Construction of the county's long-awaited senior center and library here is scheduled to begin in mid-March and be completed within 15 months.

The two-story facilities will be housed under one roof on Ridge Road near Merridale Boulevard, said Thomas J. Rio, chief of the Carroll County Bureau of Building Construction.

"It's unique that these two facilities are married together in this way," said Rio. "It's logical and has a lot of positives."

The 27,600-square-foot facility will be built by Peter J. Scarpulla Inc.,a Baltimore-based contractor. The company outbid 23 other firms witha price of just over $2.6 million -- less than engineering estimatesof $3.4 million, Rio said. The county will supervise construction.

The Mount Airy library is now housed in the cramped storefront quarters on Main Street.

The new library will occupy the new building's first floor, which will comprise about 16,000 square feet, Rio said. The senior center will be on the 9,200-square-foot second floor.

Rio said the new facility will be similar to the library and senior center complex in Greenmount, on Route 30 between Hampstead and Manchester.

That construction was completed last February, and Rio saidcombining the library and senior center has worked out well.

The county government's recent budget crunch will not affect the the Mount Airy project, Rio said. The county had been trying to come to gripswith a projected shortfall of $3 million for the current fiscal year.

Projections for that budget shortfall were increased last week to more than $5 million.

"It hasn't impacted this project because the funding has been encumbered," Rio said. "It's bonded, and (the county has) already committed to it."

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