Lewisport Mayor Chad Gregory receives the signed deed for 1.59 acres of land that was given to the city by the Hancock County Public Library board Friday. Board president Mary Beth Morris hands the check to Gregory, maintaining the necessary six-foot social distance.
By Dave Taylor
While the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed or stopped nearly every aspect of daily life, the plan for the new Lewisport branch of the Hancock County Public Library is moving forward, with construction set to begin soon, while the library also completed its gift of land to the city and has begun curbside service.
Bids for the approximately $2.1 million library are due back to the library board by May 19, where they will be publicly opened and read and awarded within a couple of days afterward.
Nine prospective bidders attended a pre-bid meeting last Thursday, said library director Tina Snyder, and the board will choose the best bid on May 19 but allow the library’s architects to vet the winner before awarding the bid.
“Once they’re notified they have about a two-week timeframe to get things gathered up and rally their troops and get ready,” she said.
With much of society closed due to virus concerns the potential for a groundbreaking ceremony is slim, but Snyder said they might hold a virtual groundbreaking instead for the project that’s slated to be finished in around 330 days.
“Tentatively they could begin construction June 1,” she said.
As part of the ongoing project the library was recently awarded a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant, which was administered by the city of Lewisport at the behest of the library.
In return for the city’s efforts the library gifted 1.59 acres of land to the city Friday, which the city had wanted for a future water treatment plant.
The acreage comes from a second property the library bought, which once held the softball field behind the former Lewisport Elementary School, which the library bought and razed.
But after buying the former school Snyder said the library realized it was a tight fit between their land and the unused ball field, so she contacted the owner, which happened to be the Hancock County School Board, and negotiated a purchase of the field.
Leaders from the city of Lewisport inquired about getting part of the land for a water plant, and a deal was struck. The board originally planned to gift the land if the grant was awarded or to sell it to the city if the grant fell through, but the board decided ultimately to gift it regardless.
The library still has 3.3 acres remaining for its project, which Snyder said will be plenty for their plans.
“We still have room to do everything we were going to do and we still have some growing room or some programming space,” she said.
The library’s current locations are expanding its services to include curbside pickup for checkouts in order to allow patrons to get physical copies of materials while still maintaining healthy distancing.
After going online, calling a branch, or emailing to place items on hold, patrons will be given a scheduled time to pick up the materials, which will be brought to the car by library staff and placed inside through an open door or window.
Pick up times are by appointment and begin at 9:15 a.m. with the last pick up at 3:45 p.m. each day, Monday through Friday.
Snyder said the process might change as needed, but the branches will be working to ensure everyone who wants to check out materials will be able to get them in a safe manner.
“I just ask that people be patient with us, be kind and know that we are trying our best to serve them in the safest way possible for both the patrons and staff,” she said.