03/15/10 — Plans moving forward on Steele Memorial Library

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Plans moving forward on Steele Memorial Library

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 15, 2010 1:46 PM

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Steele Memorial Library clerk Elizander Jaimes shelves a book at the library in Mount Olive. The library currently resides in a small former bank. The search is on for an architect and engineering firm for its $4 million new home in the old Belk's building.

MOUNT OLIVE -- The search for an architect and engineer for the planned new $4 million Steele Memorial Library could be well under way by mid-May.

County Manager Lee Smith said there is no timetable for the project. However, he hopes to have solid construction costs during fiscal year 2010-11 and construction possibly in 2011-12.

That, of course, will be up to county commissioners to decide, he said. They also will have to determine how best to pay for the project.

The new library is included in the county's five-year capital plan for fiscal year 2010-11.

Further out in the capital improvement plan, 2014-15, are plans to renovate the Ash Street branch of the library in Goldsboro and for construction of a new library in northern Wayne County. Those projects are expected to total $9 million.

The new Steele Memorial Library will be located in the old Belk's building on West Main Street that was purchased last year by the county for $400,000 from Mount Olive College. Smith called it a "good deal" for a "nice facility" that has close to 24,000 square feet of useable space.

As envisioned, it will serve as a regional library for the southern end of the county. Once open, the county plans to close the Seven Springs library branch and fold it into the Mount Olive branch.

"Steele Memorial Library probably, in my opinion, in comparison to Goldsboro and compared to the number you have here, is used greater," Smith said. "I think there are some limitations to access to information in that area. You go to that library and that place is pretty full. Granted the Goldsboro branch is always busy, too.

"But I have seen times (in Mount Olive) when they actually had people standing at the door it was so busy. So we need something in Mount Olive. The other building is entirely too small. The other thing is we get a lot of people from northern Duplin County who come over and use the Mount Olive area and use some of those services. They come over and, right, wrong or indifferent about who is coming over, you have to be able to service the public."

Smith said he was in town recently when someone asked him if it was fair for the taxpayers to bear the cost for someone from Duplin County, he said that those who come to the library also spend their money at local businesses, contributing sales tax to Wayne County.

He said the county looked at its financial picture before making the decision to renovate the Mount Olive facility.

"Based on the study that was done by the library board and trustees there is a need for a better facility in that area based on the numbers, and commissioners have decided it is something the taxpayers can afford to do."

Also, the county charges a $15 library card fee for people who are not residents of the county.

"The $15 is the approximate amount taxpayers in Wayne County pay for support of the library," library Director Jane Rustin said.

Smith said the Friends of Steele Memorial Library are "on fire" for a new project.

"What I expect for a timeline, and what I have proposed to the board (of commissioners), over the next 12 to 24 month that you would hopefully be doing a couple of things," Smith said. "First of all, I talked to the Friends of the Library and the library folks about going ahead and getting an RFQ (request for qualifications) to look at someone who can do some renderings because the Friends of the Library kind of want to do what was done for animal control -- some fundraising.

"I think they are shooting for several hundred thousand dollars to help because I have put about $4 million in the budget for renovation. I think that it is high, but I had rather it be high and be able to cut it back. I am figuring about 10 percent for engineering and planning so about $300,000 that is what they are shooting at."

The library steering committee launched a grassroots fundraising campaign at the first of the year in hopes of raising $350,000.

Letters soliciting support and explaining the project have been mailed and a tier of giving levels has been created as well.

The giving levels are:

* $0 to $99, Bookworm

* $100 to $499, Reader

* $500 to $999, Author

* $1,000 to $2,499, Illustrator

* $2,500 to $4,999, Publisher

* $5,000 to $9,999 Marion Hargrove Circle

* $10,000 and more, W.C. Steele Society.

Hargrove, a Mount Olive native, was a successful author and screenwriter for TV and movies. A collection of his papers and works is housed at the library.

Dr. Steele started the first fundraiser to build a library in the 1930s, but died before it was completed. The former Belk's building sits where Steele's house once stood.

"The board (of commissioners) will have to decide if they will cash that project out, cash some, borrow some depending on where the county is financially," Smith said. "Or if we are doing another project at the same time, you may cash some the projects and borrow the money. But that is going to have to decided by the board.

"Right now get the RFQ out there, find an engineer and architect and then begin the actual planning process. Once you do that you can begin to get a preliminary number of what the cost is going to be, and decide if you are going to, in say the next 18 to 24 months, are you going to move forward and that 24-36 if you are going to move forward, if the board of commissioners is, then you would be under construction after 24 months."

Smith said the county will "really lean" on the library for its expertise and what it needs.

"It is a really nice facility and it has to be built right because you are going to be in there for the next 35 to 40 years so it has to be done right," he said.

Phil Barton, a Salisbury library consultant, has been working with the library steering committee and members recently toured libraries in Burlington, Cary and Mebane.

Barton's building program is expected to be delivered within days, Ms. Rustin said. It is a descriptive design of what people in the community have said they would like to see in the library, she said. The plan will be used by an architect to design the project.

"It will be really neat," she said. "It will tie the whole process back to the community."

People interested in making a donation should contact steering committee Chairman Lynn Williams at 581-3628 or Greg Eloshway at Southern Bank at 658-7000.

Also, people may go by the library on North Chestnut Street and pick up information or drop off donations.

Checks should be made payable to Wayne County Public Library, and the Steele Memorial Building Project should be indicated on the checks. Checks may be mailed to the Wayne County Public Library, 1001 E. Ash St., Goldsboro, N.C. 27530.