LONGPORT – Gov. Phil Murphy’s announcement Friday, Nov. 6 that the first round of awards recommended to the NJ Legislature from the $125 million Library Construction Bond Act did not include the Longport Public Library’s request for funding.
“Certainly, that news is a bit disappointing,” Mayor Nicholas Russo said. “However, the next round of grants should be awarded in the first quarter of next year. Let’s see how we make out in the next round.”
The library construction bond was approved by New Jersey voters in November 2017 and applicants were required to include a 50% cash match for funding requests.
Murphy said 129 applications were received and he has recommended that 38 requests from 16 counties be considered to receive $87.5 million in funding from the first round of grants.
“From major building renovations to vital technology upgrades, this bond program will transform our libraries to better serve and be more accessible to their local communities,” Murphy said in a release.
Of the 16 counties represented in the proposed project list, four South Jersey counties were represented, including Bridgeton in Cumberland County, Pennsauken in Camden County, Cape May County Library System in Cape May, and Franklin Township in Gloucester County. Funds may be awarded for HVAC improvements, technology upgrades, improving public access to information, ADA access, and to modernize community spaces.
Longport Public Library Director Ricky Gerhardt said although he and the board are disappointed, they plan to reapply for funding after “tweaking” their original application.
The library board requested $800,000 in funding to add a second story to the library’s existing footprint in Longport Borough Hall. Adding the space would allow the library to have additional public meeting space, improve technology and have its own dedicated entrance area.
“We felt strongly about it when we applied in June,” he said. “We will look at what they awarded so we know what they are looking for.”
“Our Longport Public Library is certainly fiscally sound with a prudent and responsible Library Board,” Russo said. “Their creativity, dedication and professionalism serves our citizens well, and this minor disappointment should not affect their profound desire to continue to provide top shelf services.”
The State Librarian, in consultation with the president of Thomas Edison State University, is responsible for administering the Library Construction Bond Act.
The awards are pending legislative review and approval.
A second round of awards is planned for the first quarter of 2021, Murphy said.