STAFFORD – A brand new library will be partially funded by a $4.8 million grant from the state. The money would come from the Library Construction Bond Act which was approved by voters in 2017.
“We all look forward to the day when we break ground on this new building,” said Henry Mancini, Library Commissioner. “This project has been a priority on our facilities plan for a number of years. This grant approval is the result of a cooperative effort – government agencies and individuals coming together to make this happen.”
The current branch is located at 129 N. Main Street. Talk of it being replaced has been going on for some time. It has problems with water getting into the building, and last fall a mold remediation company had to be brought in. Last year, county officials said that when the new library is built, the current building would be sold, and the proceeds would be split between the township and the county.
The new location would be on Route 9 at the Ocean County Southern Service Center site. This is a former church that the county bought, and has since expanded to make a home for numerous programs. Parking in the area will be reconfigured to adapt to the increased usage. A water main has already been extended to the location.
The county won $4.8 million in the second round of funding. The total cost is expected to be around $9.6 million. The county government and Stafford Township will make up the difference.
“Our county library staff in concert with the administration worked tirelessly to make certain our funding application would gain the state support needed to be approved,” said Commissioner Joseph H. Vicari, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Library system. “We join with the library staff and Library Commission in expressing our appreciation to the state Legislature and the Governor in signing the legislation that will provide this grant.
“This will allow us to construct a new state-of-the-art library facility in Stafford Township providing our residents with a larger facility that supports the area’s population growth,” he added.
The new building is expected to be 19,700 square feet, which officials said is about 65% larger than the current building.
Libraries today are more than just a repository of books, and this one would be no different. This building would have areas for children’s programming, public computers, meeting spaces, educational resources, an intergenerational space for senior citizens to socialize and enjoy library services, a new teen area, study rooms, maker space for STEAM educational activities, and a sensory space to provide a welcoming environment for people with autism, Alzheimer’s or other sensory processing needs.
“This new building will be located at the nexus of state roads serving as coastal evacuation routes where it will serve as the community anchor and be built with a full-building generator to provide resiliency in times of natural disasters and emergencies,” said Ocean County Library Director Susan Quinn, who acknowledged the contributions of Assistant Library Director Sara Siegler and Stafford Township Business Administrator Matthew von der Hayden on the successful grant application.
“This money will help our continuing efforts to make certain the very best library programs and services are available to our residents,” said Ruthanne Scaturro, Chairwoman of the Ocean County Library Commission.
Stafford Township Mayor Gregory E. Myhre said “This is great news for all residents of Stafford Township. The library is a tremendous resource that is available to everyone. The new and expanded library will be a first-class facility for our first-class community. We are proud to be integrated within the great Ocean County library system and excited to be a part of this project.”
Vicari said that he hopes the construction would get underway later this year, but no firm date has been made. The architect for the project is Yezzi Associates of Toms River.