Hall County library officials are getting started on the initial phases of a major renovation of the Gainesville library branch, located off the downtown square, and are seeking up to $2 million from the state legislature this year to supplement special purpose local option sales tax revenue to fund the project.
“We are still in a very early stage with this,” said Mark Pettitt, chairman of the library Board of Trustees. “At this point, the most important item for us regarding the construction project is securing the state funding during the legislative session so that we can move forward and hopefully break ground in 2018.”
The board will meet Thursday to begin reviewing the project parameters before contracting with a design firm to model plans for the renovations. They will also discuss the general timeline for the project.
Library officials have said they’ve long needed to overhaul the Gainesville branch, beginning with re-carpeting, re-painting and re-wiring.
They also want to add new furniture, replace outside sidewalks, and convert the back loading dock into a receiving and storage area.
Finally, redesigning the inside layout of the library is seen as critical to maximizing resources and limited space. Creating study rooms for patrons is highly desired.
“We hope to find out more once we contract with an architect and project manager,” Pettitt said. “We know our needs are a larger children's area, perhaps moving it upstairs to enhance safety, as well as restructuring administrative space and circulation to make more use of existing space. We also want to provide a larger community room. The current community room is tiny. Overall, we need more space, and due to being locked on each side of the property by streets, expanding will have to be creative.”
When voters approved SPLOST VII in March 2015, $2.5 million was allocated to renovate the library.
And it was always anticipated that the state would provide a relative match of that amount to cover the full costs.
Pettitt said the proposed renovations have been on a state Board of Regents waiting list for capital projects for a few years and now are near the top of the list.
Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said it was too early to tell how much lawmakers in Atlanta would approve for the renovation in the next state budget.
“These types of items are not in the amended budget (for the current fiscal year),” he added. “It will have to be in the big budget (that runs) July 1 to December 31 (of this year).”
Pettitt said the renovations to the library will coincide with redevelopment plans directed by the city, which include improving the downtown and midtown areas with retail projects, street and pedestrian walkway improvements and housing construction.
“We want to be a part of that,” Pettitt said.