County settles, tentatively, on Bunnell location for proposed public library building

The county doesn't yet have funding to build the new site, which would replace the current Bunnell branch location.

The county is considering possible library sites near the Government Services Building (left), and near the airport (right). (Images from County Commission meeting backup documents.)
The county is considering possible library sites near the Government Services Building (left), and near the airport (right). (Images from County Commission meeting backup documents.)
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A new location for the southern Flagler County Public Library branch will likely be in Bunnell, near the Government Services Building complex off State Road 100.

But that possible location — to replace the Bunnell branch at the corner of S.R. 100 and U.S. 1— isn't entirely settled yet.

The County Commission, meeting in workshop the afternoon of May 16, had a consensus in favor of the location near the Government Services Building and Emergency Operations Center off State Road 100 and Commerce Parkway, but the commission didn't hold a vote. Commissioners also expressed a willingness to consider other possible locations that the county administration hasn't checked into yet.

The location near the Government Services Building was one of two recommended as a possibility by county staff.

It was not the one favored by County Administrator Craig Coffey, who preferred a location fronting S.R. 100 in front of the county airport, within the city of Palm Coast's borders.

But Library Director Holly Albanese disagreed.

"I was never looking to take it outside the city of Bunnell," she said. "I think this will hurt the city of Bunnell and its people. … This is something they’ve had since 2004, and essentially what you’re doing is taking from the have-nots and giving to the haves."

The two possible sites are only about a mile and a half apart, she said. Some Bunnell residents walk or bicycle to their library branch, and the extra mile and a half to get to the airport location could be hard for them. But it wouldn't make much of a difference to Palm Coast residents, who would more likely be arriving by car, to drive the extra distance to the Bunnell location near the Government Services Building. 

"I am going to sit here and fight for the city of Bunnell and their people, because a lot of these people, they walk, they ride their bikes," Albanese said. "And yes, the distance is negligible, but if you’re walking, it’s not negligible."

Coffey said he wasn't looking at the two potential sites "from a Bunnell, Palm Coast standpoint," but instead "as a planner."

The location near the airport, he said, is a more heavily traveled area "that will serve the greatest population." 

Still, he said, "both could be viable sites, and we think they both have merit."

The location off Commerce Parkway doesn't front S.R. 100. It's about 12.2 acres total, and the county already owns three of those acres. Initial construction would be for a building of about 16,000-20,000 square feet, with space to expand later. The current Flagler County Public Library building on Palm Coast Parkway is about 33,000 square feet.

Construction of a new building would cost about $5.5 million, including the cost of the land and design, Coffey said. 

The county doesn't have that money yet. But it does have some, Albanese said. There's about $1 million in revenue from the library's passport photo program, she said, and the library is planning to apply for a $500,000 state construction grant.

"We’re going get that $500,000 grant through the state, I’ll guarantee you that," she said. 

Then there's a possible donation of $1 million over five years offered by a mystery donor who has been working through the Friends of the Library, and addressing the county by speaking through library board member Alan Peterson.

But the donor's conditions on that offer — including a requirement that the money be spent only on expansion of the Palm Coast Parkway branch, and that the construction of the new southern location takes place after or concurrent with, but not before, work on the Palm Coast location — made commissioners hesitant to make a commitment at this early stage. 

Commissioner Nate McLaughlin wanted to know where the money for buying the land and paying for design would come from before committing to the requirements of the $1 million donation. 

"I’m all for it, I just want to know where the money is coming from," he said. "I can’t see it right now."

Albanese asked the county officials not to have her apply for the state construction grant — a work-intensive process — unless commissioners are certain they want to move forward.

They weren't: The commission ran out of time to talk about the library before commissioners had to leave for another meeting scheduled for that evening. The library will be discussed again at a June 6 County Commission workshop.


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