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East County Friday, Nov. 5, 2021 6 months ago

East Manatee library clears final hurdle for construction in Lakewood Ranch

Manatee County Commissioners approve project despite escalating cost.
by: Scott Lockwood Staff Writer

Plans for an East County library in Lakewood Ranch received the final go-ahead from the Manatee County Commission.

By a 6-1 vote on Oct. 26, commissioners approved the final plan for the library despite some concerns of the high cost of the project, which tops out at an estimated $17.1 million.

Property Management Division Director Tom Yarger outlined the library project. It includes a two-story, 50,000-square-foot library building with a rooftop terrace, an IT hub building, an additional parking lot with 200 spaces and a central energy plant.

The size of the library — namely the addition of the second floor — was the focal point of a tense discussion among the seven commissioners. The project started with a $5.14 million budget in 2018 but has inflated to its current level after a second floor was added along with other amenities, such as chillers that would be developed for future buildings at Premier Park.

Several commissioners said Lakewood Ranch lacks anything larger than the 25,000-square-foot space that the second floor of the library would provide for events, meetings and other activities. Commission Chair Vanessa Baugh, who represents the Lakewood Ranch area on the board, said the point is having a community center.

“This is about a community center that, yes, will have some books in it,” she said. “And there will be activities for children. There will be activities for teenagers. There’s going to be all sorts of activities on the second floor.

“It’s for a community. It’s Myakka. It’s Tara. It’s Rosedale. It’s River Club.”

Commissioner George Kruse said that the $3 million to build the second floor comes out to $120 per square foot, which he called “dirt cheap” in the current market.

“That can be multipurpose space at the library and can also be used for meetings,” Kruse said. “I don’t care how many people start reading Kindles or how many people start listening to audiobooks. There’s always a place where you need as a community to get together to do things, and that is what is lacking in Lakewood Ranch.”

Commissioner James Satcher made a motion to build a library for $10 million, but that died after a lack of a second. He later went along with the adoption of the contract.

“I’m not happy about the price tag, but I am going to support it for our kids and this community,” he said.

The dissenting vote came from Commissioner Keith Van Ostenbridge, who thought the county should consider leasing space for a library.

“I want Lakewood Ranch to have a library, and they were promised a library,” he said. “But the question is, do we want to spend millions of dollars building a permanent structure for something that in 10 years … the whole landscape of libraries will be totally different?”

Baugh said builders could break ground on the library by the end of January 2022. Officials say the library should open in early 2024


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