Proposal to obtain building debated; Taneytown considers buying old city hall to house police, staff


Main street business owners aren't the only ones skeptical about Taneytown's plans to buy back the old city hall -- Mayor W. Robert Flickinger also would prefer to look elsewhere in the quest for expanded quarters for municipal and police staff.

But Councilman Henry C. Heine Jr. says the location couldn't be better -- adjacent to and across the street from three other city buildings. The price is right, too.

"I didn't want this building to begin with," said Flickinger, who is concerned about accessibility for handicapped residents, parking, the cost of renovation and whether the building is used for police or city hall staff.

The departments have shared the building at 15-17 E. Baltimore St. for 26 years, since moving out of the old city hall across the street at 16-18 E. Baltimore St.

Last month, the council voted to purchase the old city hall, with the intention of moving either City Hall or the Police Department there. The purchase would double the 4,000 square feet of space now shared by the 21 people who work in the current building.

The city put down $1,000 with its offer, a standard deposit for a property-sale contract, said Chip Boyles, city manager. The purchase price is around $90,000, the mayor said.

Flickinger doesn't have a vote but is going along with the purchase because the council wants it, he said. But he would be happy to see the council change its mind.

"They're best off to lose the $1,000 and get out of it," he said.

That was the same sentiment expressed by the mayor's distant relative, barbershop owner Marvin Flickinger, whose shop is three doors down from the old city hall.

Marvin Flickinger and other businesspeople attended the Feb. 8 council meeting to urge the panel not to put the police in the old city hall. They worried about losing parking and argued that the location wouldn't be convenient for police cruisers.

Heine said parking spaces wouldn't be sacrificed under the city's plan, but he prefers not to put the police across the street because it could affect their response time. Cruisers now park in the lot next to city hall and can easily travel east or west on East Baltimore Street from there. If they move across the street, the cruisers would have to make a U-turn to go west.

Heine said the building would still be a wise purchase. The other buildings are a pharmacy, now vacant, and the community center, which is leased to the county.

"We'd almost be foolish to turn the deal down," he said. "It closely borders on almost a donation."

He said the building's owner, Yvonne Herring, initiated the deal.

The city had already lost out to a higher bid on a different building farther down the street, now used by The Taney Corp. Mayor Flickinger said he preferred that building for its street-level space, accessibility and extra space that he envisioned as a youth center. It would have been great for a police headquarters, he said.

"I wanted to have it down the street," the mayor said. "[The council] said that's too far away from City Hall. I said Westminster doesn't have its police station next to its City Hall. I don't know why they have to be under our thumb."

Ultimately, the city lost out to a bid in excess of $200,000, the mayor said.

For Heine, that only emphasizes the value of the old city hall.

"We are $30,000 below what we planned for," Heine said. The council had set aside $125,000 to purchase property for additional office or police station space. Even with renovations, he said, it won't approach the cost of the building the mayor preferred.

Although some of the council members want to restore the vacant pharmacy next to the old city hall, Heine said the place is in such bad shape that it could possibly be razed. That would provide the kind of parking and eliminate access problems that opponents of the purchase bring up.

The city manager and staff are looking at the current and former city hall, and drawing up the two scenarios -- moving the police there, or moving city offices there. The other scenario is to back out and look elsewhere. Boyles said that could be done without forfeiting the deposit, but Heine doesn't expect the council to back out.

"With the price we got, it would be hard to turn down," Heine said.

Pub Date: 2/21/99

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