Against the results of public input, financial studies, and the wishes of many of the residents of Winston-Salem, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners voted along partisan lines Thursday to re-purpose the existing Central Library which sits on the outer edge of downtown rather than re-purpose and expand the existing Sheriff’s office in the city center. The two County Commissioners who live in and represent metro Winston-Salem voted for using the Sheriff’s Office site, the remaining Commissioners who represent Camel City’s suburban doughnut voted to re-fit the existing Central Library site which they feel would be the cheapest option. Commissioner Gloria Wisenhunt was the must up front about the vote breaking down along suburban/urban lines citing her wish to protect the funds that have been allocated for satellite libraries in Clemmons and Kernersville.
Republican Commissioners insisted that the City of Winston-Salem was in no financial position nor has the political will to become involved in the Library project- involvement that would be necessary to complete plans at the old Sheriff’s Office.
According to Democratic commissioners Witherspoon and Marshall they have had positive conversations with members of City Council regarding the possibility of city/county cooperation.
County Manager Dudley Watt told the board that he had spoken to City Manager Lee Garrity and was informed that funds were not available at this time and there were no current plans on the table for the City of Winston-Salem to be involved in the Central Library project.
Politically the vote was a continuation of partisan antagonism between the Republican County commission and the Democratic City Government. The vote was also a clear signal that Forsyth County’s suburbs wield far more political power than the urban core where the Sheriff’s Office site won the votes at the public meetings held to inform citizens of the various plans and options for a new library.