With nearly a half-million dollars in grant money on its way from the Florida Legislature, Apalachicola city officials have their sights set on a proposal to transform the 80-year-old Chapman Schools into a new home for the municipal library.
Apalachicola Librarian Caty Greene reported Tuesday to city commissioners that a $497,000 public library construction grant from the Division of Library and Information Services survived Gov. Scott’s veto pen. The grant calls for the remodeling of the 6,400 square foot Chapman Schools for use as an independent municipal library headquarters.
Because the school district in 2009 deeded the building to the county, the library plan will have to secure the blessing of the county commission. In addition, accommodations would have to be made to relocate the office of Apalachicola cardiologist Dr. Shezad Sanaullah, who recently renewed a three-year lease with the county for use of the building.
Currently, Sanaullah pays $1,961 per month, which includes $1,833 annual tax. His bill will be reduced by $100 monthly because he has installed a separate water meter and will pay his own water bill.
“There’s a good deal of negotiation that needs to go in that respect,” said Greene, noting that the lease has a six-month cancellation clause, for whatever reason, by either party.
“I think our best interest is to find the physicians a suitable place to move,” she said. “This is an elegant building, for an elegant purpose.”
Mayor Van Johnson said he planned to have a working lunch today with County Commissioner Smokey Parish, whose district includes the historic property adjacent to the home of the Apalachicola Bay Charter School.
Greene said the grant dated back to 2008, when Cindi Giametta, the city’s former grants manager, wrote and submitted the initial grant application. Greene took over managing the process in 2011, and clearly was overjoyed Tuesday night that the money was finally flowing down.
She said a more detailed plan will have to be worked out in the coming days, and that the state said it is flexible with the 90-day deadline in place for it to receive detailed assurance that the city, owns, lease, or has unconditional use resolution from the building’s owner.
“The state says 90 days is flexible, as long as it’s by the time we put the project out to bid,” said Greene.
She said architect fees, which include planning costs, are expected to total $38,000 of the award, with $89,000 earmarked to install an elevator, $92,000 for initial equipment and the remaining $278,000 towards the actual remodeling.
In addition, the state appropriated $50,000 during the 2014 session to place a new roof over the building, Greene said. Plus there’s the possibility of utilizing some of the more than $400,000 bequeathed to the library by the estate of Margaret Key about a decade ago.
“Now I need to sit down with architects,” she said. “I know it would have to have certain things done to the interior to make it functional but I never expected to get the money.”
Susan Buzzett-Clementson, chair of the library board, said she expects to see a stepped-up fundraising effort for private sector dollars in the weeks and months ahead.
“Since obtaining permission from the county to include the school in this year’s Tour of Homes, there has been an outpour of community interest in seeing the building restored,” she said.
Greene was asked by Apalachicola resident Bobby Miller about how ongoing utility and maintenance fees would be covered. She said she was not yet in a position to make those determinations as librarian. Miller also suggested that the value of having a cardiologist in town needed to be weighed against that of a library.
“We’re all up against historical preservation,” said Johnson. “This is an 80-year piece of our history.”
The Florida Trust for Historic Preservation two years ago listed the site among Florida’s Eleven Most Endangered Historic Sites. In addition, during the 36th annual conference of the Florida Trust held in Tampa this year, the Trust announced the school was identified as a success for ongoing preservation funding efforts.
Last year, Kara J. Litvinas, a graduate student in historic preservation at the University of Florida, wrote a thesis on Chapman’s adaptive use as a partial fulfillment of the requirements for her master’s degree in historic preservation.
“In the case of Apalachicola, the reuse of Chapman School is just one example of a type of catalyst project that could spark positive community growth,” she wrote.
Under the state’s Rural Economic Development Imitative, the city benefits from a waiver of any matching requirement for the $497,000 grant.