It’s a project that’s been years in the making, and on Saturday the scores of Jackson County residents who gathered to watch the groundbreaking for the county’s new library couldn’t stop beaming.
The excitement and pride was palpable as — one after another — speakers at the ceremony had their remarks met with whoops and cheers.
“A few said this community would never be able to raise the funds,” said County Commissioner Chairman Brian McMahan. McMahan said he had just one thing to say to those who doubted the project: “Yes we can!”
Librarian Dottie Brunette dedicated her words “to all those in the community who have made sure all their wishes were heard and heeded.”
Indeed, it was largely the community that made the push to turn the historic Jackson County Courthouse, built in 1912, into the library’s new home. Plenty of roadblocks were thrown up along the way during the process as naysayers deemed the site unworkable. The board of commissioners was long split on the library location, and even went as far as to purchase another piece of land for the library.
But the community persevered and promised to raise funds for furnishings and equipment once the county chose the old historic courthouse site.
The Friends of the Library, the group that spearheaded the fundraising campaign, committed to raise at least $1.6 million to purchase furnishings and equipment for the new library facility, said June Smith, the group’s president.
“As of today, I’m proud to announce $1,023,153 has been raised,” Smith told the audience, a declaration that was met with cheers and applause.
Speakers commended not just the library, but the role the facility will play in preserving the county’s best-known landmark.
Howard Allman, chair of the Jackson County Library Board, called it, “a beautiful fusion of our past and our future.”
“(We’re) not just building a library, but saving and revitalizing a treasure of our past,” Allman said.
Boyce Deitz, a representative of Rep. Heath Shuler’s office, said Jackson County leaders of yesteryear would be proud of the effort.
“It’s a shame all the people who walked these halls couldn’t be here,” Deitz said. “I know they would be proud to know this was being preserved.”
After the speakers finished, the crowd migrated over to the site of the groundbreaking behind the old courthouse. County commissioners Brian McMahan, Mark Jones, William Shelton and Joe Cowan donned hard hats and grabbed shovels for the groundbreaking. Dr. John Bunn gave a moving speech just beforehand.
“It’s infrequent that we have the opportunity where the past, present and future come into focus at the same time,” Bunn said.
Bunn dedicated the library “to the minds, hearts, and people of this community .... that their lives may be enriched.”
The bad economy has finally reaped some dividends for Jackson County taxpayers.
Construction of the new Jackson County library and renovations to the historic courthouse will cost the county roughly $1.5 million less than expected. Bids from construction companies came in well below what architects estimated, likely because contractors are hungry for work.
The county got bids from 15 construction companies. The low bid came from Brantley Construction based in Canton for $6.067 million. The total cost of the project will be around $7.5 million, factoring in architect fees, site work and the dreaded-but-expected cost overruns.
“We did a thorough background check on their history of service and we found it to be almost impeccable,” said County Manager Ken Westmoreland. “So without reservation we recommend Brantley.”
Brantley’s recent projects in Western North Carolina include a multi-million expansion of the Asheville Airport, the $4 million Child Development Center on the campus of Haywood Community College, two new fire stations in Asheville at about $2 million a piece, and renovations to buildings at Western Carolina University.
In the blueprints for the new library and courthouse renovations, the county had identified several small items as extras that could be cut to save money if needed. Since the bid came in lower than expected, county commissioners chose to include all the extras. These include a rear terrace, second floor balcony and soft lighting on the steps leading from the courthouse to Main Street. (The steps are slated for renovation as part of the project.)
One extra gave rise to discussion among commissioners, however. Commissioner Tom Massie questioned the wisdom of a stained-glass skylight, which isn’t a true skylight but instead will be illuminated by electric lights behind the stained glass. The price tag was $96,000.
“The reality is that’s a fake skylight,” Massie said. “I just wonder if we really need that.”
Commissioner William Shelton said that if the stained-glass faux skylight was eliminated, some other type of lighting would be needed in its place. The county wouldn’t realize the full savings of $96,000 by cutting the decorative feature, but only the difference between the two, Shelton said. Commissioner Brian McMahan said the county should spring for the aesthetic touch, especially in light of the fundraising campaign.
“I think a lot of people who have made donations in this charity drive are trying to build something that will be a showcase for Jackson County and something we can be proud of,” McMahan said.
Mary Selzer, chairman of the Friends of the Library fundraising committee, advocated for the stained-glass perk.
“That has been a feature of great interest to the community as we have talked about the building,” Selzer said.
The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the bid with all the extras, for a base construction cost of $6.067 million, not counting contingencies.
In Massachusetts, a vacant textile mill is now an art museum. An old city hall became a restaurant. In California, a sprawl of empty factories were transformed into a shopping district. Across the country, vacant industrial sites as well as landmark buildings are taking on different roles and a brand new life in projects that architects describe as “adaptive reuse.”
In 2010 Jackson County will complete its own example of modern Main Street redevelopment with the reopening of the restored historic courthouse and its new addition as the Jackson County Public Library Complex. Construction is scheduled to begin in May on the twin projects, which reflect more than a decade of discussion and planning by the community.
“In architectural designs nowadays, the emphasis is on being green and on recycling what we have,” said Donnie Love, historic preservation specialist at South Carolina-based McMillan Smith and Partners, architect for the project. “There’s just nothing more green than the reuse of an existing building like the Jackson County Courthouse, which was so important in the history of the county.”
The renovation of the 95-year-old structure and its expansion to provide modern, multimillion-dollar library facilities has won widespread community support. The project has raised local awareness about historic preservation and the benefits of bringing a new life and role to a landmark structure while retaining much of its original look and feel.
“The courthouse played such a large role in the past and now it will have an important role for a long time in the future. This is a terrific accomplishment for the people of Jackson County,” said Sylva native Ronnie Smith, one of the founders of McMillan Smith and Partners.
When the restoration is complete in 2010, the courthouse will house Jackson County’s Historical Association, Genealogical Society and Arts Council, and an auditorium. The 20,000-square-foot library to be built onto the back of the courthouse will have many of the same architectural details as the older building. A two-story atrium will connect the two buildings.
“This location is an ideal spot for the library,” said Smith. “People are going to be drawn to that location, and the buildings will see a lot of use.”
The project is expected to cost around $7.5 million, being paid for by the county. A campaign by the Friends of the Jackson County Main Library to raise an additional $1.6 million to be used for furnishings, fixtures and equipment has already raised nearly half of its goal.
“In some modern development, there has been a shift away from the adaptive reuse of historic buildings like this because of the fear that it would be too expensive to renovate them,” said Love. “The Jackson County project is a good example of how that’s not always true. The courthouse did fine in studies of what it would need to be brought back to a functioning facility, and because of the proximity to downtown, it was a great location for a new library.”
The Neoclassicism architecture of the courthouse was from the design of Richard Sharp Smith, one of the architects for the Biltmore House. Smith came to the mountain region in 1890 at the request of George Vanderbilt. He was a resident architect employed to help with the design and construction of the grand estate in Asheville.
The Sylva Police Department may find a new home in the Jackson County Public Library on Main Street once the library moves to its new location.
The building would become available for the police department in December 2010 when the library moves into its new home on the hill behind the historic courthouse.
Police Chief Jeffrey Jamison said the library building would be ideal for the police department because it has good visibility on Main Street and is a good size.
“I think it would take care of the police department’s needs well into the future,” Jamison said.
The Sylva town commissioners directed Jamison to contact the county and ask about acquiring the library building. Jamison said he spoke with County Manger Ken Westmoreland who said that the county would be willing to sell or lease the building. But Jamison said Westmoreland did not quote any prices.
Jamison said the big question now is whether the building will be affordable. He said he proposed possibly trading a piece of town property for the library, but the county was only interested in a lease or a purchase of the building. Jamison said the police department has a lack of space in its current location next to town hall.
— Josh Mitchell
In the latest tangible consequence of countywide budget cuts, the Haywood County Library system is scaling back hours at each of its branches starting April 6.
Both Waynesville and Canton libraries have reduced their evening and weekend hours, with the Waynesville library closing altogether on Sundays and Canton open only half a day on Saturday.
The cuts will remain in effect until at least June 30. Programming won’t be impacted, but other things will, like the availability of meeting rooms and for some, convenience.
Patrons at the Waynesville library expressed mixed feelings about the cuts. Maggie Barton, a basic skills instructor at Haywood Community College, looked disappointed as she examined the sheet taped to the entrance informing library users of the new hours.
“It’s an inconvenience,” Barton said. “I live in Canton, work in Waynesville, and teach in the evening, so I would have to schedule my time to be able to come here.”
Another patron, Becky Prevost, was inside the library thumbing through a stack of magazines. The cuts wouldn’t impact her much, she said — Prevost figured that if people want to use the library, they’ll find a way to make the hours fit their schedule.
“This library is one of the best in the state, and if you want to come bad enough, you’ll come when it’s open,” Prevost said.
One man leaving the library Monday who identified himself as homeless lamented the loss of the library’s Sunday hours. Because not many other places are open on Sunday, he passes time at the library using the computers, reading papers and catching up on current events.
The reduced hours are a direct result of the county’s mandate that all departments cut 7 percent from their budgets for the last three months of the fiscal year. The library system had to trim $105,000 from its budget. That meant cutting staff positions — which left it without enough staff to work during library hours. The system has lost six part-time positions since December, about half the total number of part time staff, according to Library Director Robert Busko.
Busko said that while part-timers may only work a few hours at a time, they’re valuable assets to the staff. They can be called in as an extra hand when the library gets busy, or sub for someone who’s sick or on vacation.
The cuts in staff and hours come at a time when the library system, like others nationwide, is seeing an increase in usage. Unlike systems around the country, Haywood’s increase has only occurred recently. A few months ago, library use was actually down. That’s because budget cuts forced the library to stop ordering new material.
“We didn’t buy new books, so we didn’t have what people wanted to read,” said Busko.
The library is now buying new books, but only bestsellers.
Busko tries to maintain an optimistic outlook, but said the cutbacks in materials, staff and hours have been a blow. Eyes cast downward, he shakes his head.
“It’s been tough. Tough,” he says.
The Waynesville library will close at 6 p.m. most days of the week, as opposed to 9 p.m. While Saturday hours remain unchanged, the Waynesville library will be closed altogether on Sunday.
The Canton branch is cutting 11 hours from its schedule. It will remain open on Sundays, but will move to a half-day on Saturday and trim its weekday hours. The Maggie Valley and Fines Creek branches are both halving their Wednesday hours.
For a list of the new library hours, visit www.haywoodlibrary.org.
Deduction would tell us that in the information age libraries would be accorded great respect, but somehow that isn’t universally the case anymore. Given that truth, it’s encouraging to see what has happened over the last several years in Jackson County as support has gathered for a new library that, after much debate, will be attached to the strikingly beautiful historic courthouse.
After a decade-long community debate that raged with unusual fervor, county leaders decided in October 2007 to put the county’s new library atop courthouse hill. This wise decision did two things: ensured Jackson County residents their new, much-needed library would have wide community support; and it infused the project with a historic and cultural significance, providing a symbol of political and intellectual aspirations that will endure for generations.
There was a time when libraries were enshrined as the world’s primary learning centers. The administrators of the ancient library of Alexandria, Egypt, according to some historians, were charged with with no less a task than bringing together all the world’s collective knowledge. Stipends were paid to scholars and their families to come spend time there. Throughout the ancient world libraries were held in high regard as the keepers of culture and history, and typically they were among a city’s most splendid architectural masterpiece.
Today too many communities neglect these important institutions. As television and the Internet have grown in significance, and indeed put much of the world’s knowledge and literature at our fingertips, libraries could be written off as quaint relics.
But that’s just not the case. Places where people — children and adults — gather to read, write, research and discuss ideas will always be important. Amid the rush of today’s world, a place where adults work and read in a cocoon of silence and where children can discover the profound joys of the written word are indeed sacred.
Macon County has already done its community proud with its recently opened library, and citizens came together to support the furnishings of that facility with their donations. Now the same is being asked of Jackson County residents. Fund raising is currently under way, and almost $500,000 of the $1.6 million goal has already been pledged.
We believe this library is among the most worthy of community projects. It will become the epicenter of the intellectual and community life of Jackson County, and we encourage residents to support the fund-raising drive to the best of their abilities.
Sylva’s current library opened in 1970 and is 6,400 square feet. The debate over where to locate a new library lasted more than eight years, with commissioners finally deciding to build it as an attachment to the historic and beloved Jackson County Courthouse.
• 1999 – County leaders decide to tear down the historic Hooper House on Main Street to expand the library, but opposition mounts among those who want to save the historic structure.
• Dec. 2000 — Those fighting to save the Hooper House prevail. Renovation to the Hooper House gets underway to serve as the home for the chamber of commerce, Jackson County Travel and Tourism Association, and Sylva Partners in Renewal. Library supporters are left looking for a site for a much-needed library expansion.
• May 2003 — The idea to partner with Southwestern Community College for a joint library on the SCC campus in Webster has been gaining steam. County commissioners see the SCC joint venture as a way to save money, but it creates deep division among those who want to keep the library downtown. A public hearing on the issue attracts more than 200 people, most against the joint library.
• Jan. 2004 — Jackson commissioners, spurred by opposition to the joint SCC-Jackson County library proposal that culminated in the creation of a group called Build Our Library Downtown (BOLD), put plans on hold and appoint a task force to select a new library site.
• March 2004 — N.C. Board of Elections denies Jackson’s request to hold a non-binding referendum to gauge public sentiment on the idea of a joint library with SCC.
• July 2004 — The search for a library site has left task force members, commissioners, town leaders, opposition groups, and the Friends of the Library members torn. Many favored the historic courthouse, but it was dismissed as unfeasible. Finally, commissioners settle on a parcel located near the site of the old Western Sizzlin’ steakhouse in Jackson Plaza. The Sylva town board agrees to contribute $105,000 to the cost of the property. The property was purchased in September, but many still oppose the site. Even the town considers it a compromise, keeping it close to town but not in downtown proper.
• June 2007 — Jackson commissioners pledged $4.2 million to build a new library, but the location is again being questioned. The board had significant turnover during the last election, with three out of five members being new. Commissioners William Shelton and Tom Massie agree to set aside the money but re-open the debate about where to site the library.
• Oct. 2007 — Library site selection debate finally ends with a 3-2 vote by commissioners to construct the library next to the historic courthouse overlooking downtown Sylva. The renewal of the courthouse property as a potential site for a new library was spearheaded by Commissioner William Shelton.
• June 2008 — Architectural plans for the new library on courthouse hill are well-received by library supporters and project continues to move forward. Cost, including historic courthouse renovations, are pegged at $7.9 million.
• Jan. 2009 — County commissioners pledge to move forward with construction despite recession. Fundraising for the library furnishings reaches its half-way point.
Dr. John Bunn of Sylva lived through the Great Depression and said people bind together during tough times to help one another.
The same will stand true, Bunn believes, when it comes to donating to the new Jackson County library during the recession.
Library use actually sees a spike during hard times. When things like movies and cable are cost prohibitive, the library offers an escape through books and magazines. And when people cancel their home Internet subscription they’ll still have the Web for free at the library, Bunn noted.
“I see the library as a fantastic boon to all people,” said Bunn, the co-chairman of the Friends of the Library Fundraising Committee.
A large effort is under way to raise $1.6 million to pay for the furnishings of the new Jackson County Library and the renovated historic courthouse in Sylva. Fundraisers are half way there with $800,000 in commitments.
But the going could get tougher from here. The first leg of the campaign is targeting large donors making up to six-figure contributions, while the second half will call on the general public cutting much smaller checks.
“We still need a lot of broad community support to make this happen,” said Mary Selzer, Friends of the Library President.
The new 20,000-square-foot library will be built onto the back of the historic courthouse overlooking downtown.
Donors should be comforted by the fact that 100 percent of their donations will go toward furnishing the library, not administrative costs, said Betty Screven with Friends of the Library.
Fundraising began last May, and the remaining $800,000 is needed by July 2010, and Selzer thinks things are on schedule.
The library is scheduled to open in December 2010. Construction, including the courthouse renovation, is estimated at $7.9 million, but the county is funding that.
Even in a recession Selzer believes people will donate to the project because it will benefit the lives of everyone in Jackson County from the “southern end to the northern end.”
Bunn thinks Sylva will pull together to support the fundraising. Bunn’s dad was a minister in a railroad town that collapsed during the Depression, but he saw the great side of people when they would do such things as share chicken and dumplings with a neighbor.
“I saw people reaching out to other people,” he said.
But because of the poor economy Bunn anticipates that donations may be smaller than they would normally be. There will be more competition when it comes to getting funding from the big foundations because of the recession.
“They will be more selective and careful of who they give money to,” he said.
Grants are always competitive and now even more so, agreed Selzer. But she feels it’s a strong project and hopes it resonates well with various foundation advisory boards when they are deciding how to dole out money.
“In a time like this in fundraising you have to take a different approach,” Bunn said. “You don’t go out and ask for the ultimate gift.
He said people will be asked to give what they can at this time to help put the library in place. For instance, he said people may be asked if they could afford to donate the cost of a doughnut or Coke a day.
In the end it is going to be the “little person” who gets the fundraising effort over the top, he said.
“I’ve never seen it fail,” he said. “The closing out of the campaign will depend on the man on the street, the woman on the street, the child on the street.”
The Depression was not the last time he saw a community rally for a good cause. He saw it in the ‘70s when $9 million was raised over two years to expand the CJ Harris hospital in Sylva.
People may also be motivated to donate not only because of the library, but the renovations to the iconic historic courthouse.
“We’re talking about a building on the National Historic Register, an icon, one of the most photographed buildings in this state,” said Bunn. “I know there is a strong attachment of the local people to that building. It’s been used to glorify the veterans of the Confederacy, those who lost their lives in the Korean conflicts. They want to see that thing preserved and kept intact.”
Letters seeking donations might be mailed to Jackson County property owners, Bunn said. That was done for the hospital fundraiser. Bunn said a letter was sent to landowners with property valued at at least $200,000. It cost $1.37 to send out a letter, and the average return was $2.42, Bunn said.
The elderly will be significant donors, he expects because they read the newspaper at the library daily.
Donating to the project should not be thought of as an obligation, said Bunn.
“I would say if they love what that place is going to represent then they will want to support it,” said Bunn. “It represents the history of Jackson County; it represents the glory and beauty of learning. The third thing it represents is the literary heritage of the world. The other thing it represents is the absolute freedom to anyone who wants to come and enjoy what has become theirs.”
Donations will probably start pouring in after the ground-breaking ceremony slated for May 17, when people can actually see tangible work taking place, Bunn said.
When work starts on the project with bulldozers and backhoes humming, people may be more inclined to donate because it will be more real to them, Selzer said.
People should be encouraged to donate because books are an important part of people’s lives, said Joyce Moore, owner of City Lights Book Store in Sylva and a member of Friends of the Library.
She added that during tough economic times library usage goes up, but admitted it’s harder to raise funds now.
Building the new library and restoring the old courthouse at the same time kills two birds with one stone, said Jackson County Commissioner William Shelton, an original proponent of the idea.
“That old courthouse was sitting there and deteriorating,” said Shelton. “I don’t think anyone wanted to see it fall in or be destroyed.”
Tying the courthouse into the project may also motivate people to get more involved in fundraising, said Shelton, and may open the project up to more grant money.
Donating to the library and courthouse project is a once in a lifetime opportunity, said Screven.
Once complete, the library and courthouse will hold offices for the Arts Council, the Genealogical Society, and the Historical Society, serving as a one-stop shop.
Every donor of $1,000 or more will have their name inscribed on a plaque or permanent location in the library complex. There are also opportunities for donors to have a certain area of the library named after them; for instance, a donor of $250,000 will have the community room named after them, while a $25,000 donation will get the reference desk named after you.
Donors have already reserved some areas of the library, but there are plenty left. The town of Sylva claimed the children’s area, for example.
The fundraising strategy has been to focus on entities that can give larger gifts before launching the public campaign. With large donations already in place it won’t seem so overwhelming for the public to raise the remaining money.
The Friends have targeted about 10 foundations that would possibly donate to the project. Of those two declined; one donated; and two were recently contacted and haven’t responded. The remaining five will be contacted soon, Selzer said.
The public fundraising campaign may begin at the ground breaking May 16 at Bicentennial Park where there will be story telling, family friendly activities and free hotdogs.
Throughout the summer, the Friends will continue to try to raise money at events such as Greening Up the Mountains, and Selzer will also try to spread the word to the public by speaking to civic groups.
A similar effort to raise money was undertaken in Macon County when the Friends of the Library embarked on a mission to raise $1.1 million for furniture fixtures and equipment, said Karen Wallace, director of Fontana Regional Library, which covers the libraries in Swain, Macon and Jackson counties.
It took a couple of years to raise the money for the Macon Library with the majority of funds coming from grants and large donors and the remaining from the community at-large.
The bad economy may not hurt fundraising efforts that much, said Wallace, adding that people are sometimes more generous during tough times because they realize how difficult it is to raise the money.
The amount of the donation is not always the most important thing either, said Wallace. She noted that when money was being raised for the Macon County library, that two young boys gave their allowance money to help out.
When the public donates to a project such as a library they have some ownership in it, said Wallace.
Getting donations from Cashiers, which has a lot of wealthy residents, may be difficult because they have their own library, Bunn said.
Cashiers residents will think of their own library’s needs before they think about the one in Sylva, he said, adding he doesn’t blame them.
“They want to see it continue to grow,” he said.
But Selzer said Cashiers residents should be inclined to donate, even though it has its own library.
“This is the main county library and will be connected to the historic courthouse,” Selzer said.
Not only will the library benefit all of Jackson County, but may also have a “multi-county use” with people from Swain, Haywood and Macon also utilizing it, said Screven.
The women love the idea of adding a new state-of-the-art library onto the back of a historic courthouse that they say is the “emblem” of Jackson County.
“This is a class project,” Screven said. “Jackson County will have something it can be truly proud of.”
In the past tourists have been upset when they’ve stopped in Sylva to go to the courthouse after seeing it from the highway only to find it closed.
Much architectural expertise is going into designing the library to make it blend with the historic character of the courthouse.
For example, the signature large arched windows of the courthouse will be replicated on the library. Screven said the architectural design is in keeping with the Friends of the Library capital campaign slogan: “Honoring the Past, Embracing the Future.”
As for the remodel of the inside of the courthouse, it will be done to make it resemble what it looked like when it was built in 1914.
Selzer explained that the courthouse lost a lot of its historic charm on the inside when it was “gutted” and modernized in the 1960s.
The good news is that the architect was able to look at the Madison County courthouse to get an idea of what the interior design, such as the molding, flooring and trim, may have looked like 95 years ago. Screven explained that the Jackson County Courthouse is the “younger sister” of the Madison County courthouse because they were built using the same plans.
The architect, Donnie Love, visited the Madison County courthouse and got pictures of the interior to incorporate into the remodel.
Screven praised Love, saying he is a specialist in refurbishing old buildings for new use and has been on his hands and knees of the old courthouse to plan the project.
The new library will measure 20,000 square feet compared to the current one that is drastically short of space at only 6,400. Selzer said the new library will be the size it should be for a county of Jackson’s population.
With the new library tied to the courthouse and perched on a hill with great views of the mountains and the town, it will be one of the prettier libraries in the country, said Selzer.
The new library will have an outside seating area with café tables, something that cropped up as a request from the public during a series of visioning meetings held during the planning process.
The county commissioners decided at a budget meeting on the project a couple of weeks ago they would go ahead and bid the project with some additional features such as a terrace and faux sky lights that look like stained glass on the ceiling. If those items come in too high they can be taken out of the project.
The second-floor courtroom will be renovated and have 100 fixed seats, providing a place for plays, author talks and musical groups.
A need for places to hold community meetings will also be met with the new facility, said Selzer. The ones here now are at Western Carolina University and Southwestern Community College, which are usually only for those affiliated with the institutions, or you have to pay, Selzer said.
The children’s area will be three times the size of the current one and have a story time room. The adult collection will also be about three times as large, and there will be a teen area to replace the current one that is a mere bookshelf. The computer lab will be expanded from the current seven stations to around 30.
People have always liked the way that the courthouse looks from Main Street, and that will not change, as the library will be put on the back of the building out of the line of sight.
There are about 30 volunteers working on the project, and about six to seven are spending “quite a bit of time every month” fundraising said Screven.
Selzer said she became interested in the project several years ago when there was discord over where to locate the library. A library should be a positive thing in the community, not a source of frustration, she thought.
Her experience with international finance and insurance gave her the skills to organize the project, she said.
By taking her four grandsons to the library it was obvious it was short in space, said Screven. So with her professional career in public relations she joined the effort as chair of the PR and special events subcommittee.
The Jackson County library campaign is half-way to its goal of $1.6 million. Donations include:
• $150,000 from the Janirve Foundation of Asheville
• $105,000 from the town of Sylva
• $100,000 from Jackson Paper
• $100,000 from an individual who prefers to remain anonymous
• $15,000 from United Community Bank
• $10,000 from the Sylva Garden Club
• $10,000 from Jackson Savings Bank
• $10,000 from Duke Energy
• Jackson County Friends of the Library Web site: www.fojcml.org.
• Call Jackson County Public Library Complex Campaign Steering Committee Co-Chair Mary Selzer at 828.293.0074 or Campaign Coordinator Connie Terry at 828.507.0476.
Despite tough economic times, Jackson County commissioners decided last week to move forward with three multi-million dollar projects.
In a capital projects meeting last Thursday, the commissioners reached a consensus to pursue upgrades to the solid waste transfer station estimated at $3.9 million, expanding the Sylva Volunteer Fire Department at a cost of $2.3 million and the joint venture of building a new library and renovating the historic courthouse for $7.9 million.
“We’re tentatively moving ahead while being aware of what’s going on economically,” said Commissioner William Shelton.
Shelton added that if bids come in high the projects can always be abandoned.
There could be even more capital projects on the county’s plate. Another workshop to discuss construction of a Cashiers Recreation Center and Smoky Mountain High School renovations is scheduled for Thursday (Feb. 19) in room A227 of the courthouse.
Also on the table, commissioners got a surprise request from Southwestern Community College to construct a new $847,000 early college building. SCC leaders claim they need more space for the early college program, which allows high school students to take college level courses.
Since the commissioners were just presented with the SCC project they decided to give it more evaluation. Shelton said the county has historically supported SCC, but it is difficult to fund projects when they don’t get presented until mid-year.
The library, which is expected to open in December 2010, and the fire department expansion will stay on track since they’ve been planned for years, and the transfer station expansion is simply a must have, Shelton said.
Commission Chairman Brian McMahan said the current transfer station building is not large enough to handle all the garbage in the county and a new building to hold household trash must be constructed.
It was unknown how the county would react to a $500,000 cost overrun on the Sylva fire department, upping the price tag from $1.8 million to $2.3 million. Fire Chief Mike Beck has said the existing fire department doesn’t have enough space.
Town ordinance requires that an additional 16 parking places be put in because the building is being expanded. A dirt cliff sits in the way of the additional parking spaces, requiring expensive grading.
Under an agreement between the city and the county, the county will fund the fire department expansion. The expansion will add four bays, a meeting room, office space, sleeping quarters, a laundry room, kitchen and storage.
It is unclear how big a hit the county will take from the economic downturn. According to the county finance office, it depends on where sales tax figures come in at the end of the fiscal year June 30.
So far the county has asked each department to cut its budget by 3 percent, which would save a total of $1.5 million.
The commissioners are hoping that federal stimulus money could help fund some of the capital projects. County Manager Ken Westmoreland said the county has submitted a total of $31 million in capital projects to the governor, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Association of County Commissioners for possible stimulus package funding.
The county is waiting to see how much the state will get from the stimulus package and how the state will divide that money up. It is expected to be about a month or two before it is clear how much the county will get, Westmoreland said. Some of the stimulus money may also go toward water and sewer projects for the Tuckasegee Water and Sewer Authority.
By Jennifer Garlesky • Staff Writer
Now that a site has been chosen for the new Jackson County library, the Friends of the Library have a huge undertaking — raising up to $1 million for furnishing the interior of the building.