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Next steps for Twin Beaches library site selection

NORTH BEACH, Md. - The first Calvert Library in the Beaches was on 4th Street and Dayton Avenue in North Beach from 1981-1991.  It has been in leased space in Chesapeake Beach for the last 26 years. For 35 years of the Twin Beaches Branch history, Branch Manager Joan Kilmon has served the community through the library.  She said, “We have always lovingly served both beaches and look forward to continuing to greet all of our neighbors wherever we are sited.”

Although the Board of Library Trustees (BOLT) made a recommendation on February 27, to the Calvert County Commissioners regarding a site for a new Twin Beaches Branch, Director Carrie Plymire received new information on Monday, March 5, that has re-opened the process under a tight time-line.  In order to qualify for a state capital grant possibly worth up to $2.3 million, the county or library will need to own the property on which the library would be built.  The proposals by Chesapeake Beach and North Beach were for a lease of the land to the county for $1/year.
Currently $5 million per year is distributed via competitive grants to Maryland Library systems for capital projects. Calvert County has not been the recipient of any of these grant dollars since the inception of the program in 2008. Calvert County Government has a 50% match required to receive state capital funds. According to Carrie Plymire, “The library’s application is due at the beginning of June 2018 for a FY20 grant. FY20 is when the bulk of the Architecture and Engineering funds are in the Calvert County Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). If we miss this deadline, we risk pushing back construction of a new Twin Beaches Branch.”

Calvert Library commissioned a Facilities Master Plan that was conducted in FY17 that recommended that a new library be built in the Twin Beaches community beginning in FY19.  The current building has serious site and accessibility deficiencies “both inside and outside the building that would be difficult and expensive to mediate.”  The consultant said that use of the current location will likely decline until a new building is built.

In a press release last week, Chesapeake Beach Mayor Pat Mahoney questioned the new site selection process. Chesapeake Beach fully participated in the process and expressed no concerns until February 28. Mahoney was contacted on February 27 by Calvert Library Director Carrie Plymire and Board of Trustees President Martha Grahame with the BOLT’s recommendation to site the new library in North Beach.
In July 2017, North Beach and Chesapeake Beach mayors were given a list of site selection criteria that were to be addressed in an August 8 presentation to the BOLT, including size of the site; parking; pedestrian, public and road traffic access; utilities and fiber access; geologic and technical site concerns; future expansion possibilities; public amenities and costs the library would have in obtaining the property.

The initial plan had been for the county to hire an architect to draft site plans for each location in FY19. In November, county staff contacted Plymire and said that if a site was not chosen by the time the staff recommended Capital Improvement Plan was submitted, the county would not recommend proceeding with funding in FY19. This information prompted Plymire to recommend to her board at their December meeting that they consider whether they had enough information in-hand to make a site selection decision.

Simultaneously, but unrelated, North Beach was making decisions about their land offer. The land initially proposed by North Beach in August was not owned by the town; they were in negotiation with several land owners to obtain the parcels. Plymire was informed in November by North Beach Mayor Mark Frazer that North Beach had decided they would not be able to obtain timely ownership of the properties initially proposed and had therefore decided to offer land already owned by the town. North Beach submitted a proposal to Plymire on November 22 for two lots on the north side 5th Street between Bay Avenue and Chesapeake Avenue, rather than the 3rd Street property which they had been unable to obtain.

The BOLT was given the new proposal from North Beach on December 5 in preparation for their December 12th Board meeting. At the BOLT’s direction, Plymire emailed both mayors with this information on December 18th, “North Beach is now offering the town-owned property on the corner of 5th, Bay and Chesapeake. Since their proposal has changed, the BOLT would like to give both towns until February 1, to submit any changes to their ‘best offers.’ The BOLT plans to make a decision regarding site selection at their February 13th meeting.”  She also included questions for both mayors asking for more detail to facilitate a well-supported decision.

At the request of the BOLT, Board of Library Trustee Stewart Cumbo, who is also a Chesapeake Beach Town Councilman, solicited an opinion from the Calvert County Ethics Commission regarding his participation in site selection. The Commission suggested that Mr. Cumbo recuse himself from discussions regarding the library site selection to avoid any perception of conflict of interest.  He did recuse himself from BOLT discussions regarding the selection at the December 12 BOLT meeting. 
Both towns submitted revised proposal information by the February 1 deadline. Chesapeake Beach offered a portion of Parcel H and Parcel E; the current location of the memorial playground behind the parking lot of Chesapeake Beach Water Park. North Beach offered the Bayfront parking lot on the north side of 5th Street between Bay Avenue and Chesapeake Avenue.

Library Trustee President Martha Grahame said, “We are confident that we have used a fair and appropriate site selection process. We communicated openly with both mayors. Both towns were given the opportunity to make final proposals and both knew which parcels were being offered by each town. Other than concerns about Chesapeake Beach Councilman Stewart Cumbo’s membership on both boards, there were no complaints nor concerns about the process until the initial selection was made. It speaks volumes for the excellent service our library provides that both communities want the library within their town limits. It should be placed in the best possible location to serve the Twin Beaches community. We look forward to a full-service library with community meeting space, a dedicated teen zone, lifelong learning opportunities for all ages and a state-of-the-art children’s area.”

On March 6, Plymire emailed both mayors to let them know of the change in requirements and site selection criteria. The mayors can ask questions of the library director and ask for clarifications about the process between now and March 28. Answers will be shared with both mayors. Plymire invited them to deliver sealed proposals to Calvert Library Prince Frederick, meeting room 3, at 3:00pm on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. At that time, both towns will be given 20 minutes to make a public presentation of their site proposal.  The Board of Library Trustees will then go into Executive Session to make a decision on which site to recommend to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). The BOCC will vote on site selection on April 17, 2018.

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