04/18/10 — $50,000 donor pushes library project past halfway point

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$50,000 donor pushes library project past halfway point

By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 18, 2010 1:50 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- A $50,000 pledge announced Friday by the Southern Bank Foundation has pushed a grassroots effort to raise $350,000 for a new Steele Memorial Library past the halfway mark.

It was the second $50,000 pledge within a month for what is expected to be a $3.5 million to $4 million renovation project to the former Belk's building to turn it into the library's new home. The Mt. Olive Pickle Foundation made a $50,000 pledge last month.

The bank's foundation has made an initial $10,000 contribution and the remainder will be paid in two $20,000 installments over the next two years. Last fall, both foundations provided $5,000 gifts to help launch planning for the new library's design.

"The library has been such an important part of the community for so many and not only to Mount Olive, but the surrounding communities," Southern Bank CEO Grey Morgan said. "We are very excited for this opportunity to be able to do something for the entire community, something that is going to expand. The library has been very good to the people, but now it can mean even more things from resources to more books to a place that can be more accessible to many more people. Our foundation is always looking for opportunities to help the communities that we operate in and this is certainly a poster child for that."

Making a big step early on shows to other people, citizens and businesses in the community that it is a project that everybody is behind and excited about, he said. Morgan said he hoped it will serve to get even more people involved.

"I have always said with any fundraiser what is just as important as the amount is the number of people who are involved and excited about it," he said. "That is what is going to make it a success going forward."

Library steering committee chairman Lynn Williams said the group is grateful to Southern Bank for its support of the library.

"It is nice to have two announcements like this in a month's time," she said. "It is very affirming about the project and the importance and significance of it to Mount Olive, the downtown area and to southern Wayne County."

County library Director Jane Rustin called the $100,000 in pledges within a month "breathtaking" and a "marvelous accomplishment."

"It is so encouraging to think that kind of support is here in the community for this project," she said. "Again, a great corporate citizen has stepped forward to make this dream come true. We are at the halfway mark in what I think is an amazingly short time. The dream is getting closer."

Mary Bartlett, Wayne County Public Library board chairman, said she was pleased, but not surprised since the people in Mount Olive are generous and love their library.

"A study for library facilities has been completed by the library system and we are finalizing a draft request for qualifications for engineering and architectural services," County Manager Lee Smith said. "Once we have more specific cost figures, the county commissioners will have the ability to thoroughly consider next steps for this project including timeline, funding, etc.

"Wayne County is thrilled by the dedication and financial commitment by the community in the Mount Olive area for the new Wayne County Library Mount Olive branch project thus far. The news today of the Southern Bank Foundation pledging $50,000 for this project is just another sign of the community's commitment to a quality library facility. I believe this commitment places the group halfway to the financial goal for engineering and architectural design work."

Identifying architectural and engineering firms is expected to begin this spring. Construction could get under way in the county during the 2011-12 fiscal year.

The county purchased the 23,000-square-foot building on West Main Street from Mount Olive College for $400,000. It will replace a cramped 2,500-square-foot building a block north on North Chestnut Street that Southern Bank gave to the town to house the library.

The new facility is being billed as a regional library. Plans are to close the Seven Springs branch and fold that operation into the new library when it opens.

Also, the technical services department now housed at the main library branch on East Ash Street in Goldsboro will move to Mount Olive.

That department oversees preparing new books for the shelves, maintaining the library's catalog and book repair. There are currently two and one-half positions in that department.

An additional six full-time equivalents will be needed once the new library opens, Ms. Rustin said. There are currently two employees there. The library would have 10 to 12 employees.