Before construction can begin on the new Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Library, a tenant in a building that’s located on property bought by the library board must move out. The Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Library Board is charging $750 per month in rent to Main Street Development LLC, the former owner of a 618 Main St. property that it sold to the library system.
The library board spent $385,000 to buy the property from Main Street Development on Feb. 6, 2017, and plans to construct a new main library on the site. But for now, Main Street Development majority member Lloyd Lee is renting space there for his certified accounting firm.
Library board president Tommy Brown said at a Tuesday library board meeting that Lee has paid a total of $2,150 in rent for the months of August, September and October. Lee has asked for an extension of time to move from his building.
“[Lloyd Lee] will be out of his building by the end of December,” Brown said. “That portion of the old contract that gave him until the end of March of next year to physically remove the building was based upon the fact that Garland Trice’s building was still standing. Mr. Trice’s building is no longer standing so that wipes out that exception. So we have re-negotiated.”
Brown provided his fellow trustees with an extension and modification agreement of the existing contract. It states that Main Street Development business operations “will be permitted to remain on the property” through December 31, 2017.
“[Main Street Development] acknowledges that the Trice building was demolished and fully abated more than 60 calendar days prior to the date of this agreement and that the Trice building no longer poses a safety risk to removal of the building located on the property,” the agreement states.
The original contract states that Lee will also move the Main Street Development building from the 618 Main St. site by March 31, 2018, and that he is to move his business operations from that site by August 1, 2017.
The Main Street Development building was damaged by condemned building owner Garland Trice’s neighboring structure collapsing beginning in July 2014 and continuing through January 2017. The Main Street Development building suffered from bricks falling onto its roof, causing major structural damage.
Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington ordered the removal of Trice’s building in April 2017. Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Chief Shauwn Howell declared the building to be “hazardous to life and property … [it] presents an imminent danger to public health and welfare of the citizens of Pine Bluff.”
Interim library director Taylor Eubank said the library system will be placing signs from Condrey Sign Company at Sixth Avenue and Main Street in Pine Bluff announcing the future home of the library with the words “watch us grow, your tax dollars at work, estimated completion date: early 2020.” Eubank said the other Jefferson County library branches will have similar signs.
“I insisted they go up before homecoming week of [the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff]” Eubank said.
Voters approved a 3.0-mill tax increase to raise $14 million in November 2016 to construct a new library building in Pine Bluff and to renovate the Watson Chapel library. Similarly, county voters approved a 0.25 mill increase to fund renovations at the White Hall, Altheimer and Redfield branches.
In capital improvement money news, Tommy Brown asked fellow board members to pass a resolution to transfer money that has already been spent from one account to Simmons Bank. Library trustees Edward Fontenette, Anna Marie Jacks, Ann Talbot, Ethel Cogshell, Josephine Bell, LaNelle Roberts, Alisa Smith, Linda Banks and Brown voted for this motion.
In other news, Eubank said four Jefferson County library employees visited the Little Rock Library, Central Arkansas Library System, the Hillary Clinton Learning Center in Little Rock, the Faulkner Country Library in Conway, and the William F. Laman Library in North Little Rock to learn about their policies.
Eubank said those libraries allow patrons to use computers and borrow books even when the patrons owe money in fines. Eubank contrasted the Jefferson County Library System’s policies for patrons who owe fines.
“We say ‘gosh it’s nice to see you but no, you can’t use that computer. No, you can’t check out that DVD,’” Eubank said. “The thinking is let’s relax some of that. … This does not stop the collection of fines. If you owe us five bucks, you still owe us five bucks. But we will still let you use the computer.”
On the subject of issuing library cards, Eubank said other libraries issue the card to teenagers whereas the Jefferson County library system mails cards to the child’s parents or guardians. He proposed the library board do a demonstration project through June 2018 to relax its rules.
In other news, the trustees voted to recommend Travis White of Altheimer join the Jefferson County library board. The Pine Bluff City Council will consider this recommendation and either approve it or reject it. The library trustees are scheduled to meet at 5:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 14, at 200 E. Eighth Ave.