For a project as long-awaited as Columbia County's library and performing-arts center, the typical gold shovel apparently wasn't enough for the ceremonially ground-breaking.
On Tuesday, officials will bring in a bulldozer.
"We're thinking big here," said Marilyn Heuer, the county's project administrator.
Two weeks after awarding the construction contract and several years after planning for the 50,000-square-foot complex, library, government and art community representatives will officially kick off the facility's building phase, which is expected to take 2 1/2 years.
The multimillion-dollar project that voters agreed to fund from the county's one-cent sales tax will serve as a replacement for the outdated and crowded Warren C. Gibbs Memorial Library on North Belair Road.
The new library site is behind the county's judicial center on Ronald Reagan Drive.
"It's going to be a fun ground-breaking," Heuer said. "We hope to get some good pictures to put up in the (Gibbs) library for a couple of years to keep people interested."
Tuesday's event will feature speakers, entertainers and Mother Goose, the library's children storyteller.
Because the new complex will be a gathering spot for performers as much as readers, the county's arts community also will be represented at the ground-breaking through dancers and high-school orchestra musicians.
Plans for the library portion of the two-story facility include classrooms, a cafe, gift shop, children's area, children's garden, computer classroom, heritage/genealogy room and a tutor/study room.
A performing-arts theater will seat 300 people for events, and a 500-seat amphitheater will be a center for outdoor concerts, plays and community gatherings. Also planned for the site are outdoor memorial gardens, a reflection pond, a lighted walking track and a children's play area.
Earlier this month, county commissioners awarded the $8.5 million building contract to McKnight Construction. The total budget for the site is $12.2 million. Other work the county will bid out next year are for landscaping, furniture, equipment and computer items.
But filling up the new building has been an ongoing project for library workers and library supporters - one that will continue during the coming months of construction.
"We're trying to build an opening day book collection," said Columbia County Library Director Christina Rice. "We're purchasing more books now, which will be a challenge with finding where to put them."
Gibbs, which opened in 1982, might be stretching at the seams with books and patrons, but library supporters have not given up on it yet, even as they look forward to the transition.
"We're supporting Gibbs Library as much as we can and get them the things that they need, and whatever's left will go into the new library," said Norma Hickman, president of the Friends of Columbia County Libraries.
Through monthly book sales over the years, the group has raised money for the county's three libraries, including $20,000 for supplies at the new library.
"We're very excited," Hickman said about this week's ceremony. "We've invited some first- and second-graders from Belair Elementary School, across from Gibbs. They're our Junior Friends of the Library."
If You Go
A ground-breaking ceremony for the new Columbia County Library and Performing Arts Center will be at 5 p.m. Tuesday near the North Belair Road entrance to the Columbia County Justice Center on Ronald Reagan Drive.
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