No State Grant For Library Project

BERLIN – Library officials will reevaluate plans for a new Pocomoke branch after learning grant funding for the project was not included in the governor’s proposed capital budget.

In a virtual board meeting Tuesday, Worcester County Library Director Jennifer Ranck told trustees that library officials would continue to explore options for a new Pocomoke branch.

While plans for a new facility have been included in the county’s capital improvement plan, and money has been set aside for the project, Ranck said the library’s application for state grant funding had not been awarded.

“The governor released his budget the second week in January,” she said. “In his capital budget, the Pocomoke project was not included. That means the FY2022 grant I applied for is not going to happen.”

Last year, county officials began moving forward with plans for a new library in Pocomoke after selecting a building scheme for a shared facility on a vacant lot offered by the City of Pocomoke. The proposed site would not only house the Pocomoke branch, but a senior center as well.

But in October, Ranch announced the library’s decision to forego the construction of a new branch on the downtown parcel after receiving the results of a phase two environmental study, which identified several underground storage tanks on the site.

“We determined that site wasn’t viable,” Ranck told board members this week. “If that played a factor in not receiving the grant, I’m not sure.”

Ranck, however, said plans for a new – or even renovated – library were not off the table. She said the library could explore other locations near downtown Pocomoke, or construct a 4,000-square-foot addition at the existing facility.

“There is room to have a senior center on the current site if the commissioners want to move forward with that plan,” she said. “But that would be really tight.”

Ranck said she planned to meet with county administration in the coming days to discuss the Pocomoke project. She said she would also want to seek approval from the Worcester County Commissioners to apply for state grant funding in fiscal year 2023.

“I’m going to keep applying for state grant money and see where we land,” she said.

Ranck also told board members this week she would meet with Pocomoke’s mayor and city manager to provide them with an update on the project.

“It’s in our strategic plan, it’s definitely on my to-do list, but it’s in a holding pattern right now and it’s frustrating,” she said. “We are going to try and move forward any way we can.”