County’s Capital Improvement Plan Priorities Projects

SNOW HILL – A new Berlin library, road paving, park expansion and school improvements top the county’s latest capital improvement plan.

The county commissioners this week approved the 2017-2021 Worcester County Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), the document outlining major projects set for the foreseeable future.

“The capital improvement plan is a planning document whose purpose is to identify future and capital projects,” said Harold Higgins, the county’s chief administrative officer. “Our purpose in presenting this is to let you know potential financial needs.”

In FY 2017, the new Berlin library proposed for Harrison Avenue is slated to receive another $2.2 million from Worcester County.  The project, which is currently in the design process, will replace the aging Berlin library with a new 11,000 square foot space. In all the county is expected to provide $5.2 million for the project.

“The current Berlin branch is 45 years old and functionally obsolete for use as a public library,” wrote Jennifer Ranck, acting director of the Worcester County Library, in the CIP. “The library outgrew the space years ago and the staff have been creatively accommodating severe space limitations ever since.”

The CIP also earmarks $2 million in FY 2017 for road paving, and $1 million toward the design of a new HVAC system at the Worcester County Jail. The new system, which should decrease oil consumption and reduce maintenance expenses, is expected to cost another $9 million to build.

Beyond 2017, the CIP outlines funding for a variety of other major projects. It includes $37.3 million for Showell Elementary School, $10.6 million for a Stephen Decatur Middle School addition and $2.6 million toward a new academic building at Wor-Wic Community College. It also includes $2.3 million for the purchase of and development of land to expand Showell Park. According to Paige Hurley, the county’s director of parks and recreation, there are plans to acquire 40 acres of land adjacent to the park on Route 589. The additional land would allow for expanded programing at the park as well as space to develop multipurpose fields and a concession stand.

“Without this park expansion, our department will not be able to expand our programming offering,” Hurley wrote in the CIP. “We will also not be able to keep up with current industry trends/standards. We will stay at status quo. This facility would allow us to become a premiere destination for larger sporting events. We would be able to host our own events instead of helping other area organizations.”

According to Hurley the project, which will start with a land purchase, would cost $2.3 million overall but could be completed in phases.

When questioned by the commissioners, he said the purchase of the property needed had been complicated by the fact that the landowner had died. He said he was in the process of trying to negotiate with the individual who’d inherited the property.