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Capital plan: Library slices fundraising goal by nearly $3 million

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County won’t decrease the amount of money it will putting into a new Waccamaw Library, but the value of the facility it’s planning has been cut nearly in half.

The county will build a $3.5 million library instead of the $6 million facility it wanted, according to the most recent version of its capital improvement plan. The plan, which contains $309 million in projects through 2018, was updated this week by County Council as part of an annual review process.

Though library officials were warned last month that the county might have to reduce its funding for the project by anywhere from $400,000 to $715,000 as a result of declining revenues, the county ended up delaying other projects to maintain funding levels for the library.

The difference in the project’s value comes from a major reduction in a fundraising campaign for the new facility.

The Friends of the Waccamaw Library group is now tasked with raising $315,000 instead of the more than $3 million it was looking at just a few weeks ago.

The new goal is “more realistic,” said Jean Cross, who chairs a fundraising committee the Friends formed for the project earlier this year. “I think it’s a viable figure.”

But Cross said she hopes the committee will be able to surpass the new goal.

“We still have high hopes that we will be able to raise a considerable amount of money, but not the $3.2 million we had set,” she said.

The size of the facility can be adjusted if more money is raised, County Administrator Sel Hemingway said.

In addition to fundraising efforts, library staff will look for grant money and there will be naming opportunities with the new facility.

With $6 million budgeted, the county planned to build a 27,000-square-foot library — a 20,000-square-foot improvement over the existing facility.

Despite the decrease in cost and size, Cross expects the new facility will still have all the amenities in the original plan, “just on a smaller scale.”

Plans call for the building to include a cultural center, Friends store, auditorium, café and separate areas for children, teens and adults.

The building will be constructed to allow for expansion, Hemingway said.

The library is set to open in July 2014 on Willbrook Boulevard.

Details about changes to the library plans and the fundraising campaign still need to be worked out.

“We needed to find out first where we stand with council,” Cross said. “Now, we can begin to plan, because we know exactly what the county is going to be able to provide.”

Holiday schedules will delay discussions a bit longer, probably until the end of next month at the earliest.

Cross and a small group of library supporters attended the council meeting this week to ask council to fund the library to the greatest extent possible.

“We need a new facility desperately,” Cross told council. The existing building on Commerce Drive “continues to have many problems. We’re constantly patching.”

A new roof and new carpet in the community meeting room at the library were among recent repairs.

The Waccamaw branch is “one of the smallest libraries,” but has the largest amount of users,” said Cathy Filiatreau, president of the Friends. “A lot of tourists come in now and use our facility. A bigger, better library would make a good impression on people who visit.”

Library supporters also spoke of the facility’s value as a community space and potential economic benefits of building a new library, which include attracting new residents and putting people in the construction industry to work.

Impact fees hurt the county’s building industry when council put them in place last year, “so give back a little by building with the money you’ve been collecting,” said Alan Bremner, president of the Friends of the Georgetown Library.

County Council Member Glen O’Connell assured the group they don’t need to be concerned that council doesn’t understand the importance of the library project.

“We’re not being cavalier” about the amount of money involved or the “significance of the decision being made,” he said.

Cross said she is satisfied with council’s action regarding the library and is eager to move forward with the project.

“We still have a lot of enthusiasm,” she said. “We are excited and we are prepared to roll up our sleeves and really get to work so that the construction can proceed.”

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