Lack of funds puts renovation of LaFayette, Ga., library on hold

Lack of funds puts renovation of LaFayette, Ga., library on hold

July 9th, 2013 by Tim Omarzu in Local Regional News

Construction on the LaFayette-Walker County Public Library renovation and expansion is being suspended due to a lack of money. Some of the work was done by Georgia Department of Corrections inmates.

Photo by Patrick Smith/Times Free Press.

Lecia Eubanks

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

LaFAYETTE, Ga. - A $4 million renovation of the library in downtown LaFayette has run out of money. So boards will go up this week over the windows and doors of the building at 305 S. Duke St. to secure it as construction work stops until funding is found.

"I'm heartbroken," said Lecia Eubanks, director of the Cherokee Regional Library, which has branches in LaFayette, Chickamauga, Rossville and Trenton. "The economy, I think, has been the biggest culprit in all of this."

Sales and property tax revenues have been lower than anticipated, county officials say.

The renovation is 90 percent complete, Eubanks told the LaFayette City Council at its meeting Monday night.

Finish work that still needs to be done includes installing ceiling tiles, plumbing fixtures, carpeting and flooring, she said.

But the library is about $300,000 short of cash promised by Walker County, Eubanks said, and $60,000 promised by LaFayette.

"The library just didn't want to get in a position where we couldn't pay our bills," she said.

The city has said it can come up with its share in October, Eubanks said before the meeting.

Walker County Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell said Monday afternoon, "We don't have the ability right now to provide that $300,000."

Heiskell said additional library funding will be part of an upcoming special purpose local option sales tax of 1 cent per $1 of sales that will be on the November ballot. She said Walker County voters have approved the sales tax every time it's been proposed since 1987, she said.

"The SPLOST is only a continuation of what we've been doing since 1987," Heiskell said. "It's not [adding] a new penny."

In the meantime, the county crews will do in-kind work at the library, she said, such as parking lot paving.

"We would have already done it, if it hadn't been for this unbelievable rain," Heiskell said.

Bebe Heiskell

LaFayette City Councilman Ben Bradford stressed Monday night that the library project's cost hadn't ballooned.

"It's not gone over budget," he said.

Councilman Wayne Swanson questioned why Heiskell couldn't just borrow the cash needed to finish the library.

"She just borrowed $3 million," Swanson said, referring to a recent tax anticipation note. "You can add $300,000 to it."

But Bradford, who's an attorney, said under Georgia law that wasn't possible.

"In defense of the county, they could not have just borrowed $300,000 more," Bradford said.

The hoped-for Oct. 15 library grand opening has been put off indefinitely until funding is secured, Eubanks said. The LaFayette library operates now from a temporary location at a former grocery store at 1103 N. Main St. and shouldn't have a problem extending its lease there, she said.

Contact Staff Writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.