Library, City To Discuss Future Branch Location

POCOMOKE – Library officials say they will reach out to the City of Pocomoke in an effort to better understand the town’s vision for a new facility.

In last Tuesday’s meeting of the Worcester County Library Board of Trustees, board members agreed additional conversations with the town’s officials were needed before selecting a site on which to build a new Pocomoke branch. Library Director Jennifer Ranck said the identification of a site was needed in order to apply for the state’s fiscal year 2024 capital grant program.

“When I submit something to the state, I want to submit something that’s strong …,” she told the board. “I don’t think they would look at it favorably if site selection was still in the air.”

In 2020, 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 was expected to not only house the library, but a senior center as well.

But in October of that year, Ranck 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.

Despite the setback, Pocomoke’s city manager came before the Worcester County Commissioners last year with a proposal to seek state grant funding for the demolition of the long-vacant armory building on 2nd Street.

The goal, he noted, was to build a new Pocomoke library branch in its place. In December, however, officials learned the project was not among the list of state grant award recipients.

“I believe they are planning to reapply for the strategic demolition grant,” Rank told board members this week. “Their application is due in June and they will find out sometime in November or December this year … I need some direction on how to proceed. This is something we need to be thinking about this month and next month.”

Ranck noted that capital grant funding applications were due to the state in May. But without a site selection, Ranck said it was not likely the library project would secure funding.

“The timing of this is pretty tough,” she said.

Ranck said officials had options for building a new facility. In addition to the proposed site at the old armory, she noted the county could rebuild the library at its current location on Market Street.

“Where the armory is doesn’t necessarily give us a bigger piece of property …,” she said. “I want to bring to everyone’s attention we do have property where we can make something work in Pocomoke.”

When asked how the library would continue to operate during a rebuild, Ranck said it could utilize vacant space in downtown Pocomoke, or rent a trailer.

“There are possibilities,” she said.

After a lengthy conversation, the board agreed to schedule a meeting with town officials to hear their thoughts on a proposed location. Board member Jeff Smith argued the town’s desire to have the library at a different location has delayed the project from moving forward.

“The town obviously wants us to do something different,” he said. “It may be helpful to sit down with the town.”

Ranck said regardless of the outcome, everyone agreed a new library branch was needed in Pocomoke.

“Pocomoke is our oldest branch …,” she said. “There are a lot of problems with it.”

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.