Council should look at best option on library

Charleston County Council should delay action tonight on a new library site for James Island, pending further review. The chairman of the James Island Public Service District wants to reopen negotiations on the sale of the No. 1 site, as designated by library officials, and council should accommodate him.

PSD Board Chairman Donald Hollings-worth requested the delay on Monday in an email to County Councilman Joe Qualey, whose district includes most of the island’s residents. Mr. Hollingsworth wants the PSD to reconsider the sale price of a six-acre site on Dill’s Bluff Road for the new library. Previously the PSD had requested almost double the appraised value of the property.

Although Mr. Qualey supports the selection of the Dill’s Bluff site, he opposes paying more than appraised value. So should his colleagues on County Council.

The Dill’s Bluff Road site has been ranked tops among four sites reviewed by the Charleston County Library Board of Trustees, using objective criteria including central location, proximity to residents and road access.

The Dill’s Bluff site is near the small Camp Road library that has served the island since 1978.

The PSD property clearly offers a better location for a new library than the South Grimball Road site that was endorsed by a majority of council members at a Finance Committee meeting in May. Indeed, the Grimball Road site was fourth on the library board’s rankings.

Moreover, in April, some residents of Grimball Road expressed their opposition to a new library there because of the additional traffic and the difficulty of vehicle access from Folly Road, which is heavily congested during the summer months with traffic to and from Folly Beach.

The library board’s second ranked site is a building in the Bi-Lo Shopping Center off Folly and Camp roads. It would be less expensive to develop than the other options, and is located on the CARTA bus line.

Janet Segal, chair of the Library Board of Trustees, has aptly described the new library as “a legacy project,” and has urged council to approach the site selection with the same careful, objective consideration as the library board.

James Island badly needs a better library to handle its growing suburban population. Site selection is key to accessibility and, hence, public use.

County Council needs to go the extra mile in its review of recommendations for the new James Island library.

Delaying action on the site selection pending a discussion with the James Island PSD is the first step to making an informed, objective decision.