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Most at Hancock library meeting favor park location for new building

August 08, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • Norma Emery of Hancock speaks during the public comment portion of the Hancock Town Council meeting Wednesday in support of locating the new library in the town's Widmeyer Park.
By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

HANCOCK — Hancock’s mayor and three of its four council members expressed their support for a new War Memorial Library in Widmeyer Park during a public hearing at Wednesday’s town council meeting.

Most of the more than two dozen people who spoke at the hearing also supported that view.

Members of the Washington County Free Library System’s Board of Trustees and Washington County Commissioners Terry Baker and Jeffrey A. Cline attended the meeting, as well as about 100 residents of the town and surrounding area.

“Hancock needs, and is certainly due, a new library,” Mayor Daniel Murphy said at the beginning of the hearing. He was joined by Councilmen Tim Smith, Dennis Hudson and Sinclair Hamilton in saying they want a new library in the park.

“A library located downtown would help the town come back,” said Councilman Nigel Dardar, who supports the view of those who think a new library should be located in town.

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The library system’s board of trustees last week held a meeting at the existing library attended by about 70 people. Murphy, Sinclair and Town Manager David Smith previously were on a nine-member committee that included library representatives and Hancock Chamber of Commerce appointees.

A library feasibility study looked at the possibility of an 8,000-square-foot building with 32 parking spaces, Penny Pittman, president of the Hancock Chamber of Commerce, said last week.

A downtown location could include the former Hendershot’s Sporting Goods, along with some other contiguous properties.

Murphy said last week that he and the council favor keeping the library in the park. Park land could be donated as an in-kind contribution, while building downtown would remove properties from the tax rolls.

Pittman said last week that she favors the downtown site, in part, to spur economic revitalization. No new commercial buildings have been built along Main Street in more than 30 years, she said.

Opened in 1969, the existing War Memorial Library flooded in 1985 and twice in 1995, prompting the town to move the structure to a higher point in Widmeyer Park, Mary Baykan, director of the Washington County Free Library System, said last week.

A replacement library would cost in the neighborhood of $3 million, which would come in the form of state and county grants and a local capital campaign that could include contributions from the town, said Art Callaham, president of the library’s board of trustees.

Whatever the decision of the council, the library board would have to go to the state and county with a plan and be approved for funding, board member Greg Snook said.

“The challenge is having a unified voice when we go to Annapolis for the money,” Snook said.

“Obviously, community opinion is very important,” said Al Martin, another member of the board of trustees.

“I think the decision and recommendation (on a site) should come from the mayor and town council,” Cline said before the meeting.

Several of the residents who spoke said they supported the park as a location because land could be donated by the town and there would be no acquisition and demolition costs.

The cost of acquiring properties for a library could exceed $500,000, Smith said.

Others said the park was a safer location.

Amy McCumbee favored the park because her home on West Main Street was one of the properties being considered for acquisition.

Only a handful of residents spoke in favor of the downtown option.

Dr. Ralph Salvagno said putting the library in the park would result in a loss of green space, and that a library downtown could serve as an economic engine.

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