Finksburg library symbolizes growth, conservation

May 28, 2006|By LAURA MCCANDLISH | LAURA MCCANDLISH,SUN REPORTER

The Finksburg branch of the Carroll County Public Library will become the county's first "green" building when it is expected to open late next year.

But even in this community committed to agricultural land preservation, an environmentally friendly library symbolizes growth to residents. The sustainable building complements Finksburg's conservation efforts, yet it could draw new residents to the region.

"We'd like to keep the agricultural heritage and preserve it as long as we can," said Jim Johnson, president of the Finksburg Planning Area Council. "But it's difficult as we continue to grow. There's no question that once a library becomes a reality, you tend to grow more."

As the county prepares to receive bids this summer for the $3.8 million building, several additional green features are being debated. Topping that list is a geothermal heating and cooling system, which could cost an additional $325,000 with the expectation of significant energy savings.

Thomas J. Rio, chief of the county's Bureau of Building Construction, will report to the commissioners this week on how soon the library would see those savings.

"We have to look at the associated operating costs over time to see if it is cost-effective," said Steven D. Powell, the commissioners' chief of staff.

With electric bills expected to increase substantially this summer, some Finksburg residents said a geothermal system would be worthwhile.

Rio said that 60 wells would have to be dug, some 400-feet deep, for the system. Because geothermal energy uses the earth's temperature to heat and cool a building, less electricity is used.

"The cost savings are very significant," John Lopez, a Finksburg resident who has a geothermal system for his home, told the county commissioners. "It's not an obtrusive, large heating and cooling system."

The 15,000-square-foot building, planned at Old Westminster Pike and Greenmill Road in the Sandymount area, will be Finksburg's first library.

The library could serve 30,000 residents in a growing area, said Lynn Wheeler, director of the county's library system.

Other green enhancements being considered include solar-heated water and solar panels to produce energy, Rio said.

Obtaining official green building certification through the U.S. Green Building Council would cost the county $23,000. The county had decided not to fulfill certification requirements and cut some projects, such as a roof covered with vegetation. But if the county funds a geothermal system, certification might be easier to obtain, Rio said.

The library is the logical next step for Finksburg, said Johnson, a retired construction worker who has lived in the area for about two years.

"It will help pull the community together," he said. "We'll handle the growth, as it happens, as best as we can."

laura.mccandlish@baltsun.com

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