Library project is a year overdue

Finksburg awaits building delayed by ecologically friendly features

November 26, 2006|By Laura McCandlish | Laura McCandlish,Sun Reporter

Finksburg residents are awaiting the construction of an environmentally-friendly library, a project that is running about a year behind schedule.

The new Finksburg library goes out to bid in March, with construction expected to take 16 months, Carroll County officials have said.

Residents were told early last year that library construction would begin this spring and take one year to complete, according to Jim Johnson, president of the Finksburg Planning and Citizens' Council.

"The library is probably the nicest thing that the county has offered us in a long time," Johnson said. "The problem is the delays. I think the environmental concerns are very important. What I'm disappointed in is the amount of time it is taking to implement these changes."

Adding a geothermal heating and cooling system to the designs set the project back, since the system requires digging test wells to see if the surrounding soil is suitable.

A geothermal system uses the earth's core temperature to heat and cool a building. The system will increase the $3.8 million price tag originally estimated for the library, but it will eventually realize savings in energy costs, according to Thomas J. Rio, chief of the Carroll County Bureau of Building Construction.

"We don't know whether we're on budget or not right now," Rio said.

The 15,000-square-foot library, with its slanted triangular roof, and a new gateway monument welcoming folks to Finksburg will serve as focal points in the community along Route 140.

Drawings of the library's floor plan and exterior are available on the Carroll County Public Library's Web site (www.library.carr.org/finksburg.asp).

The Finksburg library and the new Ebb Valley Elementary School will be the first county-funded buildings to use geothermal systems.

The post offices in Keymar, New Windsor and Union Bridge and a few dormitories at McDaniel College in Westminster also use geothermal heat.

The rising costs of labor and materials and the scarcity of contractors could also cause the Finksburg project to grow more expensive between now and March, Rio said.

Residents will be able to learn about the library's other numerous "green" features at a touch-screen monitor to be placed at the building's entrance. Some of those key features include storm water management to capture and reuse rainwater, regionally manufactured materials and renewable types of plywood that grow rapidly.

"A lot of folks are promoting the sexy stuff, like green roofs and windmills," Rio said, paraphrasing a speaker he heard at a green building conference. "But most of the sensible stuff is behind the scenes and not in plain sight, not readily recognizable by a library user."

The 72,000-square-foot Ebb Valley school will require 140 wells to power its geothermal system and will cost $300,000 more than a conventional air conditioning and furnace unit, Rio said. He said that system is expected to pay for itself in less than six years.

Since the smaller Finksburg library will only require about 40 wells, the payback period on the system should be shorter, Rio said.

Lynn Wheeler, director of the Carroll County Public Library system, said she is excited about a library that could serve 30,000 residents in a growing area.

She hopes the Finksburg facility will open by fall 2008, shortly after the library headquarters relocates into the old New Windsor Middle School.

Both library projects are encountering some obstacles in securing State Highway Administration funds to build sidewalks and crosswalks along surrounding roads to make both sites more pedestrian friendly, said Ralph E. Green, county director of general services.

Because Finksburg isn't an incorporated municipality, the area doesn't have as much pull, Johnson said. The county's eight municipalities get notified more readily about pending legislation and meetings, such as a recent one with state transportation officials, Johnson added.

"We're not a squeaky wheel," said Johnson, a retired construction worker. "We don't have any authority. Residents are happy that it's going to happen, but they're wondering, `Are we really going to get a library?'"

laura.mccandlish@baltsun.com

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