North Clarksville library, Animal Control Center up for funding in county budget hearings

CLARKSVILLE, TN (CLARKSVILLE NOW) – Hearings are underway for Montgomery County’s 2022-2023 budget season, with over $83 million in capital projects on the agenda, including previously delayed projects like the north Clarksville library branch and a new Animal Control facility.

The county Budget Committee puts Tuesday morning to begin the budget discussions. They will meet several times in the coming weeks to hammer out exactly where Montgomery County should focus its spending in the coming year, and not every item will make it to the final product.

“At the end of the day, every move we make up here is going to cost money, and we only have so much money,” Mayor Jim Durrett told committee members on Tuesday.

The currently proposed capital projects budget includes $83.5 million in projects (including $20.35 million for the Highway Department and $7 million for the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System.)

It includes both the North Clarksville Library Brach, budgeted at $16.5 million, and a new Animal Control facility, budgeted at $750,000.

Both projects have been included in previous budgets but were cut; the Animal Control facility due to a land issue and the library branch due to economic concerns surrounding COVID-19.

A rendering of the future North Clarksville Library Branch created by HBM Interiors, April 12, 2021. (Contributed)

Library draws questions

Both projects are now back in the budget proposal, though some members of the committee voiced skepticism about the need for a second public library.

Land for the branch library has already been purchased at 435 Jordan Road and architectural work has been completed. Future funding pays for the actual construction.

Commissioner James Lewis suggests that several of the services provided by libraries can be accessed via smart phones, and Commissioner Rashidah Leverett said that, while she spends a great deal of time at the library, it is often sparsely populated.

Durrett added that, due to rising costs of construction, $16.5 million may no longer be enough to cover the cost.

‘That’s not something you can do on your cell phone’

In response to committee member comments, Library Director Martha Hendricks told Clarksville Now that libraries provide critical services for residents, especially youth.

“There are so many services that are provided. One of the primary things we do is provide early literacy services for children and programming, and teaching parents how to interact with their children for the best results,” Hendricks said. “That’s not something you can do on your cell phone. It requires you to be there in person.”

She added that the library provides meeting space for residents, something she said is “severely lacking” in Clarksville, as well as computer access for those who don’t have computers or digital access at home.

A rendering of the future North Clarksville Library Branch creator space created by HBM Interiors, April 12, 2021. (Contributed)

Hendricks said that, according to their consultants, a community should have approximately 1 square foot of library per citizen. With its one 74,000 square-foot library, Clarksville is currently far below that metric.

“The library has become a community center, not just a repository for books,” Hendricks said. “The fact is we aren’t providing library services to a large portion of the county. People don’t know what it’s like to have library services in many parts of the county. They don’t know what they’re missing. Once this library gets built, they’ll understand. … It’s time for the county to follow through and fund the construction.”

Stokes Field on the bench

Not every popular project made it back onto the budget.

Lewis pointed out at the Tuesday meeting that improvements to Stokes Field, another previously canceled project, were not included.

According to Durrett, the project is on uncertain terms due to a lack of enthusiasm from CMCSS in a multi-purpose sports field being included at the site.

Durrett told committee members the project would be less effective, and that Parks and Recreation was looking into instead spreading the funding among nine other parks. He added that nothing was set in stone, and the county is still in talks with CMCSS about Stokes Field.

Lewis urged committee members on Tuesday to make the field a priority, saying more needed to be done for youth in north Clarksville.

“Three years now and we don’t have a ballfield in north Clarksville,” Lewis said, adding that he has heard from children walking to Kenwood’s ballfields from as far as Evans Road.

Other large projects

This year’s capital projects budget includes several other large projects. Some of the most notable are:

  • Rossview Road widening: $16.5 million
  • Highway Department Facility: $11.75 million
  • Courts Center Annex: $1.53 million
  • Civita Park (Phase III): $900,000

Budget hearings continue this week.

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