Carroll County commissioners have approved the use of county funds to pay for design, renovations and furnishings for a new and improved family shelter. Construction could begin as early as January 2025.
The new shelter will be located at the Penn-Mar building, 115 Stoner Ave., Westminster, which the county plans to purchase, and could be ready for residents in the next three to five years.
On Dec. 16, commissioners approved a request from Celene Steckel, director of the Department of Citizen Services, to purchase the Penn-Mar building for $1.3 million and to reclaim the land through deed. The building will be used to relocate the county’s current family shelter and to provide additional operating space for the Bureau of Aging and Disabilities and for staff in the county’s citizen services department.
The building purchase will be covered by the county’s Coronavirus Relief Fund. Through this fund, the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides for payments to state, local and tribal governments navigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, commissioners approved the use of one-time funds from the county’s annual budget for renovations and money from state pandemic-related Fiscal Recovery Funds for the design and engineering of the new shelter.
“The estimated cost for the family shelter design and engineering phase is $225,000,” Steckel said last week. “The second piece of our request is for the use of $700,000 of one-time county funds to support the design, renovations and furnishing of the county office space at the Penn-Mar building.”
Debbie Standiford, grants manager for the county, told commissioners that acquisition of the building will take place next month.
“We can start then with the county side of renovations as long as funding is available,” she said. “The first step for us to apply for grant funding to construct the family shelter is this design and engineering phase.”
Standiford said she believes the project would be eligible for two large grants. These include the Shelter and Transitional Housing Facilities Grant Program and the Community Development Block Grant Program, both administered by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.
“There is a lot of grant money out there in the world today and the sooner we have a design and know that we can move forward with this project … you may be able to take advantage of other funding that will be coming,” Standiford said.
Standiford said the county’s purchase of the building could be used as the required local contribution to receive matching state grant funds.
“If it works out I see us starting construction in January 2025,” Standiford said.
The Penn-Mar building is 16,264 square feet and sits on a 2.96-acre lot. Steckel estimated that between 8,000 and 9,000 square feet could be used for the family shelter. The county’s current family shelter is about 6,000 square feet.
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, Steckel said. The current space has operated in different iterations of a shelter for families and children for more than 30 years.