The Calvert County Board of Commissioners gave final approval this week to a new $8.1 million public library in Prince Frederick, a project that has been under consideration for almost a decade.
Fifty supporters of the new library, wearing violet ribbons to match the color of the library's logo, burst into applause after the commissioners green-lighted the plan Tuesday with a 4 to 1 vote.
"I'm just exuberant," said Russell H. Costley, president of the county's Board of Library Trustees as he hugged a library employee. "It's been such a long haul."
Construction on the 28,000-square-foot, two-story library in the Gateway Shopping Plaza will begin next month. Officials expect the library to open in early 2006.
The commissioners voted to dip into the county's $17 million "rainy day" fund for $2.2 million of the project's costs. The rest of the funding will come from general obligation bonds.
Commissioner Susan Shaw (R-Huntingtown) said the rainy day fund is a surplus that should support one-time capital costs such as construction of the library. She said using those funds will reduce the amount the county has to borrow by selling bonds.
"This is exactly what rainy day funds were designed to be expended for," she said. "I'm nervous about putting too much debt on our children and grandchildren."
Sherrod Sturrock, the county's capital projects coordinator, said it was appropriate to use money from the rainy day fund because the county has a structurally balanced budget this year.
The lone vote against the project was cast by Commissioner Linda L. Kelley (R-At Large), who said the new library was too expensive and planned at an inconvenient location.
"I am not anti-library," she said. "I am just looking at the money."
She said the costs to build a library were much higher than the estimates that were made when the project was first considered almost a decade ago.
Some residents also opposed the plan to build a library. Edward Apple, 54, owner of a printing company in Prince Frederick, presented the commissioners with a petition signed by 125 people who said the county money could be better spent elsewhere.
But library officials said the new building is desperately needed to accommodate growing use of library resources. Over the past nine years, circulation of materials has increased by 77 percent and computer use has gone up 420 percent, said Patricia Hofmann, Calvert Library director.
Commissioner Gerald W. Clark (R-Lusby) said he was undecided about the project until just before voting. "It was tough for me to make this decision," he said.
But in the end, Clark said the new library is a critical investment in the county's children.
"If this project is ever going to get done," he said, "it needs to get done now."