published Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Dade County cuts ribbon on renovated library

Mia Vanderpool, 7, left, and Brianna Tolbert, 5, look for books to check out during the Dade County Public Library grand re-opening ceremony in 2012 in Trenton, Ga.
Mia Vanderpool, 7, left, and Brianna Tolbert, 5, look for books to check out during the Dade County Public Library grand re-opening ceremony in 2012 in Trenton, Ga.
Photo by Dan Henry.

TRENTON, Ga. -- You could almost hear a collective sigh of relief Tuesday morning at a ribbon cutting for the remodeled Dade County Public Library.

At the ceremony, Dade County Library Board member Linda Wilson ticked off a number of features in the 12,000-square-foot, completely reconfigured library at 102 Court St., including a room dedicated for children's programs, an area for teens, glass-windowed study rooms, a community room and two computer labs. The library grew by about 4,000 square feet.

Tuesday's event -- packed with library-loving kids, adults and officials -- was the happy ending for a renovation project that saw more than its share of bad luck.

An April 2011 tornado blew the roof of the library's temporary digs in a strip mall near downtown Trenton and damaged thousands of books. The library had to squeeze into a 1,000-square-foot Main Street storefront in May 2011.

And what was supposed to be five months of remodeling work to the former building dragged on for 20 months, after the initial contractor was fired for what architect Jack Killian called "inferior construction" that mostly had to be redone.

"To me, that's kind of a footnote," Killian said Tuesday. "The story here is what the community has done to support the library."

That support includes $21,277 in donations raised to keep the new library open 30 hours a week after the county school board voted in July to eliminate the schools' annual $39,000 contribution to the library.

Without that money, library officials said they'd have to cut hours to 20 a week.

Voters also backed the library in a July 31 primary election straw poll, when 71 percent of them favored dedicating a fixed portion of property taxes to help support the library.

"It has made national news," State Librarian Lamar Veatch said at Tuesday's event. "Dade County is on the map as a strong, library-supporting community."

But Dade Executive Ted Rumley has said there is not enough time to get the referendum needed to approve the property-tax deal on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Rumley said county officials are trying to find a way to fund the library without raising taxes.

"We talk about that almost daily," he said. "Some people think we're cutting the library. We have not."

Erika Le Fever brought her 3-year-old grandson Ada Wall to the library's grand opening Tuesday.

"I think it's fantastic," Le Fever said of the library's renovation.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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