New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | November 1, 2020

Temporary library branch set in NK, pending in CC

By Robb Johnson | January 30, 2008 11:34 am

A new home for Heritage Public Library has been found in New Kent, and location for a Charles City branch is down to a pair of possibilities. But don’t expect library services in both counties to be renewed just yet.

In New Kent, a library branch will be located in the New Kent Commons development on Route 155 across from the entrance to Colonial Downs and Brickshire. Plans call for the library to move into office space recently vacated by Coldwell Banker (6215-D Chesapeake Circle). The library’s Board of Trustees is executing a three-year lease for the site.

In Charles City, plans call for a library branch to open either in the multipurpose room inside the county’s new courthouse complex or inside a county school library. The courthouse room is designated as a second courtroom for the facility, but has been vacant since the building opened in 2005.

The move to separate branches has been prompted by electrical system and other problems that forced the library’s Providence Forge location to abruptly close on Jan. 7. Since then, library officials have been scrambling to find temporary locations in each county.

Last Wednesday during a retreat held by New Kent’s Board of Supervisors, library officials announced new location plans and also sought financial help from supervisors for paying the rent at their New Kent choice.

It will cost the library $2,200 per month to rent the 3,300 square-foot New Kent Commons location. As part of the three-year agreement, rent goes up to $2,600 per month during the second year and increases to $3,100 monthly in year three.

“That will strain us financially,” library Board of Trustees chairman Lee Tyson told supervisors.

To help foot the rent bill, library officials are asking supervisors for an additional $20,000 in funding per year for the next three years. The figure is above what the county already contributes annually to the library. Supervisors appropriated just under $156,000 for the current fiscal year.

Supervisors agreed to part of the funding request, voting unanimously last Wednesday to provide $8,333 to assist with rent payments through the end of the fiscal year on June 30. Supervisors cannot appropriate money for future years, only budget for it. Library officials’ request for the next fiscal year will be considered during upcoming budget deliberations.

Tyson told supervisors the library board plans to pay what remains of the rent bill, which equates to $6,400 in year one, $11,200 in year two, and $17,200 in year three.

“For the third year, we’ll have to generate funding from the community, but with the public response so far, we think it’s doable,” he told the board.

Tyson told New Kent officials on Wednesday that the Charles City branch is to be located inside the courthouse complex, but on Friday, Charles City County Administrator Jack Miniclier said a final choice has not been made.

“We’re reviewing the two options to see which best fits the needs of the people and has minimum impact on the facilities,” he said.

Miniclier added that Charles City is unlikely to pursue a rent or lease agreement with the library’s board.

“My intent is to have minimal cost to the library,” he said. “I don’t see any large additional charge at this time.”

He said library officials have not approached the county with a request for more money.

Last week, Tyson said there is no timetable for restoring services and opening both New Kent and Charles City locations to the public.

“Realistically, we want to open as soon as possible, but there are too many contingencies to set a date now,” he said.

Trustees previously decided that should two temporary branches be created, library staff each week will spend 39 hours at the New Kent location and 16 hours in Charles City. The hours are based on the level of financial support provided by each county.

For the current fiscal year, Charles City budgeted $68,000. New Kent’s $156,000 contribution includes an extra $44,000 supervisors awarded in last minute budget dealings.

Miniclier, meanwhile, said he intends to review with library trustees the decision to limit hours of operation to 16 in Charles City.

The New Kent Commons site will be available on Feb. 6 to start the moving in process. But first, library staff must divide the library’s 43,000 volumes — 38,000 of those are books — between the two sites. Then comes transporting the collections to the respective sites and organizing the inventory on shelves.

Tyson said library director Alan Bernstein is developing a plan to identify volumes for the New Kent location and those bound for Charles City. Other, seldom used volumes will be placed in storage. A courier system will be set up in the event volumes must be transferred between sites.

New Kent Administrator John Budesky said the New Kent Commons owner plans to install new carpeting and repaint the location before the library moves in. Also, land behind the Dairy Queen/Pit Stop building will be converted into a parking lot for employees, thus freeing up space in the paved lots for customers and library patrons.

Tyson said space exists in the New Kent Commons location to hold library activities for small groups, but activities that attract large crowds will have to be held at other venues in the county.

There is no going back to the Providence Forge building that the library has called home since 1984, Tyson said. The library owns the building, but no decision has been made as to the structure’s fate, he said.

The 4,500 square-foot building, erected in stages since the 1930s, has been labeled a fire hazard by local building inspectors who found damaged and exposed wiring along with electric panel boxes not up to code during inspections earlier in January. Also, there are flooding and drainage problems that have damaged the structure’s floors and roof, and the building’s plumbing system is inadequate.

Library trustees, meanwhile, have opted not to repair and upgrade the electrical system, a project estimated to cost $25,000.

Sometime in the future, however, there may be new, permanent library locations in both counties. In New Kent’s proposed five-year Capital Improvement Plan now before the county’s Planning Commission, a $4.5 million library facility in the 15,000 to 20,000 square-foot range is penciled in for the construction phase during the 2009-10 fiscal year. Land adjacent to the Providence Forge fire station on Route 155 has been proffered to the county as a library site.

But a final decision on when and where a new library is built rests with supervisors. No money has been budgeted for the project.

The same is true in Charles City where a $3.6 million library building, estimated at 10,000 to 15,000 square feet, falls into that county’s CIP starting with architectural and engineering work in fiscal 2010-11. Actual construction is placed, for now, in 2011-12.