To be diplomatic, we could describe Columbia County commissioners rejection this past week of construction bids for the countys new main library as a temporary setback.
But good grief. The community - especially the dedicated volunteers in the countys Library Board and Friends of Columbia County Libraries - have waited six years for this new Evans facility. Yet here we are, at the point of breaking out the golden shovels, and groundbreaking is held up by heartburn over the jail?
Commissioners Diane Ford and Tom Mercer are unhappy with McKnight Construction, the low bidder on the $8.5 million library project. Theyre focusing on problems with McKnights expansion of the Columbia County Detention Center, which opened last year.
Sure, the project had hiccups. But so did the new Justice Center, built by Commission Chairman Ron Crosss company, CCI Construction. And Cross, now out of the building business, understands any job will have problems - especially multi-million-dollar projects.
Perhaps thats why Cross was surprised that Mercer and Ford - who formed a majority in the absence of commissioners Mark Devoti and Steve Brown at Thurs-days called meeting - opposed awarding the project to McKnight.
Its a shame. Cross also understands that a business should be judged by its track record. McKnight is a well-respected construction company with major successes dotting the areas landscape. Rejecting their bid just because of the jail seems just plain silly.
Library supporters have shown incredible patience, watching this project move from a major study six years ago that demonstrated how badly a replacement for the Gibbs Library is needed. Patrons later turned out in droves during a series of sales-tax hearings, boosting the proposed new library to the top of the sales-tax priority list.
With a state grant, architects produced a conceptual rendering of a new library. That drawing, since reproduced on a sign posted near the librarys site on North Belair Road, helped spur voters to overwhelmingly approve the entire sales tax extension in a 2000 referendum.
Proceeds from that sales tax have financed projects all over Columbia County, including a new government building next to the new library site. Yet the No. 1 item from the sales-tax referendum is still little more than a set of drawings and an enticing sign.
This unexpected - and unwelcome - vote wont derail the project. But that doesnt mean commissioners deserve to be rescued from the anger of library supporters, whose patience with these insufferable delays has already grown thin.
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