The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

April 24, 2013

New Athens library exterior work to start by June 1

— The Athens-Limestone Public Library is projected to move into its renovated digs in the former Kroger at the corner of Jefferson and Forrest streets as early as April 2014.

Kerrick Whisenant of construction manager Limestone Building Group said first phase work to the site, facade and roof is slated to begin by June 1. The interior design will take place during the second phase, which is expected to take four to six months and should begin as soon as the first phase is completed, which is projected to be by December.

The first phase has a budget of up to $2.5 million, which includes more than $2.4 million in construction costs, Whisenant said. The city of Athens and Limestone County are providing joint funding for the project.

The City Council unanimously approved a resolution to approve the funding in a last-minute agenda addition at Monday’s meeting. Councilman Jimmy Gill questioned the $18,000 estimate for two stone or brick signs at the Jefferson and Forrest streets entrances to the library. He said one sign on Jefferson should be enough.

The County Commission will consider approval of the budget at its May 6 meeting.

The current operating budget for the library draws funding from four major revenue streams: $115,000 from the city, $80,000 from the county, $65,000 from the state and an undisclosed amount by the private Southard Trust endowment established in the mid-1990s, said Library Director Paula Laurita.

The library has been housed at its current location at 405 E. South St. since 1970.

Fundraising

The Library Foundation, which met a $1 million Dekko Foundation challenge grant in 2012, is continuing to raise money to go toward operating capital for the new library and the interior design, which has not been finalized and could be expanded with additional funding.

Debbie Joyner, a consultant hired by the foundation in July 2011 to ramp up fundraising efforts, confirmed more than $6 million has been raised through donations and pledges.

“I’m proud of the foundation because they’re the ones that have been raising money. But just getting (the library) started doesn’t mean it’s finished,” Chairman Frank Cothren said during an April 18 community forum hosted by the library. “We need to continue to ask friends, church members and family for donations.”

Rod Huffman, chairman of the Library Board of Trustees, said fundraising efforts began eight years ago. He said initial doubts were raised about the likelihood of raising enough money for a new library.

“There were times we were questioned whether this would flop. We flopped along the ground like a buzzard trying to get off the ground, and it did because of the library foundation board,” said Huffman.

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