East Asheville Library Update from Chair of East Asheville Friends

UPDATED ON 11/15: The vote for the library funding is on the Commissioners’ November 20 agenda. Please bring a book to hold up (versus applause) to ID who’s there for the library. The Commissioners’ meet at 5:00 pm at 200 College Street, Room 326, downtown Asheville.


Commissioners (current and future) need to see you and hear from you!

We have good reason to believe the decision on a new library for East will be coming up in November, and want you to be up to date so we can make our voices heard.

If you love libraries, and would like to live in a community where the library is a special centerpiece, then this is the time for you to step up and let ALL County commissioners and candidates know.

There have been continuous delays since 2007. Beginning in 2015, community pushing brought about serious discussion of a new building to replace our overcrowded and outdated library. The County Commissioners and staff have been talking about it through 2016, 2017, and 2018. After an early Spring 2018 presentation and community representatives’ input with architects and engineers, we are waiting for Commissioners’ approval in November. They are concerned that it’s over the original budget created three years ago. Construction costs have gone up about 6% every year – which would mean a cost now of $5.4 million due in large part to the County’s delay.  

It’s an awkward time politically: East Asheville Library’s neighborhoods are represented by Commissioners Al Whitesides (alfred.whitesides@buncombecounty.org; running unopposed) and Jasmine Beach-Ferrara (jasmine.beach-ferrara@buncombecounty.org), both of whom will support a new building, and they need to know we have their backs! That’s two ––we need four of the seven commissioners’ votes:


District 2:

District 3:

It will take four of seven votes to pass the current plan, which is being touted as $1.5 million over what commissioners planned to spend. Our District 1 has two commissioners in place, Mr. Whitesides (unopposed) and Ms. Beach-Ferrara. When the newly elected candidates might be seated is unknown; before the library-building vote – or after. All need to hear from you now. AND PLEASE do your part to show up at a County Commissioners meeting when asked. We need at least 25 people to be present to back up our presentation. We hope you will line the walls! We have been told by two officials it will be on the Nov. 20 agenda, but that is not yet official.

Since a new library began to be discussed in late 2015, Asheville construction costs –not surprisingly– have gone up –as much as 0.6% per month. Some commissioners are not happy with a $1+ million overage. The new library will be a 22% increase over the guesstimated cost of about three years ago. The City and County have agreed to the land-use for the library. An EA friend’s bequest of over $100,000, held by the County for use of the East Asheville Library, has paid for architectural plans, surveys and technical assistance. It is largely wasted should they decide to go back to the drawing board to cut.

The City is cooperating on outside recreational area improvements. Staff will have adequate work-space, as opposed to a row of cabinets smaller than today’s kitchens. Small study areas as well as larger meeting space(s) are planned.

Safety concerns: Restrooms will be INSIDE(!) and meet today’s regulations. Parking will no longer mean backing out into city streets (now illegal). The design would allow staff to view the whole library from their work-stations. And we trust the over-regulation high shelving will be a thing of the past. LEED certification means saving utility $$$ as well as the Earth. The exterior design is in keeping with East Asheville. Many library patrons who have enjoyed Friends’ programs in rented church buildings will be pleased to know there will be meeting-rooms at the library!

Once the County votes to provide the money for the current plans, it will hold a community-wide meeting to unveil current plans to all. Otherwise, it’s back to the drawing board and another delay.

Emily Cooper

(Chair, East Asheville Friends)