Group asks to use closed library

ALBANY, Ga. -- A group headed by psychologist/educator/author Dr. Lillian Rambeau and Bishop Jimmy Sneed with the Rivers of Living Water Church International asked the Dougherty County Commission Monday for permission to use the closed Southside Library branch as a base for its ExPand program that, among other things, provides support for early enrolled online college students.

Rambeau said her daughter, Jayda Robinson, who wrote the book "Jayda Robinson's 20 Reasons Not to Have Sex Before Marriage" at age 13, had taken advantage of early college opportunities while an honor student at Albany High School, and ExPand will provide those same opportunities for other motivated high school students.

"There's a great gap from high school to college, from where students turn their work in and get feedback from teachers to turning work in and getting whatever they get," Rambeau said. "The ExPand program prepares students for that gap, helps them to set foot on college campuses ready to make better choices."

Rambeau told commissioners the program will be funded by the state's HOPE scholarship program and through community organizations. She said there would be no cost to taxpayers.

"This is a program that will give something back to the community," Sneed said. "It's like screwing a light bulb into an empty socket. Our program would take nothing from the Dougherty County schools, and there would need to be no structural changes (at the library facility)."

Sneed also said maintenance and utilities at the library facility would be paid for by the project.

"For the early college students, who are among the top 5 percent of the students in the four local high schools, the program will help them make the transition from high school to college and to obtain their degrees earlier," Rambeau said. "But as a part of the ExPand program, we also have an ExTend element that will provide tutoring on the K-12 level.

"We also will provide Saturday mentoring and tutoring that will help students prepare for the SAT, ACT and end-of-course testing that trips up a lot of students. The ExTend element will provide K-12 tutoring from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. During that time, computers will be available for the general public. That meets another community need that the library closure created."

Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard noted that five groups or individuals -- Debby Sapp with Families of Albany Area Home Schools, Bridgette Mack with Family Empowerment Community Center, Bill Cooper with the Georgia Department of Transportation, Lori Thomas with a local ministry and Sandy Bamford with Family Literacy Connection -- had made contact with county officials about possible purchase, lease or use of the Southside facility.

"We're very impressed with what we've seen here today," Sinyard said. "What we need to do now is process these requests, look at what best serves our community. I'm going to ask (County Administrator) Mr. (Richard) Crowdis to start the process as soon as possible."

Rambeau and Sneed said they were prepared to move forward with the ExPand program as soon as possible and would like to have it in place before the start of the 2013-2014 school year on Aug. 14.

Also at Monday's meeting, the commission approved an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Albany to accept the 2013 Byrne Justice Assistance Grant. The county will receive 20 percent of the funding from the grant, which is used by law enforcement agencies to purchase needed equipment or supplies.

"While it's true our portion of the grant is not a huge sum of money when you look at our overall budget, it has allowed us to purchase a number of needed items without the taxpayers having to foot the bill," Dougherty County Sheriff's Office Jail Director Col. John Ostrander said. "We've used the grant over the years to purchase items like Tasers, metal detectors, somputers and other security features."