A proposal to turn the East Hall library, closed as a result of budget cuts in July 2011, into a health clinic for county employees is being met with a critical eye from some residents and officials who would like to see the branch revamped and reopened instead.
“We don’t need any more clinics,” said Brenda Williamson, who, along with her husband, Johnny, donated a portion of land at 2464 Oconee Circle to the county so that the library building could be built. “Why would you want to take our library and turn it into a clinic when it’s there for the children and adults to use?”
Williamson said the land was donated for the sole purpose of adding a branch to the library system.
“We thought the library would be good for the community,” she said, adding that she had her own grandchildren in mind when making the donation.
As reported in The Times last month, county officials are exploring options for the library site, with a proposed clinic and pharmacy serving county employees topping the list.
“In our information-gathering process, we’ve seen where this has been successful in other places, and we want to see if this is something that can work for our employees and ultimately be something that can yield benefits,” Hall County Administrator Randy Knighton said at the time.
Officials are expected to evaluate the viability of a health clinic, including how it might save on county health care costs until the end of the current fiscal year this June.
“We really have no say in what to do with it now,” Williamson said. “I’d like to keep the library there because I feel like ... it’s still in a good location.”
Adrian Mixson, director of the Hall County Library System, said he has heard several residents and even county officials express support for reopening the branch, even in a limited capacity.
“I can at least open it back up and offer computer services, which was always the most popular thing over there,” he said, adding that he believes he can do so without additional funding from the county.
Virginia Hale, vice president of the Friends of the Hall County Library System, said she backs Mixson’s vision. Moreover, she said she has heard talk about using the library to expand and improve IT and other support functions for heavily used branches across the system.
“The central library is so crowded,” Hale said. “There has to be a workplace for that” kind of needed support.
“I personally would hate to see (the East Hall branch) used for anything other than library services in some way,” she added.
Mixson noted that the branch also has been used as a polling precinct in recent elections, another service that could be lost if the library is transformed into a clinic.
Several people expressed their support for reopening the library on The Times’ Facebook page.
“Bring back our library and children programs!” wrote Kristin Marie Wells.
But support was not unanimous. “Sell the building. Save the taxpayers money,” wrote Glenn Briggs.