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Committee considers Southside Library usage

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Dougherty County Commission's Governmental Affairs Committee took a closer look Monday at six groups asking to use the closed Southside Library branch facilities.

Committee Chairwoman Gloria Gaines said she'd like to see a "step-by-step process" in place that would, first, gauge interest in usage of the facility by the county -- as a re-opened library branch or other incarnation -- second, usage by other government entities and third, usage by private entities within the community.

"We have to go through this carefully without any kind of time constraint," Gaines suggested, a tactic that would all but eliminate usage of the facility by the Jayda Lives organization that asked the commission last week for permission to use the facility for its educational ExPand and ExTend programs.

Lillian Rambeau, speaking on behalf of the group, which plans to provide help for high-achieving high school students taking dual enrollment college classes online and tutoring for students in grades K-12, said the group would need access to the facility by the start of the 2013-14 school year, less than a month from now.

County Administrator Richard Crowdis said he'd asked all groups interested in using the facility to turn in basic information by the end of this week, including: their charter's bylaws, their IRS nonprofit exemption letter and a list of each agencies' board of directors.

Among the persons or groups that have expressed interest in renting, leasing or buying the former Southside Library branch are Debby Sapp with Families of Albany Area Home School, Bridgette Mack with GO Ministries, Bill Cooper with the Georgia Department of Transportation (which currently utilizes a smaller county-owned facility), Lori Thomas with another (unnamed) ministry and Sandy Bamford with the Family Literacy Connection, which is also utilizing another county-owned facility.

While all members of the committee and Crowdis dismissed the option of selling the facility -- at least for the time being -- committee member Clinton Johnson, who represents the county's District 3, said he'd like to see it used by a group like Jayda Lives.

"This is a taxpayer-funded facility, and I'd like to see whichever agency that uses it come closest to replacing the (former) usage by the library," Johnson said. "That's why I like what (Jayda Lives) is proposing."

Crowdis said whatever entity, if any, uses the former library facility, it should have the financial stability to fund utility costs on the building (around $13,000 a year, typically, according to the city's Water, Gas & Light Commission) and other related maintenance costs.

The Governmental Affairs Committee also talked about ongoing efforts to gather information about boards for which it appoints members and/or supplies funds. County Clerk Jawahn Ware is in the process of compiling that information to allow easy access for county usage.

"One of the other things I'd like to do in this process is illuminate the volunteers who serve on our boards," Gaines said. "Having the boards come before us on a regular basis to give reports gives us an opportunity to put the spotlight on them. I also believe we should send board members a letter each year thanking them for their service."