WILDWOOD CREST — Cape May County is expected to award a contract next week for an architect to turn the borough’s former Masonic Lodge into the new branch library, County Administrator Ed Grant said Thursday.
Sixteen bids were received for the work to transform the property at 6300 Atlantic Ave, which the county purchased for $1 million in August.
County Library Director Deborah Poillon, who oversees the county library system, said Thursday that the interior of the lodge property needed to be gutted, explaining it needs a new heating and air-conditioning system among other improvements.
If it is feasible, Poillon said, the plans could include adding a partial second floor to the lodge to create a reading space that takes advantage of the island’s ocean views.
“I think our hope is to have it open at the end of 2013, but that depends on how extensive the renovation is,” Poillon said.
The county’s estimated renovation budget is $1.6 million.
The new building has about 8,000 square feet compared with 5,808 square feet of space compared at the existing library.
Currently, the Wildwood Crest branch of the county library system operates in a building on Ocean Avenue between Wisteria and Columbine roads.
Poillon has met with the borough’s library committee along the way as it asked the community to offer ideas on what should be included in the new branch.
Wildwood Crest spokesman Brian Cunniff said that the committee members are Wildwood Crest residents Evelyn Bailie and Nancy Pietropali and Crest Memorial School librarian Tina Chila.
He said the committee has discussed many options, such as having more books and periodicals than are available at the current library, additional computer space, large windows to make rooms brighter, meeting rooms and an elevator if the second floor is added.
Borough Administrator/Clerk Kevin Yecco said the borough, meanwhile, is considering what the Ocean Avenue building will be used for once the library moves.
A private trust started the library many years ago and the county took over the library’s operations in 2003, but it sits on borough land.
Yecco said the borough is exploring potential grant funding that could be used to renovate it and possibly turn it into a tourism center or home to the historical society.
“The difficulty is debt service,” Yecco said, explaining that the borough is considering what to do with several properties such as the former fishing club lodge and the lifeguard building.
Yecco said the commission has not discussed selling the library.
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