City officials recently announced plans to renovate the former St. Clair County Department of Human Resources building on Dr. John Haynes Drive and turn it into a library. Plans also include building a wellness center (recreation/aquatics) on the former St. Vincent’s St. Clair Hospital property.
“I believe we are all excited about it,” said Pat DeMotte, president of the Pell City Library Guild. “The Library Guild Board is supporting it.”
Members of the Library Guild toured the old DHR building in December with Mayor Joe Funderburg and City Manager Patrick Draper.
“Once we did the tour and heard about the plans for that area from Mayor Funderburg and City Manager Draper, we realized the building seems perfect for a new library,” DeMotte said. “It is three times the size of our current library, and the building seems more than adequate. From what we’ve been told, the building can fairly easily be transformed into a library.”
DeMotte said some guild members had concerns at first, but after the tour and explanation from the mayor and city manager, she feels the guild is satisfied with the location.
“It’s been a dream for years,” she said. “It’s nice to see the dream beginning to come true.”
Barbara Fincher, Library Guild board member, said she feels the old DHR building has some good possibilities overall.
“It will require a lot of work and support from the community,” she said. “As a member of the guild, I’ve been working towards a new library for many years, and I’m happy there is city support to move the project forward. This is something the community badly needs. The library is very important, and it’s been a long road to get to this point.”
Holland Powell, resource committee chairman for the Library Guild, said the area on Dr. John Haynes Drive would be a new town center once everything is completed.
“Mayor Funderburg and Patrick Draper explained how it will look when it’s done,” he said. “They plan to develop the whole strip, which will have the library, the wellness center, a park and then commercial development between that and Martin Street.”
Powell said city officials told library guild members they also plan to improve the intersection of Dr. John Haynes Drive and Martin Street by making the road go straight through Martin Street to reach the subdivisions across the highway.
“It is currently a dog-leg intersection into Fox Hollow and those other subdivisions with no traffic light,” he said.
Powell said he believes the library guild is impressed with the city’s plans.
“Library Director Danny Stewart plans to engage a major library consulting firm to help plan the library renovation, and the library guild intends to help fund that,” he said. “The city is doing this right — they have a plan and are moving forward with it. It will be a library of the future — a community cultural center — a place to go, not just to check out books, but for events and other activities.”
The former DHR building was part of a roughly 20-acre tract between Interstate 20 and Dr. John Haynes Drive that was jointly owned by the St. Clair County Commission and the city of Pell City. The County Commission approved transferring the deed of the property to the city, and in December, the Pell City Council approved accepting the transfer of the deed.
City officials said the former DHR building is approximately 15,000 square feet, three times larger than the current library. The DHR building was vacated in August 2009 after suffering arson damage.
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