Land Swap Could Solve Library's Space Woes

January 12, 1992|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

An old-fashioned land swap may be the solution to the modern day storage, crowding and parking nightmares at the Bel Air library.

The Harford County Library's Board of Trustees is considering trading theexisting Bel Air branch building on Hickory Avenue to the Board of Education.

In exchange, the library would get seven acres on MacPhail Road, part of the Homestead-Wakefield Elementary School property.

"It's about as perfect a swap as you could ask for. Two community problems solved at once," said Philip A. Place, director of the library system. "It's one of the most hidden pieces of land in the county. It took a lot of sleuthing to find it."

The swap would save taxpayers the estimated $2 million purchase price of land for a new library building, and would save the school board the cost of constructing new headquarters, estimated at $6.9 million, said library and school administrators.

Library and school officials say the proposed deal could mean new administrative offices for the Board of Education, now locatedin a former school that is more than 100 years old, and a new, larger Bel Air library with nearly 10 times more parking spaces than the existing branch.

Place said he and the Board of Trustees had searched hard to find a new location that was within the Bel Air town limits. The site for the proposed branch is 1.3 miles from the current branch.

The new branch, which would cost about $4 million to build, could open in 1995, Place said.

Albert Seymour, a spokesman for theBoard of Education, said the school board has wanted to build an administrative center for more than 10 years.

"It's even in this year's proposed capital budget, which calls for bidding out the project in November of 1993, and completion in September 1995, but, of course,we have no money for it," said Seymour. "We estimate it would cost about $6.9 million to build a 60,000-square-foot facility."

A new administrative center would solve the space problem at the two-story Gordon Street headquarters. The Board of Education now spends more than $100,000 a year to rent additional office space at 23 North Main Street, Seymour said.

The library location also would resolve concerns about access for the handicapped. Board of Education meetings are held on the second floor of the Gordon Street building, which has no elevator.

"It's not a done deal, but it is under serious consideration," said Seymour of the land swap.

Place said he expected negotiations to conclude within the next few months, but library administrators already have an idea what they would do with the land.

The proposed library branch would have about 45,000 square feet of space, with more than 200 parking spaces. The existing library has about 22,000 square feet and 20 parking spaces, plus limited street parking, beside and in front of the building, Place said.

Around the turn ofthe century, library administrators will consider adding another 30,000 or 40,000 square feet, Place said. That expansion would probably cost another $4 million or $5 million, he said. Both projects would be paid for with bond issues.

"Now comes the hard part," Place said. "We have to sell it to the community. Whenever you try to close a building there are people who feel they don't want it to go away. Those people will feel a loss."

To make sure the library is accessibleto all patrons, library administrators are seeking Town-Go-Round busservice to stop at the new branch, Place said.

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