City officials told CenturyLink building more suitable for public library
by David Atchison
Feb 06, 2013 | 2681 views |  0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The CenturyLink building is back in the conversation as a possible site for a new public library. Bob Crisp/The Daily Home
The CenturyLink building is back in the conversation as a possible site for a new public library. Bob Crisp/The Daily Home
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PELL CITY — A library planner said the CenturyLink building is more suitable for a public library than the former St. Clair County Department of Human Resources building.

“You could move into that (building) tomorrow and use it as a library,” said Richard Waters, a library planner with Godfrey’s Associates of Dallas. “The CenturyLink building is by far the better choice.”

However, Waters said one building is free, and the other has a price tag.

“One has significant renovation costs,” he said. “One has less renovation costs, and bigger space.”

He said the CenturyLink building is attractive and the main level has about 8,000 square-feet of usable space.

Waters toured both the DHR and CenturyLink buildings.

“I presume it is a newer building, dramatically different,” Waters said of the CenturyLink building.

He said workers can remove the walls in the CenturyLink building without affecting the structural integrity of the facility, providing much more open space, which is needed in a public library.

“It’s more accessible, more of a destination place,” Waters said of the CenturyLink building, adding that there is a commercial development across the street from the facility.

He said the CenturyLink building is two stories, three if you count the basement, and it has an elevator.

He said the facility could be more of a multi-purpose building because of the available space.

The Pell City Board of Education occupies about half the space on the second floor of the building.

“The library could grow into the second floor,” Waters said.

He said the CenturyLink building could satisfy the growing Pell City community for 20 years and beyond. He said once the population of the city reaches 35,000-40,000, the city would probably look at opening a branch, instead of building an addition to the CenturyLink building.

“Every community is unique, different,” Waters said. “You want to get things right for Pell City, Alabama.”

He said the DHR building only has about double, not three times, the usable space as the current library, but he pointed out that the current library is already overcrowded.

“This building is far beyond capacity,” Waters said of the current facility. “Good library planning goes out at least 20 years.”

He said the DHR building may not meet those long-term needs of the library.

He said officials would have to take into account that it could take a year of planning and renovation work to make the DHR building suitable for use.

Waters said the design of the DHR building also has some restrictions.

“Because of the way it is set up, you can’t see from here to here,” he said.

The DHR building is designed with a central location and fingers or wings, which could create security issues for the library and make the facility more susceptible to vandalism.

“It’s more of an expensive building to operate because more staff is needed,” he said.

He said renovations to the DHR building could be costly.

“It would not serve you very well for the future,” Waters said. “… My best estimate is that it might serve your needs for five, six, seven years.”

City manager Patrick Draper said city officials are looking at all their options.

He said the CenturyLink building is one of several options city officials are considering as a possible site for a new public library.

“We haven’t ruled out the old DHR building,” Draper said.

The previous administration considered the CenturyLink building as a possible site for a new library, but the council failed to move forward with the possible purchase of the 53,000 square-feet facility at the corner of U.S. 231 and Bruce Ethridge Drive.

At the time, January 2011, the owners were asking $2 million for the 20-year-old facility. Former Mayor Bill Hereford said the building was appraised for twice that amount.

Hereford said the CenturyLink building is in a perfection location for a library, and the building would cost the city much less than the construction of a new facility.

Hereford told the council he had worked out a deal for the Board of Education to contribute about one-fourth of the total cost. The school board currently occupies about one-fourth of the building.

There were some concerns by the council at the time about whether the city could afford the building.

“It remains to be seen if we can make it happen,” Draper said Tuesday. “There may be other options for us. … We are committed to the needs of the library, but we are not yet committed to a location.”

Pell City Library Guild members have expressed a need for a new library for more than a decade, saying the current library is too small for the growing community.

Waters said he doesn’t see any drastic changes in public libraries in years to come.

“I think the library in 2033 is not going to look much different than the library of 2013,” Waters said.

But he predicts libraries will become “hotspots” within cities because people can access information.

“You plan it (a library) in such a way so it can adapt to the enviable changes,” Waters said.

Contact David Atchison at datchison@dailyhome.com.