What: Public hearing and commissioner vote on North Hall library
When: 5 p.m. Thursday
Where: Georgia Mountains Center, 301 Main St., Gainesville
The Hall County Board of Commissioners held a special workshop Monday to discuss plans for the North Hall park and library.
The commission is charged with deciding whether to build a North Hall library on the same Nopone Road site as the North Hall park and community center. Both projects are to be funded by sales tax.
Discussion at the workshop focused on the logistics of combining facilities at Nopone Road should the commissioners vote to do so at a board meeting Thursday.
Clermont residents are upset by the county's recent proposal to build both projects on the same property, claiming they were promised the North Hall library would be built on land purchased in the city of Clermont.
The park project was fast-tracked in 2009 and commissioners asked if adding the library component would slow down the project.
"The question is, do we build it now or leave a site (for the library)?" said Hall County Public Works Director Ken Rearden. "I don't think either one of them's going to slow the site down significantly."
Architects would need to redesign the facilities and get input from the Hall County Library Board, which would likely delay the bidding process a few months.
The other option is for the commission to delay the construction of the library until 2013, as originally planned in the special purpose local option sales tax.
Rearden also briefed the commissioners on possible issues with the septic system. The design also may need to be altered because much of the 123-acre property lies in a flood plain or a flood way.
"It's a big site, but it's also a tough site," Rearden said.
Members of the Clermont community attended the workshop, though it was not open for public comment. The commission will hold a public hearing and vote on the issue at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Georgia Mountains Center.
As of Monday, some commissioners still were undecided on the issue.
The disagreement over the library's location has escalated since Saturday, when Clermont's attorney David Syfan said at a town meeting that Clermont may file suit if the county votes to build the library on Nopone Road.
"You have a handshake with the people of Clermont that the library would go in the town of Clermont," Syfan said as he addressed the commission Monday morning. "I ask you to live up to that word."
Many Clermont residents say they were told by county employees that if they voted for the special sales tax, the library would be built in Clermont.
But Assistant County Administrator Phil Sutton, who gave presentations about the 1 cent sales tax leading up to the March 2009 vote, said no such promise was ever made.
"The commission has never made that decision," Sutton said. "All five of them have to raise their hand and vote."
Sutton said though Clermont has always been a potential site for the library, the ballot read "North Hall library," because the final location had not been selected.
"We've never portrayed it as anything other than that," Sutton said.
Commissioner Ashley Bell, an attorney by trade, said he will try to vote based on the letter of the law.
"This case comes down to whether or not the county promised Clermont that we would build the library at this location," Bell said. "The public perception is that we have.
"It's a matter of integrity yes, but a matter of law also."