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Hall commissioners may give to Clermont library
Town fashioned library in county building using donated books, volunteers
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At least two of the five Hall County commissioners are in favor of renovating the county building that houses the Historic Clermont Dip Library, and one is against.

The library officially opened in April after residents, determined to have a library in Clermont, created one from donated books and time after the county decided to build a park and library branch on Nopone Road instead of in the town.

Now, the library needs more space and a technology upgrade.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners will consider on Thursday evening whether to spend up to $525,000 on the town’s creation. Commissioners Scott Gibbs and Ashley Bell said they were in favor of the project, while Commissioner Billy Powell said there’s no need to spend the money on a 50-year-old cinder block building.

Calls to Commissioner Craig Lutz and Chairman Tom Oliver were not returned.

“If it’s a Clermont project, then why is the county paying for it?” Powell asked.

The town sued the county in April 2010 over its right to have a library branch after the commission voted to use special purpose local option sales tax funds to build the park and technology center on Nopone.

The decision infuriated many Clermont residents, who claimed they had voted in favor of the one-cent tax so the county would pay for a new library branch in their town. The dispute went to court, which ruled in the commission’s favor, saying the ballot only promised a North Hall library branch and didn’t specify a location.

Budget cuts closed the town’s older county-funded branch in July 2011.

“This may be a good compromise with what they have going on up there,” Bell said.

The county’s SPLOST VI fund has a line item labeled North Hall Library; $3 million budgeted for that item was intended just for the Nopone Road facility, but at some point around the beginning of 2011, about $525,000 was earmarked for the Clermont library, said Tim Sims, Hall County purchasing manager. The line item has about $667,686 left in the fund as of Oct. 31, the spreadsheet shows.

North Hall Technology Center has e-readers as well as other portable devices that can download books. It also has a system where residents can reserve, pick up and drop off books.

“(The Clermont library has) coffee, stacks and periodicals,” said Sandra Cantrell, president of the Clermont Historical Society, which manages the library. “It’s a completely different feel and targets a completely different group.”

The library, open Monday and Wednesday afternoons, is housed in a classroom in the Clermont Gym, which is leased from the county. The town operates the library and it’s staffed with volunteers.

Cantrell said the library has outgrown its space and has no computers. The library would like to offer classes in technology, genealogy and art and plans to open on Friday afternoons starting in January, Cantrell said. It offers wireless for people who bring in personal devices.

“There’s a lot of kids in this area that don’t have the Internet,” Cantrell said.

The gym is bad shape, Gibbs said. The building hasn’t had any work done on it in years, he said. The Clermont library is a “tremendous” asset that doesn’t cost the county any money from its general revenue fund and it’s available for use by all county residents, he said.

“It’s just in dire repair,” Gibbs said. “It’s definitely time to do something with it.”

Clermont Mayor James Nix said he’s worked with county officials on renovating the property for months, but talks became serious in the past few months. Conversations with Gibbs and Oliver have been encouraging, he said.

“I hope they’ll go along with it,” Nix said.