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Fulton County libraries close for renovation, tax rate is unchanged

Fulton County commissioners agreed Wednesday to spend $44.2 million to renovate Atlanta’s Central Library, part of a $275 million investment that also paid for eight new branches and renovated two.

The remaining 24 Fulton libraries will be overhauled.

The Hapeville library will be torn down and rebuilt at a cost of $3.2 million — $16,000 more than it would have cost to refurbish the building.

Other than Central, six libraries are already closed for renovations: Fairburn, East Point, Sandy Springs, Southwest Atlanta, Kirkwood and Washington Park branches.

Next week, three more will close: the Dogwood, Roswell and West End branches.

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Each branch will be closed for at least three months and as many as nine months, said Claudia Strange, a spokesperson for the library system. The buildings will get study rooms, larger conference rooms and new shelving. There will be more computers in the renovated branches.

“Since they’ve been built, they haven’t had much love given to them,” Strange said. “They need more community gathering spaces, more technology.”

The county decided to not work on all the buildings at the same time so some branches can remain open for patrons.

The Atlanta-Fulton Public Library in Atlanta is slated for renovation. (Rebecca Breyer) AJC FILE PHOTO

Initially, the board planned to only renovate Hapeville’s library, as approved by voters in 2008. Some members of Historic Atlanta argued the building should be preserved, as part of Hapeville’s historic area. But commissioners decided the condition of the building was too bad for a renovation.

In addition to asking that the Hapeville library be preserved, the Historic Atlanta volunteers, Charlie Paine and Emily Taff, urged commissioners to preserve the Brutalist architecture of Central Library by leaving the exterior intact. A proposal to renovate the building includes the addition of windows, but Taff, Paine and other proponents of Marcel Breuer say to add windows would destroy the architect’s vision. Central Library is the last building the famed architect built.

No decision has been made yet about whether windows will be added — it will depend on the cost. Commissioners also agreed to seek more information about the cost to add another door to the Roswell library, and lift the roofline, so it could be more accessible from the street.

In addition to the library votes, the commission discussed a proposal by vice chairman Bob Ellis to cut the tax rate set earlier this month. He argued the commission “failed” residents by setting a tax rate that was higher than was necessary to pay for the county’s needs.

“I do feel we misled the public,” Commissioner Liz Hausmann said. “This body was not truthful.”

Commissioner Natalie Hall told her fellow commissioners who wanted the tax rate to be reduced that they were “acting like a bunch of losers.” The proposal to lower the tax rate failed by a 3-4 vote.

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