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Fort Chiswell library group seeks board's help

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Members of the Friends of the Fort Chiswell Library recently appeared before the Wythe County Board of Supervisors hoping for a financial commitment from the board, but left disappointed.

The group requested $2,200 for monthly payments and maintenance at the proposed library site, the former First Community Bank building in Fort Chiswell.

Supervisors like the idea of a library in the eastern end of the county, but questioned the building’s $375,000 purchase price. Tony Stroupe, president of the friends group, said former Fort Chiswell Supervisor Joe Hale purchased the building for the library in May, but died the next month. Per the agreement with Hale, the group has six years to pay for the building or refinance, or Hale’s estate can take control of the building. The library has been named in honor of Hale.

Stroupe said that because the building is the name of an individual, the board cannot apply for federal grants. Money from supervisors would allow the group to refinance the building in its name and apply for grants. Friends of the Fort Chiswell Library is a 501-C, tax-exempt organization.

During the board meeting Dec. 14, several people spoke in defense of the library.

Butch Quesenberry said it’s in the perfect location, close to the high school and middle school so students can walk there to do their homework. After 5 p.m., students must be off the school premises, so for internet access after that, their parents either have to drive them to the Wytheville library or to a friends’ house with internet, he said.

“So this would give them the opportunity and a place to be able to go, to be able to do homework, research, help the community as a whole,” he added.

Tina Quesenberry agreed and asked the board to reconsider its initial budget allotment of $400 a month.

“We need this on our end of the county,” she said. “Our end of the county is growing, and it’s just something that’s going to benefit the citizens, the kids, everyone.”

During his presentation, Stroupe wondered if the board might purchase the building.

Fort Chiswell Supervisor Jamie Smith said the board supports a library in the area, but is not in the market for a building.

County Administrator Stephen Bear agreed, saying helping with operational costs is one thing, but purchasing a building for hundreds of thousands of dollars is another.

Board Chairman Brian Vaught asked Stroupe if the group ever considered putting the library in the old Head Start building in Max Meadows that is near the elementary school and owned by the Wythe County School Board.

“No, we did not because it’s in Max Meadows. It is not centrally located and it’s not near the high school,” Stroupe said. “It’s near the grade school, but it’s not near the high school and middle school.”

Stroupe, along with speakers who addressed the board on behalf of the friends group, said the proposed site is in an ideal location, in the heart of Fort Chiswell and at the intersection of highways 94 and 52.

“There’s thousands of people come through there every day,” Stroupe said. “And we got the opportunity to purchase it, so we did. We had talked about that building from the beginning, that it was the perfect location.”

Chairman Vaught didn’t like that the library group purchased the building without speaking to the Board of Supervisors first.

Stroupe said that during a previous meeting with county officials, the group was told to secure a building, so that’s what it did.

“We were pretty much told that we had to do this on our own and get a site, then we could go from there,” Stroupe said. “It just so happened this turned out to be the site and what it costs. We bought the building for way less than what the tax assessment is on it. I think we got a deal on it.”

Cook replied that the group was asked to get a building, and what they got was a payment.

Vaught said the board will consider the matter and see what it can do.

To reach reporter Millie Rothrock, call 276-228-6611, ext. 573, or email mrothrock@wythenews.com

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