Consider other options for James Island library

(Tyrone Walker/File)

James Island is slated to get a new library, finally, but Charleston County Council appears ready to choose the wrong site. The Grimball Road site backed by a majority of council members in a recent committee meeting doesn’t provide the central location that would best serve the island.

That’s a major reason the site on South Grimball Road came in last among the four options ranked by the Charleston County Library Board of Trustees. County Council would do better to select a site closer to the intersection of Camp and Folly roads, generally considered the center of the island. Council is scheduled to take up the question on Tuesday.

The Board of Trustees put the other sites at the top of its list because of their centrality, both geographically and in terms of the island’s population.

The board’s top site is on Dill’s Bluff Road near the small, existing library on Camp Road. But the James Island Public Service District has insisted that it wants $1 million for the site, almost double its appraised value. It’s a dubious position for the PSD to take on a public amenity serving its customers across the island. The county is legally prohibited from paying more than the appraised value for property.

The second site is in the Bi-Lo Shopping Center off Folly and Camp roads, and could be developed as a library for some $1.7 million less than the Grimball Road site. It is the most central location geographically and can be accessed from Folly and Camp roads. And it is on the CARTA bus line.

In April, Grimball Road residents raised objections to putting the library in their neighborhood, citing the increased traffic and the difficulty of access, particularly from Folly Road during the tourist season.

Nevertheless, at a meeting of the Finance Committee in May, several County Council members reportedly were ready to vote in support of the Grimball Road site even before the presentation of library board chair Janet Segal. That indicates that those elected officials aren’t giving this matter the full and objective attention it deserves.

The library board gave its careful attention to the selection process, as is clear in its recommendation of site rankings and the reasons they were made. Ms. Segal says they were chosen and ranked “based on objective, measurable criteria.”

“We are hoping that they [council members] will take the politics out of it and do the same thing,” she added. “This is a legacy project.”

Indeed, the old Camp Road library was built in 1978, and James Islanders can probably expect to wait another 37 years before the opportunity for another library comes around.

A good example for council to consider is the Johns Island Regional Library, built during the previous major library expansion in the early 1990s. It was built near the intersection of Maybank Highway and Main Road, two primary thoroughfares near the center of the island.

County Council owes James Island to a central location for its new library, and one providing greater ease of access, as well.