Downtown Hagerstown library not expected to open until March 2013

July 31, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE |
  • Washington County Free Library Director Mary Baykan joined Joe Kroboth and the Washington County Commissioners for a construction tour of the new library Tuesday afternoon.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

Washington County’s new main library in downtown Hagerstown is expected to open in March 2013, about six months later than the original target date because of some unexpected issues, said Joseph Kroboth III, the county’s public works director.

Kroboth led the Washington County Commissioners on a tour of the new library Tuesday afternoon.
The original construction bid for the project was $15.9 million, but there have been $500,000 in approved change orders so far, Kroboth said. Several hundred thousand dollars more in change orders are expected, he said.

Two issues that workers ran into that delayed the project were poor soil conditions and the discovery of an underground tank, Kroboth said. The abandoned fuel storage tank was discovered in May 2011 and had to be removed in accordance with state environmental guidelines, according toHerald-Mailarchives.

The state is providing about $10 million, the county share is about $6 million, and the library has raised approximately $1.8 million for the library renovation and expansion, said Kathleen O’Connell, the library’s assistant director. The foundation for the late Alice Virginia and David W. Fletcher, for whom the library will be named, donated $1 million. The library needs to raise about $1 million more or dip into its endowment, she said.


At about 82,000 square feet, the new library will be about twice the size of the former downtown Hagerstown library, O’Connell said.

The new library will be slightly bigger than Frederick, Md.’s main library and about the size of the Rockville, Md., library, O’Connell said.

Visible during the tour were concrete floor foundations, two elevator shafts, metal framing for walls on the main floors, ductwork, utility pipes and several windows. Workers were busy around much of the building, including working to construct a spiral staircase in the center of the library.

The atrium housing that staircase is representative of the old railroad roundhouse in Hagerstown, as the theme of the library’s design is tied to the county’s transportation history, library officials said. That history will be featured in murals, O’Connell said.

The top of the atrium is a glass roof with a metal design.

The children’s area, on the main floor along South Potomac Street, will have a story-time room and a toddler room with tactile toys to help children learn how things go together, O’Connell said.

There will be a larger young-adult area with seating and reading material such as novels, anime, manga and college catalogs, O’Connell said. The old library had a small young-adult room on the mezzanine with little seating and reading material.

WiFi will be available throughout the library, which will have more outlets for patrons’ computers, O’Connell said. The new library will have 40 public-access computers, compared to 12 in the old library, she said. A separate computer lab with 15 computers will be used for computer classes the library hosts.

The new library will have study areas and meeting rooms, including a large meeting room that could hold up to 200 people.

A community survey done before construction began showed people wanted more materials, programming and space, including meeting rooms, O’Connell said.

“It was so crowded in the other building,” O’Connell said.

The new library, at the corner of South Potomac and East Antietam streets, is being built around the old library, which opened in 1965, O’Connell said. Additional property around the library was acquired for parking.

Cramer’s Alley, behind the library, will be widened to twice its former width so tractor trailers can make deliveries to the basement bays and the bookmobile can park under shelter on the basement level, Kroboth said.

A new, one-way road is being constructed to the south of the library, where the old patron parking lot was, for drivers on South Potomac Street to enter the parking area behind the library, Kroboth said.

Todd Cummings, president of the general contractor Dustin Construction, put in a pitch for officials to have the old Massey Auto building fixed up or torn down for a park.

Kroboth said a proposal to shore up the one-story building for about $1.5 million did not make it into the county’s new budget. That proposal included installing new windows, repointing and painting the brick exterior, and putting on a new roof.

County Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham suggested Kroboth bring that proposal back to the commissioners.

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