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February 14, 2003       Leave a Comment
By: O. J. Cunningham

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Central Library construction on Center Avenue in downtown Bay City is scheduled to begin in the Summer of 2003. Expected completion date is Spring of 2005 (*Project start dates are contingent upon property acquisition.)

Signs in the windows at Fish's Wallpaper and Paint on the corner of Center and Jefferson signal the beginning of the end to a long battle over property acquisition.

Demolition of the old city jail (across Jefferson Street) from Fish's is also moving forward as the Countyprepares to sell that parcel to the City as part of the Library project.

The following is taken directly from the Library's web site and is provided as an update to the current status of the project. For more information, click to the link provided.

Why do we need to improve our libraries?

People in Bay County value their libraries. More than 73,000 men, women and children here hold library cards - and we usethem! Since 1974 when the Bay County Library System was established, circulation has grown from 462,916 items per year to more than 780,000 items per year - 34% above the state average for libraries our size.

While library programs and services in Bay County have grown dramatically, buildings have fallen behind in their capacity to meet changing needs and interests. Several of our libraries are not barrier free, all are undersized and overcrowded, most need upgraded wiring and computer cabling, all need fire suppression systems, most need additional parking, and all need more space for collections, programs and anticipated growth. If our libraries are to continue their vital role in our community, clearly change is needed.

What is the plan for change?

Working with community volunteers, and with input from hundreds of your friends and neighbors, we have developed a plan to correct current inadequacies and create an outstanding public library system to serve the needs of our community now and for generations to come.

We plan to build a new Central Library to serve the entire county as the main informational, educational, cultural and recreational library resource. This handsome new 71,475 square foot, three-story building will be located in downtown Bay City next to Battery Park on a site that now houses the abandoned Bay County jail. In addition to providing enlarged space and collections for adults, teens and children, the Central Library will offer special features like a local history and genealogy room, a computer lab, a 125-seat community meeting room, and a drive-up window. In response to popular demand, the Central Library will even include a coffee shop to be run by contract with a local vendor. The entire building will offer barrier free access.

We will replace the existing 3,000 square foot Pinconning Branch Library with a new 11,713 square foot building in downtown Pinconning and renovate, remodel, and add space to the Sage, Auburn Area, and South Side branches. Each library building will provide barrier free access; added space for collections and programs; enhanced reference materials and services; more convenient shelving with wider aisles; large meeting and program rooms; quiet, comfortable areas for reading and study; state-of-the art technology and more computers; adequate, safe, convenient parking; an atmosphere that welcomes all people, and invites them to enjoy their library.

Library trustees will close and sell Bay City Branch Library. Materials and services offered at this branch will be available at the Central Library. The library system will add books and materials to expand the present collection of 300,000 volumes, increasing this number by 20% over the next two decades.

How much will this project cost and how will the library pay for it?

The capital improvement project budget totals $27.1 million. Bay County residents will pay for the majority of this expense through a millage increase of one mill for 20 years approved by Bay County voters in August, 2000. Millage revenue will also cover increased operating costs for the expanded libraries.

To complete project funding, the library is currently conducting a capital fundraising campaign - Our Libraries, A Gift to the Generations - that will raise $3 million in private donations from individuals, businesses, and foundations.

This is an artists overview of the new library facility. North is to the top of the screen -- The County Building is located on this drawing in the upper right hand corner. The front door entrance of the library will be in the middle of what was formerly Jefferson Street (between Fish's and the old city jail).

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O. J. Cunningham

O. J. Cunningham is the Publisher of Cunningham previously published Sports Page & Bay City Enterprise. He is the President/CEO of OJ Advertising, Inc.

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