By Pat van den Beemt
6:00 AM EDT, October 11, 2013
Four days after the Hereford Library celebrated its 25th anniversary, a birthday gift from Baltimore County arrived in the form of a long-anticipated announcement from 3rd District County Councilman Todd Huff that the county has a signed contract to purchase the building that houses the only rented facility among the county's 19 libraries.
The Republican lawmaker also said the county has agreed to buy the building next door, a former seafood store that is now home to Backwater Angler, a fly-fishing shop. Carl Yarema owns both properties.
"After two years of strong negotiations, we have a signed contract as of yesterday," Huff told the audience at the Oct. 8 Hereford Community Association. "You are the first people to hear this news."
Laura Pawlak, president of the Friends of the Hereford Library, joined others in the audience who applauded. After all, she has spent the last several years drumming up support for a permanent facility.
"We thank you so much for your hard work," Pawlak told Huff at the community meeting. "We are thrilled to have a permanent home."
Huff later said the county agreed to pay $1,884,200 for both buildings, although the contract still needs County Council approval. It will be voted on at a council meeting in November.
"I can't thank Kevin Kamenetz enough," Huff said said about the County Executive. "He really helped make this happen."
The 15,168-square-foot library building, called Hereford Center, sits on .8-acre. The adjacent 1,320-square-foot fly-fishing shop sits on a 1.2-acre lot.
Huff said there is money in the county budget for library renovations. The library takes up the entire first floor's 7,500 square-feet. There are several tenants on the second floor. Huff said the current plans are to let those leases run out before doing renovations.
"We're very happy to have our own facility. In the next few months, we'll work on a phased-in plan of expansion, depending on what will be available when," said Jim Fish, director of Baltimore County public libraries.
Huff said future plans for the fly-fishing shop could include its conversion into a senior center. He said the small Mt. Carmel Senior Center currently meets just once a week at Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church's education building.
There are several locations in the county where libraries and senior centers share facilities, Fish said. In Pikesville, the building's first floor is a library and the second floor is a senior center.
"We hope to tie the two properties together somehow," Huff said. "We just need to work all those details out."