Linwood residents feel left out of debate on new library site


County officials want to put a library in the Union Bridge/New Windsor area sometime in the future. At least one county commissioner believes the site should be Linwood, midway between the towns.

Officials from both towns want the branch in their town, but Union Bridge is agreeable to a Linwood site if absolutely necessary. New Windsor officials are against a Linwood site.

But what do Linwood residents want?

"Nobody asked us. Hadn't heard a thing about it except from what you read in the paper and rumors," said Earl Hyde Jr., a 72-year-old Linwood resident. "If they had asked me, I would have told them I don't want any part of it."

It's the continuing story of the little library that isn't.

Union Bridge and New Windsor officials have been volleying for the library without success for several months.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell discussed with the mayors of both towns in January the idea of putting the library in Linwood on land that would be donated by Lehigh Portland Cement Co.

Although a lack of money and more-important capital projects in the county's budget have pushed the northwest library plan back for at least a few years, some Linwood residents are still concerned that the library might be built in their 12-house community.

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said he has received several letters from Linwood residents who are upset that they were not asked their opinion on the subject.

He said there are practical reasons supporting a library in Linwood, but he "is concerned" about the choice and will need to be convinced before agreeing to it as a site.

"The site fits in geographically with [the county's] plans for libraries," said Mr. Lippy, adding that the North Carroll library in Greenmount is between Hampstead and Manchester.

"Although Lehigh [Portland Cement Co.] has offered us the land free, I sort of feel the way the people in Linwood do," he said. "I don't think it would be a suitable site. It is such a quiet little place."

That's pretty much the description Mr. Hyde will give you of his home for the past 24 years.

Mr. Hyde is called "the mayor of Linwood" by some folks. "I ran unopposed and almost didn't make it," he jokes.

He said he doesn't know why anyone would want to put a library such a tiny enclave.

His house sits back off the town's only street, McKinstry's Mill Road, north of the Linwood Brethren Church and south of the Linwood Trading Post, which mark the boundaries of town off Route 75.

"Our claim to fame is a feed mill and a church. We used to have a post office, but they took that away about a year ago, like they did in a lot of other little towns," said Mr. Hyde. "I'd hate to see Linwood change. That may be a little selfish, but that's the way I feel. It's just an old country village."

It's that village scene that William I. C. Knight, 78, a longtime resident of the area, said needs to be seen by "the people sitting behind the desks making these decisions."

"I'm not for it. I don't think it's the right location," said Mr. Knight, who has lived in the area for 46 years. "Too much of an impact on the residents out here."

His wife Louise, 73, was born in the area and went to school in Linwood -- when the community had one.

Mr. Hyde and Mr. Knight said they were concerned about traffic and accidents on the narrow, winding McKinstry's Mill Road.

Mr. Knight added that much of the land Lehigh owns around the town becomes flooded after a rainfall, like most Linwood property. And putting a public building in a town without a municipal sewer and water system would be costly and a big mistake, he said.

"There are families out here who have had problems with their [septic] systems because their sewage would surface," Mr. Knight said. "Let's just say that an average of 500 people used the library, and that's conservative, I think. There would be a lot more sewage than from a family."

Mr. Knight said he feels strange passing judgment on the library because he only knows "what's been in the papers and what people around here have said."

But he said he has no choice but to disapprove when county officials have said nothing to residents about the project.

"We have too many people sitting behind their desks and not seeing the land itself," Mr. Knight said. "If anyone would take the time to come out here and look at the place, they would understand."

But L. A. White, a Linwood resident with three children, welcomes the idea.

"It will obviously be an advantage for us. I can't really see who it will be a disadvantage for," said Mr. White, whose children Meghann, 11, Alicia, 8, and Keegan, 5, attend New Windsor Middle and Elmer Wolfe Elementary. "Linwood itself may be little more than a few houses, but in the outside areas there has to be that and many more."

Mr. White also said the central location would make it easy for residents in both neighboring towns to use the facility, even if it won't stop the towns from arguing about the location. "If you put it in Union Bridge, the people in New Windsor will be grumbling and the same thing will happen if the situation is reversed," he said. "Someone always will be grumbling."

Stephen Kerkam, a newcomer to Linwood, said he sees the point of the people who have lived in town for many years.

"I don't really see that it would make much difference to Linwood [patrons] if the library were in Union Bridge or New Windsor," said Mr. Kerkam, who moved from Westminster last fall with his wife Beverly and daughter Nicki to open a bed and breakfast. "Seems to me you should put a library in a place where the most people would use it, like in one of the towns."

Mr. Lippy said he was more amenable to putting smaller libraries in each town or using space in the soon-to-be vacant New Windsor Middle School building, as suggested by Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr.

"We're going to look at the site in Linwood, but personally I'm a little concerned with that," Mr. Lippy said. "I feel stronger about featuring a storefront library in both towns."

Mr. Hyde said he could agree with that -- or anything else that would keep the library out of Linwood.

"I never canvassed the neighborhood or anything like that, but I personally believe the library should go in one town or the other," Mr. Hyde said. "We're kind of hidden from the rest of the world, and that's the way I'd like to keep it."

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