By Karen Middleton
Athens City Councilman Ronnie Marks said Monday if Limestone County doesn’t ante up on a proposed new library, there is no point in continuing to discuss the project.
On Monday, Athens-Limestone Public Library Librarian Susan Todd told the council the Library Foundation needs an answer in the next two weeks whether the city would help support renovation of the old Kroger building if the Foundation buys and converts it to a library.
“The Foundation would like to sit down with the council to make definite plans because time on the availability of the building is short,” said Todd. “Within two weeks [the owners] say that they will actively pursue other buyers.”
Councilman Johnny Crutcher said he does not know where the city could come up with the debt service on a $5 million loan to renovate the building plus another $200,000 in operational expenses.
“That would be $700,000 a year that would have to come from somewhere,” said Crutcher. “Someone has got to give some kind of plan, because I sure don’t have one.”
Todd said that the Foundation is exploring grants.
“There are grants for furnishings, but not a lot of brick-and-mortar grants available,” said Todd. “But the Foundation says it would be easier to raise money from private donors if they have a building secured—something to see and touch. People are saying that building is a great place to have fund-raisers. But in a week or two, we’ve got to say if we’re going to walk away from this opportunity and try something else.”
Marks said he would meet with the Foundation and listen to any plan or options they might have.
“If Limestone County is not on board, the city is not in a position to put up the entire package—or else, we’d just call it the city of Athens library,” said Marks. “Until we get that, there is no use to keep having this conversation.”