published Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Ground broken for $4 million Walker County Library project in LaFayette

The LaFayette-Walker County Public Library is being replaced. The use of prison labor will cut the cost of the $4 million project by about $400,000.
The LaFayette-Walker County Public Library is being replaced. The use of prison labor will cut the cost of the $4 million project by about $400,000.
Photo by Dan Henry.

After years with a leaky roof, broken air conditioning system and outdated design, the LaFayette-Walker County Public Library had ground broken Monday on its new $4 million home.

The two-year project will create a modern facility able to handle library needs, which fundamentally changed with the technological revolution, officials said. About half the library's patrons use the Internet, and the 1969 building had walls so thick, wireless signals couldn't pass through in some areas.

"The building was just giving up the ghost," said Tim York, manager of the library. "It was just dying."

The library's collection and services relocated to a nearby Food Lion shopping plaza on Aug. 15, where they will stay until the new building opens.

York said the site is serving the community well, but as more than 50 people celebrated Monday's official start of the project, it was clear many are looking forward to the future.

"This building wasn't about creating more space for books," said Lecia Eubanks, director of the Cherokee Regional Library System, who picked up a golden shovel for Monday's ceremony. "We needed more space for things like technology training."

The improvement of Internet services will be one of the most useful changes for the community, Eubanks said. Important resources such as job and government service applications are things some residents have no other means of accessing, she said.

In addition to a computer lab, the new site will include study rooms, meeting spaces and children and teen areas, all of which are new or improved over the original structure.

To secure state funding, which covered half the project's cost, library officials first had to land city and county funds.

LaFayette pledged $500,000 of its special purpose local option sales tax money, and Walker County put up about $1.4 million in SPLOST and in-kind labor.

About $400,000 was saved by using Georgia convict labor. Several inmates have experience in construction, and the labor offers them a chance to keep their skills sharp while seeing something outside prison walls, officials said.

When the library system applied for state funding, Georgia Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, and state Rep. Jay Neal, R-LaFayette, helped get the ball rolling.

"With our seniority, we got to move it to the top of the list," Mullis said. "This is something that reaches out to all social classes. It's part of the soul of the community."

Contact staff writer Carey O'Neil at 423-757-6525 or coneil@timesfreepress.com.

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