RIDGE MANOR — Residents who have missed their access to books and computers since the East Hernando Branch Library was damaged by fire last summer will likely have another nearby option soon.
The Hernando County Commission today is expected to approve a no-cost lease with the Ridge Manor Community Center, which will turn the center's east wing into a temporary library.
"It's how a community center should be used — for the community,'' said Lynn Gruber-White, president of the Ridge Manor Property Owners Association. "It's very, very exciting that the community center board saw this need and made this service available.''
While the proposed lease would end in August, which is when repairs to the East Hernando library are expected to be completed, the lease is open-ended. The board of the community center has agreed not to lease the east wing until the library branch has reopened, Gruber-White said.
A portion of the county library services' book collection will be set up in the community center so area residents can resume checking out materials.
The temporary location will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and might open on Saturdays at some point, Gruber-White said. In addition, a room will be set aside for computer use and Internet access. In the summer, the plan is to use the main hall on Wednesdays for the children's reading program.
The community center is at 34240 Cortez Blvd.
Gruber-White said computer access has been missed by Ridge Manor residents, some of whom have been driving all the way to Brooksville to get to the library. Library services employees, whom Gruber-White said have been good to work with, told her that computers are among the most utilized features of the county's libraries.
A soft opening of the temporary library may come soon after the commission's formal acceptance of the lease, she said. A grand opening is planned for March 10. At 6 p.m. that evening, the location will sponsor a movie night featuring the movie Up. Popcorn and refreshments will be served.
The East Hernando Branch Library was set on fire in early July last year. The fire caused extensive smoke and water damage from the sprinklers. The county had to hire a service to meticulously clean and pack every book.
Eighteen-year-old Joseph M. Brannen was charged with second-degree arson in connection with the fire. He told officials he set the fire so he could help firefighters put it out.
Late last month, the County Commission awarded the contract to repair the library to Samsson Construction Inc. of Aripeka at a cost of $83,770.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.