One Direction?

Published 9:37 am Monday, September 19, 2016

AHOSKIE – It appears that plans to build Ahoskie’s new public library are moving forward in a positive manner.

The only “hiccup” is in which direction will the front of the 10,469 square foot building face: Main Street or Church Street?

That issue was raised here Tuesday evening during the regularly scheduled meeting of the Ahoskie Town Council. There, representatives of Rocky Mount-based architectural firm Oakley-Collier made a formal presentation of the construction blueprints. Those drawings showed the front of the building facing Church Street, prompting a few members of the Council and some in the audience to flash a look of bewilderment.

In her presentation, Janae Wilson of Oakley-Collier referenced the library’s 39-space parking lot with an entrance off Church Street. She did add that vehicular traffic can enter the library site from Main Street.

She also referenced a “sentiment basin” – an area that collects rainwater run-off before being absorbed by the town’s drainage system. The presence of a drainage basin facing Main Street prompted the discussion about the direction the front of the library would face.

“What will this look like from Main Street; and from the sides of the building facing Southern Bank and the Presbyterian Church,” inquired Town Councilman Charles Freeman.

“I was under the impression that it (front of the library) would face Main Street,” Freeman continued. “Do we want this to face Main Street or Church Street? The purpose of the library being on Main Street is to draw attention to Main Street.”

“I don’t remember a discussion about that; I think we took it for granted that it would face Main Street,” commented Councilman C. David Stackhouse.

“To my knowledge it’s always been discussed it would face Church Street,” chimed in Ahoskie Town Manager Tony Hammond.

“This is the first time I’ve heard Church Street,” Freeman noted.

Councilman Justin Freeman also weighed in on the issue, saying,” “Our Main Street already has an identity problem; this, in my opinion, adds to that. Why isn’t the library facing Main Street? Can we turn it around?”

Ahoskie Mayor Jimmie Rowe asked Wilson to explain the reason why the front of the library would be better suited to face Church Street.

“We went back and forth with that,” said Wilson. “What we wanted to do with the design is to make it look like every side of the building would look like the front.”

Still there was the issue of the drainage basin facing Main Street.

“It’s not a retention pond like you see in other places; this is a basin where the water runs down to it and collects before emptying into the town’s stormwater drainage,” Wilson said. “The water doesn’t sit there.”

Wilson further explained that the soil on the property was better suited to have the library’s front positioned to face Church Street. She added that fact was discovered during a geo-technical survey conducted on the property, which was deeded as a gift to the town by Southern Bank.

There was a question if a chain link fence was required around the drainage basin.

Hammond said it was not required because area is not a retention pond.

“This area will not retain water,” Hammond said. “It’s not anything like the retention pond adjacent to (Ahoskie’s) police department, or the one constructed at Murphy Oil.”

“Can this building be turned around so the front can face Main Street,” asked Freeman.

“Not from what I’m hearing due to the soil report,” stated Stackhouse.

“I’d like to see the soil report,” Freeman responded.

Several members of the Ahoskie Public Library Board seated in the audience spoke at the same time, saying those soil reports along with other plans and specifications had been presented by the architect at their meetings. Ahoskie Librarian Cindy Henderson said later that the decision for the front of the building to face Church Street was reached earlier in the planning process. She also stated there was the possibility that signage may be placed on the back of the building.

“There is no action required by Council from this point forward; the library plans are in place and we’re moving forward with letting the bids,” said Hammond.

As part of her presentation, Wilson also showed the finalized floor plan and site plan. The floor plan shows a vestibule type entrance from where patrons can either walk to the right to gain access to the main area of the library or to the left to a large meeting room if they have business there.

“The meeting room can be used for various functions, even when the main library is closed,” Wilson said. “There will be access to the bathrooms from the meeting room.”

The main portion of the library is an open space, complete, of course, with shelving for the books and other reading material. There are four private tutoring rooms for use, as well as a glassed-in children’s reading/activity area, a public access computer room, an area/work space for library staff, and a breakroom.

Wilson said all architectural plans and specs have been submitted to USDA (the financial lending agency for the project).

“USDA has made comments on those plans and we have addressed their comments,” Wilson noted. “All we’re waiting on now is their final approval and the next step after that is to put this project out for (construction) bids. That will hopefully be done in the next two weeks.”

If plans proceed on schedule, Wilson said bidding will close in late October or early November. Once that process is complete and the bid awarded, the town has to clear one final hurdle of gaining Local Government Commission approval before officially breaking ground.

The projected cost for the new library is $1,725,942. That is lower than what was projected one year ago ($2.242 million). It was at that meeting in September of 2015 where the Ahoskie Town Council unanimously approved moving forward on a government funding to help finance the library project.

At that time, Hammond said based on the town’s current tax rate, the repayment of a 40-year note would be $107,000 annually, requiring a 4-cent tax increase. There was no mention of what the tax increase will be with a new cost estimate of $1.725 million.

The latter price is only for anticipated construction costs. To date, numerous fundraisers, to include the annual Backyard BBQ Cook-off held as part of Ahoskie Heritage Day, have been held over the years for a Library Building Fund. That money, as well as additional donations, has totaled a shade over $120,000. Those funds were expended to pay for the library’s architectural plans (over $114,000) as well as the geotechnical services topographic survey needed for the site plan.

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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