Two more library branches could pop up in the county within the next decade if the Forsyth County Public Library is awarded future SPLOST funds.
At a board meeting for the library system Tuesday, members approved a staff recommendation that would vie for a portion of the county’s SPLOST VIII money to build two new library branches – one in southwest Forsyth on the Denmark High School property under construction by Fowler Road and one in northwest Forsyth by Matt Community Park.
The estimated cost of the two projects would be about $25 million.
If approved, SPLOST VIII collections would begin July 1, 2019.
Commissioners first introduced the topic of SPLOST VIII at a work session Jan. 10, saying several projects are already under consideration to receive the funds, which come from sales tax, should voters approve it.
“The rubber hits the road this year, because we now have to start making those very difficult decisions, not the least of which was a resolution … some time ago that indicated that a certain percentage of SPLOST would be used to fund certain [general obligation] bond capital outlays,” County Attorney Ken Jarrard said.
The BOC is set to hold a special meeting on the plan Feb. 7.
“I’m not sure what our competition is for this SPLOST, but I’m sure there are lots of really wonderful projects out there,” said Anna Lyle, the four-branch library system’s director. “This might be a very difficult sell, but I want to start off with what I think we need.”
The southwest branch would be a proposed 32,000-square-foot library, and the northwest branch would be 24,500 square feet.
Currently, the Post Road Library, the newest of the four and located just south of Kelly Mill and Drew Campground roads on Post Road, has a floor plan of 24,500 square feet.
Lyle said though she did not bring in county population projections to the meeting, by 2025, Forsyth will need the new branches.
“The population is expected to continue to grow very quickly – if not double – in the next 15-20 years,” she said. “Southwest could already support having another library and northwest, by the end of this collection period, I think they very well could, too. We certainly don’t want to build something that’s not needed, but I don’t think it would be too far to [include] these in the next SPLOST.”
Lyle said based on collection years, FCPL would be looking to build the southwest branch in 2022-2023.
The northwest branch would be constructed in 2024-2025.
“We have to be mindful as we think about the construction side that for every new location, we would also be asking the county for operating funding,” she said. “Even though we might survive doing two at one time in terms of ourselves, we wouldn’t want to hit the county with operating two new libraries in the same fiscal year.”
Board member Kristin Morrissey said it is imperative to include the library proposals despite being so far out, given the BOC might, once again, dedicate the first $100 million of SPLOST funds to county projects, such as road and infrastructure repairs, as they did for SPLOST VII.
“If something like that happens again and we don’t have these [proposals] in here, you could be talking six more years out – 2028 – before we would even get dibs on a second library down the road,” Morrissey said. “Those people in northwest Forsyth – look how far they have to go right now to get [to a library.]
“From a school system perspective, the need for children to excel is just so critical, and if our kids are potentially not getting to the library because it’s not accessible, that’s not [helping] us meet our goal.”
“I think we always knew we’d need two more libraries, we just never put it in terms of a time frame,” Chairwoman Mary Helen McGruder said. “But here it is.”