Despite a second-floor deck that overlooks the bay, a geothermal heating and cooling system, big glass windows and about 14,000 square feet of real estate, Sea Isle City's newest building will be no McMansion.
It will be a library.
Officials will break ground Tuesday on the Cape May County Library System's $5.5 million branch in Sea Isle City at 48th Street — the site of a former sewage treatment plant.
The construction is part of a plan to build new libraries in two of Cape May County's most affluent municipalities: Sea Isle City and Stone Harbor.
Each of the two municipalities pays about $1.4 million per year in library taxes, for a combined third of the county library system's revenue, Cape May County Library Director Deborah Poillon said Friday.
"They both contribute a good deal of tax dollars to the county library system, and we want to keep them in the system to keep the whole system healthy," Poillon said. "I look at this as an investment."
The decision to build new library branches to replace small buildings in both municipalities came several years after Avalon - the previous highest library-tax contributor — left the county system to build its own library, taking with it a large chunk of revenue.
Minor soil contamination at the library site in Sea Isle had to be remediated before construction could begin, Poillon said.
Cape May County Administrator Stephen O'Connor said the Sea Isle library will be the first county building certified for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a standard for environmentally friendly construction.
The library will feature solar panels, water-efficient landscaping, recycled materials and a geothermal system that uses the Earth's temperature to help heat and cool the building.
O'Connor said the design is consistent with the county's energy master plan to reduce consumption, costs and pollution.
The new library also will have areas for children and teens, two large meeting rooms and a cafe area for coffee, Poillon said.
Officials expect work to conclude by June 2011.
Meanwhile, the county library system's plan for a beachfront library in Stone Harbor was hampered in 2008 when the state Department of Environmental Protection rejected a Coastal Area Facilities Review Act permit needed for the construction.
O'Connor and Poillon said they are hoping administrative changes under Gov. Chris Christie will help their appeals to build the beachfront library.
The DEP denied a permit in November 2008 because the building did not follow a rule that imposes setback requirements for beachfront development higher than 15 feet.
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