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Library supporters turn up the heat

By Clay Wilson

Proponents of a library in the Fairview community are seeking to ratchet up the pressure on the Henry County Commission.

"We care just as much about our community as they do, and they're going to stop this nonsense," said the Rev. Daniel Edwards at a Saturday morning meeting. "They're going to stop taking our tax dollars and building their communities."

The meeting, held at a Fairview coffeehouse, comprised steering committee members for the "Citizens for a Henry County Fifth District Library." Edwards, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Henry branch and a Fairview community activist, said he had called the meeting to "lay all the facts on the table."

Edwards showed the 20-or-so attendees copies of the minutes of the Dec. 17, 2003 meeting of the Henry County Commission. The minutes show that former District V Commissioner Nita Spraggins moved to appropriate almost $1.2 million to a library in the district.

The money was to come from funds left over from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax that had recently expired.

The motion passed the commission unanimously. The meeting was Spraggins' last on the commission. She was succeeded by current District V Commissioner Lee Holman.

The Rev. Thomas Hester, NAACP First Vice President and another activist on the library issue, showed copies of minutes from a Feb. 24, 2003 commission meeting.

These minutes recorded that, after Holman left the meeting to be with his ill wife, District II Commissioner Gary Freedman motioned "on behalf of Commissioner Holman" to use just over $1 million of the leftover SPLOST funds on various road projects. Money remaining from District V's SPLOST leftovers would be appropriated later, according to the motion.

This motion, too, passed unanimously.

And it is this one that has the Fairview group up in arms. They contend that Holman and the other commissioners should have used the money for a District V library, as Spraggins had intended.

"The entire board has some culpability in all this," Hester said.

Thus, Hester and Edwards want to see area residents bring their power as constituents to bear on the commission.

"Voting power's our leverage," Edwards said. "We can dictate from right here who will be – our next commissioner.

He said he feels commissioners think the district's voters have grown complacent. But, Hester added, it is up to the voters to convince their elected officials otherwise.

"We have to make it known that the days are now gone when the board can appeal to one or two people in our community and think they've gained consensus," he said.

Edwards urged those present to get out and encourage their fellow residents to attend a town hall meeting scheduled for Feb. 21 at Fairview Elementary School. The meeting will be one of the quarterly community forums sponsored by Ga. 60th District (Post 2) Rep. Stan Watson, D-Decatur.

Edwards said he plans to invite county commissioners to the meeting to address residents' concerns.

Watson was present at Saturday's meeting, as was District 60 (Post 1) Rep. Pam Stephenson, D-Atlanta.

"We want to work with you all to ensure that what we are allocated, we actually achieve," Stephenson told the group.

The Rev. Truman Savage also urged his fellow steering committee members to try and secure community participation at the town hall meeting.

"We can do fliers or whatever, but we must get the word out," he said.

Holman said last week that he has been working for months with county planners on the issue of a Fairview library. He said he expects by February to be ready to present "the data on the library needs in District V."