Tupelo officials hear library pitch

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The city made no firm commitments Tuesday to help fund construction of a $27 million library but promised to consider the proposal in collaboration with county officials.
Lee County Library Director Jeff Tomlinson presented to the City Council plans for a new, 75,000-square-foot library in downtown’s Fairpark District. It would replace the organization’s current building, a four-decade-old structure roughly half that size, on the corner of Jefferson and Madison streets.
“This is a rare opportunity to build up our community through support of our public institutions,” Tomlinson told the council at City Hall.
It’s the second such presentation in as many months. Tomlinson had gone before the Lee County Board of Supervisors in late July with the same plans. Supervisors listened but, like the city, made no firm commitments to fund the project.
Council President Fred Pitts said the city and county would try to work together on helping the library. Both governments already provide annual funding to the institution, and the county owns the building in which it’s housed.
“I think this would be a good project to work together on and prove we can work together for what’s best for Tupelo and Lee County,” Pitts said.
When contacted by the Daily Journal on Tuesday, Board of Supervisors President Phil Morgan said his group hasn’t yet discussed the library proposal and needs to do that before collaborating with the city.
“We’ll support the library I’m sure, but we need to sit down as a board and collectively decide what direction we want to go in,” Morgan said. “And then if we can link up with the city, we will.”
Library officials under former Director Jan Willis had begun exploring expansion or relocation two years ago and have worked toward developing a plan since then.
Although they now have a selected a preferred location and determined basic building details – including square-footage and cost – there’s currently no definitive timeline or funding source for the project.
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com