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County Council, May 28

Sites for libraries in James Island and West Ashley chosen
Library Board rebuffed
Warwick Jones.

The Finance Committee last night chose the sites for new libraries on James Island and in West Ashley. And they were not the recommendation of the Library Board. At a meeting a month ago, staff was tasked to create a list of all suitable and available sites for the libraries and for the Library Board to make a recommendation for review by the Committee. The lists had 12 potential sites for West Ashley and 9 for James Island. The recommendations were given to the Committee last night.

The Library Boardís top recommendation for West Ashley was a site on Bees Ferry and Sanders Roads, and for James Island, a site on Dills Bluff Road, near Camp Road. The Bees Ferry Site was privately owned and that on Dills Bluff Road, owned by the James Island Public Services District. The Services District said the 6 acre site was available for $5 million.

The Library Board devised a point scoring system to determine its choices. But it did not take into account the site and ancillary costs, and necessary construction, a grave omission in the view of the Finance Committee. In took a long time for the Committee to extract from staff and the Library Board the associated costs of some of the proposals. In the end, the Committee chose the West Ashley High School site for the West Ashley library, and the Baxter Patrick Elementary School site for the James Island library. Both of these sites are owned by the County School District and would be available at minimal cost.

The Library Board went to some length to devise a scoring system. It said that each site was given a maximum of 5 points for Centrality, Density of population, Site size, Access, and 3 and 2 points for Visibility and Environment respectively. The maximum score for any site was 25. The Board did not reveal the scores for each of the sites. But it was strongly questioned as to the absence of Cost in the scoring structure.

Council member Rawl was highly critical of the Boardís recommendation for West Ashley on the basis of its own criteria. The traffic congestion on Bees Ferry was already daunting and would be made more so by the library, let alone further planned developments in the area. He said the High School was the obvious choice, particularly after considering the low cost of the library site. He was supported unanimously by the Committee members in the final vote.

Discussion over the James Island site was lengthy. Members of the Committee complained of inadequate information about the cost of the sites, of construction, and the amount of construction. Ultimately they got what they needed, or sufficient for a majority of members. In the final vote. 5 voted for Baxter Patrick, 2 opposed and 2 abstained. Council members Qualey and Sass were opposed. We suspect they were not in favor of the Library Board choice but thought there were other more favorable options than Baxter Patrick .

We wonder why the Library Board and staff did not provide the Committee with all the financial details before last nightís meeting. They were clearly necessary for a decision. The Library Board defended itself by saying that it could not make decisions reflecting finance. This was up to the Committee. This may be the case, but to ignore all the costs in making a presentation on the issues, is naive, in our view. Considering their comments, some Committee members may have thought it was worse.
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Council also gave first reading to the proposed FY2016 budget last night. It was virtually the same as that presented by staff and reviewed by us on May 19.

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