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Nopone Road library site has a hazy future
Commission hears 3 options for former site in North Hall
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After voting to move the North Hall library to Clermont earlier this month, the Hall County Board of Commissioners is considering what to do with the land where it was planned on Nopone Road.

Construction was already under way at the Nopone Road site for a combined library and community center. Work will continue on the community center, but questions remain about the space that was to house the library.

At Monday's work session, county Public Works Director Ken Rearden presented the commission with three options for the space.

The first is to leave an area that could be developed at a later date.

Rearden said this option would save the county about $500,000.

"We'd have to put the sheetrock on the outside of these walls for fire protection and maybe a few doors and just leave that as an empty shell," Rearden said.

Another possibility is to create a technology center with meeting space, a sort of compromise in lieu of a library.

Rearden said the cost would stay within the North Hall facility's established maximum price of $9.73 million but would cause a three- to four-month delay for redesign work, price changes and construction.

"We met with the Friends of the (North Hall) Park and they liked a technology center option that would allow for computer rooms and study areas," Rearden said. "We decided that there is a lot more room here and there could be the multi-use banquet center from the original drawings."

The third option is to redesign and expand the 12,500-square-foot library space into a performing arts theatre.
Building a theatre would cost about $3.5 million more and would likely take about a year longer.

The commissioners asked staff for the estimated cost of operating each of the options.

"While option three may be more of an impact on capital, it may be a lot cheaper in the long run on the general fund in personnel, equipment turnover, that type of thing," said Commissioner Craig Lutz.

Commissioner Billy Powell said he wants to know which of these options would even be legal according to the rules that govern special purpose local option sales tax projects.

Holland & Knight, the firm serving as the interim county attorney, could not provide an immediate answer.

"The instructions we were given was to look into the language on the ballot for the SPLOST referendum and the language relating to the SPLOST referendum and make a judgement about whether these alternate uses are within the language of what was put forward in the referendum," said attorney Charles Johnson.

The commissioners also discussed what would become of the proposed Cool Springs park.

To date, $875,713 has been spent on design and construction work. Earlier this month, the commissioners voted to suspend work on the Northwest Hall park.

Rearden said the land needs to be stabilized before the county can abandon the property. The county also needs to build a gravel road to nearby Marina Bay subdivision's boat storage area, which was cut off during construction.

Rearden said by shutting down the park project, the county will save about $140,000.

He said it hasn't happened yet, but contractors hired to work on the park may challenge the commission's decision to abandon the project.

"I don't think they've pursued anything," Rearden said. "This is a potential for lawsuits and we just needed to inform the commission that the potential is out there."


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