Wicomico will expand its Elections Office building

The Wicomico County Board of Elections building on Snow Hill Road will be expanded by 3,120 square feet and the addition used to house offices.

The winning bid for construction hasn’t yet been awarded, but one local company provided the most detail and bid lowest for the 40-by-78-foot addition, said Weston Young, assistant administrator for Wicomico County.

“We are waiting for best overall value. In the coming weeks, we will announce who will be awarded the bid,” he said. Architectural design is being performed in-house by Tom Hayes, facilities superintendent for the county.

Three companies bid on the project and all came in under budget. There is $1.1 million in the FY 17 budget for the project, but some of that money was used to purchase the building, formerly B Shinn Paint & Wall Covering.

In June 2016, County Executive Bob Culver signed a contract to pay $400,000 for the building for offices and to store voting machines. Board of Elections employees moved in shortly after it was purchased. A leak in the roof was repaired and the HVAC system upgraded. It was determined more space is needed.

An earlier plan to put the machines in the basement of the Wicomico County Library, where the entrepreneurial center is, was scrapped after it was met with resistance.

Culver directed Rick Keenan, chairman of the board of trustees at the library, to turn over keys to workmen, so the machines could be taken inside, but 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 planned to put about 34 machines in 3,000 square feet in the basement, taking over, and closing, the entrepreneurial center.

Culver countered the center was 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 intention was to leave the Board of Election office on Bateman Street, where it had been for years, and keep the machines at the library.

After it was determined Culver wouldn’t use library space, Andrea Berstler, director of the library, praised him for understanding the library’s position of wanting to keep the entrepreneurial center open. Several events had been planned there, including camps and workshops, and it would remain actively in operation, she said.

The Board of Elections is where those eligible to vote can register for county, state and national elections. Staff assists those running for office with candidate filing and campaign fund reports, helps citizens wishing to place questions on the ballot and maintains electoral information.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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