester Exchange building at 9-19 E. Main St. in 1991 for $711,000 and renovated it.

The building houses five retail stores, two delicatessens and 15 offices, including the Carroll County bureau of The Sun.

The brothers bought the former J. C. Penney Co. Inc. store at 56 W. Main St. in 1994 for $290,000 and renovated it.

The building, named Winchester West, houses eight offices, including city government finance and housing offices, community development offices and personnel offices as well as a beauty salon. The fire company is engaged in a $1.5 million capital campaign to raise money for the projected $3.2 million cost of building its new fire station.

The company can expect what Councilman L. Gregory Pecoraro called "a substantial contribution" from the city, if the full council approves.

Pecoraro, who heads the finance committee, declined to say exactly how much city money the committee will recommend donating to the fire company.

Pecoraro is scheduled to make a recommendation at the Sept. 9 council meeting.

The fire company had received $1.2 million in pledges by late last month, according to Thomas K. Ferguson, the campaign chairman.

Pub Date: 8/16/96

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