Library projects getting support, 1998
Library projects getting support
Officials pledge to find answers
CUMBERLAND — Gov. Parris Glendening and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor have pledged to restore momentum to library projects in Lonaconing and Frostburg that were derailed last week by unexpectedly high construction bids.
"I want to see those libraries built," Glendening said following an unrelated ceremony at the Greater Cumberland Regional Airport on Sunday. "That's our No. 1 focus."
Taylor said he would seek $300,000 to cover the budget shortfall in Lonaconing because Georges Creek residents who have already raised $150,000 cannot make up the difference.
"They just don't have the resources to keep reaching into their pockets," Taylor said.
With Frostburg, the two state leaders said they would work with city officials to see that the low bid submitted for that community's new library is upheld, despite a bid error of more than $200,000.
The two libraries appeared to clear their final hurdle last winter when the county and state agreed to back the projects equally, with a total of $1.6 million for Frostburg and $800,000 for Lonaconing.
Design of the two distinctive structures had been ongoing throughout the summer, and officials planned to begin work this spring, with both facilities slated to open by the end of the year.
When construction bids were opened Thursday night, though, proposals for the Lonaconing project were significantly higher than the budget allowed. The low bid for the library was $982,000, or about $260,000 above the construction budget.
The apparent low bid for the Frostburg Library was right on target for the $1.4 million construction budget but the firm that submitted the proposal, Baltimore-based Smith Management Construction, notified city officials on Friday that it had made a computing error. The company said the bid should have been approximately $1.6 million.
Noting the sanctity of the bidding process and a secured bond that holds firms to their proposals, Taylor said Sunday that Frostburg should be able to compel the company to build the library at the lower price.
"Frostburg shouldn't need any more money," he said.
Sen. John Hafer said companies are bound to their proposals so they will not come back after they have seen the bids of other firms.
"That's just not kosher," he said.
Frostburg Mayor John Bambacus said the city's attorney spoke Friday with a Smith executive who indicated the company was willing to work with the city.
"We're just looking for a sense of fair play here," the mayor said. "I'm confident the library will be built at the $1.4 million level."
Lonaconing faces a clear lack of funding. Allegany County officials have already indicated that they : can provide no more funding for the two projects. After 10 years of raffles, bake sales and door-to-door fund drives, private fund sources have been nearly exhausted.
If additional money cannot be found, the only option would be to redesign the project, eliminating items or reducing quality to bring the bids under budget. Faced with the need to cut costs by up to one third, officials are concerned that such a process would undermine the integrity of the facility.
Taylor said he is confident that funding can be approved to allow the project to move forward under its original design.
"We'll get it done," he said.
Sandra Grandstaff, a member of the Georges Creek Promotion Council and a leader in the fundraising drive, said Georges Creek residents are deeply appreciative of Taylor's long-standing support of their project.
"Grateful is the only word I can use," she said. "I'm very, very happy for that, and I certainly hope it goes through. % would just be overwhelmed."
The governor also threw his support behind the effort. Noting a recent commitment to increase operational funding to libraries, Glendening said the state should not ignore the construction needs of the two communities.
"Wouldn't it be a shame if we! made progress in that area and then fall behind in getting those two libraries built?" he said.
Other members of the Allegany County delegation lined up behind the speaker's proposal, with Hafer saying he would work to win funding in the Senate.
Delegate George Edwards, an influential member of the House Appropriations Committee, said the funding proposal could be challenging because the state until last year did not usually fund library construction. The cause will be aided, though, by the broad community support that generated $150,000 from a sparsely populated, low-income region.
Hafer and Edwards said private contributions could be used as a match to receive state funds.
"It's going to be very difficult for Lonaconing to come up with another $250,000," Edwards said.
In the wake of Thursday's high bid, members of the Georges Creek Promotion Council rallied yet again, calling a meeting tonight to discuss fund-raising options.
"We definitely are not going to be defeated," Grandstaff said. "We've been held up but we're not defeated."
Richard Kerns, Cumberland Times-News
Public libraries, Maryland, Allegany County; Allegany County Library System (Md.), Anniversaries.
Allegany County (Md,), 1924-2010