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Library money expected soon

April 13, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

SMITHSBURG - The Town of Smithsburg soon could receive federal grant money previously approved for its library project, representatives from two U.S. senators' offices said Monday.

Jesse Jacobs, press secretary for U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, said the $300,000 could be available for the project this month.

Jacobs and Amy Hagovsky, press secretary for U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, said the money was included in the omnibus appropriations bill that is part of the federal spending plan for fiscal 2004.

That money will go to the county, which plans to put it toward a new branch of the Washington County Free Library to be built at Veterans Memorial Park in Smithsburg.

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Jacobs said although the grant was official when President Bush signed off on the federal spending plan in late January, such funds usually are not available for three to six months.

"It could be about two to three weeks before we get the formal notification on that," Jacobs said.

A news release from Mikulski's office said the new library is needed in Smithsburg because the existing building is not large enough to meet the demands of the town's population, which has grown rapidly in recent years.

Statistics from the 2000 census, released in March 2001, showed Smithsburg's population grew by 78 percent from 1990 to 2000. The U.S. Census Bureau's updated estimate for Smithsburg, released in July 2003, put the population at 2,324.

The Smithsburg 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 on West Water Street. Mikulski and Sarbanes, both Maryland Democrats, pushed for the funding for the library project after residents began writing them letters requesting aid.

Board President Judith Ferro has said the board asked the senators in a letter written in January 2003 to try to obtain $350,000 for the project.

Board members have said a total of $1.1 million has been raised for the project, including the federal grant.

Jerome Martin, the Smithsburg Town Council's liaison to the board, said he was excited and relieved to hear the funds have come through for the project.

"At this point it's not a pipe dream anymore, it's a reality," Martin said. "But I'll be a true believer when I see the first shovel going into the ground."

Martin said construction could begin by fall.

Although the cost of the project is estimated at $1 million, Martin said the board plans to continue fund-raising efforts to created a "financial cushion" in case unforeseen costs arise.

"The way the prices of everything are rising, we're going to need every penny of the $1.1 million," he said.

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