THE WESTMINSTER CITY COUNCIL is putting its money -- and commitment -- where its mouth is, in pushing to revitalize the downtown area. It demonstrates that the effort goes far beyond plans to update the facade and sign code of buildings in the county seat's central district.
In an aggressive effort to find a desirable buyer for the 115-year-old Farmer's Supply Co., the council took a 10-month option on the Green Street property for $100. That will allow the municipality to directly market the property, offered at $500,000, with possible tax concessions or tax-free revenue bonds as incentives.
Because the town center corporation recently reorganized as a non-profit agency, it is eligible to seek state and federal business development grants for the former cannery, which it could not do as a government entity.
The council also pledged $100,000 to the Westminster Volunteer Fire Company to finance a new firehouse on John Street. The firefighters are trying to raise $1.5 million to move from their century-old East Main Street headquarters to a new location a quarter-mile away.
"That support sends a strong message to the rest of the community," said Thomas Ferguson, who heads the fund-raising campaign.
The firemen hope to sell the existing firehouse to Westminster real estate developers, which would keep the site alive for business activity. The fire company will be in bigger quarters on a less-congested street, but still centrally located for emergency responses.
Two new county projects will also bolster downtown development. The Carroll County schools administration will consolidate in new central offices after 30,000-square feet of space are added to a Court Street office building. Moving from scattered rented locations, the new school offices will house all but the system's operations and maintenance departments.
The schools move will free up needed space for Circuit Court offices, which share the Courthouse Annex with the Board of Education. Meanwhile, an addition to the County Office Building will combine several county agencies now housed at different sites around town.
Maintaining its history while looking to the future, Westminster is moving to meet the challenge of change to its downtown.
Pub Date: 09/18/96