New hopes lent to plan for library

Commissioners want to include branch in construction proposal

Modest facility considered

E. Carroll project must vie for tight county budget dollars

May 16, 2000|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

A new library for Finksburg is likely to remain a priority for the county commissioners, even though the $1.7 million project had been cut from Carroll's six-year building plan.

In a brief public meeting yesterday, the commissioners said they would like to include a Finksburg library in the plan, which outlines construction projects scheduled for 2001 to 2006. The commissioners did not say when money would be available for the project or when construction would begin.

"With all the new residents in that area, there may be justification for a Finksburg library," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell. "I think [the library board] should develop some data and put it in their budget for consideration next year."

The Carroll County Public Library requested this year that a 5,000-square-foot branch be built in Finksburg in 2002. The planning commission endorsed the request, but the county budget office cut it from the proposed construction plan.

"There is simply not enough money to meet everyone's expectations," said county budget Director Steven D. Powell.

The Board of Education requested a $9 million funding increase over last year's budget, which is more than the total of new revenue available to the county.

Finksburg residents have sought a library for more than a decade. In response to public demand, the library board has repeatedly asked the county commissioners to fund the project.

Each year, from 1987 to 1996, the board asked the commissioners for planning money. And each year, the board rejected the request.

"After 10 years, we kind of gave up," said Scott Reinhart, assistant director of library operations. "In 1996, the economy wasn't doing well and we were facing serious cuts. We think now is the right time to move forward."

Reinhart noted public support for a Finksburg library and the community's location -- a 15-minute drive from the nearest branch, in Westminster -- as good reasons to build the facility.

Finksburg residents addressed the commissioners May 4, during a public hearing on the budget, and asked them to include the library in the county's spending plan.

Laura O'Callaghan, a vocal proponent of building a Finksburg library who testified at the hearing, was not available for comment yesterday.

The library board has proposed building a branch that would be open 30 hours a week, including several evenings and Saturdays. With a staff of three, its annual operating costs would be about $120,000.

The branch would not be as big as the county's five regional libraries and could be a storefront facility.

"At this point, we're not sure whether we'll be requesting a storefront or a stand-alone library," Reinhart said. "It depends on the direction the commissioners would like us to take."

Faced with a tight budget, the commissioners are trying to cut spending across the board. For instance, they are asking the Board of Education to explore alternative means of cooling classrooms -- such as tinted windows -- that would be less expensive than installing air-conditioning systems.

The commissioners' proposed budget calls for spending $3.6 million in 2004 and 2006 to air-condition schools. Seven schools in the county lack air-conditioning systems or are only partially air-conditioned.

"Anything we can do to alleviate the problem, I think we should do," said Dell. The commissioners will further discuss their spending plan tomorrow, during a public meeting at the County Office Building in Westminster. They are expected to adopt a spending plan May 23.

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