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County, library have different ideas on use of former East Hall branch
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The Hall County Library System Board of Trustees discussed the possibility of reopening the East Hall branch at its meeting Tuesday, though the decision “is not exactly going to be in our hands.”

Hall County has expressed interest in using the former library branch, which closed as a result of budget cuts in July 2011, as the location of a possible health clinic for county employees.

Part of the land at 2464 Oconee Circle was donated to the county so the library building could be built.

“The county owns the building,” library system Director Adrian Mixson said. “I myself think we could use the building but in the end we’re using it at their behest and don’t have a real say in it. But at least right now we can take a look at the budget.”

Mixson offered the board a nearly $300,000 budget that would allow for the reopening of the branch in fiscal year 2014 though in a somewhat diminished capacity. The branch would be primarily used as a computer lab though patrons would also be able to order books to be delivered to the branch from other libraries.

The majority of the budget shifts funds from the Gainesville branch’s budget to provide for the payroll and benefits of the seven existing staff members who would relocate to the East Hall branch to operate the building. An additional $25,000 was earmarked for the purchase of furniture and computer equipment. The building is currently empty except for shelving.

The proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2015 increased by $31,000 to accommodate utilities and employee benefits.

Mixson also provided an updated floor plan for how the building could be used. Space for the Friends of the Hall County Library, a support group to the system, was also set aside.

Board Chairman Andy Henderson asked Hall County Commissioner Billy Powell, who serves as an ex-officio member of the board, how far along the county is in its efforts to open the clinic.

“It’s not a done deal yet but we’ve got floor plans filled out, sketched out and pretty much all of the building is used,” Powell said.

Powell said the topic is expected to be brought before the Board of Commissioners in a month.

The clinic is expected to save money through preventive wellness care for employees, and a pharmacy would provide prescriptions to the jail and correctional institute at wholesale costs.

County officials are in the process of researching the feasibility of the clinic and potential cost savings. That process is likely to last until the start of the next fiscal year in July.

Board member Mark Pettitt asked if there might be room to open a computer lab at the Hall County Government Building on Browns Bridge Road in the event the East Hall branch is turned into a clinic.

Powell agreed to ask about the possibility of the library using a large storage space on the fourth floor of the building but said it was his understanding the space is not currently used because of fire safety and capacity issues.

Henderson suggested the board look into the costs of upgrading the space to meet the necessary standards to open a computer lab for the public.

“Our technology expansion is pretty important,” Henderson said.