POCOMOKE – Library officials say they will seek capital grant funding as plans to construct a new Pocomoke branch move forward.
On Tuesday, Worcester County Library Director Jennifer Ranck presented the library’s Board of Directors with plans to apply for the state’s fiscal year 2024 capital grant program as officials inch closer in their efforts to construct a new Pocomoke branch.
“We did get some feedback in terms of the site, and how we can place things …,” she said. “The grant is due May 27, so hopefully I can move forward with that.”
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.
While it was ultimately learned the proposed demolition project was not among the list of grant award recipients, Ranck told board members earlier this year the municipality had plans to reapply.
In the meantime, Ranck said she has decided to apply for a state grant to fund the library’s eventual construction at the proposed armory site.
“It is very competitive this year, as there are a lot of libraries putting forth their projects …,” she said on Tuesday. “The state looks for projects that are construction ready.”
Board member Jocelyn Briddell asked if the library was still considering a shared facility with the senior center, as the partnership could open the door to additional grant funding. Ranck said it was something to be discussed with county officials in the coming days.
“I will let you know how my meeting with the county goes and see about the senior center,” she replied.
Ranck added that several library systems would be competing for the $7.5 million in state capital grant funding.
“The state grant is only $7.5 million, and we’re grateful because it leverages a lot of money around the state,” she said. “But it is a small pot of money when you are talking about large construction projects.”
In Tuesday’s board meeting, Ranck also announced the library’s intentions of seeking Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funding for branch projects.
“This year the state library is able to offer competitive grants using LSTA funds,” she said.
Ranck said funds could be used to develop a story walk, construct a small conference room at the Snow Hill branch, or build a WiFi pavilion for after-hours use.
“Sometimes grants like this give us an opportunity to try something new,” she said.
Ranck noted that she and staff would work together to develop a proposal ahead of the grant application.
“We have some ideas for what we might like to do,” she added.