New Library Branch Will Not Find Home On Donated Land

BERLIN – The Worcester County Library will not pursue plans for a new branch on a lot in downtown Pocomoke after learning the results of an environmental study.

In a Worcester County Library Board of Trustees meeting this month, Director Jennifer Ranck announced the decision to forego the construction of a new Pocomoke branch on a downtown parcel offered by the City of Pocomoke. She said the decision stemmed from the results of a phase two environmental study.

“We have done some phase two environmental testing of a site downtown …,” she said. “It was good to do that phase two testing because we got a report back in late August, had a meeting with department heads and decided not to pursue that location because of issues in that report.”

In May, the Worcester County Commissioners approved plans for a combined library branch and senior center on the lot currently home to the Corner Sanctuary Pocomoke Community Garden. At that meeting, Ranck presented the commissioners with cost estimates for a renovation and addition at the existing library on Market Street, as well as for a new shared library and senior center at the donated property near the river.

The construction of a combined facility – expected to cost $8.5 million – included 4,000 square feet for the senior center and 13,000 square feet for the library, while a renovation and addition of the current library branch included the replacement of all mechanical systems, as well as new meeting rooms and restrooms, for a total cost of $5.2 million.

Citing the results of a phase one environmental report, some officials shared their hesitation in accepting a proposal for a combined facility on the donated property. According to the report, the site consists of eight parcels formerly home to a power generation company, a roller mill with petroleum storage tanks, car service garages, and a cleaning and dying operation.

But after further discussion, the commissioners voted 4-3 to move forward with a scheme for the new building. As a result, the county also proceeded with a phase two environmental study of the site.

This week, Ranck said several underground storage tanks were located during the environmental testing. To that end, she said, the county would not pursue a new facility at the downtown property.

However, Ranck noted the library was still eager to partner with the senior center on a new or renovated facility elsewhere.

“We hope to include the senior center in either a new or revamped building project,” she said in a statement this week. “A combined facility makes a lot of sense in terms of the services and outreach we can provide to the community.  There are a few other facilities like this in Maryland, Arbutus, Baltimore County and Leonardtown, St. Mary’s County.”

Ranck told board members this week plans for a new or renovated Pocomoke branch were not off the table just yet.

“We have some work to do in getting Pocomoke a revamped building or new building,” she said,
“but it is still on the radar.”

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.