The end of one era ushered in the beginning of another in Calhoun Thursday.
City workers chopped down the large pecan tree at the Gordon County-Calhoun Library to make room for a renovation and expansion of the facility, which will get underway soon. The entire renovation project will take about eight months or so to complete and will cost about $1.5 million. Some $250,000 of it will be paid for with state funds and the other $800,000 will be covered by Special Purpose, Local Option, Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds. The project includes the construction of an additional wing, which is projected to be around 3,000-4,000 square feet. The project will include a new “pod” of 30 computers, and expanded book volumes along with a general modernization of the facility, which has not been renovated since the 1980s.
“When the opportunity came to gather some of the SLOST dollars, (we) asked that this project be included in the SPLOST referendum-the one that started collections in March,” said Kyle Smith, Treasurer of the Calhoun-Gordon County Library Board of Trustees. “The big thing is that not only was the library outdated, but our number one concern was the safety of the patrons using the entrance that is now on Park Avenue. I have personally witnessed mothers bringing children into story hour at the library and when you let a child out of a car across the street and they just dart out, so safety was one of the primary concerns, and then moving the entrance: we just needed to move the entrance from that street to down on the north end and when we did that there were other renovations and updating that we need to have been done.”
Another need for renovation was due to an increasing number of patrons over the last few years.
“Last quarter we counted over 45,000 patrons coming through the doors,” said Ed Weldon, chairman of the board of trustees. “When we put in the application for the SPLOST money, we were counting close to a quarter of a million people coming in every year and heavily using the computers with job activities. That’s why our city and county fathers and mothers thought this was a good idea to go ahead and make this an early priority so we can continue helping the labor force.”
The extension will stretch into the current parking area and eliminate four or five parking spots, but Smith said it was the only viable option since the current facility is bordered by streets and the railroad track. Of note, one of the board of trustees’ goals during the construction process is hiring as many local contractors as possible, Smith said.
Once the renovation is complete, the new addition will serve as the main entrance and the building itself will have a color coordinated design, allowing for easier access to specific areas of the library. The computer terminals will be the centerpiece and the other sections of the library will follow in a “shopping mall” kind of format.
Once all the final paperwork is submitted and approved, construction should begin some time this month, according to Joe Forsee, a consultant working with the board on the construction project. Forsee said the construction will be “somewhat phased” with sections of the building being closed on an alternating basis as construction progresses. The library will continue to operate as usual, but things will be switched around to accommodate the construction.
“Our plan is to inconvenience the public as little as possible,” Smith said. “There will be the days that we will need to be closed; we are counting on the Calhoun Times and other sources to help others know that we do have a webpage up (www.CGCL.org) that will have progress on the construction so people won’t show up and the library be closed. We want to give as much advance notice as we possible and we can plan for that, but there will be days when we will have to be closed to the public.”
On days that the library is closed, the public can still use their library card at the libraries in Dalton and Chatsworth to accommodate their needs. Georgia Northwestern Technical College will also offer CGCL patrons access to their computers and library, Weldon said.
Note about the tree:
Once the tree was taken down, the wood was salvaged by local artisans who intend on crafting their wares out of the hardy pecan. Mike Davis and Ricki Weaver of the Harris Arts Center were two of those there to claim the wood.
“The Arts Center partners with a lot of organizations in the community, so what better group to partner with than the library,” Davis said. “So when we found out that due to progress and due to renovations the tree was coming down, then we kind of rallied the troops of artisans in the area to come out to be able to get some of the wood and be able to display the wood and show that even though the tree is coming down it can be used for other purposes, so I am sure that will be of interest to people in the community.”
Both men said it was important to keep the legacy of the 60-year-old tree alive in the area.
“I am a wood turner, and Mike called me and said there was an opportunity to gather some wood, reclaim some wood and reuse the tree and the tree is going to live on through the art work that we do,” Weaver said. “I turn bowls and make pots and stuff like that. So it’s an opportunity for the tree to continue to be a part of this community.”
Davis had similar thoughts about the wood.
“Most wood turners, you will find out, are not taking trees down for that purpose,” he said. “You take storm damaged trees and things like that. This is an opportunity to get some wood, some nice wood - pecan is a nice mellow, easy turning type of wood- so its an opportunity to get something that came from this community, especially the library here in this community. I think the community feels a connection. You can get wood anywhere, but when it comes from the community its a little more special.”