East Brainerd library still on the books

East Brainerd library still on the books

March 16th, 2011 in Local Regional News

Until new development begins at Waterside on Shallowford Road, a library branch is not in the cards for East Brainerd. Development owner Ken DeFoor, who did not return messages seeking comments, has in the past put construction for a local branch tentatively on the books for 2015.

"There's no doubt about it, he has to build us a branch library - it's a condition of the rezoning, but it did not say he has to build it before he builds anything [else]," said Councilman Jack Benson, who represents the East Brainerd area. "The library branch is a victim right now of the recession on building. When the economy was good we saw him write a $10,000 check and give it to the library, so we saw his intent is good."

DeFoor previously said he will probably need at least 50 percent of the complex developed before he can begin the library.

"It's not right to expect him to build a library in the middle of no development," Benson said. "The city will not be able to give him a certificate of occupancy on the final parts if he hasn't really gotten it started by then."

Library representatives said as soon as the real estate is given, they're ready to move forward. In the meantime, the library has moved forward with efforts to build a new branch at Eastgate. Library board chair David Turner said "right now Eastgate is our first priority."

"We don't have property [in East Brainerd]. We do have property at Eastgate," library interim director Eva Johnston noted.

Library officials pointed out that branches near commercial developments, as would be the case in Waterside, which is slated for multi-use development, are the most successful.

East Brainerd already has one of the highest volumes of library patrons.

"Anyone who's lived here long knows how vital the 37421 ZIP code is," said library community relations coordinator and East Brainerd resident Andria Davis. "With the development coming, it will be even more vital, I'd say. I would imagine that branch would get a lot of community support."

The original plan was to divide the Eastgate collection to help stock shelves at the East Brainerd branch. Even though Johnston said the library "no longer [has] a core collection to support another branch," Turner said he doesn't see that as an issue.

"We would certainly try to get financing," he said, adding that building and outfitting a library typically costs about $6 million. "It would be a bond issue. I would feel very comfortable about asking the government for assistance."

Citizens have brought up the topic at multiple public meetings in the East Brainerd area since the idea was introduced in 2009. It has been suggested that regular meetings be held to update the community about the status. DeFoor had agreed to meet in early 2010, according to Janet Perfetti, who was helping coordinate efforts on behalf of Friends of East Brainerd.

He last spoke publicly on the project at a FOEB meeting in May 2009.