Reduction at county level could reduce state funding as well
At least most of us agree–the North East branch of the Cecil County Public Library needs a new building. Yay, for agreement!
We also seem to be in agreement about the chosen location for the new library–the North East Station shopping center that is anchored by Food Lion and Lowes. Another cheer for agreement!
One thing we can’t seem to agree on is the amount of funding the county should provide for the construction of the new library. Boo for disagreement but without it I’d only be able to write about sunshine and rainbows–and that gets boring after a while.
Right now there is a wide divide between the projected cost from library system and the amount of funding some members of the Cecil County Council have proposed for the project.
Why does North East need a new library?
The North East library was built in 1991 and is just 2,800 sq. ft., far smaller than acceptable for a library serving a community the size of North East. You can read more here
Limitations of current branch
- Only 12 parking spaces
- Only a handful of computers which means visitors sometimes must wait 30 minutes or more for their turn
- Only two study tables, one for adults and one for children
Limitations severely impact the library’s youngest patrons
According to a representative of the library, for every 3 children who participate in the Summer Reading and Learning Program in Elkton, only 1 child participates in North East. Every year, hundreds of children are closed out of library educational programs and classes in North East due to lack of space. Area schools are forced to transport students to other libraries to work on research projects because they simply cannot fit a class in the building and because resources are limited.
Population growth of 50% projected by 2040
We want to build a library of a size that adequately serves not just the current population of the area but one that can sufficiently meet the needs of a growing community. Cecil County made the mistake of constructing an undersized building for the current building and the library was too small from the day it opened.
We can’t afford to make that mistake again. We must do it right the first time–or would this be the second time?
The Wilmington Area Planning Council projects the population of the greater North East area to grow 50% by 2040 (from 23,259 in 2010 to 34,862 in 2040). Here’s a link to their data According to the state of Maryland’s standards for library construction, a library branch to serve a community of this size should be 30,000 sq. ft.
New North East branch would become new system headquarters
CCPL is currently headquartered in the same building as the Elkton branch, a building of 25,000 sq. ft. Elkton’s population is a little bigger than North East’s right now and is also expected to increase by about 50% by 2040 so it won’t be long before the branch needs to use every bit of those 25,000 sq. ft. in order meet the community’s needs.
Moving the headquarters to the new North East branch extends the useful life of the Elkton branch by making more space available for public services and alleviating the overflowing parking lot. (CCPL is also working with Cecil County Public Schools to increase available parking at the Elkton branch as part of the Gilpin Manor Elementary School replacement project.)
Disagreement over project costs
In the proposed Cecil County Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for FY 2017, the library project is estimated to cost $18.6 million to complete (the land has already been purchased and the cost was split between the county and state. You can read more about that here. This project has been in the county’s CIP since at least 2010. Here’s a link to the proposed CIP for FY 2017.
During last Thursday’s county council deliberations over the FY 2017 budget, Councilman Dan Schneckenberger proposed that the council limit Cecil County’s contribution to the project to $12.8 million. You can listen to the debate in the audio from the meeting (1:39:00 mark in this recording). Here’s an article from the Cecil Whig about the meeting.
Funding Cuts Jeopardize State Aid
I’m new to the library budget but it’s my understanding that, like public schools, large capital projects for public libraries must also be reviewed and approved at the state level in order to be considered eligible for state grant funding. State aid for these projects represents millions of dollars of funding and is contingent on presenting a well-justified project that uses universal planning standards and population projections to size the building, as well as accurate cost projections that are reviewed annually by a licensed architect.
The state of Maryland has already reviewed the initial documents and cost projections for the North East branch as proposed by CCPL and County Executive Tari Moore in the CIP. At this point, alterations to the project, which would potentially bring it out of compliance with state standards, risk that support for the project.
Email the county now and voice your support for the project as proposed
The county council is scheduled to vote on the FY 2017 budget for Cecil County on Tuesday night. If we want to see the North East branch proceed as proposed, we need to make our voices heard by the county administration.
Here are ways you can contact the council:
- Copy and paste these email addresses: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
- Attend and speak at the Citizens’ Corner session with the County Council at 6 PM Tuesday evening
- Call the council members at +1(410)996-5201