East Wicomico Community Seeks New Library

East Wicomico Community Seeks New Library
Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver’s town hall meeting in Parsonsburg featured testimony in favor of a larger east side library. Photo by Bethany Hooper

PARSONSBURG – Residents on the east side of Wicomico County came out in droves to a town hall meeting last week to support the construction of a new library.

On Wednesday evening, Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver held his second monthly town hall meeting at the Parsonsburg Fire Department.

“I need your help telling me what’s important to you,” Culver said.

In addition to sharing their concerns regarding fire and EMS services and drainage, attendees this week also voiced their support for a larger library on the east side of Wicomico County.

The Pittsville library – currently located on school property off of Old Ocean City Road – is one of three branches of the Wicomico Public Libraries system and the only one to be based in a portable trailer.

Area resident Tonya Laird Lewis told Culver and his staff that space at the library was limited and could not accommodate the growing number of east side residents who utilize the library’s resources on a daily basis.

“Are we looking for an 8,000-square-foot building?” she said. “No, we are looking for something that will accommodate the east side of the county.”

Land acquisition, planning and construction for a new Pittsville library are in the county’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for fiscal years 2022 and 2023. The estimated project cost totals more than $4 million.

And while he acknowledged the need for additional space, and his efforts to find land suitable for a new branch, Culver outlined budget constraints and upcoming capital projects that made funding for a new library difficult.

“We have limited resources that we can use,” he said.

Lewis, however, said she wanted to ensure officials were taking every effort to follow through with plans for a new library.

“We want to make sure when you go through the CIP, that we know you are looking, that we know you are making a plan that is going to make the library we have a much better facility,” she said.

Residents on Wednesday illustrated the need for addition library space and adequate parking. They noted that library staff used every square foot of the portable trailer for resources and programming.

“My opinion is this east part of Wicomico County has been totally neglected as far as community resources go,” one resident said.

Pittsville Middle School student Brian Saucedo also shared his own experiences at the Pittsville library and advocated for a new facility.

“A new library could benefit me by having more materials and books,” he said. “The ladies at the library are wonderful and are always willing to help me when I come in. Also, a new library would allow my friends and I to get more resources for projects or homework info.”

Resident Dawn Toner said there is an immediate need for a new library on the east side of Wicomico County. She said the current facility serves community members from Pittsville, Willards, Parsonsburg and Powellville.

“When you put investments into our town, I believe it’s going to pay you back in the future,” she said.

For his part, Culver shared his efforts to identify vacant lots that could accommodate a new library. But he said residents could expect a long wait if the county were to build a facility.

“If I started right now, it would probably be two-and-a-half or three years before I could break ground …,” he said. “We aren’t letting this drag. The wheels of government don’t turn fast anyhow, but if we were to build from scratch the county part would take so long to do.”

Pittsville Police Chief Robert Harris said he didn’t question the need for a new library, but cautioned the executive as he moved forward.

“I’m not a fan of taking business property that is lucrative and functional off the tax rolls,” he said. “That’s a bad deal.”

Wicomico County Director of Administration Wayne Strausburg noted that the county should first determine the needs of the library.

“The first step needs to be a realistic space assessment,” he said. “If we are looking for buildings or vacant lots, we need a realistic idea of what the actual space needs are going to be.”

Library Director Ashley Teagle, however, encouraged residents and officials to view the library as more than just a physical space. She said a new facility could be used to provide no-cost resources to residents and business owners.

“Wicomico Public Libraries is an innovative system that is doing things in a way that other libraries are not doing …,” she said. “Yes, we are a space and a place, and we do have free internet and WiFi. But I’m always putting out the message that we are more than just books. We can really be a catalyst, working with our county executive to identify what our needs are and tailoring it to the community.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.