Groups clash over Shepherdstown library location

March 13, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — An effort to build a modern library on a donated 4.5-acre brownfield site outside town was moving forward in recent months until proponents say it was “short circuited” by some local merchants and residents who are demanding that the library stay in town.

Opponents of the brownfield site west of town, led by Meridith Wait, president of the 24-member Shepherdstown Business Association, came up with their own building — the one that housed the former W.H. Knode’s Sons Southern States farm store on the corner of East Washington and South Princess streets.

Both sides presented their case to the Shepherdstown Town Council Tuesday night. Other than appointing the five members of the Shepherdstown Public Library Board of Trustees, the town council has little say on the issue.

Libby Sturm, trustees president, said so far the board has secured a $200,000 state grant to clean up the brownfield. It was the site of the Shepherdstown town dump, from 1954 to 1969.

The trustees have also raised nearly $500,000 in a building fund.

The projected cost of a new structure on the brownfield is around $6 million. It would be built in phases, Sturm said. “The $6 million is a starting point. It can be scaled back,” she said.

A new building would replace the small, but popular library that splits South King Street in the middle of town.

“The board feels that the process of getting to where we were going with the capital planning campaign was short-circuited,” by the SBA’s move to the Southern States building, Sturm said.

The trustees toured the Southern States building in 2010 when a donor, who has asked to remain anonymous, offered to buy it and lease it to the library. The trustees decided that it wasn’t suitable then and last month when they toured the building again, Sturm said.

Wait’s campaign is circulating a petition that asks the library trustees to “generate and produce a cost comparison and feasibility study on the Southern States property as an alternative site. We will continue to push this,” she said.

Speakers supporting both positions spoke Tuesday.

Jay Hurley, owner of O’Hurley’s General Store across the street from the Southern States building, said it was once the foundation for an old mill. “It could support a building with three floors. It’s a great site,” he said.

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