Architect’s contract approved

Published 11:26 am Wednesday, October 13, 2010

GATESVILLE – A months-long debate, turning passionate at times, over whether or not to move forward with building a new public library in the county reached a critical stage here last week.

In a 3-2 vote, the Gates County Board of Commissioners agreed to a contract with LS3P to perform the initial architectural work, which includes site selection, architectural design services, holding community workshops to see what is needed in the proposed new facility, concept design, schematic design and assistance with the USDA (loan) application process.

Following the approval of the contract, the board voted, again by a 3-2 count, on a budget amendment in the amount of $72,650 to pay for the LS3P services.

Board Chairman Graham Twine, Vice-Chairman Kenneth Jernigan and Commissioner Wade Askew voted in favor of both measures. Commissioners Henry Jordan and Carlton Nickens offered the opposition to both.

Prior to the vote, the commissioners discussed the issue.

“This looks like the first step for committing county funds towards the library,” Jordan said. “I’m of the same opinion I was initially….this is something that we should somehow tie to citizen’s involvement, rather if that’s a tax referendum, a tax increase, whatever. I would not be in favor of moving forward (without that).”

“I voice that same opinion; I was against this in the beginning and I’m against it now,” Nickens said. “I’m not against the library, but I’m against not letting the citizens have their say. Where is this money coming from?”

“I love libraries; I love books,” Askew stated. “We have to be strong and courageous and go forward with what’s best for our citizens.”

Askew also cited the North Carolina Constitution, specifically citing the mention of education in that document….“schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

“We’ve talked about putting the library issue on a voter referendum,” Askew continued. “If we put it on a referendum, it’s not your rear end that’s at stake, it’s the commissioners’ rear end that’s at stake. There could be indictment charges filed against this board for lack of educational opportunities to the citizens of this county. That’s why the library itself cannot be put on a voter referendum. A tax increase for a library can be put to a vote. I believe we need to go forward with this. I believe we are going in the right direction.”

“I’m for a library,” Jernigan said. “I look over here at our DSS building, one we borrowed money a few years ago to build. We went out a couple of years ago and borrowed six and one-half million dollars to build a new gym at the high school and for improvements to our other schools. I don’t remember a single person complaining about those projects. These projects were needed.

“We’re trying to do something great for this county, give them a library that the county needs,” Jernigan added. “We’ve had plenty of comments on this, some good, some bad, but I feel the good comments have outweighed the bad. This is part of the educational process…to have a place where not only our young students can go and learn, but our senior citizens as well. I feel that a new library is needed.”

“I feel like a new library is an investment in our county,” Twine noted. “When I took this office back in 2008, all I heard was that Gates County doesn’t have this, we don’t have that. During my two years in office I’ve found out the reason why we don’t have anything, it’s because two or three people in the county don’t want it and they have a way to push their opinions across. It’s time for that to stop. I’ve heard a lot more comments for a library than those against it. I feel that Gates County needs to invest in itself to move forward.”

After the votes were cast, County Manager Toby Chappell said USDA (the possible financial source for a loan to build the facility) and LS3P needs a list of possible sites for a new library in order for those locations to be evaluated.

“This process cannot go any further until a site is selected. I don’t know how the board wants to deal with site selection,” Chappell said.

“Do we want to keep it in Gatesville or the outskirts of Gatesville,” Askew inquired.

“Do we have any land we already own that will work,” asked Twine.

Chappell said none of the county’s current property would be large enough to build a library.

“We had talked about the property in front of the high school that is currently being developed, I’d like to see that explored,” Jernigan suggested.

Jordan said he was unaware of any property in Sunbury that could be used for a library. He added that the old Sunbury School was a possibility, but now that has been taken off the list due to that property being considered for marketing by Preservation North Carolina.

Twine suggested that Chappell explore what properties are available. Jernigan added to that by saying he would also like to see Gatesville considered as a possible location.

“We could talk to a landowner here in Gatesville that would be willing to donate a piece of property or consider selling it at a reduced price,” Jernigan said.

“We could publicize this to see if anyone had land to sell or donate for a new library,” Jordan suggested.

Chappell said he would move forward with the site selection process based upon the suggestions made by the commissioners.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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