$15 million library expansion
includes senior center
Ocean City Sentinel

OCEAN CITY - City council on Feb. 28 approved two ordinances enabling a $15 million expansion to the Ocean City Free Public Library.

The library and community center on Simpson Avenue, contains the Arts Center, Historical Museum and Aquatic and Fitness Center. The Library Board wants to expand the building and create three additions for meeting space, storage, office space and facilities for senior citizens.

Council passed an ordinance that bonds $6.5 million for the library expansion project. The Cape May County Freeholders agreed to fund $3.5 million of the project for the new senior center. The Library Board will pay for a two-story 8,000 square foot addition and renovation to the main entrance.

A second ordinance vacates a portion of 17th Street bordering the library that will serve as an expanded parking lot. Construction on the hew lot is expected to begin later this year.

Garrison Architects will perform architectural work on the project, which consists of three additions to the existing library and community center: a lecture hall and offices in the northeast corner of the building, a new entrance hall facing Simpson Avenue and senior facilities at the building's southern end.

The new library addition includes expanded computer lab and office space and a 150-seat college style lecture hall. The. 6,800 square foot senior center addition includes activity rooms, a dining hall, kitchen and other facilities. The project will also include a new 5,400 square foot entrance plaza.

"The overall plan provides for a very significant amount of public space for meetings and other uses. It's really a credit to the community to have a facility of this nature," city Business Administrator James Rutala said.

Rutala said within four to six weeks the final plans will be available to council for approval. Ed Price, president of the Ocean City Library Board of Trustees, said the board voted unanimously to approve the library's expansion. He said the library and the administration performed long-range financial planning and that the city will be "adequately compensated" for the expansion project.

"This has been a group effort. I ask you to vote on all of these measures to expand our community living room and make it a place of great pride," Price told councilmen.

There's a lot of passion involved in this," Councilman Jody Alessandrine said. "It will be another example of how the community can come together and make a good asset an even better asset to the community." Alessandrine said the city might realize 3 percent interest on the investment by 2010, or about $120,000. Council President Keith-Hartzell said the library would fund a bulk of the project and he thanked the county for chipping in. He sad the improved library and community center will provide more activities for the city's residents and visitors.
"All of us hear from parents there's not enough for their kids to do. They'll be more things for kids and teenagers'' to do now," Hartzell said. "This is one of those priceless: things you get to be involved, in and vote for and we're all very proud."


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