Monday, November 27, 2006

Library System Includes Milton Branch

By PAUL KAPLANThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A major library in the new city of Milton's Birmingham community is part of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System's 10-year expansion plan.The library system is asking the County Commission to approve eight new libraries, with seven of them in Atlanta or the southern end of the county. It also is asking for renovations at 28 library branches, five of which are on the Northside.

Roswell had offered to donate a prime piece of land in east Roswell if the board would build a library branch at the site, but the offer was turned down.Major renovations are planned for Sandy Springs ($1.9 million), Roswell ($1.7 million) and Northeast Spruill ($1.5 million). Smaller renovations have been recommended for Alpharetta ($668,000) and Robert E. Fulton, formerly Ocee, in the new city of Johns Creek ($145,000).But the big winner on the Northside is the Birmingham community of Milton."We need one; the population has exploded up here," said Tiffany Santi, who lives in the Birmingham area.

Santi has two children, ages 11 and 14, and when they need a library they use the little one at their school because the nearest library branch is in downtown Alpharetta.Milton has only about 20,000 residents, but they're spread out over 44 square miles, which means most residents have to travel long distances to get to a library.

"There is a very large geographic area and a decently sized population north of Alpharetta that is not currently served by a public library," said library director John Szabo, who led the effort to draw the master plan. Szabo said his $112 million plan would likely require a bond issue approved by the voters.Under the plan, two major new libraries would be built, both 25,000 square feet and costing $12.5 million apiece: one in Milton, the other in the Chattahoochee Hills community of unincorporated south Fulton.

The other six new libraries would be smaller branches in Atlanta or south Fulton. The biggest projects are not new libraries, however. They are a proposed $20 million expansion of the Auburn Avenue library in northeast Atlanta and a $21 million renovation of the system's central library in downtown Atlanta.

"The central library is a significant part of our system," Szabo said. "This plan aims to make the central library relevant to everyone, from Alpharetta to Palmetto. I don't believe the central library serves the entire community like it should."

East Roswell residents have to travel to the west side of the city for a library, and they will be disappointed not to be on the list of new branches — but they shouldn't give up trying, said Roger Wise, who lives in Horseshoe Bend, one of east Roswell's major neighborhoods.

"We should not take no for an answer," Wise said. "Plans can be modified, and we should encourage the library authority to take advantage of free land and put a library here."

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