JONESVILLE — There is no doubt in anyone’s statements that Jonesville needs to have a public library, but the future location of the library, which has opened in a new temporary location following mold and water issues in the former building, is what now has to be decided by town and library officials.
The Jonesville Public Library reopened Monday in the new temporary location, beside the Hugh Chatham Urgent Care on N.C. 67, after being closed for weeks for an involved inspection and clean up of the books which could be salvaged following storms and heavy rain that led to major water and mold damage in the former site, which was beside the old town hall on West Main Street.
Because insurance adjusters determined the damage to the facility and its contents was not solely due to this one incident, but instead a long-term issue with the age and maintenance of the building, the insurance companies will not be approving funding for a claim to replace the books or repair the damaged building, reported Town Manager Scott Buffkin.
This leaves the library in a predicament with a temporary location which is only available for six months, unless Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital will allow the library to stay on longer while a more permanent solution is settled on and executed.
This permanent solution was the topic of a special meeting of the Jonesville Town Council Monday night, with Buffkin providing a list of options followed by discussion by the council members and town residents and library staff and supports.
Prior to highlighting the options, Buffkin told the council he had received two quotes back on demolition of the existing building the library previously occupied, with the lowest being $6,500 and the other $10,000. He also has requested the Yadkin County Building Inspection department to do a walk-through of the building to get that staff’s opinion of the building conditions.
Two of the options involve remodeling or renovating structures to accommodate the library’s needs, whether that be work on the existing building which Buffkin noted will still mean it is an older building with maintenance issues or another facility which could either be purchased or leased. Cons pointed out for fixing up another facility included wanting to remain near the elementary school and if it is leased, the property owner could decide on another future for the site and then the library would be searching for a new home again.
The other two options presented involve construction of a new facility, with one option being building at the existing site if the current building is demolished or building at a new location, which would involve purchase of land. New construction was estimated to cost $100 to $125 per square foot for the building and its equipment and furniture.
When questioned about the typical size of a library structure, John Hedrick, director of the Northwest Regional Library System, of which the Jonesville library is a part, said they try to look 10 to 15 years into the future to determine what a neighborhood realistically would need. He said, “Four thousand square feet would be desirable.”
The building which the library had been in was 2,600 square feet and was chopped up into rooms and a couple of different levels which made handicap accessibility difficult, said members of the library staff.
Discussion also was held about how the new libraries in East Bend and Boonville came about and were funded, which Hedrick said were initiated by the Friends of the Libraries at those facilities and paid for mostly by donations and grants written by supporters of those libraries.
The Boonville library, Hedrick said, cost $400,000 to construct and furnish in 2000-01 when it was built and is 3,050 square feet. “It is a pretty building, but they are already running out of space and in the early stages of planning for an expansion,” he said.
The East Bend library, on the other hand, was an $800,000 project and had donations and funding to spare, so the project leaders were able to go with more bells and whistles in the facility and build a library at 6,700 square feet for $800,000 in 2006 or 2007, he reported.
As the council members discussed the situation with the Jonesville library and the property owned by the town where it formerly was housed, Councilman Wayne Moore said, “Personally I don’t want to see us spend anymore money on that building. The $6,500 is a bargain to demolish it. I’d like to see us move forward.”
Councilman Andy Green said he agreed with Moore on the future fate of the building. He added he is in favor of a plan to build a new structure on the existing property once the old building is demolished.
“The safety of the kids right there next to the school is best,” said Councilman Tracy Wall, to which Green added, “And it is an established location.”
Parking was another issue brought highlighted during the discussion. A recommendation was made that if the library building is constructed on the existing lot, to move the building back farther on the lot, since the town also owns the fenced, grass area behind the existing structure, so that parking can be in front of the building.
Councilwoman Judy Wolfe was concerned with the mention of tearing down the building, and encouraged town leaders to have a professional inspect it to see if it truly is beyond repair and use.
Hedrick said he believes renovation of the building the library has been using “would be a lost cause” due to the lack of handicap accessibility. A library patron attending the meeting also pointed out concrete can be seen deteriorating on the exterior of the building, with columns beginning to lean inside.
The last estimate received on a building across the street from the existing building for getting it fixed and usable was $350,000, reported Cody Amburn, president of the Friends of the Jonesville Public Library. “It was all open and all one level, but again it’s an old building and parking was a problem,” he said.
Green said he would like to see the town “move forward with building plans and how we would place it on that lot.” He noted if the construction is done on another location, then the town still has buildings it owns not being used.
In the meantime, Buffkin is awaiting a more definite answer to see if the possibility to have the library remain in the Hugh Chatham owned facility a little longer is feasible, or if another longer-term temporary location is needed while the permanent solution is decided on.
Buffkin said any new construction would have to be done through a loan, since the town doesn’t have that kind of money on hand. He said a half-million dollar loan would represent 2 cents on the tax rate.
“It’s my understanding Jonesville School has 90 percent on free and reduced lunch. They don’t have access to the internet and they are required to have it for homework as they get older,” said one patron of the library. “I feel as a resident of this town it is an obligation even it if means raising taxes that we have a library for the children.”
Another patron said, “I was without a job and I was at the library daily job searching and sending resumes, and if it weren’t there, I wouldn’t have a job at a law firm in Winston-Salem.”
In the end, the council unanimously appointed a committee to spearhead the library project’s future, which will include researching building types, sizes, how it might be situated on the lot and costs of construction. Those appointed include Buffkin, Hedrick, Wolfe, Amburn, Branch Librarian Barbara Gilpin, Amy Royall and Dan Bray.
The committee members are hoping to meet as soon as possible to get started on the process.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.