Disappointed with the state’s continual delays of widening Highway 144, Commissioners Chairman Carter Infinger said the county may have to pursue other avenues in order to build a new library in South Bryan County.
Gloria Shearin and about 20 members of the Richmond Hill Friends of the Library attended Tuesday night’s county board meeting to again voice their concerns about the need for a new library.
“Thriving communities need thriving libraries,” Shearin told commissioners. “A dynamic, well-stocked library is a valuable asset to any community.”
Shearin presented commissioners with a petition signed by more than 1,100 people calling for a new facility.
“We’ve been waiting on state funds for this and we’ve almost given up on them,” Infinger said, comparing the situation to the oft-delayed Highway 144 project. “We need to begin exploring other options.”
The current SPLOST cycle set aside $1.5 million for a new facility, but it requires about $2 million more in state funding. The request was No. 10 on the list of 2018 capital outlay requests by the Georgia Public Library Services but was not included in the final 2018 fiscal budget from the Legislature.
Jennifer Durham, director of the Statesboro Regional Public Libraries — the umbrella under which Bryan County’s two libraries fall — said last year that having a site for a new facility would enhance the project’s likeliness of getting funded.
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 last year 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. One option that remains is putting it in the new town center being developed by the City of Richmond Hill.
Shearin said the current library was built in 1975, and expanded in 1987 and again in 2000.
“We are one of the fastest growing counties in the nation and the current location is still expected to meet our needs,” she said. “We have outgrown it.”
Shearin said that the Richmond Hill Garden Club, of which she also is a member, cannot meet at the library any longer because of space constraints, and the summer reading program had to be moved to a nearby church.
She also noted that many patrons have to order books from other libraries because the current building cannot store everything that it should.
“A library is more than just books though,” she said. “It has computers, meeting rooms, DVDs, reference materials, GED tutoring, home-school activities and books on tape. It is full of intellectual and cultural resources.”
The Friends of the Library group offered to assist the county in fundraising if need be.
“We want to help,” she said. “Let’s find a way around this problem.”