Western Howard County residents were reassured last night by County Executive James N. Robey that unexpectedly high construction bids for a library will not cause a reduction in its size or delay its opening.
The library, part of a planned regional park in Cooksville, is scheduled to be finished by late next year and open in early 2000, officials said. But three construction bids have pushed the project 19 percent over its $3.7 million budget.
"I have no plans to change the size of the library," Robey said before he heard residents offer their suggestions on the overall county budget at a meeting at the Howard County government building.
"We're going to build that library. We're looking at ways to cut costs, and we're not going to cut square footage."
Residents were concerned that design changes might shrink the proposed 29,000-square-foot library that eventually will house 156,000 books.
"We're really passionate about this library," said Jeanne McMahon, PTA president at Bushy Park Elementary School. "We're afraid they're going to cut it back."
McMahon and others had gathered more than 140 signatures by p.m. yesterday on a petition asking Robey to fully fund the project and prevent any changes.
The company managing the construction contract for the county also pledged to finish the library on time with as few structural changes as possible.
"We can get it back in budget without substantial changes," said Bruce Bruchey, division manager for Powell Management Associates Inc. "We're confident we can do this."
Design changes eyed
Powell Management architects are consulting subcontractors and making design changes to reduce the $700,000 increase, Bruchey said. Those changes could include redesigning the roof and heating and cooling systems and looking for less expensive materials, Bruchey said.
He said the library might shrink in size but downplayed that possibility, saying the building would still accommodate a large collection. For example, architects might decrease the library's space but increase the shelf height for books, Bruchey said.
County and Powell Management officials said a $670,000 contract for road and groundwork has been awarded, and work should start soon. They blamed the high bids on increasing demands for contractors to build more schools and commercial buildings.
"That happens periodically," said Alan Ferragamo, assistant to the director of the Howard County Department of Public Works. "Normally, we are much closer to the architect's estimates."
Many residents have been waiting 10 years for a library, they say, and would like one that can serve a growing population that is expected to double to 63,000 by 2015.
They say they want a large library to meet their needs, which the part-time, store-front library in Woodbine does not.
First phase of park
"I've watched as several other branch libraries were built," said Mary Jane Warfield, 69, of Woodbine. "Our [community] is rapidly becoming a suburb, too. What do they [officials] think, that people in western Howard don't read?"
The library is the first phase of a regional park to be located at Carrs Mill Road and Route 97. The complex should become a focal point -- a village center, of sorts -- for western Howard residents. By 2003, groundbreaking is to begin on a 36,000-square-foot community center and 180-acre park, which is to include baseball fields and walking trails.
Pub Date: 12/10/98