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Plans for the new library advancing
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Plans for the county's second library are speeding along with the conclusion in May of a preliminary round of presentations by prospective architectural firms.

The Porter Memorial Library is a much-anticipated project for residents in Newton County, especially residents in the western half of the county where the library will be built on Ga. Highway 212, next to Oak Hill Elementary School.

Greg Heid, director of the Newton County Library System, said the Newton County Library Board has drawn up a short-list of four firms that will be asked to come back for a second full presentation later this month.

"For public libraries, the architect becomes the project manager during the construction [phase] and will work closely in selecting the general contractor and will be on-site every week during construction," Heid said.

After the second round of presentations, Heid said the board will score the firms on their proposed library models and will review their fees before making their final selection sometime at the end of the month.

"Once we make the selection of the architect in June, I expect it will be a seven- to eight-month process for the design [phase]," Heid said.

During that period, requests for bid proposals for general contractors will be sent out also. The selected architect will work with the library board in choosing a contractor Heid said.

Heid said the initial presentations by firms were not very detailed but did include some very interesting features such as tree-lined parking lots and landscaping which will not need much water to maintain.

"All firms are excited because this is a very nice-sized library," Heid said, adding that at 18,000 planned square feet, the library fits into architects' desired "sweet size" to work with.

Funding for the $5 million library comes from a $2 million state grant and approximately $1 million in collected impact fees. Heid said he expects the remaining funding will come from the sale of local bonds. An anonymous $14,700 gift was also made to the new library for a special feature such as a tree sculpture that will be located in the Children's Department

Heid said the board has energy efficiency foremost in mind in selecting a final plan for the library. He added the board has a requirement that the selected architectural firm have Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design experience. LEED is a rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council and provides a list of standards for the construction of environmentally sustainable buildings.

Heid said he and the board hope to have the new library LEED certified, though they don't know yet if it will be a silver or gold level of certification. The higher the level of LEED certification, the smaller the carbon footprint a building has.

However, higher levels come with higher construction costs, though they have gone down considerably in recent years as LEED standards have become more common throughout the industry.

"If you're going for gold or platinum level it does add a significant cost to your bottom line but if you're going to build a building with just certification or silver [certification level], additional costs are minimal," Heid said.

While the Newton County Library is not LEED certified (it was built before LEED certification was commonly available), Heid said the library has worked to become more energy efficient by retrofitting all lights with energy efficient bulbs, installing low-flow faucets and purchasing infrared motion sensors to automatically turn off lights when they aren't being used.