Burien City Council Will Face Off With King County Library Tonight

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by Ralph Nichols

Burien City Council members will receive a briefing at tonight’s regular meeting (7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 22) on the King County Library System’s (KCLS) process for siting libraries.

The presentation will be made by Bill Ptacek, director of the King County Library System, and Denise Siers, director of KCLS Public Services.

And odds are good that they will hear an earful during public comments at the beginning of the meeting from North Highline residents – many of whom will become Burien residents on April 1 – concerned about the future of the White Center and Boulevard Park libraries.

The Library Service Area Analysis will also be discussed at the KCLS Board of Trustees monthly meeting at 960 Newport Way NW in Issaquah on Tuesday, Feb. 23, at 5 p.m. The document can be accessed here (as a PDF file).

That meeting will include the trustees’ quarterly public forum, during which library patrons can speak on matters of concern for more than the three minutes usually allowed for each person, and library siting is expected to be a key issue for discussion.

Funding for replacement or expansion of both the White Center and Boulevard Park libraries was part of a bond issue approved by King County voters in 2004, which is paying for new and renovated facilities throughout the KCLS service area.

That bond issue included construction of the new Burien library, which opened last June.

But Ptacek signaled last fall that he might be backing away from what library patrons voted for in 2004, when former King County Executive Kurt Triplett offered to sell Puget Sound Park to the KCLS.

Ptacek indicated at that time that the White Center and Boulevard Park libraries could be closed and consolidated in a new library building at the park site – a preliminary move that generated strong opposition from patrons served by the libraries in both communities.

KCLS Director Bill Ptacek.

Burien City Council members and City Manager Mike Martin strongly objected to a sale of the park because it is located in southern North Highline, which will be annexed by Burien on April 1. New county Executive Dow Constantine agreed and last month announced that Puget Sound Park will be transferred to the city as part of annexation.

Since then, however, the proposed KCLS Library Service Area Analysis has left White Center and Boulevard Park residents still ill at ease about the future of their community libraries.

Rachel Levine, a member of the White Center Library Guild, recently noted that the siting process is based too much on numbers and not enough on people. Her remarks pose a contrast to Ptacek’s statement in his director’s report for Tuesday’s meeting:

“It was a surprise to hear that the City of Seattle plans to pursue the annexation of the North Highline area. This would extend the current City limits all the way to 112th street. If this occurs, the Greenbridge Library would be in Seattle and the Boulevard Park and White Center libraries would be close to the boundary. Obviously this development would have a major impact on the service area analysis KCLS has planned for the area,” he wrote.

“We are meeting with the Burien City Council on February 22 to discuss library services in the North Highline area that will annex to Burien and will use that occasion to present the current draft of the Library Service Area Analysis Policy. KCLS will use that process before taking any action on library services in the area.”

Burien City Councilwoman Lucy Krakowiak, who is also a member of the KCLS Board of Trustees, told the other council members on Feb. 8 that the library board will not be discussing the status of these two libraries until the question of which city, Seattle or Burien, annexes northern North Highline is resolved.

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