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New library opens in December

The new Jacksonville library, right, is scheduled to open to the public in early December.

Ronnie Budge, Jackson County Library Services director, says the exterior of the building will be completed this month. However, the interior still will be under construction for several more weeks. Organization and placement of the library's reading materials also will take time but cannot begin until all shelving is installed.

The construction of the library was temporarily halted when an abandoned mine shaft was found during the excavation phase of the project. The mine shaft was determined to be from the Depression era and of no historical significance. The tunnel was filled to prevent it from collapsing and the project was quickly back on track. — — — As Jacksonville prepares for new library, the fate of the current site is undecided

JACKSONVILLE ' To sell or not to sell is the question before the City Council.

A new library will be complete by year's end, which means the Bruner Building, the city's current library at Main and Oregon streets, soon will be out of a job.

City Administrator Paul Wyntergreen said the council's Land and Buildings Committee directed him to place the building on the surplus inventory list.

Once on the list, the building could be sold, but there are three conditions of sale, Wyntergreen said. The first is a deed restriction prohibiting the building from being used as an adult book store or sex shop. The second is a requirement that the new buyer have the brick restored by a qualified mason within five years. The third is a dumpster easement to create much needed additional dumpster locations.

Council members Dean Paddison and Donna Schatz were open to the potential sale of the Bruner Building, but said they felt more community response was necessary before making a decision.

I'd like people to give us their input, said Paddison. I don't want the public to feel, 'What happened to the Bruner Building?'

The council will hear comments on the issue at its next meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at 205 W. Main St.

According to Carol Harbison-Samuelson, library manager and photo archivist with the Southern Oregon Historical Society, the building was constructed by J.A. Bruner in 1855. The sturdy brick building with a sod-filled roof reportedly was used for the protection of townspeople during the Rogue Indian Wars.

The Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville's newspaper at the time, reported that the Bruner's 1860 addition made it the largest building in Jackson County. The editor also believed it was the largest building south of Salem.

Originally a general merchandise store, the building also served as a museum before being deeded to the city in 1956 by Leona Ulrich Hanna, wife of retired circuit judge Herbert K. Hanna.

Jacksonville resident Carol Knapp agreed the city had the right to sell the building, but voiced concerns about the fact it was given to the city by the Hanna family to provide Jacksonville with a library.

If property is given to Jacksonville for a specific purpose, I think it's important we not lose sight of that. My concern is it might prohibit future gifts of property, said Knapp.

Knapp asked the council to consider allowing the building to be used by a local senior group as a thrift shop, with a portion of the shop's income set aside for a Friends of the Library fund.

That guarantees the building will be of use to the residents, rather than just for the tourists, said Knapp.

Mayor Jim Lewis said there are no barriers to selling the building if the city chooses to do so.

We did look into the legal restrictions of selling this building, he said. There are none.

The current library is housed in the Bruner Building, built in 1855 as a general merchandise store. The library will be open in December; the old building may be sold by the city. Click the photo to see a larger (44k) version. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven