Leader Blues

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

TOP STORY >> Jacksonville makes offer for new library location

By JOHN HOFHEIMER AND SARA GREENE
Leader staff writers

Jacksonville hopes to put its new library on Main Street, between Walgreens and War-ren Street, across the street from the Jacksonville Shopping Center and First Arkansas Bank and Trust, and has begun negotiations with landowners, according to Bobby Roberts, director of the Central Arkansas Library System.

In July 2004, Jacksonville residents approved a one-mill property tax increase to pay off $2.5 million in bonds to build the new library building.

Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim would not confirm that the city has chosen that site, but did say the city had made an offer on one of the properties there.

Businesses located along that stretch include Fishnet Mission thrift shop, an empty storefront formerly occupied by Discount Tobacco, Sheaffer’s Texaco and Discount Office Supply.

The property owners include Mrs. Mike Abdin, the Sheaffer and Dougherty families.

Swaim would confirm that an offer had been made to one of those owners. He said no offers were pending on the others of the proposed sites in the downtown area.

“We hope to make additional offers on properties in the next few days,” the mayor said.

If the city were interested in buying land there for the library, would it be all the land on that block except the Walgreens? “We’re looking at different configurations,” Swaim said. “We’d like to have a large enough area for green space, about one and one-half or two acres.

“I’d like for this to be a centerpiece for the downtown area,” Swaim said, with amenities including a park-like setting.
Swaim said he was “fairly confident” that the city and the Central Arkansas Library System would break ground on the new library by the end of the year.

Roberts said he hoped the project could be put out to bid in about 90 days, noting that the rising cost of materials will require the city to raise more money or cut back on at least $150,000 worth of expectations. He said material costs were up at least 12 percent.

Roberts said an addition to the Maumelle library, estimated at $200 a square foot originally, is now going to cost about $250 a square foot. “The sooner the better,” Swaim agreed. “Escalating prices (of materials) is a concern of ours.”

Linda Bly, deputy director of CALS, said she’d heard that the city is now acquiring land for the library. She said the architects, Witsell, Evans and Rasco, couldn’t begin real design work until they know where it will be located.

Bly said that including the volumes currently in the Nixon Library, the new library would have in the range of 60,000 to 70,000 books.

Dee Sheaffer, proprietor of the Texaco station, would say only that her property has been listed for sale for two years, noting a sign above the garage bays.

She and her husband Paul have owned the station since 1985. The Discount Tobacco store already has moved down the block and Fishnet Mission apparently will have to move its thrift store.

The current building the Nixon library calls home was constructed in 1969. It is one of the oldest buildings in the Central Arkansas Library System. It was named the Esther D. Nixon Library in 1992 in honor of the first librarian.

Along with being old, the Nixon library is small with 9,265 square feet. The new library will be approximately 13,500 square feet. Excluding the Nixon Library, the average Central Arkansas Library System building is five years old and has about 14,000 square feet.

In 2004, the Nixon library was closed for a month while a leak in the roof was repaired.

About 200 books were damaged from the leaking roof. Several computers got wet as water leaked heavily through the roof to the building’s interior.