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Hawkins shoots down Fletcher library request

Henderson County commissioners appear unlikely to pay for a new library in Fletcher despite a new letter by the Henderson County Library Board of Trustees supporting the idea.

Gayle Kemp, the Democratic nominee for the state House District 117 seat in 2018, at last week's Board of Commissioners meeting read a letter from the library board requesting the county's support for the project, saying Fletcher's library is busy but inadequate.

Grady Hawkins, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, told Kemp that he had read the minutes of the January library board meeting and found no reference to the discussion.
"So there must be some miscommunication there," he said. "However, in the past this board has had a policy of not building libraries in incorporated areas that have taxing authority. The town of Mills River taxed and built their own library so you can see how difficult a policy it would be if the board decided to build libraries in Fletcher and also in Laurel Park and any of the other incorporated areas and we’ve communicated that numerous times to the council out in Fletcher. I don’t see any change in that policy. Certainly if they want a library in Fletcher they have the capability of taxing their people and building it.”
Kemp responded that as a taxpayer in both Fletcher and Henderson County, she was advocating for a branch library to serve all of northern Henderson County, whether it’s in Fletcher or not.

The library board's letter asked that the Board of Commissioners to consider supporting a "joint venture between the county and town of Fletcher" to build a new library. The Fletcher Town Council has offered land next to its town hall for the project and repeatedly made the request for county funding. The existing Fletcher branch off U.S. 25 is the busiest branch outside the main library in Hendersonville and operates in a deterioriating 31-year-old building. The branch draws 80,000 visits a year, circulates 85,000 books and other materials and last year held 360 classes, with attendance up by 45 percent, Kemp said.

The conflict over the Fletcher library has been simmering for at least five years. In 2015, commissioners told Fletcher officials that the county is willing to operate a library that a town builds, as it has done in Mills River, which built a library branch as part of its town hall after it incorporated.

"This board would be happy to maintain and operate that facility should they desire to build it," then chair Tommy Thompson said in a meeting in January 2015. The county commissioners' action five years ago came after an earlier board discussion showing that the incorporations of Flat Rock, Mills River and Fletcher — all less than 25 years old — had shifted $24 million in sales tax from the county to the cities from 2004 to 2014. Fletcher during that period has received $11.2 million. Fletcher incorporated in 1989, Flat Rock in 1995 and Mills River in 2003.