A New Twist to the Panama City Library Debate

The downtown library in Panama City could be moving in the next couple of years. The potential move doesn't mean the library would necessary leave the downtown area.

For months, the Bay County Commission has been thinking about ways to pay for renovating the downtown library. Now, Panama City Mayor Gerry Clemons wants to step in and buy the library building and turn it into office space for the city.

Right now Clemons says no specifics like price have been talked about.

“Our staff at City Hall says that they could use the building, pull some various functions in that are scattered around the town."

Clemons says one stumbling block to the deal could be the county's lease with the city about the library property is up in eight years.

"I'm sure one of the first thing's I'm going to hear from my fellow commissioners is our lease runs out in 2013, in just eight years, and then we'd own the building anyway, but we could use the building now and certainly the county could use the money to help them build a new library."

Also helping could be a half-million dollar grant from the state for a new library. If the deal happens, there's a potential the library could be moved from downtown.

The mayor thinks downtown is the best option for a new library, but he would be open to other locations.

"I would prefer to have it downtown, but I think a new library, a brand new 60,000 square foot library someplace else is better than an old, worn out library downtown."

In order to take advantage of the state grant, county leaders would have to move on building a new library before the end of the year.

City staff estimates the library building would need about half-a-million dollars in repairs and upgrades before it could be used for office space.