It may be a case of David vs. Goliath, but Clermont officials say they are prepared to take on the county in a likely costly legal battle over the location of a North Hall library.
Hall County has a budget of more than $90 million; Clermont’s budget is a little more than $200,000. The tiny city plans to use money from its general fund as well as donations from town residents to take the fight for a library to court.
“The city does have a limited budget but the town council has been conservative and frugal and smart money managers over the years and they do have funds that they have been able to save over the years,” Clermont attorney David Syfan said.
The city voted Tuesday evening to sue Hall County over the Board of Commissioners’ decision to build a North Hall library on Nopone Road. Clermont was originally considered as a site for the future library, and town residents say the commissioners abused their discretion with sales tax dollars by changing the location.
County officials say the Clermont site was only a consideration; no vote had ever been taken to confirm a location for the library.
Clermont Mayor James Nix said the city will take things “one step at a time.”
Nix said some Clermont residents have offered to donate money to the cause.
The town already has a group that has donated time to the library fight by doing research, attending meetings and contacting elected officials.
“Some have already (given), and we’ll see how many more are going to,” Nix said. “We have a very strong group that believes something good will come out.”
Syfan said the town hopes to avoid litigation but he is preparing for a lawsuit.
The city will continue negotiations with the county in hopes of avoiding court action.
“I still have some hope that evidently certain documents have come to light that not all the commissioners were aware of,” Syfan said. “That they’ll realize that in light of that documentation they’ve made a mistake.”
Syfan acknowledged that a lawsuit could be expensive.
“It’s always expensive when you take on the county,” Syfan said. “It’s difficult to say how expensive this is going to be for all sides.”
Clermont has set aside $8,500 for legal fees in its budget. The city also has about $132,000 dollars in savings that officials hope they don’t have to tap.
“The bad part of it is here we are in such a bad time to have to do this,” Nix said. “We may have to give up something else. It was even mentioned we just forego our Clermont Days celebration.”
Clermont does not collect a property tax. It’s funding comes from sales taxes and fees.
“There’s no big income things for the town of Clermont,” Nix said. “But we don’t go out and spend on frivolous things, either.”