BLUE RIDGE, Ga – Mountain Regional Library Director Heath Lee spoke about misunderstandings concerning Fannin County Library’s future.
Representing himself and not the library, Lee remarked the state hadn’t released the $1.3 million in funds. Capital outlay projects such as the library operate on a reimbursement basis, paid out after project completion. Additionally, all rules and regulations must be met throughout the process.
“The grant funding is a product of an application being filed to the Georgia Public Library Service, a funding partner’s commitment to also join in a construction project, many library advocates at all levels of public and governmental interests championing the cause, and finally, the state of Georgia legislature approving the sale of bonds to support the projects the legislature approves. Being a recipient of state of Georgia grant funding for the purpose of a capital outlay project is no small feat. It requires years of diligence, advocating, and sometimes a little luck to be awarded the funds,” Lee stated.
For the library to receive funding, the construction project would need a “funding partner” who would ensure completion. Also, the grant amount is partially determined by the partner’s committed amount. A press release from Representative David Ralston announcing the grants last year stated, “local government will provide an additional $582,000 for a total project cost of $1,965,000.”
Once Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission (GSFIC) approved the sale of bonds for a project, a timeline for using those goes into place. Fannin County and the library were given a five-year window to start the project.
At a previous commissioners’ meeting, they floated the idea of the library reimbursing the county for its portion of the WhitePath building. A new library wasn’t listed as a project on the current SPLOST, so it brought up the discussion topic of if the citizens didn’t vote for a new library, can it be included. A large group did want a library on the SPLOST.
Lee clarified GSFIC state funds can’t be used “for the purchase of land or location, be used as a reimbursement for a completed project, or reimburse an existing account of funding such as a SPLOST account.” The money can only go toward constructing a new facility, rehabilitate an existing library or alternate location, and furnishing the library.
As for size, the Georgia Public Library Service’s one project requirement is a minimum of 5,000 square feet for a state grant funded capital outlay project. Currently, the Fannin County Library is 6,800 square feet. The Georgia Public Library Service, GSFIC, and the state legislature of Georgia have approved the proposed partial renovation of 13,000 square feet of the WhitePath building.
Project cost can’t be determined at this time because neither the local nor regional board of trustees knows for certain where the library will go. They haven’t hired an architect, construction firm, or design firm because the Whitepath situation is still unsettled. It’s irresponsible to use public funds for a project that might not come to pass.
“Until the library boards of trustees understands exactly where the project will take place when the project will take place, and who will be chosen to lead the construction and design phases, the final associated construction and furnishing costs will not be known,” Lee commented.
He also stressed that it shouldn’t be taken for granted that if the funds aren’t used, then another capital outlay grant will readily become available. Fannin would be placed back on the grant list, but other counties also need new facilities.
Lee added, “These state grants are competitive. There are over 400 public libraries in Georgia, and there are always new library projects being added to the capital outlay menu. On average, only three to five capital outlay projects are approved by the state legislature annually.”
He ended by thanking the commissioners for their efforts to provide “seismic library service improvements.”
Fannin library’s been searching for a permanent home since at least the early 2000s when it was demolished for the new courthouse.