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Foundation seeks $35,000 for repairs

More than 100 years old, the Westminster Clock Tower has taken a licking and, for the most part, it has kept on tickin, through wars, acts of nature and even vandalism.

But the landmark clock -- first presented to the Westminster Volunteer Fire Department in 1896 -- is living on borrowed time, and needs a major overhaul to face the future.

"We could do some repairs on the clock to keep it running," said Suzanne Albert, Westminster council member. "It's been evaluated and recommended that the insides ... become digital and include chimes."

The overhaul will cost approximately $35,000, according to Albert, who last week announced the formation of a foundation, the Westminster Clock Fund, to raise private donations to make the repairs. Albert will co-chair the foundation with former mayor Kevin Dayhoff, and she donated $500 to kick things off.

"The clock really does belong to the citizens," Albert said. "Individuals could assume some of the financial responsibility."

Currently, the clock is running, though it had been silenced for some time after an act of vandalism last year, Albert said. The city had it repaired last month.

"It's kind of a miracle," Albert said of the clock maintaining current time. "There are no assurances it will continue working ... with the age of it. City Hall gets calls all the time when it's not running."

The clock was dedicated in memory of Henry Baile by his wife, Margaret Cassell Baile, on November 1896, and was donated to the fire department.

It has since become a symbol of the city for many citizens of Westminster, said Albert, who herself recalled memories of her childhood, including hearing the clock "bong" on the hour while walking to St. John's school on Main Street.

"When it gonged, it made your heart stop, particularly when you were going to be late for school," Albert said. "My dentist had a chair right over the front of Main Street. You could easily see the clock tower."

"At 10 p.m., the siren would go off and the bell would go off," added Dayhoff, of his memories of the tower during curfew years. "I had an earlier curfew with my mom."

The city bought the clock tower, located at 66 E. Main St., from the fire department about 10 years ago, purchasing a new bell for the department at the same time.

Albert credits the city's maintenance crew for doing its best to keep the clock repaired over the years.

"That's a climb to get up there," Albert said of the tower. "I have been up there and I can tell you, it's a haul."

Dayhoff is a believer that the clock tower can be a positive example of what citizens can do.

"For projects like this, folks need to come together to provide the resources for the community," he said.

Albert is excited about the foundation, which will be administered through the Community Foundation of Carroll County, and is equally excited about plans for the clock's overhaul.

"It is very much a part of my life," Albert said of the clock. "They could even put the Westminster chimes in there. That would be a thrill."


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