Cherokee Delays New Lathemtown Library

The library was slated to be built in eastern Cherokee County and cost around $5.6 million to build.

A proposal to build a new library in eastern Cherokee County has been postponed.

Cherokee County Commissioners on Tuesday voted 4-1 to postpone moving forward to construct a new library on the corner of Highway 20 and Old Mill Road in the Lathemtown community. Commissioner Harry Johnston voted against postponing the library. 

The board also will reach out to the Cherokee County legislative delegation to see if the library system can be the first to receive the next round of state funding.

The project was slated to cost about $5.3 million to build and will be about 18,000 square feet.

Cherokee County has to give $3.6 million for construction costs and find another $300,000 to fund operations on an annual basis.

Susan White, the director of the Sequoyah Regional Library System, told the commission last month the state government has contributed $2 million towards the project, and the county has to spend that money by November or they will lose the funding. 

The commissioners who voted to postpone the project noted they were not opposed to the library or to the Sequoyah Regional Library System

Commissioner Jason Nelms said the county will have a $4 million shortfall it will have to plug for fiscal year 2014, and said the timing to build the library wasn't right. 

Commissioner Ray Gunnin added he thought the county instead could think about purchasing technology other necessities to help stock existing libraries.

"I think it’s a great system…but the timing is wrong to move forward with this," he added. 

Commissioner Harry Johnston said the county should have made the decision to not fund the project and the operating costs before it decided to spend money on architects to design the building.

He noted that while he is concerned about being able to operate the facility on an annual basis, he felt finding $300,000 was the right thing to do. 

Commissioner Brian Poole said the county is already shelling out $100,000 per month to pay for the bond on the former Ball Ground Recycling facility. 

"Right now, it’s $300,000 we don’t have," adding the county has to be prudent with residents' tax dollars. 

County Commissioner Buzz Ahrens said he reached out to State Rep. Calvin Hill (R-Hickory Flat) to see what could be done. He noted Hill said the county can cancel the project altogether and step aside to allow the state funding to go towards another project.

Then, it could also wait to see if the system would be allowed to be first recipient of state funding once revenue becomes available. 

If the project had moved forward, construction would have started this month and the library would have been ready to open by June 2014.

The commissioners made the decision after White discussed with the board during its work session how much traffic the system sees.

For fiscal year 2012, the system had 602,522 people visited its facilities. About 114,668 of those used computers and checked out 787,962 library items. 

In Cherokee, the system is made up of the Rose Creek, Woodstock, Hickory Flat, R.T. Jones, Ball Ground Public Libraries and the Cherokee County Law Library. It also includes the Pickens County Public Library and the Gilmer County Public Library. 

In 2012, Cherokee provided 73 percent of funding to the system, the state 17 percent and cities that act as funding agents contribute three percent. Seven percent come from non-government funds such as fines.

The total operating funds for the previous fiscal year was $2.6 million. 

The system in 2011 completed renovations to R.T. Jones, which serve as its headquarters. The library also has 40 laptops patrons can use inside the facility.

Commissioners also asked County Attorney Angela Davis to draft a revision to its Animal Control ordinance that would include roosters not housed with hens and/or not used primarily in food production as potential nuisances. 

District 1 Commissioner Harry Johnston led the discussion, and said he occasionally receives complaints from residents who live adjacent to neighbors who keep scores or even hundreds of roosters on their property. 

Johnston, who said some suspect roosters are being used for fighting purposes, told his fellow elected officials the issue surrounds the amount of noise when several dozen roosters congregate together. 

The county's most recent revisions to its animal control ordinance "really have removed our ability to proceed against an operation like this."

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