Snellville joins Gwinnett library fight

A citizen’s group was formed Wednesday to battle the Library Board’s decision to convert Snellville’s library into a computer lab with no books in stock.

But in a new twist to the intensifying debate, the group’s executive committee says if it fails to salvage the full-service facility on Lenora Church Road, the group might petition the city to take back the property and building, which was deeded to the county on the condition it be used as a library.

“We’re just exploring all our options,” said Kelly Kautz, an attorney and member of the Save Snellville’s Library citizens committee. “We’re hoping to stir up enough interest to get the county commissioners to sit down and talk to us.”

Kautz, also a Snellville councilwoman, said the group already is researching the cost if the city were to run its own library.

Faced with a 10 percent budget cut in 2010, the Gwinnett County Library Board, by a 3-1 vote, adopted a plan last Tuesday to change the county’s neighborhood library model into a regional system, with three regional libraries, nine neighborhood libraries and three computer labs.

Snellville Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer, who calls the citizen-led group a “political mess,” said the city should take a wait-and-see posture on the computer lab.

“We don’t know what it’s going to be like,” he said. “We don’t know if they’ll keep books.”

For Snellville to run its own library, Oberholtzer said, the city would need to pay $1.4 million in yearly operating costs and $200,000 to $300,000 in legal fees to wrest the property away from the county.

Snellville isn’t alone in the library imbroglio. The Dacula Business Association, which last week said it would seek an injunction to stop the library plan, is now sending out thousands of petitions countywide to drum up support for a community-based library system over the regional-based model.

Snellville committee member Bruce Garroway, a former city councilman, said the city’s fathers had foresight to put provisions into the deed.

“The city reserves the right to take this property back,” he said. “What is Snellville going to do? Do they have the money to run the library? It’s a big issue.”

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.