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Donor offers to help Athens-Limestone library move

By Holly Hollman 340-2445

ATHENS — A citizen is trying to make a new public library a reality by offering to pay about $40,000 on the first year's interest for a loan to buy the Kroger building.

But that citizen, who goes by "anonymous," is requiring that the Limestone County Commission and Athens City Council ante up.

Susan Todd, head librarian with Athens-Limestone Public Library, presented a new plan Wednesday to the commission to buy and renovate the abandoned Kroger building on Jefferson Street for a new library.

She also will present the plan to the council.

The commission had previously said it couldn't afford to help pay $700,000 to buy the property and then pay for $4.5 million to $5 million in renovations and increased operation costs. The council said without the county's help, it couldn't fork over funds for the project.

Todd said the new plan is for the library board to get a loan and the library foundation to raise money to pay it back. But the foundation would need help covering the interest cost, she said.

Paying the interest

"Anonymous" would pay the first year's interest, and the county and city would split the $40,000 annual interest cost from 2008-10.

Kroger is a 40,000-square-foot building, and the site has 10 acres. The current library, adjacent to the Brookhill Elementary campus, has run out of room, Todd said.

Commission Chairman David Seibert said this plan is "reasonable." Todd presented him figures that estimate the new site would increase operation and maintenance costs from $332,000 to between $406,000 and $427,000 a year.

"That is less than I expected," Seibert said. "The utilities, for example, would be less because they would be more efficient than what the library has now."

The commission will vote on the proposal at its Tuesday meeting.

Todd expects to discuss the plan with the council at its Jan. 8 meeting.

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