Many hands have helped bring the future Porter Memorial Branch Library to the brink of construction, and that team effort was clearly shown by the 18 people who broke ground Thursday morning.
Representatives from the Craig Gaulden Davis architecture firm, Hogan Construction, Georgia Public Library Services, the Newton County Board of Commissioners, Newton County Facilities Inc., the Newton Library Board of Trustees and the Georgia House of Representatives all moved dirt Thursday, and many other people from the community attended as onlookers.District 1 Commissioner Mort Ewing spoke on behalf of the Board of Commissioners and described the long battle the county went through to implement impact fees — the main source of funding for the library. He said the BOC worked for years to create the fees, and County Attorney Tommy Craig defended them in lawsuits, all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court.
"People asked me, why would you go through all of this process … just to have a branch library. My answer is really simple. From my perspective this library is part of our educational system," Ewing said. "If you can give an education or allow people (the chance to earn) an education, that is something that can never be taken away from them."
The new branch will be the county’s third and will be the first located in the densely-populated western end.
"This has been a long time coming. People in the western end have waited a long time for this moment," said District 2 Commissioner Earnest Simmons. "This is one of our major projects for the west part of the county. I want to thank the former board and present board. We’re very proud of what they’ve done, and proud of this building coming into fruition."
Library Director Greg Heid said more than a third of the patrons that attend the Covington branch come from the western part.
The library will not only have the latest books, DVD movies and computer technology, but it will also include several energy efficiency features, like Energy Star appliances, abundant natural light, automatic light sensors, a sloped roof and cisterns to collect and reuse rainwater, and a more efficient raised floor, under which will be heating, air conditioning and electrical units.
Architects David Moore said his firm is working on seven libraries across the state, and these environmentally-friendly features are an important trend.
"There is an emphasis on sustainability. And this library has the potential to be first Gold LEED certified libraries in the state," he said.
The 19,000 sq. ft. branch is expected to be completed by January 2011 and will employ 16 staff members. The construction, furniture and equipment of the building will cost just over $5 million and books will cost an additional $1 million. Heid said the library has received a $2 million grant from the state and $14,000 in private donations. The remainder of the money will come from impact fees.
The branch is being named after James Hyde Porter in appreciation of the continual major donations made to the library system by the Porter Foundation over the last 40 years. Porter was the grandfather of Oliver S. Porter, the founder of Porterdale.