CW News Battlefield advocate fails to move library board
Battlefield advocate fails to move library board
By PEGGY SHAW - Staff Writer
FRANKLIN — A proposal to move a new county library on Civil War battlefield land ended yesterday not with a bang or even a whimper but with silence.
Members of the Williamson County Public Library Board of Trustees sat mute when Chairman Jim Cross asked if anyone wanted to recommend that the library be relocated from the old Battle Ground Academy tennis courts off Columbia Avenue to the school's football field.
The change had been suggested by Franklin resident Herschel Smith III in an effort, Smith said, to preserve open space near ''ground zero'' of the 1864 Battle of Franklin for a battlefield park.
''I see no motion, so I assume we're staying where we are,'' Cross said after an hour and a half of sometimes emotional discussion at the library on Main Street.
Cross had instructed board members earlier that a decision about repositioning the building had to be made immediately since groundbreaking on the two-story, 50,225-square-foot library is scheduled this month. He also informed library board members that they could recommend relocation to the County Commission but could not vote to actually change the building's placement on the county-owned site.
''The only authority this board has is to run this library,'' Cross said.
At a Dec. 14, 2000, meeting, however, trustees voted to approve the county's purchase of the old BGA site subject to the County Commission ''allowing the Library Board to select the location of the library building on the BGA campus and have some input into the site's Master Plan.''
In his presentation to the board yesterday, Smith argued that, among other things, relocating the library on the site would pave the way for a battlefield park, attract tourist dollars and honor some 10,000 men who were casualties of the Nov. 30, 1864, battle.
After yesterday's meeting, Smith expressed hope that the fight to move the building may not be over.
''What should happen is that our county executive, feeling the momentum behind this issue, should ask that construction be stopped until the County Commission meeting May 13. I don't think the Library Board represents the feeling of the county on this issue.''
County Executive Clint Callicott, however, said later that he did not think halting construction was a possibility unless county commissioners wanted to have a special-called meeting.
''This thing needs to go forward. I personally feel that the library is going to be an asset there and enhance that area,'' he said. ''We're not the bad guys and we need to move on.''
The Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County went on record yesterday as supporting Smith's relocation proposal.
''This site preserves three acres of core Battle of Franklin battlefield, therefore supporting the mission of the organization,'' read the official endorsement.
But Heritage Foundation President Larry Westbrook, speaking in more impassioned tones, told Library Board members that preserving space from the BGA campus north to Carter House could help create a battlefield park that would be appreciated for generations.
''I'm tired of fighting. I strongly hesitated coming before you this morning but I feel like if the Heritage Foundation didn't come before you, we are neglecting our own mission,'' he said.
Other residents spoke yesterday endorsing what Smith called a compromise solution to years of debate over the library's new location. Marvin Rainey, for example, said he was a long-time library patron but was also mindful of recent studies indicating that tourists spend $250 to $500 when they visit the battlefield.
''People are coming and it's a valuable tourist dollar,'' he said.
During a short discussion, however, Library Board members raised several questions about the move. Doris McMillan asked Smith how resiting the building would help ''clean up Columbia Avenue,'' and Lewis Green said he was not sure that repositioning the building would affect tourism.
''I'm having trouble seeing that this three acres will make a difference with the number of people coming here.'' Green also said that the property had not been purchased for preservation purposes. ''We purchased this property not for a historic park, and you're asking us to put this in a time warp.''
Cross added that changing the building's orientation on the property was no simple matter.
''We put the stacks on one side because that was a northern exposure,'' he said. ''It's not as simple as spinning it around and putting it in a new spot.''
Something many people at the meeting did seem to agree on is the need for a preservation master plan.
''The county, nor any of its agents, such as the Library Board and the school board, have adopted any policy to protect historic resources in Franklin and Williamson County as they seek to achieve their individual missions,'' said Mary Pearce, executive director of the Heritage Foundation. ''And yet, we are losing 1% of our historic resources a year.''