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Hancock library dedicated at new site

October 16, 1998

 

By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




HANCOCK - After a two-year absence, the Hancock War Memorial Branch Library is back at Widmeyer Park, 400 feet from where it stood for more than 25 years.

That move will keep it out of harm's way in the future, town and library officials hope. It was previously located inside a flood plain and floods forced it to be closed twice in 1996 and once in 1985.

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Some of the money to pay for the relocation of the building came from a $30,000 grant from the Washington County Gaming Commission.

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The library was officially rededicated Thursday in a ceremony attended by about 100 people.

Mary Baykan, director of the Washington County Free Library system, told the gathering that when she began working here in July 1995, she was told the weather here was reasonable.

The Hancock library was devastated by a January 1996 flood. It was flooded before any books could be removed.

Hancock residents and library employees worked hard and the library, with new books and equipment, reopened about nine months later, she said. Three days later, a big September flood again overran the library building.

This time, they had 24 hours to remove as many books as they could, she said. Library employees moved books while standing in freezing water, she said. One worker was going out the back door, where she was evacuated by the fire chief as the deluge came in through the front door, she said.

The books were moved to the town community center and the library was operated there for about a year, she said.

After that flood, town and library officials decided it was time to find a solution to the recurring problem, she said. They were aware that the building meant a great deal to some local residents, including Fred Truax, the local contractor who built it, she said.

A decision was made to move the building, with former Mayor Dan Fleming leading the effort, she said. Many residents donated their time and services.

Mayor Daniel Murphy said it was great to see citizens working alongside businessmen and tradesmen during the work.

Recently, Boy Scout Troop No. 15 of Hancock moved the boxes of books to the library and they were all properly shelved in time for Thursday's rededication ceremony.

"It was a real community effort, a triumph over the flood. This community has such courage," Baykan said.

Some residents lost their homes in the floods but wanted to do all they could to ensure that the community did not also lose its library, she said.

The library is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

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