Goodbye old Fire Station, hello new community room –
OAKHURST – Good news in a time of budget cuts – the Oakhurst Branch of the Madera County Library is expanding, thanks to Friends of the Oakhurst Branch Library (FOBL), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and smart planning over 40 years ago.FOBL supports the library and raises, on average, between $5,000 and $7,000 per year, mostly through used book sales and generous community donations.
FOBL president Candace Flammang says new construction has finally begun to transform the old fire station into a new community room. The effort results from many years of fundraising combined with a $200,000 USDA Rural Development grant.
“On October 8, the remodel began to transform the old fire station into the new community room, known as “reading room” on the plans,” says Flammang. “The library was built in 1970, and so was the fire station.” The idea for this expansion was included in the buildings’ original design.
“Back then, planners understood that rural communities needed libraries and fire stations,” continues Flammang, “so they built them together, knowing either the library or the fire station would outgrow the space as the community grew. One would move out and one would expand into the remaining space.”
For more than a decade, FOBL has been raising money for that planned expansion, annually contributing to the building fund. Approximately $150,000 was amassed over ten years; about two-thirds of that amount was raised by selling books donated to the library or culled from its collection.
“The library was so cramped with books and people,” says Flammang, “we felt we had to do something. With help from the Madera County Resource Management Agency, the old fire station qualified for USDA grant set aside for rural community facilities.”
According to Flammang, the five branches that make up the Madera County Library system are allotted .5 percent of the total Madera County budget. The library applied for the USDA grant in 2010 and it was awarded as part of the “Shovel Ready” American Restoration and Recovery Act (ARRA), sometimes called Federal “stimulus” money. The library is using the fire station shell and doing an interior remodel, including a replacement of the station doors.
In a nice turn of events, one of the perks built into the new community room is a space dedicated for book processing. Books have previously been processed and stored in the drafty old fire station. Flammang says volunteers are looking forward to the upgrade.
“It will be indoors and sealed up for the first time, with doors and lights and keys,” Flammang reports. “We are not selling books right now. That will resume around mid-February when the remodel is finished.”
Project Manager for the 2,000 sq. ft. remodel is Bill Hayter, who coordinates efforts between the contractor, building owner Madera County and the library. Durham Construction of Clovis had the lowest bid on the library project and was contracted to do the job. That firm recently completed work at Oakhurst Elementary School in Oakhurst.
The library’s new community room will feature a small warming kitchen and two ADA-approved bathrooms. This will serve at least 20 different organizations convening at the library.
Among those who will benefit from the remodel is the Mountain Area Literary Council (MALC), a nonprofit volunteer group tutoring students in English.The room will also house the library’s Yamaha baby grand piano.