Washington County Library applies for grants to expand and update Vernon and Chipley branches

A rendering shows tentative plans for the expansion project of the Washington County Public Library Chipley Branch. [CONTRIBUTED]

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Expansion and updates could be coming to the Chipley and Vernon branches of the Washington County Public Library system in the form of two grants.

The first grant is federal funds that are administered through the State of Florida Office of Broadband.The request is for $4 million, with the option to apply for $2 million more should it be needed to complete the project. 

With $86 million in funds available for the entire state, Washington County Library Director Renae Rountree said this shows the importance of library services.

“These funds are moving libraries in a forward direction,†Rountree said. “This just proves libraries are more relevant than ever before.â€

Should the grant be awarded, the Chipley Branch will be expanded by 6,400 square feet. Of that, 2,600 square feet will be added to the west side of the existing structure for a multi-purpose space and the remaining 3,800 square feet will be used to expand the east side of the building for additional children’s space and on the north side to allow for staff and storage space.

The grant awards will be announced in January. Should Washington County be awarded, the entire project will have a required completion date of December 31, 2026.

The second grant is through the State of Florida Public Library Construction grant program for $500,000. If awarded, the funds will be used to remodel the Sam Mitchell Public Library in Vernon. 

The location has not been updated since it was built in 1992, according to Rountree.

“Having a facility built in 1992 means it is not as accessible as we would like,†Rountree said. “We will be able to fix those issues and make the space more user friendly.â€

The plans for updating include updating the program space to make it larger, having much needed repairs made and making the facility more accessible to all.

The awards for this grant will be made in March.

“We are excited to be able to improve our library facilities,†Rountree said. “With these expansions and updates, we will be better able to serve our community for many years to come.â€