As excited as they are about new bookshelves, county officials said they see Evans' proposed library complex as a community center, a barometer of growth and even an economic development tool.
Expressing their high hopes for the facility, government officials, arts and library representatives and many more turned out for a ground-breaking ceremony Tuesday at the site of the new library and performing-arts center.
Raggedy Ann and Mother Goose co-mingled with Columbia County officials and state legislators in a grassy field next to the Columbia County Justice Center.
It was a special ceremony seven years in the making.
Construction on the 50,000-square-foot complex begins next month and Ron Cross, chairman of the Columbia County Board of Commissioners, said he is pleased, after all the years of planning, to finally begin the building phase of the project.
County officials, members of the countys legislative delegation and library representatives toss ceremonial shovelsful of dirt to break ground for an $8.5 million library and performing arts center.
Photo by Barry Paschal
"This is going to be an anchor point for the Evans Town Center," he said. "The judicial center is great, but it has a particular function of law and order. (The library) is geared more toward the quality of life in Columbia County. It should be a focal point for many activities in the county."
Cross and other officials, grasped one of many golden shovels to dig up the first mounds of dirt at the complex's proposed site.
"All in favor of a new Columbia County library, toss your dirt," Mr. Cross shouted to the applause of dozens of people gathered at the event.
McKnight Construction Inc. won the $8.5 million contract to build the library complex. It is expected to be completed in the spring of 2006.
Funded with the county's one-cent sales tax money, the complex will include a two-story library, a 300-seat performing-arts center, a 500-seat amphitheater, a memorial garden and a cafe.
"We believe that beyond the idea of books, reading, references, computers and so on, that a library is very critical to the economic growth and attracting new business and industry into our industrial parks in Columbia County," said Jeff Hardin, president of the Columbia County Library Board.
Next year, the county will use the rest of the $12.2 million budgeted for the project and bid out for landscaping, furniture, equipment and computers.
When completed, the library portion will include a multi-purpose room, classrooms, a gift shop, a children's area and program room, a computer area and study rooms.
Addressing the crowd, state Rep. Barry Fleming said, "If there is anything that is indicative of the progress of our county it is this beautiful library."
David Moore, one of the designers of the complex, called the library and performing arts center combination "progressive and bold."
Moore said, "I foresee that this library will raise the bar for all libraries."
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