Plans for 'green' library on brownfield shared

June 06, 2010|By RICHARD F. BELISLE
  • The Shepherdstown (W.Va.) Public Library splits South King Street in two at its intersection with German Street.
Richard F. Belisle, Staff Writer

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va.-- Calling it an important community cornerstone, Mayor Jim Auxer on Saturday pledged the weight of the town behind a plan to build a new Shepherdstown Public Library on a 4.5-acre tract that was once the town dump.

"The corporation is behind this," Auxer told an audience of about 50 people in Shepherd University's Byrd Center for Legislative Studies at a public meeting to explain the library's plan to build a "green" library on what is now a brownfield.

A brownfield, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, is an abandoned industrial or commercial site possibly containing hazardous or contaminated materials that could be available for reuse after proper cleanup.

The dump, off Cherry Lane behind Elmwood Cemetery, opened in 1954 and closed in 1969. The site was assessed in 2001 by the EPA.

One study showed that the layer of refuse dumped on the site over the years ranged from 1 foot to 13 feet deep.


The land is owned by the town and available at no cost to the library, should the project proceed.

The cost to clean up the site, build access roads and utilities, the building itself, plus furnishings and amenities, could run as high as $10 million, Library Director Hali Taylor told the audience Saturday.

"That's shooting for the moon," Taylor said. "It's a big vision that engenders a big challenge."

A brownfield, said Patrick Kirby, director of the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, is land that "someday somebody comes along with a plan for the reuse of the property. It is not a brownfield forever. It's a method to get funding, a foot in the door."

A brownfield can be contaminated or have a perception of contamination, said Don Martin, assistant director of the Division of Land Restoration of the West Virginia Department of Environment Protection.

A "risk-based cleanup," rather than "a pristine cleanup" of a brownfield site can still protect public health and the environment, Martin said.

The Shepherdstown Public Library was created in 1922 by the Shepherdstown Women's Club in what was once an old open market building built in 1800. Today, the small, two-story white library building splits South King Street in two at its intersection with German Street.

With only 2,000 square feet on two floors, the library has room for only four public computers: three downstairs and one on the second floor, which houses the children's library, Taylor said.

The main floor has a small public table with two chairs and three tables, and there are 20 chairs in the children's department. There is no office space and a tiny restroom.

"We have 2,000 square feet. We need 10,5000 square feet," Taylor said.

The library's shelves hold about 2,000 items, Taylor said.

"We need space for 43,000, a comfortable reading room, more public computer space and more parking. We're ready for another metamorphosis," she said. "We are long overdue."

Taylor said the little white building would always serve some type of library function, possibly as a downtown public reading room.

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