Dacula leaders hire attorney
for library fight

DACULA - Dacula business owners have retained a lawyer in their quest to keep the city's library open.

At a Tuesday meeting of the Dacula Business Association, community leaders strategized in an attempt to overturn the Gwinnett County Public Library Board of Trustees' decision earlier this month to close the three-year-old branch.

The Board of Trustees are expected next month to reconsider the decision, which would have allowed the Hamilton Mill branch, currently under construction, to open seven miles away. DBA President Chad Parson, however, said his group will consider seeking an injunction if necessary.

Community leaders have offered other solutions, such as rate hikes and volunteer efforts, to allow both branches to operate.

"We want to be seen (not as) the complaint - we want to be part of the solution," Parson said, emphasizing a community effort with local businesses and citizens to create a database of volunteers.

Phillip Saxton, a member of the Gwinnett County Public Library Board of Trustees, suggested a percentage increase in library fines, which brought in nearly $900,000 in the last fiscal year, as well as an increase in the $30 subscription for out-of-county individuals to use the GCPL services.

Saxton additionally suggested fees for DVD rentals, computer usage and meeting room reservation, as well as flexible scheduling.

"My goal is to have the libraries serve the purpose for which they were built," Saxton said. "That's for the Dacula library to stay open, for the Hamilton Mill library to open, and to serve our respective communities."

Commissioner Mike Beaudreau and Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks view the decision as political.

"My disappointment with the board was that we tried to rush through this issue in a manner that I think is less than professional," Wilbanks said. "Certainly, we need to explore all of those opportunities to increase our revenue, to increase our volunteerism."

About a dozen community members questioned commissioners later in the day.

Commissioner Shirley Lasseter said she stands behind her appointee to the library board but was saddened that budget cuts brought about the impending closure.

"We're in a situation right now financially that we have never been in before," she said. "We're going to have to cut ... it's very hard when you're trying to make a decision for the entire county, not just Dacula."

State Rep. Donna Sheldon, R-Dacula, said she hoped a solution could be found to maintain Dacula, as well as the Hamilton Mill branch, a $7.4 million state-of-the-art green facility.

"If we've already got the buildings paid for, and the books and everything, and we're really just looking to get it staffed, I think there's a way that we can work inside the parameters we already have to make it happen so that both (areas) can have libraries," Sheldon said, "because they both definitely serve different communities, and there is a huge need."

The GCPL Board of Trustees will revisit the decision at the Sept. 22 meeting at the Five Forks Trickum branch. A public comment period is set for 6 to 6:30 p.m.

The Dacula Business Association created a special fund through RBC Bank to collect funds for its legal actions and continued support of the local library system. Petitions are being circulated locally in businesses and homes, and a rally is scheduled for Sept. 19 from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Dacula branch, 265 Dacula Road.

"Save Dacula's Library" magnets are available for purchase to support the cause. More information regarding donation or the efforts against the closing can be found at www.savedaculalibrary.com.

Senior Writer Camie Young contributed to this report.