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Carroll County family shelter to relocate after commissioners approve purchase of Penn-Mar building in Westminster

Carroll County’s family shelter will have room to serve more families in the next three to five years, thanks to a request approved by the Board of County Commissioners on Thursday.

The commissioners approved a request from Celene Steckel, director of the Department of Citizen Services, to purchase the Penn-Mar Organization building, at 115 Stoner Ave., in Westminster for $1.3 million and reclaim the land through deed. The cost of the building would be paid from the county’s Coronavirus Relief Fund.

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The Penn-Mar building is 16,264 square feet and sits on a 2.96-acre lot.

Several uses were proposed for the space, including expansion of the Carroll County Bureau of Aging and Disabilities offices and relocation of the county’s family shelter.

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The Penn-Mar building is “an ideal property of us to have ownership of,” Steckel said, due to its location.

The current family shelter, at 10 Distillery Drive in Westminster, can accommodate seven families and is located on the top floor of a public social services building. Each family has its own space and also shares several common spaces. Services offered to families at the shelter include case management, 24/7 support services, and referrals to human services programs and community resources.

The current space has operated in different iterations of a shelter for families and children for more than 30 years.

Steckel said it’s not the best space for families to raise children, partly because the lack of open outdoor areas. Many of the children who live there are school-aged, she added.

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The current shelter is about 6,000 square feet, and Steckel estimated that between 8,000 and 9,000 square feet could be used at the Penn-Mar building. The exact number of families that the new location could accommodate would be determined once the design and engineering phase of the project is complete.

“The goal would be to continue to review waitlist information and make a determination from that data,” Steckel said. “At this time we would anticipate accommodating nine or 10 families.”

Steckel said that Penn-Mar, which provides services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, no longer needs the building.

“With the changing service delivery model for providers, brick-and-mortar locations are phasing out while community-based services are expanding,” Steckel said.

After Penn-Mar made known its intent to sell the property, the original 1989 deed was examined. It states that Carroll County government maintains ownership of the land should the property no longer be used for specified services noted in the deed.

“This gives Carroll County government the opportunity to take ownership of this building while we already have the property,” Steckel said.

Commissioner President Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, said the purchase of the property is “a great opportunity.”

“To me, this is very exciting,” Rothstein said. “It shows what you want to accomplish in taking care of the community.”

Steckel said she would come before commissioners again in January to discuss more details of the plan.

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