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I have attempted to stay out of the Nopone/Clermont library controversy and let the community decide where to place the facility. If the library board had been part of the decision, it would have followed its own policy on site selection in making a recommendation to the county. The public may refer to this policy on our web page under the folder About Us, Policies, Administrative, Policy C.
The South Hall library is not a Taj Mahal. It came in at $155 per square feet and was under budget. That was an excellent price at the time, considering the cost of steel and concrete, but would have been considerably less expensive if constructed in today's market.
Hopefully, the building will serve the community through its many years of growth and has the parking to accommodate future programs once all the subdivisions in the area have been filled in. The first year the building was in service, we had children's programs with 500-plus in attendance and in the second year had to divide them with attendance still at 300 per program.
I am sure when the Gainesville library was built 45 years ago some considered it a Taj Mahal. Now it is crowded with no parking, little room to handle the 300 attending that library's summer vacation programs, and staff struggling to retrofit the building to provide library services that were considered futuristic when it was constructed.
A good building is cost-efficient to maintain with every opportunity taken to capitalize on providing space dedicated to public use and not in work and mechanical areas. Load-bearing walls and multiple floors are barriers. The future is always a consideration both in terms of addressing growth, maintenance and the ability to shape the interior to meet tomorrows services.
South Hall is not a Taj Mahal. It was considerably less per square foot than any of Gwinnett's construction. One-third of its construction, furnishings and equipment costs came from outside funding, with the remainder SPLOST. The explosion in retail along Spout Springs Road meant much of the SPLOST came from our neighbors to the south.
The fantasy kingdom in the children's room and some of the nicer amenities were actually paid for through donations. The library board did not feel it was an appropriate use of tax dollars but a way some living in the vicinity could show their appreciation.
I would like to remind everyone following the controversy in the paper that if people are fighting over a library there still must be a place for such buildings in our community. I hope we all keep a civil tone and give our neighbors, including our elected officials, the benefit of the doubt until we found out otherwise.
Through civil discourse, we can become a community everyone in 2030 would be proud of. Otherwise, we will be a people known for the ill we carry for our neighbors.
Let us continue to speak about libraries and not people. The press will let us know if there are problems.
Hall County Library Director