New Hanahan, St. Stephen libraries in works

Berkeley County is moving ahead with plans for two new libraries.

The first would be in Hanahan. County Council approved buying the land last week, and the money has been set aside for the project.

The second library would be in St. Stephen. Those plans are tentative because they depend on getting some grant money or finding another way to pay for it.

St. Stephen residents have been vocal in asking for a new library. Nearly 50 residents drove to Moncks Corner last week for a public hearing to express their support for the project.

"That's the most I've ever seen," said Jacquelyn Ideozu, who conducted the hearing for the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments.

COG is helping the county apply for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant to renovate space in an empty school building for a new library. The new library would be three times bigger than the current one at 1104 S. Main St.

The school building is near S.C. Highway 45 and U.S. Highway 52. It housed the Head Start program until the school district recently took over the program.

The county would lease the building from the town for $1 a year. County Council approved the lease last week. The county also plans a magistrate's office in the building.

The grant would pay about half the cost of renovating 6,000 square feet for a library. The county would have to come up with the other half, Deputy Supervisor Kace Smith said.

There's no guarantee the county will get the grant, according to Darryl Bullock of the Council of Governments. The winners should be announced by the end of the year, he said.

If the county gets a grant, officials are hoping to see the new library open by the end of next year.

The county has been spending $985 a month to lease 1,968 square feet for the current library at 1104 S. Main St.

The little library is getting too crowded, Library System Director Donna Osborne said.

"It's totally inadequate," she said.

The St. Stephen branch serves 16,000 people in the surrounding area. Traffic has dramatically increased in the past few years, as more people are coming to the library to update resumes, search for jobs and use the computers to apply for unemployment benefits, she said.

Patrons at the library one day last week were looking forward to more room.

Christie Middleton has been bringing her three daughters to the library since they could walk. She says that's why her second-grader is reading at the fourth-grade level.

"They love to come to the library," Middleton, who works as a cook, said last week. "I tell them you've got to have an education. You can't get a job at McDonald's now without an education."

The county is planning a new Hanahan library just south of the new connector between Hanahan Road and Murray Drive. A council committee approved paying the Charleston Water System $242,000 for the 2.4-acre tract last week, and the full council is expected to approve the purchase Monday.

Council designated $1.4 million from 2009 capital-improvement bonds for the new Hanahan library although a final price has not yet been determined. The new library would be 6,000 square feet with room for expansion.

The present Hanahan branch is in the shopping center at Remount and Yeamans Hall roads. The county is paying $1,971 per month to lease 5,000 square feet.

A 2008 Facilities Assessment and Space Utilization Study that council commissioned identified a new library in Hanahan as a priority.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.