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Town searches for library site

January 02, 2001

Town searches for library site



By ANDREW SCHOTZ / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

Smithsburg LibraryThe quest for a new library in town will be a top priority this year.

Town Council members surveyed Tuesday also mentioned the 27-acre Veterans Park, repaving on Main Street and recycling as other important projects and issues they expect to face.

The Washington County Free Library is trying to replace its branches in Smithsburg and Boonsboro with larger ones. The library also wants to add space to its main branch in Hagerstown.

A study released in October by Gilbert Architects of Lancaster, Pa., indicated that it would cost about $2.6 million to construct a 9,953-square-foot library in Smithsburg within three years.

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Many agree that the current 1,096-square-foot building on East Water Street is cramped and needs to be replaced.

Mary Baykan, director of the Washington County Free Library, called the one-story stone library "a very picturesque cottage."

"It looks like something out of 'The Quiet Man,'" she said. "You expect John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara to come bounding out of the door."

The library needs more room for periodicals, computers, seating, restrooms and books, the Gilbert report states. A meeting room and a story-time room are on the wish list, too.

"It's so small, they have one table and a couple of wicker chairs," Baykan said.

"If they put a new book on the shelf, they literally have to take another one off," said Smithsburg Councilman Mike Rohrer.

Baykan said a new branch would likely be much smaller than the "worst-case scenario" Gilbert Architects projected.

"If I were queen for a day, that's what I'd have," is how Judith Ferro, president of the Smithsburg Library Board, described the consultant's recommendation.

Ferro said 6,000 to 8,000 square feet is more reasonable than the 9,900 mentioned in the report.

It's likely that the Smithsburg library will cost no more than $900,000, or approximately $100 per square foot, Baykan said.

That guideline comes from the estimated $779,000 price tag for an 8,000-square-foot library now being built in Clear Spring.

Baykan said the Gilbert report assumes a more expensive engineered building in Smithsburg, not a prefabricated one, which the library prefers.

"I don't think we need that big a library in Smithsburg right away," said Rohrer, who cautioned that the town needs to slow its spending this year to cope with a "softening" economy.

A search for a parcel that could support a building and parking lot is under way.

Ferro said Tuesday that the library board is pursuing a possible deal for land in town.

The library board may discuss the potential parcel when it meets with the town's Park Commission and Town Council members Monday.

The Gilbert report states that a new branch should be on 4 to 10 acres, which limits the choices.

Rohrer said the Town Council will push to keep the library branch within the town's limits. But if that isn't possible, a few acres outside of the town could be purchased and annexed, he said.

There has been debate about putting the branch in the new Veterans Park, west of Town Hall.

"Having a library in it would be absolutely ideal," Ferro said.

Rohrer said the odds are now about 50-50 that the library will stay in the town, but "very much near zero" that it will be in Veterans Park, he said.

Because the town used about $230,000 in state Program Open Space funds to buy the park, there are restrictions on how the land can be used.

Rohrer chose overall plans for the park as his other top town issue of this year.

A front entrance with sidewalks, curbs and rails has been built. Funds are set aside for water and sewer services for restrooms.

"I think they've done some really good things on that right now," Rohrer said.

Councilman Charlie Slick said the county is working on plans for a parking lot.

The town has asked the county's Recreation and Parks Advisory Board for $104,430 in Program Open Space funds in the next fiscal year for a pavilion with restrooms. The town is also asking for more than $221,068 over the next five years.

Some people have called for sports fields at Veterans Park, but Rohrer said it would be expensive to level the sloped ground. He favors keeping it open and undeveloped.

Another top project this year will be the repair of two monuments that will be moved from the library to Veterans Park, Slick said.

A third monument will be added at the park, along with granite benches and landscaping.

Private contributions are paying for the work, Slick said.

"We want (the monuments) done and dedicated on Memorial Day," he said.

Councilman Jerome Martin, who's also poised to make progress on a new library branch, wants the town to start a recycling program. Currently, residents take recyclables to the Washington County Greensburg Convenience Center.

This year, Slick said, the town probably would finish resurfacing Main Street from Fire Company Lane to the schools.

Also, part of the water line along Main Street will be replaced with larger pipe, but money has not been budgeted yet, he said.

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