BRUNSWICK, Ga. -- Disputes are often resolved when people gather around a table to talk.
In Glynn County, however, one dispute is over a table itself, a big conference table that the Carnegie family donated to the Brunswick library about 40 years ago.
The massive table was in the library on the western end of Gloucester Street until about June 30, 2013. That’s when Linda Kean, then Three Rivers Regional Library Director, had it hauled off to Jesup when Glynn County evicted her and her staff.
Kean resigned last week, she said, to move somewhere north with her husband, Earl, who will practice law.
The table is not all Kean took. She also tied up more than $900,000 that Glynn County claimed rightfully belonged to the Marshes of Glynn Regional Library, a one-county system formed in a split from Three Rivers last year.
Kean sued May 13, 2013, to stop the eviction and Glynn County filed a countersuit that included demands for its money and property. It just received $368,000 that Superior Court Judge Roger Lane ordered paid from the registry of the court. The county has a motion pending asking for another $554,000 also in the court registry, records show.
That $554,000 was money left over from the renovation of the downtown library, where Three Rivers had its regional offices until Lane upheld its eviction. Some of the money was from a state grant and the rest from a special purpose local option sales tax, but Georgia says it has no claim on getting its money back, records show.
With its monetary claims taken care of, the county is moving forward on getting back the furniture, oil paintings and other furnishings that are now at Three Rivers’ headquarters in Jesup.
The Three Rivers office is in a former school tucked away in a quiet neighborhood. The table and 19 matching, upholstered chairs are in Three Rivers’ spacious conference room. Four more of the chairs are in a reception area.
The table has rounded corners and a thick glass top protects its wooden surface. In the middle is a brass plaque reading, “Donated by the Carnegie family, Cumberland Island, Georgia.”
The table has a lot of emotional ties in Glynn County, especially with County Commissioner Clyde Taylor whose mother, Hildreth Fricks Taylor, solicited it from the Carnegie family.
“That wasn’t being solicited for any Three Rivers operation,’’ Taylor said. “My mother would turn over in her grave if she knew that table had gotten away from here ... The library was her passion.”
Longtime Brunswick-Glynn County library trustee Virginia Ramsey sounds almost sick when she talks about the table and the old chairs from the Jekyll Island Club Hotel and Sea Island that were placed around it. The chairs were taken with the table.
“I’ve been so upset at the way that all transpired, I haven’t been able to go to the library and enjoy it,’’ Ramsey said.
“It’s really heavy with big legs,” Ramsey said of the table. “Very impressive, real long. We could seat 14 around it easily.”
Ramsey couldn’t say exactly when Hildreth Taylor got the table, but Jim Darby, a retired regional library director, said it was there in 1977 when he came to Brunswick for a meeting. Darby, who was hired in 1979, recalled Hildreth Taylor talking about the table. “Mrs. Hildreth Taylor said it came from Dungeness, and it was going to be the board room table some day and eventually it was,’’ he said.
Ramsey said it is her recollection that the table was one of the things saved from Dungeness when the mansion on the south end of Cumberland Island burned in the 1950s.
Asked how Three Rivers could have gotten away with such a big piece, Darby said, “They had the doors locked the day they moved out of there and nobody knew what they were taking.”
Actually, the doors were locked well before the move, but Taylor said he is hopeful that Glynn County can use the money from the court order to use some of the space that was once walled off to all but the Three Rivers staff.
The county is bringing in a specialist in library layout to make recommendations on converting to library space, he said.
“The former Three Rivers offices are very extensive,’’ he said. “There’s a lot of room back there.”
Terry Dickson: (912) 264-0405