Plans for new libraries in Frederick County could be stalled -- Gazette.Net



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Frederick County Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young has proposed a temporary halt to the construction of new libraries in the county.

Young (R) said he would like to reduce or eliminate fees collected from builders to build new libraries. Under his proposal, developers would continue to pay fees for new school construction.

“I don’t want to slow down school construction or reduce the impact fees for schools, because that [school construction] is one of the priorities of this board,” he said. “It’s in our strategic plan.”

Young also said in an interview Tuesday that builders’ fees should go to build new fire stations in the county.

“We could have a separate fee for fire and rescue,” he said. “I’m more concerned about the health of fire and rescue.”

Currently, for a single-family home, builders pay an impact fee of $15,185. Of that, $14,426 goes to new schools and $759 goes to libraries. For a townhouse, builders pay a fee of $13,089. Of that, $12,380 goes to schools and $709 goes to libraries.

Young said commissioners have asked county staff to look at the ramifications of reducing or eliminating the impact fee money collected from developers to build new libraries. Developers pay impact fees when they build new homes, which pays for the construction of new schools and libraries.

“Maybe we can reduce or eliminate library impact fees for a period of time,” Young said. “We could put in a moratorium.”

The fees are slated to increase July 1, by 3.5 percent.

Since the fees paid by the developer ultimately trickle down to the home buyer, commissioners are considering a halt to the increase in an effort to help spur the housing market, Young said.

That matter will be discussed at a public hearing, but no date has been set.

Darrell Batson, the director of Frederick County Public Libraries, disagrees. Batson said the state is more likely to give the county money for library construction, when they see that the county is also putting in money.

“The impact fee money gives us leverage when we go to the state,” he said. “With the impact fee money we were able to build new libraries in Thurmont, Urbana and Emmitsburg.”

In fiscal 2011, the county took in $6.48 million in impact fees for schools, and $379,000 for libraries, according to Kelly Weaver, budget officer with the county’s finance department.

In fiscal 2012 through March 31, the county has collected $4 million in school impact fess and $284,364 in library fees.

Batson said their numbers show that library usage has increased when a new building opens.

For example, in fiscal 2008, 52,892 people visited the old Brunswick Branch Library, according to library statistics. Brunswick opened a new library in April 2011. So far in 2012, 61,145 people had visited the new library.

And, in fiscal 2005, 40,317 people visited the old Thurmont Branch Library. The new library opened in August 2008. So far this year, 102,167 people visited the new library.

“There’s an obvious impact, folks,” Batson said.

Commissioner Billy Shreve (R), who has proposed nixing the construction of a new library in Walkersville and instead merging the town library with the library at Walkersville Middle School, said he agrees with Young.

“I have nothing against libraries,” he said. “It’s just, are we making the best use of our money? We need to use the taxpayers money as best as we can.”

Shreve said the county needs ambulances and fire houses more than they need new libraries.

“As the population gets older we will need a lot of ambulances,” he said.

sgreenfield@gazette.net