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Anonymous Donor Offers $1 Million For Flagler County Library Construction, But With Strings

| January 4, 2016

public library construction

It’s been two years since members of the Flagler County Commission and the Friends of the Library board toured the public library at Palm Coast Parkway and Belle Terre Parkway, to get an understanding of a needed expansion. But there’s been little movement on county government’s part since. (© FlaglerLive)

When the Flagler County Public Library celebrates its 16th birthday Friday, it will have a few things to celebrate and a few to grumble about.

On the celebratory side, the library is at the receiving end of two substantial financial donations: One is a $7,000 cash donation from one of its board members, Alan Peterson—the former county commissioner—to close a gap created a by a decline of equal size in a state grant.

The other is a potential $1 million donation from an anonymous donor who is communicating with the library board through Peterson. That donation, however, is conditional on the library spending the money as the donor prefers. The donor is requesting that the amount be spent on the planned expansion of the main library branch at Belle Terre Parkway and Palm Coast Parkway, and that the spending take place roughly at the same time as the county’s planned construction of a second branch library, or before that construction. The donor is placing those conditions on the money to ensure that the Belle Terre location does not get neglected.

“That restriction is pretty solid, in other words it makes sense to the donor to do them both at the same time,” Peterson said.

The donations are great news for the library. “It brings up a whole lot of possibilities for this library system,” Holly Albanese, the library director, said. But the $1 million pledge is not without wrinkles. “The question is, is that requirement reasonable or not,” Albanese said of the pledge’s strings. “Part of that requirement is pretty fixed in the donor’s mind as a need, and therefore if the county chooses not to want that, then the donation would not be made.”

alan peterson flagler county commission

Alan Peterson (© FlaglerLive)

The library board and the county commission more than two years ago agreed to the need for an expansion and the addition of a separate branch, which could itself become the library’s administrative offices as well. But there’s been little movement in that direction in two years even though the library has set aside $200,000 to match $200,000 from the county’s general revenue to pay for a design of the new branch. (The library is able to pitch in because of its greatly successful passport-issuing operation.) The money has been rolling over year after year, untouched. That’s caused some grumbles from the library board, which has been eager to move forward with expansion plans.

Two years ago Albanese took county commissioners and members of the Friends of the Library board on a tour of the library on Palm Coast Parkway to press the need for expansion. There was little disagreement from commissioners that such an expansion is needed. But there was little urgency to go forward, at least on commissioners’ part. The county at the time was spending its capital revenue (from the half-cent sales tax that would also pay for much of the library expansion) on the expansion of the county jail and the construction of a new administrative headquarters for the sheriff.

State government used to make construction grants available to counties’ libraries until the housing crash in 2007. In 2014, the state started providing grants again, in modest amounts. This year’s grant-application deadline is April 1. Albanese intends to meet that deadline. “My problem is I can’t apply without a resolution from the county commission saying they’ll approve and go forward with the funding,” Albanese said. “If I don’t have that resolution, I can’t apply.”

Some talk but no county action yet on a planned library expansion.

The state will award its grants based on a point system. The more points an application tallies, the greater the chance that will get a grant. To score points, a county must show that its project fulfills significant needs, with multi-purpose buildings scoring more points than single-purpose buildings. For example, if a library doubles up as an administrative office for its system, that adds points. That’s why Albanese is proposing to move the administration to the proposed new building. If the library can also be used as an emergency shelter, that adds points. That, too, is part of the plan. Albanese is considering other ideas, too. “I’m all about the concept of a joint use facility,” she said.

The preliminary vision for that facility would be 22,000 square feet with a projected cost of $4 million, Albanese said. The expansion at the existing library on Palm Coast Parkway would be for about 12,000 square feet at a cost of $2 million. (The library’s annual operating budget is $1.1 million, proportionately one of the lowest budgets in the state, when spending is compared to the size of the population.)

Holly Albanese (© FlaglerLive)

Holly Albanese (© FlaglerLive)

Five locations are being considered for a new branch, with State Road 100 as a magnet, because that’s where a new branch would address needs best. The possible locations include a city parcel on Bulldog Drive, a site on Commerce Parkway in Bunnell (behind the government services complex), though it has no visibility from State Road 100, a site sandwiched between the county airport and State Road 100, a site east of I-95, on the south side of State Road 100, going toward Flagler Beach (on county owned land, though that parcel is considered a bit out of the way and, because it’s in a storm surge area, would not be eligible as an emergency shelter), and a site on the north side of State Road 100, across from the Government Services Building.

Commissioners are expected to hear a presentation on these options later this month. Meanwhile, Peterson is acting as the go-between to clarify the intentions behind the $1 million proposed donation. Peterson said the donor is preferring to remain anonymous in case things don’t go as planned and the offer is withdrawn: the donor isn’t keen on a public backlash, or on having his or her net worth exposed. But anonymity in government appropriations, and with public record laws, can only go so far.

“I would love to have direct contact myself with the donor if no for no other reason than to thank them personally,” Albanese said, “because it is very generous to say the least, and I would be willing to keep their identity anonymous if that’s what they wish, but at the very least we would need something in writing.”

As for his own $7,000 donation, Peterson said he made it without expectations of public recognition—and indeed, aside from this notice, he has not received any, though lesser donors to other causes are usually eager to parade themselves before cameras and in press releases. (The most recognition Peterson’s donation got was sin the library board’s minutes.) The money, donated through the Friends of the Library, will be used to keep the library’s materials budget (for books and such) equal to last year’s.

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26 Responses for “Anonymous Donor Offers $1 Million For Flagler County Library Construction, But With Strings”

  1. Devrie says:

    I’m so verily excited that the county is considering library locations along State Road 100. Bulldog drive seems ideal, because students could go to the library after school, and the location is accessible to Palm Coast, Bunnell, and unincorporated residents.

    Perhaps the library could use that donation as stipulated for the existing library, and consider how they can use Palm Coast funding for a library that is within the city limits.

  2. leslie persons says:

    Aren’t libraries basically a thing of the past? Aren’t most people using Tablets, Kindles, and the like? Do we need to spend money on something as obsolete as a library?

  3. David Boccabello says:

    How about the county using some of our money to build a world class Senior Center for our seniors. Have lived in many places where the Senior Centers were spectacular and always full at the noon time meal. Was very surprised when I visited the one in Flagler Beach…very sad. Or, am I missing something and we have one tucked away somewhere in the county?

  4. Diana L. says:

    I certainly don’t think a library is obsolete. Stop by there and it will prove my statement. From people using small meeting rooms, to people doing research, to people on the computers, to people reading newspapers, to people putting together puzzles, playing checkers, kids reading to dogs, to educational presentations, to movie matinees, and more. I am very impressed with our library and how the community utilizes it and how the staff is so nice and helpful. I so appreciate the donor’s offer of this fantastic donation and I live they put these stipulations on the money. Long live the Flagler County Library.

  5. layla says:

    Leslie, you are correct. In Palm Coast it is primarily families with small children and seniors who use the library. However, the library also offers other services, such as free computers to use on site.

  6. Geezer says:

    RE: leslie persons says

    Yes we need to spend money on public libraries.
    Most people using tablets aren’t learning – they’re
    texting or consuming nonsensical media.
    I call these activities “time-sucks.”

    At the library you can borrow bound books which
    require some concentration and focus, while not being
    constantly distracted by jumping from site to site or being interrupted
    by compulsively sent, silly texts on a tablet.

    I’ve seen young people text themselves while seated next to each other.
    What a waste of valuable time! Ever wonder why kids today are
    tactless and sometimes disconnected?

    Once mastered (or learned again) you can immerse yourself in
    books and train your mind to consume and digest real information,
    not the inane bullshit that the media and the web pumps at you daily.

    Libraries are vital community centers where people can meet, and
    organize for civic causes. A library can serve as the nerve center for
    a community.

    The library deserves the full support of the community.

    You were kidding, right?

    Read (borrow) these books at the library:

    * The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
    by Nicholas Carr

    * The Dumbest Generation
    by Mark Bauerlein,

    * The Internet Is Not the Answer
    by Andrew Keen

  7. tulip says:

    Our library is great library and has wonderful programs for the kids that are always packed, enables the free use of computers for those that don’t have one of their own, a good selection of books, including e books, etc. also have meeting rooms and other activities. They also have a varied selection of magazines and newspapers which are read by many. I have always praised the people who have organized and run these programs and the volunteers who work there. Libraries will always be in existence, just in a more modernized and expanded version from what the present senior citizens grew up with.

    I think the donations mentioned in the article are extremely generous and shows that there are still some people around who genuinely care about giving all the residents the opportunity to expand their minds through reading, activities, and other services the library offers.


    I like the Flagler Beach city library. It’s a real throwback. Card catalog and all.

  9. leslie persons says:

    Most of the things mentioned above could be done at a Community Center…Which we desperately need. A place for both seniors, teens and small children etc……Speakers could be brought in, computers supplied, meals for seniors, crafts for seniors. We need meeting rooms, etc, but a library and money wasted we don’t. When my children were young we visited the library weekly and it was a great experience for them. Now children learn so much more using the internet. Everything is at your fingertips now. I think the generous donations could be used to fund something we really need to benefit the entire community in a much better way.

  10. Anita says:

    It’s great to see how the FCPL is so genuinely appreciated by our community and I’d like to point out to those who consider it obsolete or a bad influence on the intellect; many patrons can’t afford computers nor the funds to connect to the Internet for the most practical of purposes…filing applications for jobs, medical insurance, food stamps and just about everything else.. Most prospective employers now insist on electronic applications and library employees have provided assistance to befuddled applicants seeking everything from Social Security information to shopping for medical insurance and doctors. Looking for a good school? Comparison shopping for the best price for a new fridge? Google it! Sure people keep in touch with friends and relatives via social networking…not necessarily a “time suck”, but those of us who are ‘readers’ check out book reviews and then borrow those that interest us from our far from “obsolete” Library. Thanks Mr. Petersen and Mr/Ms Anonymous.

  11. OldSeaDog says:

    I used to use this library quite often, but found it had gone so far downhill many years ago. I now enjoy the wonderful facility at Ormond Beach which seems so much better to me (IMHO) and it keeps up with magazine subscriptions that I like to occasionally read, but not have to subscribe to such.
    Ormond Beach is so much smaller, I have to wonder why they seem to do it better! I do think it would be wonderful for Palm Coast to have better support ($$$) for the existing facility—I sure remember the first location and fantastic staff members at our original “Town Square” which was such a delight to visit!
    (OH those good old days——but I do like our new Palm Coast Parkway!)

  12. says:

    If you think libraries are obsolete, drop by out local library any time. There are so many programs for all ages, computers, audio tapes, movies on dvd, book in large print (for the vision impaired), quiet rooms for studying, and so much more. And if you don’t think people are actually checking out books…come help the volunteers that shelve hundreds and hundreds of books every week.

  13. Mjack says:

    Leslie, if you utilized the library you would know that it offers a wide variety of services and materials that aren’t available via a tablet or electronic device. The library offers things like children’s classes, weekly movie screenings of new films on a big screen, family game days, educational lectures, book clubs, art classes, holiday parties, etc. It provides a meeting room and several study rooms for non profit use, tons of free internet computers, a fax machine, copy machines, a scanner, and printing services. Need a passport? They do that too. Oh, and they have books. Lots of them. Someone must be using the library besides me since I’m 67th on the waiting list for the latest James Patterson book and they own 10 copies.

  14. tulip says:

    To OldSeaDog
    Have you been in the FC library in the last few years? Nice flooring, new carpet, shelving, clean, nice spaces to read and several computers. Doesn’t look “down hill” to me.

  15. leslie persons says:

    Mjack, all the things you mention could be done at a community center. And being on a list #67, is absurd, when all you need to do is to read it immediately on a kindle.

    Imagine a city with a fabulous Community Center, open to all ages. Things for everyone to do, without the guidelines of the Florida Library Organization.

  16. ellanotorious says:

    Libraries are a wonderful addition to communities and offer many services beyond just books. What an awesome gesture for a donor to make toward bettering the community!

  17. shade says:

    To non supporters.
    Libraries are wonderful institutions to have in any community. They provide many services, beyond those mentioned in previous comments. The sad thing in Florida, (unlike other states) is that it is not mandatory for each county to have a library. For those who mentioned Ormond and how they are small, but have more. Take a look at their county. They have a 15 million dollar budget for their libraries alone. Now check out the budget for Flagler County’s 2 libraries. Available online. You will find it is a very minuscule fraction of that 15 million that Volusia doles out. As far as Palm Coast goes the city has nothing to do with the library. It is a county facility and receives no funding from the city. If you think that libraries are obsolete, then you should see the way a child’s face lights up when they get their first card.

  18. Mjack says:

    Leslie, What is absurd is paying 14.99 for an ebook when I can check out the title for free from the library. While I patiently wait for my turn, I can select one of the thousands of others directly from the shelf or I can check out a free ebook using my library card via the library webpage. Although I own both an iPad and a Kindle, sometimes I prefer to hold an actual book in my hand. As indicated by the holds list for that title, I am not alone in my preference.

    I laugh to myself when I see lines of people at the redbox kiosk. The library purchases every new release DVD. Sometimes multiple copies. You can check them out for free and keep them a week and people pay money to keep a movie for one night. That is absurd. People complain about being broke and then they spend money on services and entertainment that is available for free if you can just be a little patient. A family might drop $50.00 easily to see one movie in the theater or they can come to the library and watch it the week it’s released to DVD on a movie sized screen with surround sound. This “I want what I want and I want it right now” mentally isn’t doing our country or our children any favors.

    The library is the heart of our community. What you desire, already exists.

  19. WorkingReader says:

    I live in the S section and would welcome a library down in this area. The Palm Coast library is 25 minutes away by car and has to be a planned trip for me. I go up there about once every month to pick something out to read. It’s a wonderful library but we sure could use something down south. The Bunnell library has awful hours and a small selection, but nice people and they’re able to get me whatever I need if they don’t have it. The Flagler Beach library is a joke.

    For the people who don’t think a library is worth it anymore in a community **ehemm Leslie Persons** just because you don’t take advantage of it, doesn’t mean others don’t. Don’t be so selfish and think of others in this community. Not everybody can be wealthy like you apparently are. That being said, an elder center would be nice, but cost a lot more than a library in the long run. Libraries are for all ages….and there are all ages in this community.

  20. OldSeaDog says:

    I guess I shall have to give the local library another try, fully admitting
    that I have not been in there in a long time. I have no idea how tiny Ormond
    Beach manages to get so much more money in support of its community library
    than we do at ours. (I do still remember that old disgusting carpet!)
    I too had trouble adjusting to “the feel” of reading modern e-books from a miniature
    computer device and at first moaned and groaned. I then got a cover for my Kindle
    Reader that opens like a book with the Kindle being on the right side and that was
    book-like enough for my aging mind to connect that I WAS READING a real BOOK! The
    advantages of such are enormous for eyes that are becoming dimmer with age.
    One can adjust the fonts and size of the text as well as lighting to read any e-book
    with complete ease wherever one may be!
    Secondly, all the old classics–wonderful masterpieces by great writers of the past,
    are available to download free of charge for one to read! I have read so many great
    writings—that I previously hated many years ago because I HAD TO read them in
    high school, to now trying them once again and totally loving them that I don’t
    HAVE TO read them. I have recently read fantastic writings of authors such as Edgar
    Allan Poe and William S. Porter (O. Henry) and enjoyed them so much.
    TV is just so boring now-a-days, that it is a complete joy, for me at least, to be reading

  21. CL says:

    Ormond Beach’s Library is wonderful – huge as a matter of fact. Also, just the fact that it’s connected to Ormond City Hall helps keep it busy. Voting goes on there, and meetings, etc.

  22. confidential says:

    Donation should be welcome by all my heartfelt appreciation to the donor.
    Portion of that donation should be used to install a Ultra Violet system to reduce germs and fungi contamination of the library A/C system.
    At least I know of one elderly friend of mine that almost died with pneumonia virus caught from a PC library patron obviously coughing while using the facility years ago. That made him to stop using the library. Another elderly friend of mine also developed pneumonia at the end of his cruise vacation and is just lucky to be alive and still battling the disease.
    I know that if we do not die this world will be further overcrowded but I still believe is very gruesome to pass over respiratory failure and just for that all public indoor facilities including planes/ cruise liners any public transport should be forced to have ultraviolet germ/bacteria/fungi killing systems installed in their a/c’s funded by simply reducing greedy revenue.

  23. Geezer says:

    I’ve travelled the world twice over,
    Met the famous: saints and sinners,
    Poets and artists, kings and queens,
    Old stars and hopeful beginners,
    I’ve been where no-one’s been before,
    Learned secrets from writers and cooks
    All with one library ticket (card)
    To the wonderful world of books.


  24. Palm Coast Resident says:

    I don’t know if anyone will see this, but I bet with the growing issue of homeless camps and attempting to thwart the growth of them near the library, the option to expand the Flagler County Library with the use of this donation is a point some regret.

  25. Diana L says:

    I’m not sure what the connection is. The homeless population camp is a completely different issue, isn’t it?

  26. thomas says:

    Alan Peterson remains a valuable asset to the Community. I wish he was still on the Palm Coast and Flagler County Commissions. He is great.

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