Hall County is expected to make another attempt for a new library in East Hall, an area that hasn’t had one since 2011.
The county applied for Georgia Public Library Service grant funding for the past two years, hoping for Georgia legislators to prioritize Hall County. But it has failed to secure local and state funds during both grant cycles.
Last year, the East Hall library plan was third in the state’s priority list, Library Director Lisa MacKinney told The Times, but the county didn’t yet have enough local funds secured to go ahead with the project.
If approved this year, the county would have adequate local funds in hand, Financial Services Director Wesley Geddings said.
The total cost would be about $5 million, including $3 million in local special purpose local option sales tax, a one-penny sales tax which voters approved for this use in 2019. Last year, the county proposed it would match $2 million, but increased construction costs caused the county to up its funding.
“Construction costs have really risen since this time even last year,” MacKinney said. “That was a big part of the reason. No. 1, the state likes us to resubmit every year and confirm that the local money is still there. And two, construction costs have risen so we need to make some adjustments for that.”
The library would be roughly 8,500 square feet, in between the size of Murrayville and Blackshear Place libraries, according to the grant application. The plan would be to fill it with 25,000 books, 75 seats and 21 public computers, but those details could change as the plan develops, MacKinney said.
The county must still find a site for the potential library. MacKinney said they hope to find somewhere that has enough room for a future expansion and adequate internal parking.
“I’m expecting sometime in the next three months, we’ll have to get really, really serious about it,” she said. “Obviously it’ll be somewhere in East Hall. All I’ve really heard now are ideas being thrown about but nothing close to being anything final.”
Locking down a site would help keep an East Hall library a priority for state legislators, who will ultimately decide on the most urgent projects during their 2023 session beginning in January. Typically three to five applications are funded each year, Geddings said.
The East Hall area has seen increased growth and development in recent years, with more to come once the Northeast Georgia Inland Port and a new Kubota facility come online.
East Hall is one of the poorest parts of the county with about 91% of students at White Sulphur Elementary classified as economically disadvantaged, according to 2020 Hall County Schools data. East Hall High School classified 67% of students as economically disadvantaged in 2020.
Hall County secured funding through this grant for renovations to Gainesville Library in 2018.
The Hall County Board of Commissioners will vote on whether to resubmit the grant application Thursday, July 14.