Proposed new Leonardtown Library and Garvey Activity Center

Artistic rendition of new Leonardtown Library and Garvey Senior Activity Center.

Leonardtown, MD – A conceptual plan for the new Leonardtown Library and Garvey Senior Center drew criticism when it was presented Tuesday, Oct. 25 to the Commissioners of St. Mary’s County. Even though a final design plan is still a few months away, there was still concern.

Commissioner Mike Hewitt (R-2nd Dist.) and President Randy Guy (R) both questioned the amount of program space allotted for each, particularly in the case of senior center portion for the joint use. The 46,000-square foot building will be located on Leonard’s Grant Parkway off Route 245 in Leonardtown.

The conceptual plan was presented to the commissioners by Director of Public Works and Transportation George Erichsen and the architect, Grimm and Parker Architects Senior Partner Antonio Rebelo. Erichsen assured the commissioners that the plan they were receiving had been completely reviewed. He also informed them it was supported by major stakeholders, including the Garvey Senior Activity Center Council, the Commission on Aging and the Library Board of Trustees.

Regardless of being reassured, Hewitt persistently pressed Rebelo with spatial questions focusing on how it taking away program space for offices and other uses. Not to mention, he was particularly concerned about the full kitchen on the senior center side of the complex that would not only serve the center, but also the Meals on Wheels Program.

Erichsen said the kitchen allowed for long range planning, which Guy said included a major increase of the senior population in the decades to come.

The current plan calls for relocating 22 library employees from the existing building to a flex office space in the new facility. Seven of the existing 19 staff members at the current Garvey Senior Activity Center, built in 1954, would move to the new facility. Office on Aging and Community Services Director Lori Jennings-Harris and Library Director Michael Blackwell said agree that the staff relocations were necessary. “This particular design has exceeded our expectations.” Blackwell said, noting it had the blessing of his staff and the library board.

Dale Taylor with the Garvey Senior Activity Center Council hedged her bets a little by indicating more program space would be desirable but the plan presented met with the board’s approval.

Guy, who said he works out at the old Garvey Center two times a week, agreed with Hewitt during the discussion, but later called it a “great presentation.” The architect’s presentation was hampered by technical glitches in showing a 3-D rendition of the plan, but eventually it worked itself out. Hewitt was highly critical of the problems with the presentation.

At one point Commissioner John O’Connor (R-3rd Dist.) showed frustration with his colleague’s criticism. “I like it. I think it is great,” O’Connor said of the plan, expressing concerns that nitpicking could possibility slow the progress for a project that so many people wanted.

Commissioner Tom Jarboe (R-1st Dist.)] said he had kept quiet during the presentation but he agreed with O’Connor. “I think this is a beautiful rendering,” he proclaimed.”

The commissioners will have a final decision on the design after reviewing cost estimates from the architect that have not yet been presented. Erichsen said some of the amenities, such as decorative plaza concrete pavers, might have to be removed to bring it within budget.

Erichsen said the overall final design would be ready by next summer with bidding sometime after that.

Later in the commissioners’ meeting Hewitt amplified on his concerns. He said, “My goal is to make sure that the people who are very passionate about this, that their goals are met and their questioned are met.”

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