Story originally posted April 11, 2014, 5:02 p.m.

As Orange County Commissioners eyed their five-year spending plan at a work session on Thursday, Chair Barry Jacobs said it’s time for the board to vote on the specifics of the Southern Branch Library.

“We’re talking about $8.2 million dollars and I don’t think that’s a realistic number for what we’re envisioning as a library,” said Jacobs. “I don’t know why we keep using that number.”

The 2014-19 recommended  Capital Investment Plan outlines $1.1 million to be spent on planning in the next two years, and $7,775,000 to build and open the branch by 2017, but Jacobs argued those numbers represent a size and style of library that the board has not endorsed.

“If we’re not going to build a 20,000 square foot library, then we don’t need to fund one,” said Jacobs. “If we have to vote, then we should put it on a regular agenda and vote on whether this board of commissioners thinks we’re building a 20,000 square foot library. Because it was not driven by this board, it was driven by staff. It’s just not realistic.”

Currently, county officials are in the process of vetting an 18,000 square foot site in Carrboro, at the yet-to-be-built Brewer Lane mixed-use project. Although this is the only site under consideration, the board has not settled on a location for the branch, and is actively soliciting input from the public.

County Manager Michael Talbert said the $8 million dollar figure represents a place-holder in the budget that will be revised by the end of the fiscal year.

“This is the best number we have at this point. The board has not revisited this issue since it was originally introduced about three years ago,” said Talbert. “We’re continuing this in light of not having anything better. By this June we may be in a position to improve on this. If the Carrboro location we’re investigating works out, we can come back to you and adjust these numbers.”

Jacobs said once the cost projections are revised, that will free up other money in the county’s spending plan. The board will hear the results of the county’s investigation and the public outreach effort at a work session on May 13.