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Libraries are our communities centerpiece for education, informed citizenry, lifelong learning and recreation. All people should have free and equitable access to collections of books and media, meeting spaces, homework centers, study rooms and technology.
These services are what our libraries provide every day. Libraries are also where our children, teens and adults can go to enjoy programs that teach, entertain and stimulate minds.
In 2008, the Hall County Library System staff conducted public focus groups and surveys to get citizens input on strengths, weaknesses and public expectations for Hall library service. Survey results and discussions were used for long-range planning.
Survey respondents overwhelmingly identified the Hall County Library System's Clermont Branch as inadequate to serve the needs of patrons in northern Hall County. The branch is housed in an old home, which is too small for programming or an adequate collection and offers inadequate space for computers. The small building lacks handicapped access and lacks sufficient parking needed for staff and patrons.
Hall County government leaders responded to citizens call for a new North Hall library branch, and included the project in the upcoming SPLOST VI, along with other infrastructure improvement items.
Our residents certainly deserve a library in the Clermont-North Hall area offering services and facilities similar to those offered at the Gainesville headquarters, Blackshear Place, Spout Springs, Murrayville and East Hall.
Voters approved SPLOST V in 2004, funding the Spout Springs Branch, which opened in May 2008. Library use increases at the new branch weekly. Study rooms stay booked; computer classes grow in size; community organizations use public meeting rooms six to 10 times weekly. Numbers of children attending storytimes are growing. Research questions keep staff busy. Adult programming attendance has grown. Build a good library and you help to grow a healthy, informed, productive citizenry.
Our public libraries give people tools they need to achieve their full potential. Since a Clermont-North Hall library branch will enrich the local area and, by extension, the entire county population I ask you to support SPLOST VI. Please, vote early at the elections office or on March 17 at your polling place.
President, Friends of Hall County Library System, Flowery Branch
Commissioners wrong to enter city land deal
Here we go once again, with Hall County government giving all the appearances of ethical misconduct, if not out and out corruption. This is the same government that whines about needing us to vote for an extension of the SPLOST so it can fund questionable pet projects.
I specifically refer to County Commission Chairman Tom Oliver, his business partner and fellow Commissioner Billy Powell, and their partner investor, attorney Tread Syfan. The three are principals in City View Investments, LLC, which stands to make millions in profits from the Midtown development of the old Town View Plaza.
Whether real or imagined, those three give the appearance of having colluded in an investment scheme for personal enrichment, based on insider information. Syfan is the former attorney for matters related to the Gainesville City Center project of the city-county Redevelopment Authority. Although currently unproven, the perception is that he may have had insider access to valuable information not known to the general public.
To an outsider, it might look as if Syfan was recruited into the scheme by public officials Oliver and Powell just because of his special access to that valuable information. Now they're all involved in a lawsuit over a driveway, which stalls the centerpiece of a revitalized midtown by preventing progress until a resolution is reached. Getting there may cost Gainesville taxpayers tens of thousands in legal fees.
County government officials, and particularly county commissioners, have no place being involved in profit-making ventures that deal directly or peripherally with county or city projects.
Furthermore, no commissioners should be in any business ventures together whatsoever, specifically because they have direct influence over government projects and purchases. Two commissioners easily could be seen as influencing the entire county commission to vote favorably on their personal business interests. Taxpayers might feel that this whole situation seems to smell as bad as three-day-old fish. (Later this year it may smell more like a sewer in Oliver's part of the county, if he gets his way.)
Whether Oliver, Powell and Syfan have acted illegally or unethically is open to investigation. That they stepped over the bounds of propriety is clear. When his undisclosed conflict of interest became public news, Syfan quickly recused himself as the Redevelopment Authority attorney for the City Center project. I imagine the state bar association, as well as the legal firm that employs him, may be taking a look at his behavior.
In the meantime, what's the remedy for two commissioners who are now intentionally holding up a city project that's been in the making for over a decade?
Do we tolerate county commissioners holding a city hostage until they get their way? I hope not. Maybe they need to step down as commissioners so they can pursue their businesses. This county, after all, isn't their personal fiefdom.