LaFayette, Walker County at odds over $300,000 to finish library

LaFayette, Walker County at odds over $300,000 to finish library

June 13th, 2013 by Tim Omarzu in Local Regional News

A construction sign sits outside the LaFayette-Walker County Library. The facility is getting a $4 million, two-year overhaul that is being crewed by workers from the Georgia Department of Corrections' state inmate labor workforce.

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

LaFAYETTE, Ga. - The renovation of the LaFayette-Walker County Library on Duke Street in downtown LaFayette faces a $300,000 shortfall - and city and county officials don't see eye-to-eye on a mechanism to come up with the money.

The City Council on Monday night rejected a funding proposal from Walker County Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell.

"[Heiskell] wanted us to put the building up as collateral and go to the bank and get $300,000," LaFayette Mayor Neal Florence said Wednesday. "We've said we're not going to do that."

Heiskell's letter, which interim City Manager Max Morrison declined to release to the Times Free Press, promised to reimburse the city with future special purpose local options sales tax funds, a levy of 1 cent per $1 of sales, Florence said.

Councilmen Chris Davis, Ben Bradford and Wayne Swanson, who attended Monday's meeting, rejected Heiskell's proposal. None of the councilmen responded to calls and email seeking comment.

Florence thinks the county could borrow the money on its own.

"I can't," Heiskell said Wednesday. "The building belongs to the city."

"The library needs more money, and I don't have it," she said. "If [city officials] don't want to do it, I guess [the library] won't be able to finish the project."

Cherokee Regional Library Director Lecia Eubanks is on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

The Duke Street building closed for renovations in August 2011, and the LaFayette library moved into temporary digs at the former Food Lion supermarket building on North Main Street.

The $4 million library renovation project was targeted for completion in July. The 12,000-square-foot library building at 305 S. Duke St. has gotten improvements such as an 8,000-square-foot addition, a new entrance and more parking spaces.

The state contributed $2 million to the renovation. Hays State Prison inmates with building skills also have worked on the project to help keep costs down.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.