ZEPHYRHILLS — A roomful of residents sporting "Library on Fifth" stickers filled the City Council chambers Monday night, urging officials to rethink their plan to expand the library at its current Eighth Street location.
Council members opted last year to keep that location instead of moving the library to a vacant two-story building on Fifth Avenue. But at least one council member is having second thoughts.
"I think I made a mistake," said council member Jodi Wilkeson, referring to her vote last year to keep the library on Eighth Street. She initially favored using the empty bank building, but eventually sided with the majority because she thought it was what the community wanted. "I should have fought a little harder for it."
Matt Hulbert, a local Realtor and Chamber of Commerce director, made a pitch for using the Fifth Avenue site. Putting the library in the 9,700-square-foot building could create a city landmark that would attract more people to downtown's main strip and give merchants an economic boost, he said. Ten others offered similar support for such a move.
Library director Vicki Elkins pointed out that the council and library officials have reviewed the Fifth Avenue building twice before and determined it is not suitable for the library. The second floor isn't strong enough to hold shelves and shelves of books, and it wouldn't be feasible to staff an additional floor, officials said.
"With the expansion at the current location, we can fit the space to our plans," Elkins said. "If we go to the bank building, we'll have to fit our plans into existing space."
Former mayor Cliff McDuffie also voiced his opposition to moving the library, noting the feasibility studies that have already been done and questioning the safety of having young library patrons so close to U.S. 301.
Wilkeson said she thinks all concerns about the building's suitability can be addressed and she wants to see the issue back on a future council meeting agenda. City Manager Jim Drumm told the council he needs to let the architects know as soon as possible if they're going to put the plans on hold.