Council focuses on city's future Fire department, downtown properties dominate agenda


Handling an agenda devoted largely to the future of Westminster's downtown business district, the City Council voted Monday night to donate $100,000 toward a planned $1.3 million volunteer fire department headquarters.

The mayor and council members also heard the final recommendation of the West Main Street Reconstruction Task Force, which has spent more than a year deciding on a plan to smooth traffic near Western Maryland College, then talked about new uses for the Main Street post office, which is due to be replaced by a new building at the Englar Business Center.

As expected, the council approved the purchase an an option on the former Farmers Supply Co., a key downtown property. The unusual action would allow the city to acquire the historic site, then sell it to a developer, Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan said.

The move to acquire the Farmers Supply property is a first for the city, said Thomas B. Beyard, the city's director of planning and public works. The option had been discussed previously by the council in closed sessions.

"The interesting part will be when we call for proposals for the site," he said. The property, which had been on the market since 1989, includes a historic stone building on a 1-acre plot at West Green and Liberty streets.

Farmers Supply, along with the 100-year-old fire department building, the post office and the J.C. Penney Co. building on West Main Street, were identified in a 1994 consultant's report as the key properties in the future of the downtown business district.

"Something positive is happening on each [of the four sites]," said Councilman Damian Halstead. "We have to stay the course. It's very exciting."

The fire hall, with its distinctive clock tower, seems destined to become a retail and office building after renovation by Max Realty Inc., which is noted for two other downtown redevelopment projects, the old Penney's building and the Winchester Exchange, a complex of shops and offices.

David Max said the three weight-bearing walls inside the fire hall will dictate its use.

The fire company is expected to remain at the site for about two years, until the new headquarters is completed on 3.5 acres at 28 John St., the former Smith & Reifsnider lumber yard.

While the futures of key properties are being determined, the street itself is due for a streamlining, according to the West Main Street plan, which was laid out in color across the back wall of the council chamber Monday night.

Rejecting a traffic circle, the group recommended a realignment to recognize Uniontown Road as the main thoroughfare.

As outlined by Beyard and officials from the State Highway Administration, the plan would improve visibility for drivers and pedestrians at intersections, mark parking spaces, improve sidewalks and add trees. A traffic signal could be added, if needed.

"We feel it can be tied together to make a good, unified street," Beyard said. Construction money probably won't be available until the 1999 fiscal year.

With about two dozen fire company members present Monday night, Councilman L. Gregory Pecoraro, who heads the finance committee, read a resolution praising the decades of faithful and selfless service by the members of the Westminster Fire Company and Hose Company No. 1.

"That million and a half [goal] looks a lot closer today than it did nine months ago," said Thomas Ferguson, chairman of the fund-raising drive and chief executive officer of Carroll County Bank & Trust Co.

"You are really demonstrating your support and sending a strong message to the community," he told the council.

Pub Date: 9/11/96

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