Sunday, April 16, 2023

Groundbreaking Ceremony For New Oconee County Library At Wire Park Highlights Plans For New Facility

***State Added $500,000 To Cover New Components***

Groundbreaking events are always ceremonial and symbolic.

Even by that standard, as Mark Campbell, Chair of the Oconee County Library Board of Trustees, had announced in advance, the Friday Groundbreaking Ceremony for the new Oconee County Library at Wire Park in Watkinsville was unusual.

No ground was broken for the 25,000 square building, which was very much in evidence behind the line of participants as they donned white hard hats, grabbed shovels with a gold painted blade, and smiled for photos.

What the group was celebrating, as they said in the comments they made before they put on the hats and picked up the shovels, was the series of events that led to and allowed for the movement of the Oconee County Library to Wire Park.

The move was possible because of $2.8 million in state funding, $1.3 in county funding, $60,000 from Watkinsville, and donation of the metal framed warehouse that is being converted into the library.

Much praise was directed toward Oconee County Representatives Houston Gaines and Marcus Wiedower, who secured the $500,000 in the just passed state budget that funds additions to the initial plans for the library.

Wiedower in particular was credited with obtaining the new funds for the library, as he chaired the General Government subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, which has responsibility for drafting the state budget.

Library Board Meeting

At the Oconee County Library Board of Trustees meeting on Monday at the Bogart Library, Campbell said that construction of the Oconee County Library in Wire Park has begun.

Hats And Shovels At The Ready

Wire Park is a multi-use development at the site formerly occupied by the Southwire manufacturing plant on Barnett Shoals Road in Watkinsville.

The groundbreaking, he said, “will be ceremonial in nature, but we’re very excited about it. I’d much rather be in a place where construction has already begun,” he added.

Both Campbell and Valerie Bell, Executive Director of the Athens Regional Library System, made much at that meeting of the $500,000 in new money for the Oconee County Library in the Fiscal Year 2024 state budget.

Both the Oconee County Library in Watkinsville and the Bogart Library are a part of the Athens Regional Library System.

Bell did note that the money, which will come from bond sales, is not firm until Gov. Kemp signs the budget bill sent him by the House and the Senate.

The new money will be used for a list of 18 items that were not part of the original proposal for the library but were identified by project architects Ponder and Ponder.

Included is a children’s bathroom, a meeting room folding partition that will allow for division of an 1,113 square foot meeting room into two sections, and an ADA access ramp.

Bid For Construction

The added items come to $187,800, on top of the original bid of $3,449,000, for a total bid of $3,636,800.

Garland and Associates Contractors Inc. of Bogart was the low and successful bidder on the project.

The state in 2019 committed $1.9 million for a new Oconee County Library, and the County committed $1.3 million. The new library was part of the county’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum.

The state in the current Fiscal Year added $400,000 to that amount.

With the $500,000 in the Fiscal Year 2024 Budget and the $60,000 from Watkinsville, the total amount available for the construction is $4,160,000.

Campbell, in a telephone conversation on Thursday (April 13), said that the available money after the $3,636,800 bid is covered will be used for furniture, fixtures, and equipment, which includes technology.

“That additional money gives a lot more flexibility to provide new pieces” at the new library, Campbell said. “You’re starting with a fresh slate, so you want to have fresh things. And the technology needs are different as well for a new library in a larger space.”

That move to the new library is expected to take place at the end of this year.

New Library Details

The existing warehouse has sheet metal siding, but the new building will use the existing metal frame and add a brick exterior.


When the library opens, it will have 20,000 square feet of available space, which is about 3,000 square feet more than the current library.

In addition, 5,000 square feet of space will be available for future renovation.

In addition to the 1,113 square foot meeting room, the new library will have a 528 square foot “maker space” equipped with new technologies.

It also will have dedicated computers, quiet study rooms, a teen area, and a children’s area.


The current Oconee County Library building and the building housing the Bogart Library are owned by the county.

The new library is owned by the city of Watkinsville.

Jack Duke Gibbs II, managing member of Gibbs Capital LLC, which owns Wire Park, donated the warehouse and the 0.7 acres on which it sits to the city on May 25 of 2021 “for the sole purpose of development and operation of the new Watkinsville/Oconee County Library Branch.”

According to Oconee County Tax records, the current assessed value of the warehouse and the 0.7 acre lot on which it sits is $479,300.

In March of 2021, the Mayor and Council of Watkinsville approved a Library Services Agreement with the Athens Regional Library System for that system to operate a library at the Wire Park facility.

The agreement also stipulates that Watkinsville will contribute the first $30,000 of Wire Park property taxes to the Oconee County Library at Wire Park and that an additional 10 percent of any remaining Wire Park property taxes will be dedicated to support the library and 5 percent will be put into a library capital improvement fund.

The city has drafted but not yet executed an agreement leasing the property to the Athens Regional Library System for $10 per year.

The county already has taken steps to declare the existing library as surplus and put it up for sale.

Groundbreaking Ceremony

Athens Regional Library System Executive Director Bell acted as master of ceremonies for the Groundbreaking Ceremony in the pavilion at Wire Park on Friday morning. About 60 people were in the audience.


Remarks were made, in order, by State Librarian Julie Walker, Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell, Watkinsville Mayor Brian Brodrick, Wiedower, Gaines, Gibbs, Campbell, and Oconee County Library Branch Manager James Mitchell.

“I really can’t think of a community that will appreciate and enjoy and use a new library more than this one,” Walker said in her comments. “This community values families, values education, and values all of the things that libraries have to offer.”

“We are so grateful to the county officials and to the city officials who came together to make this happen, to our state legislators who are so critical in obtaining the state funding that goes into projects like these,” she said.

“We are really grateful to Representative Gaines and Representative Wiedower,” she added. “I know, I saw firsthand down at the Capitol, how hard they worked to make sure this project was included and funded.”

Gaines And Wiedower Singled Out

Bell was clear to acknowledge the financial contributions of the county and the city, but Gaines and particularly Wiedower received special recognition.

“I was thrilled to be able to continue to support this at the state level,” Wiedower said when he stepped to the podium. “And I’m excited to see this get going and open.”

Bell followed that with a story about Wiedower contacting her on a Sunday, while she was resting and he was working, asking her for help on the budget request.

“It is so true what you said about Representative Wiedower,” Gaines said when he followed Wiedower and then Bell to the microphone. “He is a chairman of a subcommittee of Appropriates and that certainly doesn’t hurt when you are asking for money.”

“We have worked hard at the state level to make sure we fund this project–$2.8 million, including this session, as part of that $2.8 million, $500,000 that the state has invested in this project because we do believe in the value a library plays.”

Daniell had said that the county “has a long history of supporting the library” and “we’re really excited about this project and we’re very happy to support and be part of it.”

Brodrick said “we’re excited about this too...We’re really excited about the Library, and Watkinsville, and Wire Park.”

Gibbs Explains Vision

“It is a blessing and an honor to be able to live in a community where you can have county government officials, state government officials, city government officials, the Oconee County Library Board, who played a huge role in this, all come together and work as a team to make this happen,” Gibbs said.


“There are a lot of other areas where that kind of stuff doesn’t happen,” he said. “We’re fortunate to have the kind of people leading us who can come together in a room and make this happen.”

“Our mission as the developer has been to create an environment and a destination for our community to come and slow down a little bit. Hang out,” Gibbs said. “We want people to build relationships.”

“The Library adds educational and intellectual and personal growth components that just makes this thing really special,” Gibbs added.

Campbell said “I’m thankful to the leadership that had the vision to allow today to happen. It’s a blessing to live in a community that is so passionate about the Library.”

Mitchell introduced the staff of the Oconee County Library and said “We’re all excited about moving to the new space, the opportunities that it allows us to give better service to the public.”

Other Items On Budget

At the Library Board meeting on Monday, Bell also noted an authorized $500,000 in bond sales for the East Side Athens Library in the Fiscal Year 2024 Budget on Kemp’s desk.

Mitchell And Staff

The budget also contains $1.8 million in bond sales for a new Georgia State Patrol Post in Oconee County.

The county last November agreed to donate to the state a 13-acre parcel south of SR 316 at McNutt Creek Road for a new Georgia Department of Driver Services Customer Service Center.

The state subsequently decided to add a post of the Georgia State Patrol to the site as well.

Both offices are currently on U.S. 29 on the northeast of Athens-Clarke.


The first video below begins with the speakers at the April 14 groundbreaking ceremony and ends with video clips providing an overview of the facility being converted into the library.

Included is a shot inside the building taken through the fence at the entranceway to the building.

While the groundbreaking took place in bright sunshine, it began to rain as soon as the event ended.

The second video is of the April 10 meeting of the Oconee County Library Board of Trustees.

Campbell discussed the groundbreaking at 2:22 in the video.

Bell talked about the new funding at 12:10 in the video.

Campell provided an update on the funding for the new Oconee County Library at 20:47 in the video.


Lee Becker said...


I just received a comment thanking me for the videos. I would have liked publish it, but it did not include a real name.

Please include a real name with posted comments.



Lee Becker said...

I just deleted another complimentary comment. I would like to use these, of course, but I require a full, real name.