Loudon County struggles with where to spend $600,000

HUGH G. WILLETT knoxnews.com
Monday, July 2, 2007

A school budget impasse in Loudon County is adding fuel to a controversy over plans for a new $1.2 million public library in Tellico Village.

At issue is whether the county should provide $600,000 to build a 5,500-square-foot library for the unincorporated Tellico community when the county school board faces possible elimination of athletics and bus transportation in a 2007-08 budget still under review.

“The timing is terrible,” Loudon County Commissioner Wayne Gardin said, citing other priorities including new school buildings and capital improvements. “We’re in no position at this point to fund a new library in Tellico Village. I won’t vote for it while we’re talking about cutting athletics and bus transportation for the schools.”

Members of the Loudon Elementary School PTO and others also have spoken against the library at County Commission meetings and presented petitions opposing county funding.

The Tellico library, which is outside the Tellico Village boundaries, is the largest in the county and open to all county residents, said Commissioner Don Miller, a Tellico Village resident.

The county already pays the salaries of the librarians, he noted.

Miller has supported the proposal for $600,000 in county funding based on providing equal support to all five libraries in the county.

“I supported the proposal based on fairness and equity,” he said.

Tellico Village has raised private funding in much the same way the incorporated cities provide a share of revenue, Miller said.

A “Friends of the Library” group has worked since 1994 to fund the Tellico library from private donations and founded the current library at Lakeside Plaza.

The community, which has raised about $150,000 so far, is willing to pay almost half of the projected $1.2 million cost of the new library if the county will provide the rest.

“We are asking the county to provide 60 percent of the capital costs — the same funding they provided to the libraries in Lenoir City and the city of Loudon,” said Connie Clark, one of founders of the Friends group.

Although the commission’s capital projects and budget committee has been moving forward with plans to fund the library, the issue has not been voted on, Miller said.

“I’m really torn between the two,” said school board budget committee chairwoman Nancy Paule, who lives in Tellico Village.