06/08/07 — Fremont library branch earns reprieve

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Fremont library branch earns reprieve

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on June 8, 2007 1:46 PM

The Fremont library has gotten a new lease on life -- at least temporarily.

The library, which was scheduled to close at the end of the month because of limited use and code violations, will remain open until October thanks to a recent decision by the Wayne County Public Library Board of Trustees.

The 2,500-square-foot building is in need of improvements to its heating and air conditioning system, its roof, its wiring and its plumbing, Wayne County Buildings and Grounds director Brant Brown said.

The library, which has some issues with asbestos removal, also doesn't meet federal requirements for handicapped accessibility and does not have a fire alarm system, Brown said.

During his inspection of the building in April, Brown estimated the cost of bringing the building up to code to about $30,000, which is an amount the town of Fremont would not be able to fund. Although Fremont's budget has not been approved, the town board plans to give the library a $4,000 allotment for the next fiscal year.

Members of The Friends of the Fremont Library, a group that has been working to ensure the facility doesn't close, said an additional $20,000 is needed for furnishings, such as new shelves. The organization is pursuing grants and sponsoring a fundraising drive to collect money.

Knowing the organization and the community could not raise that much money by the end of the month, the library board agreed to extend any decision on closing the library until Oct. 19. That decision gives The Friends of the Fremont Library and local residents about four months to raise $50,000.

If that amount is not raised by Oct. 19, the Fremont branch will likely be closed. The library board agreed that any money collected will be refunded to the donor if possible. Any funds that can't be refunded will be placed in the Wayne County Public Library's endowment fund.

Fremont Town Administra-tor Kerry McDuffie said it's possible to raise $50,000 in such a short time, but it all depends on progress.

"If we're two months down the road, and we only have a few thousand, then we probably can't do it. If we're a couple of months down the road, and we have $35,000, then I would think we can," McDuffie said.

County library officials considered closing the Fremont branch last year because traffic counts showed it was only being used by a few people. The branch reduced hours to streamline its operations, but the library board still considered closure.

The board created a committee in March to determine whether the branch should remain open and what improvements were needed. The committee's assessment was to close the library at the end of June.

Local residents argued that the library is an important educational resource for people living in the northern part of the county. Aside from books, the library offers an Internet link for residents who might not otherwise have access to the Internet.

But even with improvements, the Fremont library could be overshadowed by another facility in the next few years. The county library system's capital improvement plan calls for the construction of two new library branches, a 13,000-square-foot building in northern Wayne and a 20,000-square-foot building in southern Wayne.

The county public library system currently has branches in Fremont, Pikeville, Mount Olive and Seven Springs, in addition to the main branch on Ash Street in Goldsboro.

For more information on The Friends of the Fremont Library's efforts to save the library or to help raise money, call Mary Jo Hooks at 242-5479, Darron Flowers at 242-5484 or Barbara Bolding at 242-4209.