Apartments mire work on library

Augusta's future main branch library downtown has hit another snag, one the library system's top official fears could mean the loss of $2 million in state funding for the project.

Already fraught with delays from procurement litigation, the $24 million project could be held back longer by the purchase of an apartment building at 842 Greene St.

The building sits on the last piece of property needed for the new library at Telfair Street and James Brown Boulevard.

But there have been some problems with Housing and Urban Development in acquiring the building, which houses government-subsidized residents, said city attorney Steve Shepard.

Gary Swint, the executive director of the East Central Georgia Regional Library, said he had hoped the city would have completed the deal six months ago.

"If we don't get a move on, we're going to lose the state funding," he said.

Mr. Swint said the library must be open to the public and operating by 2010 or it will lose the $2 million appropriated by the state Legislature in 2006.

Mr. Shepard said he didn't expect the delays to drastically affect the project. Like most government projects, this one has had its fair share of timeline adjustments, he said. "Everything in government takes longer."

Mr. Shepard said the key to pulling off the land deal is finding substitute housing for the residents living on public assistance in the building.

"It's not an insurmountable problem," he said.

But a date to begin construction can't be set until the acquisition is complete, and at this point the design is on hold, said project manager Bob Munger, of Heery International Inc.

Meanwhile, the demolition of existing buildings on the new library's footprint has been progressing.

The old candy factory has been flattened, and the former Liberty Loan building was demolished last week.

The car wash at Greene Street and James Brown Boulevard should be vacated soon for demolition, Mr. Munger said.

Reach Justin Boron at (706) 823-3215 or justin.boron@augustachronicle.com.