Flagler County Library Director Holly Albanese, offering up an unusually determined presentations by a county director, essentially made County Commissioners an offer they couldn’t refuse this afternoon.
Albanese presented the conceptual renderings of a south side library the county has been talking about in circles for eight years. She described a building that would meet several needs in the county, well beyond those of the library. She outlined the $16 million cost. She laid out half a dozen funding options that left commissioners little room for contradictions. And she asked for direction on starting the process that would result in a ribbon-cutting at the new library on Commerce Parkway in Bunnell in the summer or fall of 2024.
“We’ve been talking about it for a number of years,” Commissioner Dave Sullivan said. “And I think it’s either now we go forward, or or we give up the whole deal. I mean, it’s one way or the other.”
Commissioners agreed to go forward.
“We’ve come this far, and there’s some additional revenue sources that can be taken advantage of,” Commissioner Andy Dance said. “You have to think you have to move forward.” And Dance had only moments before been the only commissioner to speak some reservations–not about the project itself, but about its place in the context of other county projects that may need to draw on whatever available funding there may be for the library.
Dance, always the more deliberate of the commissioners, had a list of pros and cons: good location, good flexibility in the use of the building, excellent location with other government services and staff nearby. But he was also concerned about timing. The county is preparing to start its goal-setting. “I would love to be able to have had the time to go through the whole strategic planning process,” he said. “We have big needs. One of my priorities as is the commission’s is the fire station, so we’ve got other construction projects that are going to be competing for the same funds. I would like to know how all of that ties together so that we’re not depleting funds that are going to push those other projects farther out. So that’s a conversation that I want to have.”
He had other concerns. One is a sidewalk that stops just past at the edge of Palm Coast on State Road 100, in front of GEA Auto, leaving no sidewalk and bike-safe access to Commerce Parkway for future pedestrians making their way to the library. Another is the county’s reserves, which he doesn’t want depleted. But none of what he said was an outright objection to going ahead with the plan, as he made clear.
At least in contrast with commission promises year after year, today’s decision was a surprise. “I’ve been on the board of the library trustees for 13 years now and been its chair for about the last 11 or 12,” Jim Ulsamer, who has from time to time been among the most acerbic advocates for a better funded library system, told the commissioners. He may have been prepared to deliver a different kind of speech, now happily shelved. “I just want to thank you for your consideration, and I’m excited to see that this looks like it’s going to happen and it’s going to go forward. It’d be a great, great benefit to the community. Thank you.”
Bunnell’s branch library near the corner of State Road 100 and U.S. 1 closed last September and moved to a storefront at Marvin’s Garden in Palm Coast, losing more than half its floor space (from 3,100 square feet to 1,100 square feet). It did so to make room for an SMA Healthcare facility designed to address lacking mental health and substance use issues in Flagler.
Albanese’s methodical, air-tight presentation had cleared the way. She had first presented the plan to the trustees earlier this month (see: “Flagler County Has Been Promising a South Side Library Since 2014. Commission Will Promise Again Next Week.”) Today’s presentation had the benefit of a more detailed set of plans from the architect–Rhodes & Brito–hired in 2018 with the library’s passport revenue to draw up a plan. (The library is the county’s one location where anyone, local or not, can get a new passport or renew old ones. The library is on pace to generate about $100,000 from that revenue source this year, and generally generates $120,000 a year.)
The architect designed a 32,000 square-foot joint use facility to be raised on the parcel opposite the Sheriff’s Operations Center, housing the south side library, the county’s human and health services division, and a conference center. The library portion would be “the library of the future,” Albanese said. “Now, I say that because when I wrote the building program six years ago initially, it probably was the library the future. Today it’s a library that exists out there. There are many libraries that have innovation labs today, podcasting, recording rooms, green screens, they have 3d printers,” plus virtual reality simulators, as in orange County. “So what we’re building is a library of the future but it’s really the library of today.”
The library will have 24 computer stations, study rooms, an outdoor theater, youth, teen and adult collections, and a large innovation lab and multi-function room. Its meeting room will be able to accommodate from 250 to 325 people, and could be subdivided. The building will serve as a disaster-recovery facility and a shelter, and potentially as an additional voting precinct, an inoculation site or for other public health uses, and so on.
Construction itself would cost $8.1 million. Site work is expected to cost over $3 million because of the large amount of fill needed there. Some of that work could be done in-house. Other costs round out the bottom line to $16 million.
The Albanese came to her funding sources: the county’s sales tax supplement revenue, which had been promised to a second library in 2014, when commissioners held a similar discussion, did not figure on Albanese’s list. She knows the money is spoken for, chiefly because of the sheriff’s operations center and the jail. But passport revenue alone could provide $400,000. The American Rescue Plan’s Flagler share could make $10 million available. She checked: it may be used for libraries. The county is in line for a $500,000 state aid grant to the library. The recently enacted federal infrastructure bill could make more dollars available. Since the Health and Human Services division will occupy 4,000 square feet, it could qualify for a federal grant of its own.
The sale of the property behind the Palm Coast branch of the library could generate substantial dollars. The library sits on 19 acres there. The rest of the acreage at one point was to be the location for a sheriff’s operations center until that site shifted back to Bunnell. The library uses only four acres, leaving 15 to the market. Albanese did not have a value on those acres. The county property appraiser lists the entire site at $5.2 million, though that’s always an underestimate of its market value. In 2020, AdventHealth paid $5 million to buy 10 acres almost across the street from the Palm Coast library, where AdventHealth is now building a hospital. Values have appreciated significantly since then.
Finally, Albanese approached the final ask in her presentation as if she were a constitutional officer requesting how, not whether, to go forward with an essential need.
“We would like to get a consensus to move forward today,” she said. “If we do, we would prepare the RFP and contract for the construction manager at risk and also a contract to complete the design process for the architects. We would award the contract in April hopefully.”
The commissioners’ discussion was brief. Albanese had her consensus to go ahead. And despite the rather gaping mystery regarding which funds, exactly, will be used to build the library, Flagler County’s south side should–absent a cynical election-year pledge by commissioners that may vanish after the August primary–have a library of its own in less than two years.
What’s a library?
PTC Trader says
Unfortunately, I believe “libraries” are am anachronism. Knowledge is ubiquitous on the internet. Gone are the days of the card catalog and the readers’ guide to periodical literature.
The funds required to keep even semi-current on printed fiction, non-fiction, and research books could probably be better spent on technology. I just have very mixed feelings about building an incredibly expensive book mausoleum that is more effectively a crash pad for the homeless.
I know many will disagree with me, but I will bet that given the population of this county, the percentage of tax payers who have darkened the doors of our existing library is very small.
Let’s focus on making technology and internet more available.
Long time resident says
While I agree technology is great. The current population of Flagler County is 115,00 and there are currently 56,000 members of our population that have library cards. That is almost half, so not a small percentage. The library offers many wonderful opportunities for the community. There are passport services, kid and teen programs, computers for the public to use (many people in Flagler County don’t have internet access), ebooks, study guides for a GED, and much more.
Dennis C Rathsam says
So right, the only homeless will enjoy this new warm spot. Libraries are really obsolite…Now even our phones, have the same information.All this money would be better spent elsewhere!
“Libraries are really obsolite…”
Maybe not as obsolete as you think….
Thomas R. Ridgeway says
Why does this county always opt to throw good money after bad ? While watching the meeting on the livestream and reading this article I cannot understand why we need another multimillion dollar cathedral to gov’t waste ?
Hasn’t this county learned by now ?
I was listening to Ms. Albanese go through her grandiose plan for a state of the art library with both print and digital platforms that people can take advantage of , however in this day and age utilizing these books and VR technologies is kind of like creating a giant “peach tree” dish for COVID spreading. Unless the county is going to hire additional staff for the constant sanitizing of equipment many people won’t go near it.
Ms. Albanese goes on to say that this new “MULTIMILLION” dollar building will be smaller that the current one the county has on Palm Coast Pkwy which by the was Ms. Albanese transformed into a bed and breakfast for mental defectives and drug addicts. Is the answer to that problem is just build another building next to the another Flagler County monument to government waste the new Sheriffs office ? That’s not going to stop the above mentioned problem.
Ms. Albanese announces to the board that a “construction manager” an “OUTSIDE MANAGER” will be needed to build this new multimillion dollar monument to waste and ego. What’s the matter with the counties own building construction personal so they can insure the integrity and manage costs. The counties own construction manager Michael Dixon seems more than qualified to handle this project so the county as well as the TAXPAYERS can better manage the which will be the inevitable cost overruns and delays which usually come with these monuments to government waste and ego if outside “management professionals” are hired to oversee and maintain the budget.
Somethings never change.
LOL – “peach tree”!!! I think you mean “petri.” It is named after its inventor, German bacteriologist Julius Richard Petri.
Bill C says
Hooray! I love the library.
The last time I went to the library was when my power went out because of the hurricane and had to use the Internet. I went to the Main Palm Coast Branch, 2500 Palm Coast Pkwy. N.W. and it was slower than dial up (Really Slow!). I wasn’t able to accomplish anything and left and never went back.
Maybe the library computers and internet were also adversely affected by the hurricane? Don’t be so fast to judge. Perhaps all the people who bad mouth the idea of a library or, even worse, don’t even have know what a library is, should pay a visit and check it out, and go back and read Pierre’s response to a poster exactly how many people use it and for what purposes. Who knows, they might even learn something.
Still waiting says
To spend 16 million dollars on a library in these times seems a bit reckless. Have any of the comissoners ever stepped foot into the Bunnell branch? I have and it was vacant most of the time. The world continues to evolve and change with the latest technology and yet our county chooses to remain in the past. 2+ years later and district 4 is still waiting for any broadband progress. We were not worthy to add to the seemingly bottomless county budget (deficit) to expedite and satisfy our project gaps. Thankfully we were thrown a bone of the cares act funds to at least satisfy phase 1 and hopefully get some of the citizens into the 21st century but the library, 16 million, no problem.
Maybe more than that when completed.
Way to go Director Holly Albanese! Bunnell has patiently awaited this Library for a long time. Congratulations.
My take on it, they build this one and eventually the other library will be shuttered. The homeless were removed from the existing library, there was news that the new FCSO facility was going to be built there.
What ever happened with the moldy buildings after they were sold ? Might be time for a follow up story on whether the properties were ever made right. I can’t imagine if those buildings were unacceptable as a health concern for a county government agency such as FCSO, that the buildings would be allowed to ever open to the public or an employer ? Then again the old motel on US 1 seems to have stalled as a project for demolition.
Rosco P Coletrane says
The former “moldy” FCSO building on Moody is in spectacular shape, has been demolded (ifever it was molded in the first place), HVAC, flooring, walls, roof, etc. completely revamped, and can be purchased back by the county for less than a quarter of what this new library will cost and be ready to occupy in 2022. Then again, the Sheriff could go back in there too and save the county $25m+. But we all really know the “mold” was just a red herring.
Tony Mack says
To some, libraries may be obsolete replaced instead by the ubiquitous “Smart Phone”. To me however (and I may be old school in this) I still love the feel of turning the pages, of savoring every description the author has taken the time to tell me about; to get to know the characters as they find their way through murder plots, historical essays, dramas written by ancient writers.
I’ve taken more than 100 books of many genres from the Belle Terre location in the past year. The people who operate that facility are the very best at helping each and every visitor.
What is a library someone asked sarcastically? For me, even as a young lad, it was a place to find dreams, meet new friends, sometimes fight unforeseen enemies and most of all — to learn…to learn about the world around me.
Those who feel that libraries are wasted, are outdated and of little usefulness, should perhaps read Fahrenheit 451, a 1953 dystopian novel by American writer Ray Bradbury. Often regarded as one of his best works, the novel presents a future American society where books are outlawed and “firemen” burn any that are found.
It appears some folks in this town don’t like some of the books presented in the library and would perhaps rather they simply burn them to ashes. History tells us that some of the greatest cultures were surrounded by magnificent libraries — Alexander the Great, the Greeks including Aristotle and Plato, the Romans and many Chinese emperors. When the libraries were either looted or burned to the ground, the failure of those civilizations followed.
Libraries should be where children go to explore, to seek answers and knowledge they will need as they mature. So go ahead — don’t build any more libraries; instead, just drop your children off at the local gathering spot where they all can Tik Tok to their heart’s content or Instagram each other. It may fill their time but it won’t fill their heads with the likes of Shakespeare, or Byron, or Keats or Dostoyevsky. But then I guess it also gets some parents off the hook.
Save some tax money to build another library — you’ll need it for the rehabilitation centers…
Stepen Smith says
Libraries and librarians are a great asset to any community. Often you can find things there that are not found on the internet. Librarians are great assets to anyone trying to research a subject. Internet searches often provide overwhelming links to things that are not truly relevant to the search wasting time and often confusing the searcher. Librarians are trained to weed those things out and provide a great service to the community.
Sharon A says
I m with you 100%. There is nothing better using yourself in a great book. Page turning is a must! I have been a library member in the last three states that I have lived in. The people that have worked at the Bunnell and Palm Coast buildings have been so very nice and helpful. I for one hope I can live long enough to see this happen.
MANUELA Rodriguez says
Why spend millions in building a library, when there’s so many things is Palm Coast? We need more parks, also a huge Mall ,where people could go with their families, some entertainment ,a movie theater,.What about in section L? , there’s only a dollar general store ,not even a grocery store,we need to go all the time to the town’s center,to do our shopping all the time,what about the beach?,is nothing comparable with Daytona, where they have many ,coffee shops, clothing, entertainment shows on the weekends? We need to go to Bunnell everytime that we need something ,& one more thing,Transportation,,there’s none, & there’s many seniors that they drive a car,& they need a family member,or a friend,in order to get their food every week,please think about!
County or us do not have the 16 mill !! We have other priorities like not destroying the Belle Terre and Swim Club to install portables (in hurricane area) there, when the communty usage is grandfatherin since ITT-ICDC built it as a healthy physical activity for its residents and guests and amenity deal to sell them homes. Our hard earned taxes dilapidated against our will and our quality of life stolen like when they deeded by exchasnge our SunSports ocean front pool and cabanas and blocks of ocean front to Bob Ginn for his Hammock Beach Golf course back then under chairmanship of FCBOCC Jim Darby!
Aynne McAvoy says
Hooray and long overdue! Point to make here about library cards. I let mine expire because it’s a fair trek from my house to the current library. There is no doubt in my mind that a whole lot more library patrons would materialize that live on this end of town once the new library is built. Truly looking forward to this new build.
However, that said….there is a dire need for a traffic light at Rt 100 and Commerce Blvd…the same road that the new sheriff dept is being built and the new library will be built, as well as the existing EOC and multiple government buildings, Wendys, a church and multiple offices on that road already existing. That we need a traffic light there right now is a no brainer. Also, there are proposed plans for Commerce Blvd to extend to Rt 1, which is an excellent plan and would ease traffic off that small two lane twisty road. I just hope that road extention gets completed before these two new buildings are completed.
South Side Resident says
People in Bunnell, Southern Palm Coast, Daytona North, Korona, and other areas do not currently have easy access to a library. Some of the Palm Coasters here who are within a couple of minutes to their library aren’t considering the rest of the county.
Also, this library is going to expand space for MUCH needed growth for to best serve seniors and citizens with Human Services needs. This isn’t new, but their old building is way over capacity.
People use libraries for information, job searching, education, and even entertainment. Libraries are a free place to take kids. They provide extra services such as the Adult High School Program, and people on this side of the county will appreciate the proximity.
Libraries are also disaster hubs, and so there’s SUCH a benefit to our citizens to have this building completed correctly as growth is going to continue on this side of Flagler County and Palm Coast. It will save money in the long term.
Some of us have waited years for this moment, and we are absolutely happy! I wish this were available when my children were younger, but I’m so excited that this will be available to other families here.