Library lease inked by Board and Trustees and County

June 23, 2023
Eastern Shore Public Library

It’s official.

The lease agreement between the Library Board of Trustees and Accomack County has been signed.

Joyce Holland, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, sent the following out Thursday afternoon:

I am pleased to announce that the Library lease is being executed this afternoon.  Our staff will begin immediately to plan for a move as soon as possible.  We will let our citizens know when a completion date is anticipated.

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On behalf of our Board of Trustees, I would like to recognize Jay Davenport, Althea Pittman, and Gerry Ryan for their long-term dedication to ESPL and for their service as Trustees.  In addition, we welcome Mike Mason, Larry Giddens, and Grayson Chesser to our Board, effective July 1.

Joyce Holland, Chair

ESPL Board of Trustees

News the agreement had been agreed to in principle was given at Wednesday night’s Board of Supervisors Meeting in Accomac. The deal marks the end to a decade long process of replacing the Eastern Shore Public Library.

Initially begun as the result of a grant of land from Rick Hall on Market Street near Four Corner Plaza in 2012, the design of the building had to be meet certain requirements to match the architectural style of the neighboring shopping center. The first designs placed the price tag at approximately $12 million.

Supervisors initially balked at the project, citing the high price tag and questioning whether a library was a good use for that amount of taxpayer dollars. A long back and forth ensued and the Accomack County Board of Supervisors sent the question to the people in the form of a 2014 election referendum. The voters spoke and voted against the approval of the library.

Following the referendum defeat, the Accomack County Supervisors voted to approve $2 million in funds to renovate the library. Delegate Rob Bloxom and Senator Lynwood Lewis were able to get $1.8 million from the Virginia General Assembly. Over the course of planning and construction, the Library hosted several fundraising events to raise the funds needed to complete the project and the balance was financed.

The question then pivoted to finding a better site to rehab, which lead to the former Fresh Pride Grocery Store in Parksley as a suitable location. Ground was broken in 2019, with then Governor Ralph Northam as the key note speaker.

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The construction process was fraught with its own hiccups, including the firing of the general contractor and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Four years after the initial groundbreaking, the building was completed, but the Board of Trustees had hesitations about the lease agreement with Accomack County.  Wednesday night’s announcement and Thursday’s execution put an end to this chapter in Eastern Shore history, which includes the Eastern Shore Heritage Center as a part of the Library complex, named for Eastern Shore educator and historian Dennis Custis.

According to Accomack County Administrator Mike Mason, the project came in at a $5.3 million price tag, which includes the final payment to the Surety, the contractor who finished the job after R&H Contracting was let go. Mason said he didn’t anticipate any further significant project costs at this point.

Holland stated “The Library staff will schedule move as soon as the moving company can accommodate. We probably are looking at late summer/early fall before we’re actually in the new library for usage.”

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