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ASHEVILLE - Buncombe commissioners have awarded an engineering contract for the long-awaited redevelopment of East Asheville Library in an amount that exceeds the agreed upon budget by nearly $1.2 million.

The board at its Dec. 17 meeting voted unanimously to increase the original budget from $5.8 million to $6.98 million and awarded the contract to James R. Vannoy Construction.

Dozens of people showed up, books in hand, to show their support for the project. 

Buncombe County Library Director Jim Blanton told the board some aesthetic upgrades to the design will help draw people to the library and offer "a source of community pride."

"Our library buildings need to be inspiring," Blanton said. "They need to be a place where people come and experience joy and delight and are inspired to learn and be a part of this space."

Vannoy Construction is a commercial general contractor covering the southeast region, according to the company's website. It started out as a roofing company in Jefferson in 1952 and now has offices in several North and South Carolina cities, including Asheville.

A project many years in the making

Commissioners previously approved a $1.8 million increase in the library project's budget in November 2018, moving forward with an approximately 14,000-square-foot new design of the city-owned library at its current Tunnel Road location.

The East Asheville library will close Dec. 28 in preparation for construction. The target for opening the new space is 2021, according to a Dec. 20 county release. Materials checked out of East Asheville can be returned to any other library.

Improvements to the East Asheville library — which has the fifth-highest circulation of the county's 13 branches — have been listed among county capital requests since 2002, but it has lost out to other high-dollar capital projects. Buncombe has had operating control of the system since the early 1980s. The county owns nine of the 13 branches it operates.

Supporters of the more than 50-year-old East Asheville library branch have called for various improvements or an expansion of the facility in recent years, most often characterizing it as too small or otherwise inadequate for community needs.

More on the East Asheville Library project: 

In March, Blanton called the redevelopment project "really exciting." He said the completed East Asheville facility will be the county's second-largest — after downtown's Pack Library — and will provide a number of amenities the current facility does not.

He specifically singled out the new facility's "ample" meeting space, a dedicated teen and children's area, and bathrooms — the current library restrooms are housed in a separate facility.

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