Rossville's public library has become the "new, airy, cheerful and spacious" space — and then some — that Library Manager Carmella Clark hoped for its renovation began last fall.
"It's turned out better than I ever imagined," Clark said last week as construction workers applied finishing touches to their handiwork and library staffers shelved books.
Located at 502 McFarland Avenue, adjacent the fire station and within an halfblock of Rossville's city hall and civic center, this library has been a centerpiece of the city since opening in 1987.
Following a seven-month revamp — its only major renovation other than having a tornado-damaged roof replaced in 2011 — this branch reopened on Tuesday, May 4.
Aside from a resurfaced parking lot, and new sidewalks provided by the city, nothing outside the building seems all that different from its dedication. But beyond the new glass doors of its foyer is a contemporary space, one where 21st century technology is incorporated by design rather than kludged together.
Cherokee Regional Library System Director Lecia Eubanks said this is the last of the system's four branches to undergo replacement or renovation.
In addition to its being computer-friendly, the remodeling brought modern
color schemes, LED lighting and improved climate control to the branch. And without adding on, the library makes better use of its available square footage.
"We've repurposed space," Clark said.
Eubanks said that instead of scattering computers wherever possible, as was the case previously, the new layout allows clustering 20 computers for use by adults and dedicating computers to the children's and the teens' departments.
There will be four PCs in addition to 21 Chromeboxes and for the first time two iMacs and four iPads for the children.
In addition to having more computers available for patrons, there will be a separate area for teenagers. And perhaps more importantly, three private study rooms have been incorporated — near the circulation desk — and an area dedicated to local, Rossville, history.
Architect David Cameron designed the interior spaces to feel both cozy, yet open, and made certain that the building is compliant with current Americans with Disabilities Act codes.
Federal and state grants provided most of this projects funding, but local donations — from individuals and organizations — contributed about $75,000 to the building's overall budget. Benefactors made large donations (in the $1,000s) to secure naming rights to rooms and dedicated areas. And those making lesser but equally important donations (in the $100s) are recognized on a "legacy tree" that graces the entrance corridor.
The Rossville library has more than 35,000 titles in its collection, roughly 8,000 active library card holders and serves about 25,000 visitors each year. The library's free high-speed Wi-Fi is available 24/7 and can be accessed both inside and outside the building.
The library is closed Monday, Friday and Sunday. Hours are 9 a.m. — 36 p.m. Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, 9 a.m.- 7 p.m. on Thursday and from 10 a.m. — 32 p.m. on Saturday. For information about the library and its services call 706-866-1368.
Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield reported on the State of the County during the Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Tuesday, April 25.
Whitfield said he was constantly being asked if the state of the county was in such dire shape as believed.
Within Whitfield's first week, there was $13,795,000 in taxes previously collected into the general fun, but there was around $800,000 left in the account to work with as of Jan. 3.
Whitfield's office received numerous calls from bill collectors asking if they were going to be paid.
Payroll for that week was going to be $1 million for 435 county employees with around $500,000 in payroll and $1 million in the general fund.
It was determined the county needed a loan of $8 million just to survive.
The loan was granted by The Bank of LaFayette.
Whitfield hired Sharleen Robinson as human resource director to define job descriptions within the county as well as policies and procedures.
"There just wasn't any," Whitfield said of job descriptions.
Whitfield also hired Joe Legge as public relations director.
He hired codes enforcement director David Brown due to the request for more codes enforcement.
The biggest issue facing codes is household garbage, junk, hunk cars and dilapidated structures, with 1,368 miles of road to pick up garbage.
A tire amnesty day is being considered, when citizens can drop tires off at the landfill at no cost.
"Many people said, 'Oh, you've just gone and hired a lot of bounty hunters' and 'you've just gone and created a bunch of new rules'... We are just taking everything that was on the book and applied it today," he said.
In the 25 years since it rose on a once-neglected riverfront, the Tennessee Aquarium has become emblematic of Chattanooga's astounding renaissance.
When it was conceived in the 1980s, the Aquarium seemed like a textbook improbability for a community still haunted by its ignoble designation in 1969 as America's most-polluted city. The grand opening of the River Journey building on May 1, 1992, was only possible thanks to a bedrock of private support and a communitywide commitment to returning to our river.
The initial $45 million investment in bringing an Aquarium to Chattanooga has paid dividends on a massive scale. According to a recent economic impact study conducted by the University of Tennessee at Knoxville's Center for Sustainable Business and Development, more than $3.293 billion has flowed into Hamilton County in the last 25 years thanks to the Aquarium. That figure represents spending by guests who reported their primary
reason for coming to Chattanooga was to visit the Aquarium.
"The economic power of the Aquarium is undeniable and the entire Chattanooga community has benefitted tremendously from its presence on the waterfront," says John Phillips, one of the Aquarium's founding board members. "For 25 years, the Aquarium has inspired a love of nature in millions of people."
In the beginning, many visitors came for the day, but as the destination has grown, the largest percentage of visitors now spend two or more nights. Research shows the average family visiting the Aquarium today spends $717 on their multi-day trip to Chattanooga compared to day-trip spending of $169.
Since the Aquarium's arrival on the waterfront, more than $5 billion in private funds have been invested in the downtown area including the addition of 11 hotels.
The Aquarium's presence supports 1,297 jobs throughout Hamilton County, and tax revenue generated by visitors to the Aquarium has tremendously boosted the local economy. According to the impact study, between 1992 and 2016, Aquarium guests paid more than $189 million in state and local taxes, which helped pay for essential civic services, from public schools and road construction to police and fire service.
A private, non-profit organization since its inception, the Aquarium has achieved remarkable success without drawing on city or county tax dollars. The Aquarium consistently has received top ratings in customer satisfaction on TripAdvisor, where it is ranked as the No. 1 attraction for visitors to Chattanooga and in the Top 5 for aquariums worldwide.
A broad base of contributors have helped the Aquarium to remain vibrant and innovative through the introduction new exhibits, investment in conservation programs and major additions such as the Ocean Journey building and the IMAX 3D Theater.
By visiting the Tennessee Aquarium, more than 23 million people — including 2.5 million school children — have been introduced to the wonders of the aquatic world and been empowered to make informed decisions about water and wildlife.
Before opening, attendance was projected to reach a first-year high of 650,000 visitors. "That we've managed to consistently exceeded that initial expectation by such a wide margin for so many years is remarkable," says Keith Sanford, the Aquarium's President and CEO. In 2016 alone, more than 745,000 guests came to Chattanooga to marvel at feisty otters, giant catfish, playful penguins, mesmerizing jellyfish and more.
"That popularity reflects our long-standing commitment to offering a memorable, compelling experience that continues to improve," Sandford says.
The Aquarium continues to give back to the local community as well by providing more than $2.2 million each year in free student admissions, educational programs and transportation costs. Through its Community Outreach Program and partnership with the Chattanooga 2.0 movement, the Aquarium is taking an active role in promoting early childhood education and improving access to economically disadvantaged families in the region.
"There will always be a need for the Aquarium to focus on the environmental, economic and educational well-being of our community," said Sanford. "Gifts today, or planned future gifts, will help ensure generations to come will enjoy the Aquarium, and a vibrant Chattanooga, as much as we do today."
The Aquarium's Impact at a Glance
• $3.293 billion in nonlocal visitor spending
• $189.6 million paid in state in local taxes by non-Hamilton County Aquarium guests
• 23 million visitors
• 2.5 million student visits on organized field trips
• $115 million impact on Chattanooga and Hamilton County economies
• $72.2 million earned by area businesses through goods and services purchased by Aquarium guests
• 1,297 jobs supported by Aquarium operations and capital expenditures as well as spending by out-of-town guests
• $717 spent by families, on average, per overnight stay resulting from an Aquarium visit