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Posted: December 26, 2008 12:00 a.m.

New library project moving forward with bond approval

Building set to open in 2010 on Ga. Highway 212

 While a number of county projects had to be put on the back burner due to the sky-high interest rates of the bond market, one much anticipated project will move forward as planned — the Porter Memorial Branch Library.

Newton County Library Systems Director Greg Heid said the county finalized all of the financial documents to take out $3.46 million in bonds to pay for construction of the county’s second library one week before the financial markets went haywire at the end of September.

"We were one week away from the market just shooting up so we received a very low interest rate," Heid said.

The total amount of interest to be paid on the bonds until they expire in 2015 is $524,000.

The selected architect of the Porter Memorial Library, David Moore of the firm Craig Gaulden Davis Inc., will be presenting his preliminary designs for the new library to the system’s board of directors in January.

Plans are for the library, which will be built on Ga. Highway 212, next to Oak Hill Elementary School, to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified. The LEED rating system is a set of standards for the construction of environmentally sustainable buildings.

Heid said Moore will discuss with the board whether they want the new library to have a gold or silver LEED certification.

"This is the exciting part because there’s going to be discussion between the board and the architect over how green do we want the building to be and if there’s a way we can go to the gold certification, that would be fantastic," he said.

Heid said some of the options discussed with the architect for the library include installing solar panels to heat water and installing a green roof with grass plantings to provide insulation.

"I definitely think the board is looking at designs where we have the lights in the building automatically dim down inside [when the sun is shining]. As the sun sets, the lights come up to full strength," he said. "Right now we’re just settling on what we can do with the money we have and trying to be as green and energy efficient as we can."

An interior feature educating visitors to the library about energy efficiency and environmentally sustainable tips for living is also being considered.

Construction on the library is scheduled to begin in early 2009 with an opening set for summer 2010. The library will feature a children’s room, a teen room, a reference area, a quiet reading room, study rooms, a meeting room and computers with Internet access. The library will be 18,000 square feet, making it more than half the size of the main Covington branch.

In other library system news, foot traffic has sharply increased in recent months to the Floyd Street library, which is already one of the most heavily utilized libraries in the state.

Heid attributed the increase in visitors to the recession. With less discretionary income to spend on trips to movies and visits to the mall, more residents are turning to the library to fill their entertainment needs.

"Throughout the recessionary periods over the last 20 years I’ve seen this happen with libraries," he said. "Are circulation is increasing 5 to 6 percent over last year. We had only expected it to increase 2 to 3 percent."

In addition to higher DVD and book rentals, usage of the library’s computers has also sharply increased said Heid as more residents log on to apply for jobs and work on their résumés. Classes at the library on how to find and land a job and how to write a résumé have had high attendance. More classes will be held in the spring.

"I’m happy that we’re here so that we can help them with books and DVDs and help them find jobs," Heid said.

Community response to the Friends of the Library Gift Tree, which encourages residents to buy new books for the library to replenish its shelves, has been down this year, also as a result of the recession.

"I think we’ll have half the response that we had last year and it’s because people just don’t have the extra money to spend," Heid said. "I think we’re seeing the same results as a lot of nonprofit agencies. People just don’t have the extra cash now to be able to give us donations."

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