Leader Blues

Monday, February 05, 2007

TOP STORY >>Praise for new library plans

IN SHORT: Construction to begin sometime after May for Jacksonville’s new facility.

Leader staff writer

A park that houses a library is how officials with the architectural firm have described plans for the new Jacksonville library.

The plans, developed by W.E.R. Architects of Little Rock, were unveiled in Jacksonville recently and received praise from city officials and residents. But the earliest construction will actually start is May, according to Mayor Tommy Swaim.

“We’ve got a lot of paperwork to do yet,” said Mayor Tommy Swaim, “before construction can actually start.”

He said the city has to officially close an alleyway that runs through the acreage next to Walgreen’s that will become home to the new library. “The city council will have to approve an ordinance closing it,” he said.

The planning commission will also have to approve a preliminary plot plan, but even before that the mayor said the nearly three-acre lot might have to be replatted into one lot since it was purchased from a number of separate owners.

This was the second round for design plans. City officials and residents roundly rejected the design ideas presented last year. It was then decided to wait until the land was obtained before developing another design.

“I’d like for this to be a centerpiece for the downtown area,” Swaim has said, with amenities, including a park-like setting.
The new design calls for a secure outdoor space for outside activities, a large pavilion that can be used by area residents and groups, and a pond and plaza.

Architect David Sargent of W.E.R. predicts the pavilion and plaza area will become a popular site for weddings.

He went on to say that the landscape design allows for a mix of sunny and shaded areas, and even a possible interactive nature trail.

Sargent said the library will have a civic presence, “but it will clearly have a park atmosphere.”

Inside, the library will have more computers than the current Nixon Library located just west of the new site, more space for books and other items, along with a multi-purpose room that can accommodate a large number of children who participate in the library’s weekly story times and summer reading program.

Library manager Kate McKin-ney is excited that plans are progressing.

“We have just outgrown our space. We can’t get any more books without getting rid of other books,” McKinney said.
The plans also call for the 13,500-square-foot library to be expandable on multiple sides so it can grow with Jacksonville.
The new library will be about 4,000 square feet larger than the current city library built in 1969.

Swaim has said that the cost of the land has been paid for by private donations, leaving the $2.5 million collected in taxes for the project intact to cover the building costs.

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.

Since that time the current library has suffered numerous roof leaks and was even closed for about a month as leaks damaged books, carpeting and other portions of the library.

While plans proceed for the new library, life continues at the current library.

Nixon Library is one of three libraries in the Central Arkansas Library System offering Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA).

Volunteers are at the library most Saturdays in February (Feb. 3, 10 and 24); March 3 and 17; and April 7 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

No appointment is necessary, but individuals should bring a copy of last year’s federal and state tax returns; picture identification; Social Security cards for self, spouse and dependents; copies of all W-2’s, 1099 forms, etc.; and copy of a check for direct deposit (for routing transit number and account number).