The old First Georgia Bank building had been a target for the new library, but was brought by a North Carolina-based investment firm that outbid the city.
“It was a bargain price, but still higher than what we had offered,” said City Manager Larry Wood. “We are back to looking at plan B and plan C now.”
Library Branch Manger Laura Frey said Villa Rica’s library serves 23 people per square foot, the highest in the West Georgia Regional Library System.
Villa Rica has been looking to expand its library for more than 10 years. The first allocation of special purpose sales tax dollars for the project came in 1998. In 2008, another $500,000 was committed was committed to the project, for a total of $650,000.
“The library is front and center because we had a commercial real estate person here in the area to review four or five options,” Wood said. “The one we liked best and the one our council approved us to make an offer on we were not successful in getting. We are now regrouping and seeing what we want to do to look at more options.”
City leaders hope to apply for a state grant to secure more funds for the project, which would bring in 50 new jobs. Originally, plans called for a 10,000-square-foot building behind the existing 5,000-square-foot library. Wood estimated the cost of a library expansion at $2.5 million.
“Bremen opened a library a couple of weeks ago,” Wood said. “It was a re-do of their whole library. Their city is a third our size, but the library is twice as big. We are grossly undersized in our library.”
Wood sees the library as a quality-of-life issue. Aside from books and magazines, an estimated 20 percent of library patrons today use them to get Internet access.
“If we want to continue attracting quality industry that creates good jobs, we have to have a community where people want to locate a plant manager and accounting staff,” he said. “They expect services like a good library. Honestly, to compare our library to the one Bremen has, I’m embarrassed that we don’t have a better library than we do.”
Wood said he’d like to see the headquarters of the West Georgia Regional Library System, which serves Cobb, Douglas, Paulding, Carroll and Haralson counties, moved from Carrollton to Villa Rica.
“We are courting the West Georgia Regional Library to move their headquarters to Villa Rica,” said Wood. “Why add to the Carrollton library? Carrollton doesn’t care. Villa Rica is much more central to the area.”
The move would bring between 10 and 12 jobs to the city.
Villa Rica Mayor J. Collins said he will do whatever it takes to land a new library.
“It has been underfunded for way too long,” he said. “We have the funds to operate a new library and to make that dream a reality.”
Collins favors reallocating some funds toward the project if necessary to see it completed. He said the city budget of $8 million per year has room for the new library.
“I’m not saying we have to do that, but we can find the money,” he said. “There have been naysayers.”
For residents waiting to see the new library get started, Collins said one way to help is to get in touch with state lawmakers.
“I would encourage our constituents to reach out to their council members,” he said. “If you feel the library is important to our city, ask them to make sure it happens.”