Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County Commission digs in, puts children at risk - approves unsafe library

Columbia County's "good ole boys" never fail to disappoint and at the December 17, 2009 County Commission meeting they were disappointingly true to form when they dug in their heels and approved the bizarre and dangerous floor plan for the proposed new Fort White library.

Columbia County's management style is one whose hallmark is notorious for working in the shadows under the cover of darkness; deciding everything behind closed doors; then mugging the public with the fruits of their deception. The design for the new Fort White library is another classic example of this, only this time the county fathers and the county manager, through their stubbornness, have put the children and residents of Columbia County at risk.

From the architect's drawing it is clear that the lobby, front entrance and hallway to the bathrooms are out of sight.

In September of 2009, the Observer discovered the worst: The plans of the secretly designed Fort White library were in their very final stages of completion and the architect was a week away from submitting the "Advanced Schematic/Design Development" level package, which consisted of, in the words of the architect, "floor plans, elevations, sections and schedules."

In plain English, this means they were just about ready to go.

At no time during the development of the floor plan of the Fort White library had the public or the library staff been asked for their comments.

At the end of September 2009, the Observer pointed out to County Manager Dale Williams the tragic flaw in the design of the library interior. It was impossible to see the entrance of the library from the front desk [circulation desk] in the newly designed library and that the staff working the desk had their backs to the front door.

During the County Manager's presentation, Com. DuPree, Bailey, and Williams could barely hold their heads up as the faulty plan was projected for everyone to see.

The Columbia County solution – cover up, remove the book drop from the director's office and put in a window in its place, making it impossible for the library director to maintain any privacy what so ever.

On October 6, 2009, County Manager Dale Williams responded to an e mail from the Observer regarding the lack of transparency in the design of the Ft. White library:

I hope anyone who has any suggestions or comments about the library design in Fort White will provide them for consideration. The final floor plan will be approved by the Board of County Commissioners. The approval of the final floor plan has not been scheduled, therefore, time allows for input. For the record, the draft floor plan was designed by an architect. I can’t imagine why anyone would try to perpetuate that a library was designed in private. I can’t imagine for what purpose.  Dale

The Observer's responded:

a) Because it was. b) Because these things should be exposed. People don't like that stuff. And they don't like it more and more. c) All anyone has to do is look at the floor plan to see that it is all screwed up and the folks around here with common sense clearly were not asked nor encouraged to give their input. Look at the drawing. No one can see the entrance from the front desk and originally, instead of a window in the manager's office there was a book drop, which gave zero visibility, unless one stuck their head in the book drop and looked out. It would be hard to imagine that any architect worth his salt would design a library with the checkout counter facing 180 degrees from the front door Please. Do you really think everyone is an idiot?

County Manager Williams arranged to have poster board schematics put in the county's libraries and shoe boxes with 3x5 cards were set nearby for comments. It is unknown what comments were received, as they were never presented to the County Commission.

On December 17, 2009, at 7:35 pm, the "good ole boys" of Columbia County, without one comment about the floor plan, unanimously rubber stamped a bizarre and dangerous plan for the entrance of the new Fort White library, putting the children and everyone who uses the library at risk.

In Columbia County it's business as usual. 


On January 20, 2010 - RL wrote:

Dear Editor:    We are a family living in Fort Myers Florida and will be relocating to North Central Florida within the year. We have been evaluating housing, schools and services in this area to choose the best location for not only us but also our three elementary age children. Going to the library weekly has been a tradition that we are passing down from our parents to our children. I have never seen a design of a library such as the one you depicted on your website. The libraries and even branches of libraries in Gainesville, Alachua, and those areas all have bright open spaces with the librarians at the front desks able to view who is coming and who is leaving. As a matter of interest, our library in east Fort Myers has a real police officer sitting at a table near the door for extra security. Are you certain that the Library in Fort White is as depicted? Will there be a police officer on duty for security by the front door? Thank you. RL  


On January 22, 2010 - Brian of Ft. White wrote:

I have lived in Fort White for almost 6 years. I have also lived in other places in my life: Dayton, Ohio, Chicago, Illinois, Washington, D.C., Jacksonville, Florida and Orlando, Florida; and visited numerous other places throughout my 41 years. In none of those places have I ever seen such a retarded floor plan of a public building. I am left wondering about the I.Q. of the designer, for being willing to put his name on it, and even more so, the Columbia BoCC for even considering this floor plan. Certainly there was no common sense approach taken to the design. How can it be considered a 'front desk' when it has no view of the lobby or the public point of entry? And a window for the library director? And suppose he/she DOES see something improper occur. Are they going to jump thru the glass? By the time they pick the phone up it's over, all that's left is a police report and the hope the perpetrators are eventually caught.

Part of the reason 'front desks' are positioned at a point of entry is the perception of security - most criminal acts would not occur the perpetrator knew they were being watched. Yes, there are a few idiots who would do it anyway, and many time those people are called politicians - hence why we have this utterly ridiculous public library floor plan...  Brian



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