The president of the Calvert County Public Library Board said he is "tickled to death" that the county commissioners have agreed to renovate and expand the existing Prince Frederick library at a cost of $3.5 million instead of moving it into a vacant grocery store in a nearby shopping center.

"We're just pleased that it's going to be there and tickled to death because we think it's the right place for it," Thomas Rymer said about the existing Duke Street location. "We're real happy with this decision. It's much better than moving it to a supermarket. We can do something fine now."

Commissioners President Linda L. Kelley (R-Owings) had proposed a plan earlier this month to move the library into a storefront vacated by the Super Fresh market at the corner of Duke Street and Route 2/4. That move would have cost the county $1.6 million for renovations and $250,000 a year in rent.

Kelley had been pushing the plan as part of a strategy to relieve crowding in three places in the heart of the county seat -- the main library branch, the sheriff's office and the county courthouse.

Under her plan, the sheriff's department would have moved from the courthouse into the existing library, freeing up enough space in the courthouse for a needed third courtroom.

But Rymer and the other library trustees said they were aghast at the idea of moving the main branch into a shopping center that also houses a liquor store and is a hangout for the homeless. Library officials collected a stack of letters from library patrons -- nearly all of them opposed to Kelley's proposal -- and turned them over to the commissioners.

And three of the five commissioners -- Patrick M. Buehler (D-St. Leonard), John Douglas Parran (At Large) and Barbara A. Stinnett (D-At Large) -- objected to Kelley's plan because they said the county should not lease space but rather should own its public facilities.

The commissioners abandoned the supermarket plan on Tuesday, voting 5 to 0 to renovate and expand the existing library at an estimated cost of $3.5 million. The commissioners expect the state to provide $1 million of that cost, after Buehler secured a promise of state support from State Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Prince George's).

In voting to renovate and expand the existing library, the commissioners bypassed a third option -- one that had been endorsed by a consultant after a $25,000 study -- of tearing down the building and creating a brand-new library at a cost of $4 million. Kelley said she opposed any plan that called for destroying a building that is still usable.

The commissioners approved $350,000 for an architectural and engineering study to take place in 2001, with construction on the project to begin in 2002 for completion by 2003. It is unclear whether the library can remain open during construction or will have to be moved to a temporary site.

Meanwhile, the commissioners approved $700,000 in next year's budget for an architectural and engineering study of renovating the courthouse and building an addition to the county's executive office plaza that would double its size, said General Services Director Doug Parran, who is not related to Commissioner Parran.

Doug Parran estimates it will cost about $10 million to renovate the courthouse and build an addition at the executive office plaza. Officials said the state would pay about half that cost, with the county paying the remainder.