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Briggs Library#039;s Ironton branch ready to grow

When the main branch of the Briggs- Lawrence County Public Library was built in 1960, it was a state-of-the-art facility that could easily handle the demands of its public.

But since then, new technology and simply more foot traffic has left the library squeezed for space and feeling a little outdated.

That's about to change. Plans are underway now for a $2 million renovation and 9,000- square- foot expansion project. The library's board of trustees began this week to

advertise for requests for bids for the project.

Library Director Joe Jenkins said the main branch has had no major improvements in more than 20 years and it shows.

"Handicap accessibility is a major concern, an aging heating and cooling system in on its last legs, a roof with many years already on it, outdated wiring and plumbing, inadequate parking, inadequate computer wiring, and and not enough space for anything we do,"

Jenkins said. " This is a project that needs to be done."

Jenkins said discussion of how to fix the problems at the main branch began probably six years ago. The board considered moving to another location but in the end decided to improve on what they already had. Two years ago, Shawn Walker and Associates was hired to conduct a facility assessment.

"While what we may want is a new 25,000 or 30,000 square foot building, we do not have the funds to buy the property, prepare the site and then build that kind of structure," Jenkins said. …"The Briggs Library system currently has no debt, and the Board owns our branch buildings in Proctorville, Chesapeake and South Point outright.

This project will be done with the funds we have been able to save for this purpose, and without adding any debt to the public or the Library System, something our Board feels strongly about."

The plans call for the addition to be built on the site where the white, two-story administration building is located now. The library will continue to have both Fourth Street and Fifth Street access. An old house at the corner of Fifth and Washington streets will be torn down to allow for more parking space.

Shawn Walker, of Walker and Associates, said the library's close in- neighbors was one of the major considerations in design of the expansion.

"Space was a difficult consideration because of the limited land available. Another consideration was the grade change between Fourth and Fifth streets was a consideration since the grade change is almost a full story," Walker said.

Bids are due May 19. In mid-May, library officials plan to set aside time for the public to view plans for the project.

Walker said if plans proceeds as hoped for, preliminary construction may begin as early as June. The project should be finished in a little more than a year.

Jenkins said library trustees are well aware that state lawmakers may choose to balance their own budget by slashing monies for local entities and that includes libraries. But he said the renovations need to be done and the board was careful to factor in state funding cuts when discussing the project.

"The Board has been putting this money back for just this purpose," Jenkins said. "We will have to deal with whatever the state deals us, and the Board feels that we need to get the building to the point that it will provide what we need in the years to come, and try to get everything up to standard so that if or when cuts do come, we won't be trying to deal with putting in a new HVAC or a new roof after potential cuts."

Jenkins said the library will remain open and as accessible as possible during the construction and renovation.