State grant fuels library expansion
Perdue signs budget with $2 million earmarked for project

CONYERS - Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue signed the state's budget for fiscal year 2009 this week, approving a $2 million grant targeted for Nancy Guinn Memorial Library.

The money will be used for a two-story expansion on the south side of the building. Library staff has begun work to prepare for construction to begin in the fall.

The renovation work will force library operations to be consolidated and moved to the bottom floor of the building for one year. Lynn Budell, assistant director for public services at the library, said the books that have been checked out the least will be put in storage while the remainder of the library's collections will be moved downstairs.

The move is scheduled to take place in August when the library will be closed for two weeks.

"For us, it's a lot of details involved in the move, because workers will come in to take the shelves apart upstairs and reassemble them downstairs," she said. "So, there will be a little coordination involved to get everything moved, but staff is excited to make downstairs as attractive and functional a place as possible."

The Friends of the Library, the nonprofit organization that supports the library, moved in April out of its space downstairs to the county offices on Portman Drive, located off of Iris Drive between Parker Road and Ga. Highway 138. The group will hold its first monthly used book sale at the new location on June 14, and then on the second Saturday of each month.

Library officials breathed a sigh of relief this week after getting the news that the grant money was still there. Chances were slim that the governor would have cut the grant money out of the state budget, because the Nancy Guinn Library project had been on the table for three years.

In 2006, the Rockdale County library was not high enough on the priority list of projects submitted to the General Assembly by the University of Georgia Board of Regents. Last year, the grant was cut following a budget crisis between the governor's office and the General Assembly.

The delay in state funding last year led the library board to divide the expansion and renovation project into two phases - Phase 1 to cover the renovation work upstairs and Phase 2 the two-story expansion at the rear of the building.

The thought was Phase 1 could begin while waiting for funding of Phase 2 to come through. This year, county officials decided to bid out materials and services for both phases at once as a way to save some money and avoid having to go through another bid process later this year.

Total cost of the project is about $7 million, including the $2 million state grant money, $4.2 million generated from the county's special purpose local option sales tax, and $209,000 in county impact fees.

Original plans for the library project were more ambitious at the beginning of sales-tax collections in 2005. Library officials have cut much out of what was in the original plans in order to get the project under budget. Even with those efforts, library officials have said they expected the library to be anywhere between $120,000 and $175,000 short of funding for equipment and furniture.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.