Controversy about the county storing voting machines in the library basement, thereby closing the entrepreneurial center, has ended peacefully.
County Executive Bob Culver on Monday signed a contract to pay $400,000 to buy the former Shinn Paint & Wall Coverings building on Snow Hill Road, to house the entire Wicomico County Board of Elections and store the voting machines.
Infrastructure of the 6,800-square-foot building will be inspected and remodeling undertaken. Culver hopes to spend less than $500,000 on renovations, according to A. Kaye Kenney, who handles public relations for the county executive’s office.
Work should be completed by the end of the year or January 2017, she said.
“We’re very pleased,” said Andrea Berstler, director of the library, praising Culver for understanding the library’s position of wanting to keep the entrepreneurial center open. Several events are planned there, including camps and workshops, and it will remain actively in operation, she said.
Kenney said Culver was offered space for the voting machines by local businesses including Gillis Gilkerson Inc. and WBOC-TV, and is grateful.
The new building will provide adequate office space and ample parking, Kenney said.
Last month, when Culver directed the chairman of the board of trustees at the library to turn over keys to workmen, so the machines could be placed there, Rick Keenan refused.
“He can take us to court. We will continue to refuse. This is just an unconscionable appropriation of space,” Keenan said when he learned Culver wanted to put about 34 machines in 3,000 square feet in the basement, where the entrepreneurial center opened last August.
Culver countered the center is not used to its full potential and that other such centers are available, including one at Salisbury University.
“The college has its own entrepreneurial center and the Chamber of Commerce has the Young Entrepreneur’s Academy. The one at the library has been sitting vacant. They had some meetings there. There are a couple of chairs and a couple tables.
“But we’ve been mandated by the state to find additional space for the board of elections. We’ve been leasing a storefront in the K-Mart shopping plaza for the machines because they have to be climate controlled since we went back to paper ballots.
“We talked to the library because there is so much space down there in the basement,” Culver said.
Before deciding on the Shinn building, his plan was to leave the Board of Election office on Bateman Street and store the machines at the library.
Reach Susan Canfora at firstname.lastname@example.org.