Construction starts on West Feliciana library

Land-clearing operations are underway on a donated site for a new West Feliciana Parish library building that voters approved in a $3.5 million bond issue last year.

More than 100 people gathered Thursday near the Burnett Road site to celebrate the beginning of construction on the 15,000-square-foot building, which will be five times larger than the library’s quarters in the old post office building on Ferdinand Street.

The West Feliciana Parish Police Jury awarded a $2.27 million contract in July to low bidder Ragusa Construction, of Independence, for construction of the building.

The scent of fresh tree sap occasionally wafted across a nearby children’s park where library supporters and community leaders met while a bulldozer worked to clear the building site.

In his invocation, the Rev. Milton Coats prayed for the project “to come in on time and under budget.”

Ragusa project superintendent Robert Ricks said he expects his company will begin staking the outlines of the building next week with the hope of making substantial progress before winter arrives.

“I am so excited, because we have worked so hard to get to this day with the support of the community,” Library Board President Clara Ruth Saint said.

St. Francisville native Sally Thomson Parker, of Union, S.C., donated the 4.6-acre tract to the Police Jury in 2007 with the stipulation that it be used only for a library.

Saint said the $3.5 million approved in the bond issue should be enough for the construction and furnishings, but the library is seeking donations of artwork, a piano for a meeting room and a large rug for the foyer; or in their place, monetary gifts sufficient to purchase the needed items.

“We will accept any and all donations,” she told Thursday’s audience.

The new library will offer three times the technical services the existing building is able to provide and will have separate areas for children and teenagers, according to Molly Porter, president of Friends of the West Feliciana Library.

Hidell and Associates Architects, of Carrollton, Texas, designed the building.

The Library Board acknowledged donations of $17,600 from the Friends organization, $15,000 from the Women’s Service League and $10,000 from the C.B. and Irene W. Pennington Foundation.

An Entergy Corp. grant also will make the meeting room conducive to business meetings, library officials said.

State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton, who worked with the St. Francisville library when it was an Audubon Regional Library branch, said the West Feliciana library is lucky to have good community support.

The new facilities “will be part of a fabric of libraries in the state and all over the world,” she said.

In its St. Francisville location, the library does not have space to display all of the books, CDs, DVDs and other material in its inventory, cannot hold activities during regular library hours because of the crowded quarters and does not meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.