On Monday, Watkinsville City Councilman Brian Brodrick apologized to the Oconee County Library Advisory Board for a memo from Mayor Bob Smith that tacitly stated his opposition to both the city and county’s separate proposals for a new county library.
In urging state lawmakers to draft legislation for Oconee to secede from the Western Judicial Circuit, Smith also said he would prefer that the existing library facility remain where it is, even though both city and county officials have told Smith that there is no space to expand either the building or the parking lot.
In December, Smith floated another option of building a library around Rocket Field. A government building fronting the baseball field was a concept that was put forth in 2014 by Smith’s architect son, Robert. However, this is not financially feasible due to the amount of private residences the city would have to purchase.
“It is unfortunate Mayor Smith is trying to co-mingle county facility planning with a debate on a single county judicial circuit,” Board of Commissioners Chairman John Daniell told The Oconee Enterprise in an email.
At the meeting Monday, Brodrick said the future of the Western Judicial Circuit merits discussion but is a topic that’s not within the purview of the Library Advisory Board.
“Mayor Smith’s opinions are his own,” Brodrick said. “I apologize that you guys were brought into a delicate situation that merits a different conversation.”
Brodrick and Councilwoman Christine Tucker emphasized that all five members of the city council are in favor of locating the library in Wire Park.
Smith did not attend Monday’s Library Advisory Board.
In the near future, Oconee County plans to build a new administrative building in order to give the judicial branch more space inside the Oconee County Courthouse.
The administrative building will be at the intersection of North Main Street and Macon Highway and would house the library on the ground floor.
The county’s plan allows for 20,000 square feet with the possibility of expanding at a later date. The existing library is 17,377 square feet.
Daniell said the county looked at the Wire Park location but that it did not seem efficient, whereas the Macon Highway location has ample land and has the best access for county residents. Only about 18 percent of library patrons are residents of Watkinsville, he noted.
Daniell said the site has a “huge amount of green space” and that it’s still close to the city limits.
“We stayed as close to the city limits as we could to allow for annexation,” he said.
Near the end of the meeting, Tucker thanked the county for coming up with a solution for the future of the library before Wire Park became a viable option.
“The county’s proposal has a lot of strengths,” said Brodrick. “I just think this one has more.”
The Library Advisory Board will reconvene for a called meeting in the next couple weeks. As of deadline, a date for said meeting had not been set.
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