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New public library nearing completion

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By Calen McKinney

 

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Planks of wood hold the framework, electrical wires are bare and construction tools are scattered.

What will soon become a place for learning and laughter sits bare and exposed. For now, its insides are showing.

Construction of the new Taylor County Library, which will be located at the former Gabehart Lumber Co. building on East Broadway, is under way.

The goal is for the library to be finished by the end of this year or, if winter weather delays the project, the beginning of next. After years of discussion and several delays for a variety of reasons, the conversion of the Gabehart Lumber building began July 20.

Pieter De Grez, vice president of Blevins Construction Co., the company charged with managing the project, says the roughing for plumbing, electrical and HVAC work are complete and have been inspected.

After getting the go-ahead, De Grez said, drywall and the ceiling system will be completed, flooring will be installed and painting will be done.

Windows were recently installed at the site, he said, which will mean workers can soon control the temperature and moisture inside the building. A new roof is in place and new doors are on the way.

The outside of the building will be getting a facelift, too, De Grez said, with the addition of sidewalks, parking and curbs.

Winter weather, De Grez said, and waiting on designs to be approved, will likely delay the project’s estimated completion at the end of the year.

“Realistically, we’re not gonna meet that,” De Grez said.

A more realistic timeline, he said, might be February or March. Nevertheless, De Grez says he is pleased with the progress of the project.

“The only problem we’re having is time,” he said. “We’re on budget. Everything’s been going good.”

And De Grez says he is pleased with work being done by subcontractors, many of which are local companies.

Taylor County Public Library Director Julia Turpin said the cost to convert the Gabehart Lumber Co. space is estimated at $1 million.

“Or a little less,” she said.

To help pay the cost, the library has a building fund and money market accounts and has gotten a $500,000 line of credit in case it needs to borrow some money.

The library’s board chose to set a tax rate this year that will generate 4 percent more revenue, at 5.5 cents and 9.23 cents per $100 of valued real and personal property, respectively. The rise in rates will increase tax bills by about $1 on a property valued at $96,600.

When approving the new tax rate, board members said they would consider approving a compensating rate next year, which would generate the same amount of money as this year and could increase or decrease, depending on property values.

Taylor County’s library was established on Jan. 12, 1975, as a model library.

Being a model library, Turpin said, meant that the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives would pay for everything, from books to salaries and maintenance. The only requirement was that the library building be paid for by the city and then rented to the library. And that has been the arrangement ever since.

In 1987, Turpin said, state officials said the library must begin paying its own way. And that is when a taxing district was formed to generate revenue.

“Since 1975, we’ve never had our own building,” Turpin said. “That’s what’s so exciting about it.”

The current library tops out at about 7,000 square feet with two levels, Turpin said, and not all the space is usable. The new building will encompass 10,000 square feet.

“More usable space on one level,” she said. “We’re really excited.”

When the new library is completed, staff members will need some time to move into their new digs.

Turpin said it typically takes six to eight weeks for a library to move. She said her staff members plan on taking four weeks to move shop. And when everything is ready, Turpin said, there will be a grand opening party.

Packing up the library’s books will take about a week, she said, and the current shelving will be moved to the new location.

But just because the library will technically be closed, Turpin said, won’t mean residents can’t check out books in the meantime.

Turpin said the bookmobile will be parked in front of the new library building and staff members are discussing having a book swap program.

“We will not completely eliminate services,” she said.

Once open, and with more room, Turpin said, the library plans to expand its programs. She said some have already been expanded.

“We’re really going to do more with the adult programs,” she said.

And now that the library will have wheelchair access, Turpin said, library staff members will be reaching out to Taylor County’s senior population.

To prepare for the move, Turpin said, library staff members have been picking out new furniture and evaluating its collection.

When packing to move, she said, is a great time to review the library’s collection and see what new books are needed and which should be taken out of circulation.

“[It’s a good time] to clean out the closets.”