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Library funding waits for Bush's signature

January 29, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

A federal grant benefiting efforts to build the new Smithsburg library at Veteran's Park is in the hands of President Bush following the Senate's approval last week of the 2004 Omnibus appropriations bill.

The $300,000 grant is contained in the appropriations bill that is part of the federal spending plan for fiscal year 2004. It will go toward the library if the president signs the measure without changes.

Mary Baykan, director of the Washington County Free Library system, said she has been notified by representatives of U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski and U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes that the grant money is still in the federal budget, which was approved by the Senate on Thursday.

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Baykan said Mikulski and Sarbanes, both Maryland Democrats, pushed for the funding for the Smithsburg library project after residents began writing them letters requesting aid.

Baykan said Bush's signature is the last hurdle for the grant.

"We're just waiting now," Baykan said. "It's been a lot of holding your breath for several months and lighting candles."

Representatives from the offices of Mikulski and Sarbanes could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The library board of directors has been raising money to replace the 1,096-square-foot library on East Water Street with a 10,000-square-foot library in Veterans Memorial Park on West Water Street. The board has raised more than $800,000, board President Judith Ferro said. Ferro said the new facility is needed to meet the demands of the rapidly growing town.

Baykan lauded the broad-based efforts of library board members that have ranged from seeking federal funding to having house tours and bake sales.

"You name it, and Smithsburg's thought of it," Baykan said.

Ferro said the board asked the senators in a letter written in January 2003 to push for $350,000 for the project. She said she was surprised they were able to garner such a large percentage of the requested money, which board members believed was crucial to the project.

"We felt confident we could raise a good amount of money, but not necessarily a million," she said. "If we get this, we're good to go."

Washington County Public Works Director Gary Rohrer told Smithsburg officials last week that, with the money now in place, an architectural services bid could be sent out next month. Rohrer said the timetable includes a construction start late this summer and the completion of the building by late spring 2005.

"The financial part is lining up but there are other things we have to address before we take on this project," he said. "Everyone wants to build these yesterday. It can't always work that way."

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