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Washington County Public Library Director Renae Rountree has proposed the library handle operations for the Sunny Hills Community Center, which County officials are open to.

Rountree made her request to the Washington County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) during a workshop on Thursday, May 9. The assumption of operations would mean the Sunny Hills Public Library and Community Center would be officially referred to in one name.

“I’ve talked with (County Administrator Jeff) Massey about it. I’ve also talked with the state library, AKA the Division of Library and Information Services about it,” Rountree said. “We know that Sunny Hills is growing. We know that we want to offer a higher level of service out in that community.”

The Community Center is one of several that the County has to deal with but would be “just only one of four that I have to deal with,” Rountree said.

If the request officially goes through, the library would handle rentals, cleaning, and other operational duties.

“Nothing is really changing,” Rountree said. “The rental money would come into the library’s budget but I would funnel that back into improvements to that building. It would allow us to apply for library construction dollars for that facility. … We could make it a lot nicer.”

Commissioner Tray Hawkins said he supports Rountree’s request.

Rountree and County Attorney Matt Fuqua will collaborate on details on the operational handover. The matter is expected to be put on the consent agenda for a regular BOCC meeting happening Thursday, May 16, which is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. 

“Sunny Hills has been kind of a weird thing,” Rountree said. “If you had told me eight or nine years ago that I would be here asking for that building, I would have said never because I was worried. I thought at one point we were going to have to close it. Then we had Hurricane Michael and the pandemic and all of the sudden life and the world has really changed a lot and we want to make sure we’re ahead of the curve.”

Rountree also said there is growth happening in the area and the amount of new library cards they are filing “is crazy.”

“People are coming all over and I’m like, how did you find out about Washington County?” Rountree said. “A lot of them are telling us, well, we wanted Bay County but we came to Washington County but we like it better. I’m excited about that. That’s really good. I want to make sure the library is ready as we experience this growth to serve the community that we’re going to have.”

The Community Center can also continue to be a voting precinct, Rountree said.

Other tidbits from the BOCC workshop:

-Commissioner Alan T. Bush was appointed to the canvassing board.

-A vehicle purchase request for the Ag Center/University of Florida Extension Office was made, mainly if people need to travel to the Gainesville campus. The matter was placed on the March 16 agenda for further discussion.

-Trey Barbee was introduced as the new public works director. He began Monday, May 6, and was previously the public works director for the City of Bonifay–which is looking to now fill that vacancy.