SNOW HILL – Officials from Pocomoke City are seeking the county’s support in an effort to rehabilitate the town’s vacant armory.
When Pocomoke Mayor Bruce Morrison approached the Worcester County Commissioners this week with the town’s annual budget request, he used the opportunity to ask for their help in restoring the asbestos and lead plagued armory. Morrison says it could be revamped and put to use as a youth center.
“We have a problem with the youth in Pocomoke,” Morrison said. “We’ve got to get them off the street.”
Morrison explained that while there was a YMCA in Pocomoke, it was on the opposite side of the highway from most of the town’s residents. It also isn’t an affordable option for many families.
“It’s very expensive,” Morrison said.
To provide an alternative, town leaders want to turn the old armory into a youth recreation center. The building, which previously housed the town’s police department, has been vacant for some time because of lead and asbestos issues.
Nevertheless, its location is considered ideal for a youth and recreation center. Ernest Crofoot, Pocomoke’s city manager, said it was within walking distance for 85 percent of the town’s youth.
“There’s not a transportation issue to get children to this building,” he said.
Crofoot said early estimates indicated it would take $1.5 million of work to make the armory “barely usable.”
“Our initial plan is to clear everything out so we can have an architect come in,” he said.
When asked whether the town had considered tearing the armory down and erecting a new building, Crofoot explained that the Maryland Historical Trust was opposed to the demolition of old armories.
Morrison added that the gym in the armory was in relatively good shape and would be a place the area’s youth would appreciate.
“This is what we need in our community,” he said.
Though the town has sought grants for the project from the state multiple times, Morrison said those requests have been denied. He’s hoping that funding might be easier to come by if Pocomoke had the county’s support.
“We very seldom at the south end of the county come to you for anything…,” he said. “We need some strong backing.”
Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw, who represents the Pocomoke area, praised the concept.
“I’m very enthusiastic about this and what could be done there,” he said.
Lockfaw added that he’d made his fellow commissioners aware that the young people in the south end of the county would benefit from more opportunities.
“This is a desperate need,” he said.
While Pocomoke’s leaders were only asking for support in their effort to rehab the armory, they did present the commissioners with a budget request of $450,000 for general purposes and $450,000 for emergency services. They also asked for $55,000 to replace police car on-board radios.
The commissioners are expected to begin budget work sessions later this month.