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Library officials want to move ahead with renovation
rh library
The Richmond Hill Public Library could be renovated and expanded instead of moving to a new location. - photo by File photo

After years of searching for a suitable site for a new facility, the Richmond Hill Public Library might end up right where it is.

Jennifer Durham, director of the Statesboro Regional Public Libraries, told Bryan County Commissioners last week that renovating and expanding the existing Ford Avenue site would be the fastest and most cost-effective way to deal with the situation.

“If we build on the current spot, we could put as much of the funding as possible toward the project as possible and not have to spend money on land,” she said. “We could maximize the features of the site.”

Either way, the project hinges on state funding. The library has moved up to No. 9 on the Georgia Public Library Service’s capital outlay budget for fiscal year 2019. If approved, the state would contribute $2 million toward the project. A decision on that funding is expected by July 1.

The county already as $1.5 million dedicated for the library from the 2011 SPLOST cycle. Durham said the renovation/expansion would cost just under $3.5 million.

“Using the current site would be practical and would allow us to sustain the facility,” Durham said. “It’s something we could afford to operate.”

Durham said the project would add about 5,000 square feet to the existing 8,000.

At one point the county considered property next to its administration building off Capt. Matthew Freeman Drive, but the land is too low. County Administrator Ben Taylor said it would have cost $160,000 an acre just to prepare the property for construction, making it cost prohibitive.

Durham told commissioners in 2016 that a new library for South Bryan County with a 24,000-square foot building with the ability to double in size and about 240 parking spaces would require at least 7.5 acres. Another option that has been discussed is putting it in the new town center being developed by the City of Richmond Hill.

“We know using the current location is not a long-term answer, but it doesn’t seem like we’re going to find a perfect piece of land,” Durham said. “Moving ahead like this would show forward progress to the public and maybe later we could look at having a satellite branch in South Bryan.”

Commissioners Chairman Carter Infinger said the county would still like to see a brand new facility at a new location.

“We need to work toward a new library,” he said. “As the community grows, that is something we need.”

Infinger asked Commissioner Brad Brookshire to work with the library board as a liaison on the issue.

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