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Washington County library reopening delayed again

Contractor granted another extension; $24 million reconstruction originally was scheduled to be completed in November 2012

April 02, 2013|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • This Herald-Mail file photo shows the soon-to-be completed Washington County Free Library central branch in downtown Hagerstown. Another extension has been granted to the contractor for the central library, delaying its opening likely until mid-summer.
Herald-Mail file photo

Another extension has been granted to the contractor for the Washington County Free Library system’s central library, delaying its opening likely until mid-summer, library officials said Tuesday.

Three approved extensions had been granted through the end of May, but another is needed, library Board of Trustees member John Schnebly said at the State of the Library meeting and budget presentation, which was attended by the Washington County Board of Commissioners and the Hagerstown mayor and City Council.

Mary Baykan, the library’s director of administration, said later Tuesday that the $24 million reconstruction originally was scheduled to be completed in November 2012, then reset for January and then March. The project at the corner of South Potomac and East Antietam streets in Hagerstown is about 90 percent complete, she said.

Once the reconstruction is complete, it will take a few weeks to move in inventory, furniture and staff before the building is open to the public, Baykan said. The new library should open in July, she said.

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The extensions were due to extenuating circumstances, including problems with the ground that required additional excavation and new fill dirt to be brought in, Baykan said. Underground fuel tanks were discovered that had to be removed, and there were some weather-related delays, she said.

The building, which is almost twice the size of the original library, will need additional staff, library Treasurer Al Martin said during the budget presentation portion of the meeting. The library is requesting two full-time and three part-time associate librarians at a cost of $120,755, he said.

The reconstructed library will have two floors instead of one and a new teen student study area that will require oversight, Baykan said.

An operating budget had yet to be established for the new library, county Administrator Gregory B. Murray said during a break in the meeting. The board of commissioners should come to a decision in the next few weeks on how much of the library system’s funding requests will be approved, he said.

For fiscal 2014, which begins July 1, the library system is asking the county for an additional $233,855 to $2,934,685, Martin told the commissioners and other guests. The total being requested by the library system for 2014 is $4,415,202, he said.

The state’s contribution to the library’s budget would be unchanged at $1,158,055, according to Martin’s budget summary.

Tuesday’s meeting was held in the former Phoenix Color building off Western Maryland Parkway, where much of the inventory of the old library has been stored since it closed more than two years ago for the reconstruction project.

Baykan said perhaps half of the 320,000 books and other materials the county library system has in stock are at Phoenix Color, awaiting the opening of the new library.

While the books are in a warehouse, they are not out of circulation, Baykan said. Each day, staff members ship out 65 or more book boxes, each weighing up to 62 pounds, to the nine branches, including the North Pointe and downtown branches that opened to serve the city when the old library closed. In addition to books, the building houses the bookmobile.

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