Expanding Library Needs in Harford

April 08, 1993

After ill-fated, tentative plans to relocate the Bel Air library outside the town, the Harford County administration is moving toward rebuilding and expanding the existing facility on Hickory Avenue.

That would seem to be a wise decision, keeping the branch in the county seat while looking to place "central" services at other locations with more space. It apparently won't cost much more than grander plans to build a large library and headquarters outside Bel Air.

Money for a feasibility study to double the size of the Bel Air library is included in the fiscal 1994 budget proposed by County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann. Alternate designs for the library project would be presented for study, addressing such troublesome problems as handicapped access, adequate parking and foundation support.

Keeping the Bel Air library in Bel Air is important to the town and to the county seat. This study may conclude that an expanded, renovated facility on the current site is not feasible. But at least it will be given a fair hearing.

Over the past year, the administration, the library board and the school board floated proposals for a land swap that would allow a new central library to be built off Route 24 by the Wakefield Elementary School. School officials would take over the Bel Air library for their offices. The library board hoped to build a new, larger library and consolidate headquarters functions on the seven acres owned by the board of education.

Trouble is, there was real citizen opposition in the town. The Bel Air commissioners finally took a stand opposing the idea. Now, the Harford county executive has decided to take a closer look at rehabbing the Hickory Avenue library.

The county is also moving to double the size of the Edgewood branch, and the library board proposes a new branch in the burgeoning Abingdon area. Mrs. Rehrmann is considering locating a research and technical library at Harford Community College, to remove one more "central" burden from the Bel Air facility. (The library system administration is housed at Riverside, not in Bel Air.)

Harford County's proposed fiscal 1994 budget, up 9 percent from last year with an $8 million surplus and no increase in the property tax rate, is healthy enough to support these library system expansion plans. After a year of political squabbles over library policy and finances, and County Council control, it is time to set these positive plans in motion to serve Harford readers.

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