Library Eyed For Old Armory Building In Pocomoke

SNOW HILL – Municipal officials are hoping to tear down the long-vacant armory building to make space for a new Pocomoke library.

Pocomoke City Manager Jeremy Mason approached the Worcester County Commissioners last week with plans to demolish the armory and an adjacent condemned building to provide space for a new Pocomoke branch of the Worcester County Library.

“This would completely transform the entire downtown section and the neighborhood surrounding it,” Mason said.

According to Mason, the city wants to see a new library on the city block encompassed by Second Street, Clarke Avenue, Maple Street and Willow Street. That block is currently home to the armory building and an adjacent structure known as the Collins building. Mason said the city was in the process of buying that building, which is condemned, and demolishing it. At the same time, the city is pursuing a strategic demolition grant from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development that would provide funding to tear down the old armory. Though there were plans at one point to refurbish the building to turn it into a youth center, Mason said it was too far gone.

“It’s boarded up,” he said. “There’s glass, bricks falling onto the street at any given time. It’s been broken into more times than anybody really knows. It’s a cool building. It’s got a lot of history, but it was just abandoned completely. There’s the gymnasium, the ceiling’s falling in, the windows are busted, those are asbestos tiles on the floor.”

Once the buildings are torn down, the city would donate the land to the county so a new Pocomoke library could be built there. Though the city initially planned to give the county the land while the demolition was taking place, county officials advised Mason the county wouldn’t want to take on that liability. Instead, Mason said he was now seeking a written agreement stating that the county was willing to accept the land as a site for a new library once the land was cleared and cleaned up.

“That will tremendously help our grant application review,” Mason said.

Commissioner Jim Bunting asked if there would be certification that any environmental issues were cleared up before the county took ownership. Chief Administrative Officer Weston Young confirmed that the county would want that before taking ownership. He added that if the commissioners agreed to pursue plans for a library on this site the Worcester County Library could get back in the queue for capital funds from the state.

Though not willing to approve the agreement without reviewing it first, the commissioners agreed to put the topic back on the agenda for their first meeting in September.

“I don’t hear any non-support I just think we need to see the actual document before we vote,” Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said.

Commissioner Josh Nordstrom said he hoped his peers would support the proposal when the time for the vote arrived.

“This is the best option for the City of Pocomoke,” he said. “This will help transform the entire downtown area.”

He praised the plan to redevelop what has been a problem property for some time.

“No one has had a plan or figured out anything to do with this piece of urban blight for a decade,” he said. “I hope that when this comes back I have the support of the other commissioners on this dais because this is crucial for the future of Pocomoke.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.