I am writing to update the progress of "The Library Project" ("Landfill to Library") of the Shepherdstown Public Library. This letter will continue where the previous letter of Nov. 2, 2009, left off. (If you would like a copy of the previous letter, please let me know.)
Since November, we have had a number of successes and areas of progress. After the Morgantown Brownfields Conference, we applied for a $5,000 Stage I Site Analysis & Revitalization Planning Grant through FOCUS (Foundation for Overcoming Challenges and Utilizing Strengths) West Virginia Brownfields Program. The proposed activities included community outreach and education, preliminary site research and development of conference materials. We were awarded the grant in February 2010, and began planning a mini-conference to present the project to the community on June 5.
The conference was a collaboration among a number of parties: Dave Hostetter of Shepherd University provided the Byrd Center for Legislative Studies auditorium at no charge; Patrick Kirby, Luke Elser and Catlin Buckley came from Morgantown from the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center; Gale Lea Rubrecht of Jackson Kelly, Greg Tieman of Acacia Consulting and Don Martin of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection came from Charleston; Jeff Mitchell of Triad Engineering came from Winchester; and Noah Mehrkam of Arcland Group (Brownfields Real Estate Developer) came from Washington, D.C. All consultants came pro bono, and provided a phenomenal range of expertise and experience for the discussion panel.
The conference addressed three things:
1. What is a "brownfield?"
2. What is in "our" brownfield and how do we clean it up?
3. What is the vision for a new library/community learning center?
Fifty-five members of the community attended, listened, asked questions and participated in a "visioning" activity that resulted in a series of visual renderings of possible uses of space. The conference fulfilled its intention of placing the concept in front of the community and soliciting and addressing questions, doubts and concerns. The result was that the attendees came away with a more complete understanding of the project, and a palpable excitement about the future of the library and the role that it could play within the community. (The entire conference was taped by volunteer David Singer and is available at the library for checkout. A 10-minute synopsis is posted on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3KO8fsQYcw).
Two local firms were hired to help with PR materials, and Shepherd University catered the morning refreshments and lunch so that participants could work right through the day. In anticipation of the next grant application for EPA, Arcland Group was subsequently hired to conduct some preliminary research into the site, including planning and zoning restrictions, more accurate clean-up costs, and clarification of the types of entities that would be eligible to apply for grants for the site.
The final report of the FOCUS Phase I grant will be due Aug. 20, and at that time we will submit an application for Phase II of the grant. Phase II, a $12,000 grant, will further our ability to assess the site, prepare the site for development and continue to educate and involve the community.
We will be making a presentation of our progress thus far during the 2010 WV Brownfields Conference in Charleston, on Sept. 8 and 9 and will find out at that time whether we have received the Phase II FOCUS grant.
The only negative note was the rejection of the Region 9 EPA Assessment Grant, in which part of the library project was included. The library will be making application on its own in October for an EPA Cleanup Grant. Those announcements will be made in spring of 2011.
In the meantime, we will be conducting feasibility studies regarding both site development and a capital campaign. There is much work to do, but we have assembled a committed, hard-working, enthusiastic group that is dedicated to making this new, green, state-of-the-art library/community learning center a reality. We believe that it is an excellent answer to our limited capacity issues, as well as being a responsible, responsive and innovative approach to constructing a new, appropriate library for all residents of Jefferson County.
I thank you for your interest and your support, and I will continue to keep you updated.