05/08/13 — Mount Olive library efforts continuing

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Mount Olive library efforts continuing

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 8, 2013 1:51 PM

Wayne County commissioners promised Tuesday to move "expeditiously" on seeking design/build proposals for a new Steele Memorial Library in Mount Olive. But, they offered no firm timetable as to when the project that has lingered for years might finally get under way.

Lynn Williams, the chairman of the Steele Memorial Library Steering Committee, told commissioners that to her "expeditiously" means "as soon as possible."

The commissioners' vote to proceed with the project followed the committee's agreement to pay $35,000 in order for the county to terminate its contract with the firm that designed the library project.

There has been a lot of "talk and flak" about the $35,000, said Jimmy Williams of Mount Olive, who has been advising the steering committee.

"A lot of us have caught flak," he said. "Flak has gone back and forth. You have caught it, and we have caught it and so forth. The point on the $35,000 that I think everybody missed is that this lady (Mrs. Williams) led the fundraising effort to raise $350,000 successfully for money to be spent on design and build on this library.

"This money is rightfully being spent for the library project because that is what it was raised for. By spending it now, then if that is what it takes, figure that this library is now built expeditiously, that will be the best $35,000 that we ever invested. It just seemed a lot of flak was being caught. It wasn't necessary to be caught because it was just not an understanding that this money was being used exactly for the purposes it was raised for."

Commissioner Ray Mayo made the motion to approve a recommendation from the board's Facilities Committee that the county terminate its contract with RATIO Architects, provided that the Friends of Steele Memorial Library pay the estimated $35,000 needed to do so.

The motion further recommended that the library be constructed by using the design/build approach and that requests for design/build proposals be initiated "expeditiously."

In design/build, an architect/engineer teams with a contractor to design and build a project. The project owner, in this case the county, has a more active role in the process.

Mayo, who is chairman of the Facilities Committee, said commissioners had received an email confirming that the committee would pay the $35,000. He said he had wanted to make sure the money was taken care of before making the motion.

"It has been a long haul, and we are delighted to be here tonight and to know that we are moving forward," Mrs. Williams said during the public comments portion of the meeting. "A lot of effort, a tremendous amount of effort has gone into this from the Mount Olive community, from the county staff, from our library staff particularly, from commissioners and from other bodies, and we just want to say 'thank you.'"

A concept that might have gotten lost is that it is more than just a Mount Olive project, Williams said.

"We keep referring to this as the Mount Olive Steele Memorial Library," he said. "I think we need to put some emphasis that this is the southern Wayne regional library which is located in Mount Olive. This library, by virtue of what you have done here today, it is going to bring service not only to the southern end of our county, but to northern Duplin County, Lenoir County, Sampson County.

"It will be the biggest library anywhere within that reach when it is put there. We are putting something that is a regional library. It is in Mount Olive, and we are happy that it is there."

Mary Bartlett, speaking on behalf of the Wayne County Public Library Foundation Board and library advisory board, said it is a southern county project, but that library supporters do not want to stop there.

They also want a northern regional library and to have the main branch on Ash Street renovated, she said.

Ann Sullivan of Mar-Mac said she had spoken to all seven county commissioners about, "You had better get us that library in the southern end of the county."

Mrs. Sullivan said her children and now her grandchildren use the Mount Olive library.

"I visit the library there, and you are right, it is small," she said. "I am looking forward to having a large top-of-the-line facility over there that has a wide arrangement of stuff and that will carry books that everyone will be interested in."