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Plans for new library put on hold

The timetable went like this: Shut the ailing Northwest Regional Library in June and try to find a new building within the year.

But neither has happened, and they probably won't for at least another several months, according to library officials.

"It looks like it's going to be a longer process than we realized," said Joe Stines, director of the Tampa/Hillsborough County Public Library System.

With any luck, county officials will secure a library site by March, Stines said, so that a new facility could open by 2000. While Stines has made earlier promises that a site would be purchased this year, he said, "We are eager to get on with it."

Current contenders for the new building include property off Lowell Road, land on Handy Road and Lake Park on N Dale Mabry Highway, just south of Van Dyke Road. However, Lake Park, once the front-runner, is looking like less of a prospect because of its out-of-the-way location, Stines said.

Another notable change is the withdrawal of Lowe's home improvement store, which had offered to donate library land next to a proposed 165,000-square-foot hardware store in Carrollwood Springs. Residents didn't want a Lowe's, and they rallied their opposition before the county Planning Commission.

It has been more than a year since QST Environmental Inc. reported that the Northwest Regional Library on Premiere Drive had fungal and mildew problems that had deteriorated the building's air quality. The county quickly acted by installing humidifiers that would remove moisture from the air, dusting off books and cleaning light fixtures to keep the facility operable.

So far, Stines said, "There's been no intrusion of water on the walls and the roof seems to be holding up well."

Another $20,000 in repairs has been authorized to the Northwest library, Stines said.

"We're just trying to maintain the building as best we can," he said.

The next step in the process is to get county commissioners' approval to seek a $400,000 state grant that would go toward the purchase of a site, Stines said. He expects the item to be put on the board's agenda in January.

If you have a story about Northdale, call Valerie Q. Carino at 226-3463.