A working group created to provide the Calloway County Public Library Board with recommendations for a library expansion received pushback from some board members Tuesday night.
Judge/Executive Kenny Imes created the group after calls from the community for him to get involved with the library board after plans for expansion were rescinded in 2018.
Group Chair Bobby Martin said the group recommends the board discontinue the pursuit of the former Regions Bank building downtown and continue with the 5253 Design Group Essential Plus plan as soon as possible. He said the bank building has security issues and lacks community support.
“Our community is a mosaic. And for the community to look good- to look the way we want it to look- every piece of the mosaic has to shine. We have a good library- it’s been a good library for a long time. But it’s time for it to improve,” he said.
Board Secretary Mark Kennedy disputed nearly every suggestion by the working group. Kennedy had proposed moving into the bank building as a potentially cheaper alternative to expansion.
Kennedy said safety and security at the former Regions Bank building is, “Not an issue. I don’t know of any other way to say it.” He also disregarded the group’s concern about the high traffic area surrounding the bank building because traffic lights and crosswalks are present. Kennedy suggested the board continue with their plans to see if the former bank is a viable option for a library expansion.
5253 Head Architect Chris Cottongim is currently working on a viability study of the former Regions Bank building. He said in Tuesday’s meeting that he hopes it to be complete by the board’s May meeting.
One recommendation is to ask the Friends of the Library community group to raise funds for the expansion. Board Treasurer Winfield Rose asked why the group couldn’t start immediately fundraising.
Martin said the group’s suggestion of getting the Friends of the Library group involved with fundraising is based on the recommendation that the board moves forward with the Essential Plus plan. Board President Audrey Neal added that Friends of the Library don’t know what they are fundraising for yet- as the board has not officially decided on which expansion project they want.
Friends of the Library Vice President Bonnie Higginson said the group would be happy to fundraise for an expansion. “But, in order to ask people for money, they want to know what they will get out of it,” she said.
Rose said, “How much they plan to raise is important to me.” Martin said in response, “If you go in a direction they aren’t in favor of, my guess is going to be zero.”
The Working Group’s recommendations:
- The need for additional space for the library is great.
- The pursuit of the former Regions Bank building should be discontinued. We believe it is not the best option for locating the library for the following reasons:
- Lack of adequate close, safe parking;
- Security issues with the building itself;
- Located at the intersection of two busy state highways presents hazardous conditions;
- Unknown quantity of money required to bring the structure up to standards required for a public library;
- Lack of community support for that location.
3. The Essential Plus plan presented by the 5253 Design Group is the best way to begin the renovation/expansion process for the library.
4. Put this plan out for bids to determine the actual cost of the plan. Asses the bids received to determine the viability of any proposal.
5. Pursue financing of needed funds to complete the project locally. Cost savings over a bond issue would be substantial. Likely get the construction underway sooner, as well. Also, save bonding strength for other county projects (e.g. road construction).
6. Request the Friends of the Library become involved as a fund-raising entity to help defray the cost of construction.
7. Begin this process as soon as possible. Interest rates are subject to change at any time, as well as construction materials and labor costs.
No action was taken on the suggestions.
Judge/Executive Kenny Imes has not responded to a request for comment.