Ken Carlson

New Empire library to rise from the ashes of former community center

A fire that ravaged the Empire Community Center in May 2015 was quite an incident.

Firefighters were forced to retreat while fighting the blaze on a Saturday afternoon. As the roof began to collapse, two firefighters were temporarily trapped inside the community center but were able to escape, and no one was injured, according to accounts.

Almost two years later, the association that owned the center has donated the property to Stanislaus County. The site has been cleared and fenced.

The Board of Supervisors accepted the donation Tuesday and approved the concept of moving the Empire branch library to the site at 98 I St. That will put the new library near Empire Community Park and the Regional Water Safety Training Center.

This month, a civil grand jury report offered a mostly glowing review of the Stanislaus County library, but it didn’t mention the sorry condition of the current Empire branch.

The books are housed in a modular building at Yosemite Boulevard and South Abbie Street. Library officials don’t think it is visible enough to the public.

In a report, County Librarian Diane McDonnell wrote that the building has suffered from vandalism. The weathered building has misaligned doors that are hard to open. The carpet is worn out, and staff members don’t always feel safe.

The county is taking possession of property on I Street with an assessed value of $33,000.

Moving the library to a more central location is expected to cost the county $640,000 for a new modular building, landscaping, utilities and parking.

County officials figure it’s worth the expense because the new library site is closer to homes, recreational facilities, schools and businesses in Empire.

Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321