LaFayette Library completion on hold due to lack of funds

LaFayette Library completion on hold due to lack of funds

July 17th, 2013 by Tim Omarzu in Local Regional News

A $4 million renovation of the library in downtown LaFayette has run out of money.

"I'm going to finish this thing if it kills me, but I don't have [the money] right now," said Walker County Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell.

Boards have gone up 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 most recent meeting. 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.

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.

Walker County voters have approved the sales tax every time it's been proposed since 1987, she added.

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

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

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

LaFayette City Councilman Ben Bradford stressed that the library project's cost hasn'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 to help keep the county operating through the end of the fiscal year. "You can add $300,000 to it."

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

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

Heiskell said there are some things in the works that could help the county pay its share of the remainder of the library project costs before the next round of SPLOST, but said she was not at liberty to discuss those presently.

The library's hoped-for Oct. 15 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.

Community News Assistant Editor Rachel Sauls contributed to this story.