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Residents of North Hall County were told that if they voted for SPLOST VI, a portion of the proceeds would go to fund a much-needed North Hall park and community center, and to build a library on the land the county had already purchased in Clermont with SPLOST V funds. Both projects are very important to the residents of North Hall and the county received a "yes" vote.
The two projects were initially represented as distinctly separate projects until last week, when Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom Oliver unveiled the plan for a combined community center and library on the land purchased for the park. I originally thought this was a good idea to have a one-stop shop for family activities that could possibly save the county taxpayer dollars if the two facilities were combined. Then the cons of this idea were brought to my attention and completely changed my mind.
First, it seems that the county has promised Clermont a library for almost 30 years. Clermont has been patient and has continued to fund the tiny library, some refer to as "the shack," that is currently in use there.
When the land was purchased a few years ago, it seemed the library would soon follow. To break this promise that has been made for so long, especially after lobbying to Clermont that the SPLOST VI would fund its promised library, is just wrong on the part of our commissioners and causes me to question their integrity behind this sudden decision to combine the facilities.
Some librarians and parents have made great points against a combined library-park facility: dirty, perspiring athletes and rained-soaked children regularly using the library, causing accelerated wear and tear; more unsupervised children than you would normally find if these facilities were separate; and the greater likelihood of child predators.
The current concept even includes shared bathrooms between the ballfields and library. All of these items should be strongly considered by our commissioners before they cast their final vote.
Finally, due to the land's space limitations, both the park and library will have to be reduced in size and services if the two are combined. There already are concerns that parking will be an issue and that the park will have no more space for expansion. It is shortsighted to reduce both facilities without much consideration for the future needs of the area.
It would also be a shame to hold up either project to fight for a combined facility when that was never part of the original plan. The library and the park were needed in North Hall years ago, not years from now.
Please voice your opinion and let commissioners know how you feel about the responsibility to honor their commitments to the voters of this county. Call the county office at 770-535-8288 or attend the next board meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Georgia Mountains Center.