One of the toughest decisions the current administration in Ragland has made in four years revolves around the public library. The council has been discussing it for over a year now — and it is yet to be resolved.
Ragland officials met at another special called meeting Monday night to discuss the library issue, less than a week after voting to go ahead with construction. That vote came only five days after the council voted to put the project on hold. The results of Monday’s meeting were not known at press time.
It all started the morning of April 27, 2011, when a tornado destroyed the town’s library. The town received $337,996.95 from the insurance on the building, a total that includes the rebuilding of the library, library furniture, fixtures, equipment and books.
The council agreed to build a new library, and hired Ronald G. Cannon as the architect June 28, 2011.
During the past year, the council has had many options where to build the library. Should it be built close to the municipal building? Could it be an addition to the municipal complex? Other options included housing the library in the old Nutrition Center, or dedicating space at the Newtown building. (On Aug. 15, 2011, the library re-opened at the Newtown building.)
The council also considered rebuilding in the same place, or even asking the St. Clair County Board of Education to donate land across from Ragland Elementary School, where an old house currently sits.
Last August, Metro Bank in Ragland agreed to donate land at the former location of The Family Grill —the intersection of Providence Road and Main Street, across from the Food Barn. Councilman Britt Hathcox said Metro Bank agreed to donate the land to the town only if the new library would be built on the land. The council agreed to accept the donation.
Several called meetings in the month of June revolved around the library. Since the most recent regularly scheduled meeting June 11, the council held three special called meetings (June 18, June 22 and June 27), and all three have dealt with the library issue.
Town Clerk Penny Owens, Police Chief Bubba Brown, and Water Superintendent Tim McKinney all attended a meeting recently in Ft. Payne concerning the federal floodplain management program. It was determined that all of Ragland was in Zone A of the floodplain, including the land donated by Metro Bank.
McKinney said that means anyone who wants to build must find the highest ground elevation, and then build three feet above that to comply.
At the June 22 meeting, the council agreed to put the library project on hold.
The contractor, Allen Hawkins, called White wanting to know why the project had been canceled.
“I told him it had not been canceled, but just put on hold,” White said.
On June 27, at another called meeting, and on a 3-1 vote, the council agreed to proceed with building the new library. Councilmen Richard Bunt and Carlton Byers agreed to proceed, along with White. Councilwoman Edna Daffron voted no.
Councilmen Perry Poe and Britt Hathcox were not in attendance.
White said he would like to see the water department moved to the new library site, that there would be plenty of room. The council discussed a drop box and a drive-through window so water customers could pay their water bills without getting out of their cars.
“That way, we could move the police department to the municipal building,” White said.
White said Cannon told him that moving the water department to the proposed library site would cost an additional $30,000, to add the drop box and drive-through window.
On Monday afternoon, Cannon said the building under construction is for a library, not the water department.
“The water department was never mentioned,” Cannon said. “You just can’t do that. It has jumped from one thing to another. Usually people decide what the project is going to be.”
Cannon said he would be in attendance at Monday’s meeting.
Prior to Monday’s meeting, several members of the council and the mayor discussed the issue.
Daffron said she was going to continue to vote as she has in previous meetings — no.
“I cannot see spending this much money on a building that will only be used part-time, 20 to 25 hours per week,” Daffron said.
Bunt said he honestly couldn’t say right now.
“In light of hearing there could be additional fees from the architect and contractor, I cannot make a comment at this time,” Bunt said.
White said he hoped to resolve things Monday.
“It’s just been back and forth with the builder and the contractor,” White said. “I am disappointed that there was some miscommunication between us, the architect and the contractor. I am hoping to get everything ironed out when we leave the council chambers Monday night.”