It’s been a long time coming, but thanks an Apalachicola benefactor’s bequest, the state’s grant, the schools’ generosity, city officials’ persistence and library backers’ enthusiasm, the new Apalachicola Margaret Key Library is starting to sprout.
At a ceremony Oct. 14, beneath a sunny sky on a hot morning, ground was broken on the new site, adjacent to the Chapman Schools building at 80 12th street. The project is expected to be completed by April, at an approximate cost of a little more than $900,000.
A state grant, first applied for in 2011, kicked in about $497,000 to help fund the project, on a lot transferred to the city from the Franklin County Schools at no cost. An additional $400,000 is coming from the estate of the late Margaret Key, and it is in her honor that the library was named a few months back.
Caty Greene, librarian at the Apalachicola Municipal Library now located on Sixth Street and Avenue D, emceed the brief ceremony, and began by providing an overview of the deliberations that went into finding a suitable site for the new construction.
She spoke of how one initial idea was to locate the facility inside of the Chapman Schools, which now houses the offices of cardiologist Shezad Sanaullah M.D. When that idea proved not to be feasible, she and Susan Buzzett Clementson were among the library backers who turned to the schools, to see about using the large parking lot where a portion of Chapman High School stood.
“We thought ‘it’s always no until you ask,’” said Greene.
The ceremony opened with remarks from Apalachicola Mayor Van Johnson, who along with the city commissioners and former city administrator and now project consultant Betty Taylor-Webb, has been an ongoing supporter of the project.
“This project has been long in coming,” he said. “I’m grateful that this project is coming to fruition.”
Architect Warren Emo described his work as “a pleasurable project (in which) the amount of interest from all the parties has been remarkable.
“We’re so pleased,” he said. “It’s very rare to attend a groundbreaking for a brand new building. I hope there will be a time when children and grandchildren can come together and enjoy it.”
Emo stressed that the “very significant challenge” has resulted in a building that is a tapestry that blends modern services with homage to the city’s past, including the use of granite and other materials that were transported down the river decades ago into the once bustling port.
“It all beckons back to the history of Apalachicola,” he said.
Echoing his words was Scott Brewer, with Allstate Construction, builder of the project, who said “we’re really excited what this brings to Apalachicola. It’s going to bring a lot of history back in a newer building.”
Superintendent Nina Marks and School Board Chair Pam Shiver also offered brief remarks. “You can’t not support such a wonderful thing,” said Marks, adding that she hoped that “at some point in time I can be Mother Goose on Saturday mornings with the kids.”
Greene and Bonnie Fulmer, president of the Patrons of Apalachicola Library Society Inc. (PALS) spoke on behalf of the need for additional private sector funds to fully equip the new library. Donations can be made at www.apalachicolalibrary.com or by sending a check to PALS, P. O. Box 293, Apalachicola, FL32329.
Then it was time to break the ground.
Two Apalachicola Bay Charter School third graders, Valerie Shattuck and Jaliyah Rochelle, were plucked from the large crowd of students who were on hand to take part.
Holding shovels, along with those who had spoken at the ceremony were City Administrator Lee Mathes, ABC School Principal Chimene Johnson, former PALS President Lynn Wilson, former library board chair Susan Buzzett Clementson, and Marcia Mathis, representing State Sen. Bill Montford.