At its regular meeting at the R. T. Jones Library, the Cherokee County Library Board of Trustees approved a low bid from Turner Construction Co. for a base bid of $4,089,785, with a major condition — whether the library system is able to receive the land from the Cherokee Board of Commissioners.
The total project cost will be $5,136,677, architect Kirk Dunn of Professional Group Associates said. Other bids were received Headley Construction Corp., Benning Construction Co. and Cooper and Co.
Susan White, Sequoyah Regional Library director, said just an hour earlier she received an email from County Manager Jerry Cooper regarding questions from Lathemtown residents regarding the proposed named of the library, Old Mill Public Library, saying the community would like input on the naming.
White read the email to the board, in which Cooper asked whether plans to name the library were already in the works and added the BoC has not budgeted funds for construction of the library or approved plans to fund operating costs of the library.
Cooper also said the county owns the property and has not transferred ownership of the property to the library system and construction cannot begin until this occurs, White told the board.
White said she responded to Cooper, reminding him in order to retain more than $100,000 in state funds, they needed to be spent by November and the latest construction could begin was May.
“We can’t afford to lose that money,” board member Mary Helen Lamb said.
White said she would plan to attend the commission meeting Tuesday night. Dunn added he will be in contact with Turner Construction to see how long the construction bid is viable.
Commissioner Harry Johnston, who did not attend the meeting, said Thursday night he is committed to proceeding with the construction of the library.
“Our reservation is only that we want to more fully understand how operations will be funded when we don’t have the money to fund any increases,” Johnston said. “We don’t want to lose any state money if at all possible.”
A motion was made at the meeting by Steve Scott to bring the issue to the Building and Grounds Committee and was seconded by Ann Kinzer, but was ultimately voted down by all members except Scott.
“As a board, we were under the impression the commission was behind us ready to go, ready to move,” Chair Scott Rule said. “Obviously, we would not move forward if we didn’t think so.”
Related to the initial email, the board heard from a Lathemtown resident regarding the proposed name of the library.
“I would like to apologize humbly to anyone who is here or not here,” Rule said in regards to the naming choice. “We’re excited about this library, we want to move forward and we want to have a name that fits the community.”
George Lathem, who identified himself as a fourth-generation member of the community and said his great-great-grandfather named the community in the late 1800s, told the board he would like them to consider naming the new library for the historied area.
“We are excited that you put a library there and I think it would be used tremendously,” Lathem said. “But in Lathemtown, we would be very honored if it could be named after the community that it’s placed in. You have Ball Ground Library, you have Hickory Flat and so forth, and the library is in the center of Lathemtown.”
The board voted unanimously to move the consideration to a committee to receive further input.
“If we need some other people, I’ve got plenty of relatives,” Lathem joked.
The address of the site is 225 Old Mill Road, Ball Ground.