Library decision delayed

Published 10:47 am Wednesday, August 17, 2011

GATESVILLE – No decision….as of yet.

At a special called meeting here Monday, the Gates County Board of Commissioners opted to delay their decision for up to 90 days on what action they need to take on the new county library.

“At this point the architect is finished with the design element of the project, what she needs now is the green light from the commissioners in order to proceed with issuing the bid documents to prospective contractors,” Gates County Manager Toby Chappell said.

Chappell added that Monday’s meeting was called for the purpose of whether or not to move forward with the bidding process.

The vote (3-2) favored delaying this particular phase of the project and for the board to come back within a 90-day period to make their decision.

Commission Vice-Chairman Kenneth Jernigan was joined by Commissioners Henry Jordan and Johnny Hora in opting for the delay. Board Chairman Graham Twine and Commissioner Jack Owens voted against the delay.

Currently, plans for the new library call for an 8,100 square foot structure. It will be constructed on property deeded to the county within the Merchant’s Commerce Center, a planned area of commercial and residential development across from Gates County High School.

The estimated price tag is $1.6 million. Chappell stated that is a “turn key” price, meaning it includes everything – parking lot, furniture, computers, IT support, etc.

“That price can be culled down if the commissioners decide to go with less square footage,” Chappell said. “The competitive bidding process can also lower the estimated costs.”

In a related matter on Monday’s special agenda, the commissioners denied Hora’s request to use two months of his county salary to pay for a database that tracks the use of public libraries. At the board’s regularly scheduled meeting earlier this month, Hora received a favorable vote that tentatively approved his request to forego payment of his salary in exchange for the county picking up the $1,500 tab on the database. That motion was contingent upon the county contacting the School of Government for their opinion on the legality of county funds being expended in lieu of salary.

At Monday’s meeting Jordan read an email sent by the School of Government, one recommending the denial of Hora’s request. The board voted in the majority to uphold the School of Government’s recommendation.

Hora has been very vocal about the county pushing forward with building a new library.

“It’s not I’m against building a library, but we need to ensure we’re spending our taxpayer’s money wisely,” he said. “If this database shows a decline in the trends of library usage, what do we do? We need a library, our children need it, but the size needs to match what the data reveals. We’re not getting grant money to build this….this is taxpayer money we’re talking about and the library is a non-revenue bearing part of our local government.”

From the database, Hora said he hopes to learn from what parts of the county are citizens coming from to use the current library (located in Gatesville), what materials are being checked out, the ages of those using the library and the times of the transactions made at the library.

That database will be obtained from Polaris Library Systems, a Texas-based firm that tracks library transactions through the use of a barcode. Hora said those numbers will also include transactions made at neighboring libraries in Bertie, Hertford and Northampton counties.

“I want to be completely satisfied that these numbers will show that we’re making a good economical decision before we go spending over $1.7 million on a new library,” Hora stressed.

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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