The Board of County Commissioners approved a $1.5 million loan to begin construction of the Exploration Commons at 50 East in Westminster.

Exploration Commons will be a community creativity center in the 14,000-square-foot basement of the Westminster branch of the Carroll County Public Library system — comprising a makerspace, culinary center and meeting space where “ideas, and tools come together to create, innovate and collaborate,” according to its website.

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“The architect has been named, Manns Woodward,” CCPL Executive Director Lynn Wheeler told the board this week. “We hope the design will be completed by the end of calendar year 2018, and to begin construction in spring 2019 so it is ready to go in June 2020.”

But, she said, the reason the library system is requesting the loan is that there are three years of grants coming from the state. Instead of waiting for each grant, Wheeler said she hopes to get the work done with nonstop construction from the start, and pay back the county when the grants come in.

“We have three years of grants in to the state,” Wheeler said. “Phase II for [fiscal year] 2019 has been approved, and Phase III FY20 has been submitted. We are hoping for the best because the state knows this is a [three-phase project].”

Progress made on Exploration Commons at 50 East project in Westminster

The Westminster Library’s Exploration Commons at 50 East project has received its first donation and the Board of Commissioners has chosen Mans Woodward Studios as the architect. Sharon Hafner Yingling, committee chair for the fundraising project, and John Yingling have offered a $50,000 gift.

Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, said he was impressed with everything the library has been doing.

“The things you come up with, it never ceases to amaze me,” he said at Thursday’s meeting. “[No matter] what project, what new activities are coming through, whatever project you have coming through — it’s eye-opening to see that many kids out there focused on reading and learning and that [are] enthusiastic about it.

“The library system is amazing,” he said. “I talk to other counties and they see you as a model.”

Wheeler thanked him for his comments and said a big part of the CCPL mission is to continue ideas Andrew Carnegie and Bill Gates had behind their philanthropic contributions to libraries — enabling the public to educate themselves with resources and technology.

“This is a new technology,” she said, “where people can make things with personal-use fabrication technology. This center in our community would give the budding engineers and inventors and makers in our community [the opportunity] to come in and learn.”

Library association president Joe Thompson talks new projects

Joe Thompson serves as the president of the Maryland Library Association this year.

Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, said he wasn’t certain the entire $1.5 million should be given to the library, though, when their estimated costs are slightly more than $1 million.

“We are hoping that’s the case, but as is the case with any construction project we want to be prepared. We will not draw more than we need,” Wheeler said. “We want to be extremely diligent and will be extremely diligent in continuing our fundraising so we take out the least amount necessary. The way these bills go we need to pay them first and then ask for reimbursement from the state or the county.”

Rothschild proposed approving $1.1 million with a condition that CCPL return to the board for additional funds up to $1.5 million if they are needed in the future.

CCPL's Lynn Wheeler ready to start a new chapter

CCPL's Lynn Wheeler was instrumental in the construction and opening of the Finksburg Branch Library; the renovation of Westminster Branch; and the interior renovations to the North Carroll, Mount Airy, Eldersburg, and Taneytown branches. She plans to retire in November.

But Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, said that defeated the reason CCPL came to the commissioners in the first place Thursday.

“I have full faith you will repay this,” he said. “The idea of [requesting this loan] is to do the construction nonstop without having to come back to us.”

Commissioners approved the loan, 5-0, and Wheeler said, once the funds are available, she hopes to get the project rolling as soon as possible so the space can be opened by spring 2020.

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