Burien City Council Expected To Oppose Latest Move To Consolidate Two Libraries
Burien City Council members are expected to ask King County Library Trustees tonight (Monday, Nov. 28) not to proceed with a proposal to consolidate the White Center and Boulevard Park libraries.
The trustees will have before them once again at their Tuesday Nov. 29 meeting library system Director Bill Ptacek’s plan to replace North Burien’s two neighborhood libraries with a new facility (read more about that here).
In late June, the trustees placed the consolidation matter on hold until they could get more information about a possible annexation by Burien of the North Highline unincorporated area.
Preceding that action, the city council and patrons of the two libraries implored the trustees not to abandon these communities which, they said, depend on those local programs and services.
Since then, Burien has officially begun the annexation process, which could result in the remaining unincorporated area becoming part of the city.
The King County Boundary Review Board will hold a public hearing on Burien’s annexation application in early January.
Even so, Ptacek and his staff appear undeterred.
Ptacek said at a Nov. 17 planning meeting that the library system is reaching a crossroads with the North Burien libraries and needs direction in finalizing the remaining projects in the 2004 Capital Improvement Plan.
“Based on the findings regarding changed local circumstances,” it concludes, “the Board hereby determines that it has become impractical to accomplish the proposed projects at the Boulevard Park and White Center libraries at this time as set forth in the Capital Improvement Plan and orders that the Capital Improvement Plan be revised to replace those two projects with a single project to consolidate the operations of those two libraries into a single, new facility to be located south of the current libraries and between the two communities.”
But, countered Rachael Levine, president of the White Center Library Guild, “the ‘findings of fact’ presented in the Capital Plan Revisions include speculation and broad statements of benefit.
“Phrases such as, ‘If the population does not grow,’ ‘immediately while construction costs are still low,’ ‘adequate distance,’ and ‘significant annual savings,” do not answer the real questions of library services that were promised and are deserved by this community.”
In 2004, patrons of the county-wide library district (excluding Seattle and Renton) approved a capital improvements bond issue that included funding for a new 10,000 square foot White Center Library and improvements to the Boulevard Park Library.
Since 2007, however, Ptacek and his staff have looked for reasons not to move forward with work on the two local libraries.
Should the five-member board of trustees choose to nullify specific terms of the capital improvements bond – and disregard the will of local voters, who repeatedly have said they need the services of their libraries – they could do so by majority of three.
Library trustees are appointed, not elected, and have no direct accountability to the public. Ptacek is even more insulated in his position.
Now 34th District Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, is looking into changing state law to require direct election of library district commissioners, as fire, water and sewer district commissioners already are.
And Burien City Councilwoman Rose Clark is not pleased with the current process in which a library district staff headquartered in Issaquah and a five-member board that usually meets there will make a decision impacting Burien far away from this city.
“In this case the library system has not even held one public meeting in this community,” Clark told The B-Town Blog. “That shows a complete lack of respect for the people of Burien.”
This lack of respect is compounded by the fact that “the people in those communities went door belling to support the bond issue,” she added. Since then, “they’ve been paying taxes for seven years and they’ve gotten nothing.”
Barb Dobkin, president of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, told The B-Town Blog, “It is time for KCLS to be honest with the people of North Highline.”
“In 2004, the residents of North Highline overwhelmingly approved the Capital Improvement Plan proposed by King County Library System. We voted on that plan with the promise to use the taxes collected on the levy to rebuild and enlarge the White Center Library in its current location, and improve the current Boulevard Park Library.”
But, Dobkin noted, “While we have been paying and waiting, KCLS has delayed the investments in our community libraries, while building libraries elsewhere, and is using a possible annexation of the remainder of North Highline to Seattle as a reason for its failure to fulfill the promises it made in 2004.
“The facts are that Seattle has been backing away from annexation while Burien has been moving forward. The Libraries are now in Burien, and Burien believes that KCLS should honor its promise by rebuilding and improving the White Center and Boulevard Park Libraries in the communities they serve.”
Ptacek remains undeterred by local objections to his plan.
“We brought it back to the board hoping the board will make a decision,” Ptacek told The B-Town blog.
“Burien still has to make a final decision on annexation,” and even if they proceed “I don’t expect it to be on the ballot until next year.”
Yet, he continued “this is a good economic climate” for construction. “I’m not sure it will be in the future.”
With consolidation of the White Center and Boulevard Park libraries into a new facility – farther from their neighborhoods yet closer to the downtown Burien library – “I believe we can still provide good service.”
Below is text of the KCLS resolution (download entire PDF here):
KING COUNTY RURAL LIBRARY DISTRICT
BOARD OF TRUSTEES Resolution 2011-06 (Capital Plan Revisions—North Highline Area)
WHEREAS, pursuant to Resolution 2004-03, the Board of Trustees (the “Board”) of the King County Rural Library District d/b/a King County Library System (“KCLS” or the “System”) found it to be in the best interests of the citizens of the System and the patrons of its libraries to undertake a ten-year plan for capital projects at libraries throughout the System (the “Capital Improvement Plan”) to acquire, construct, equip and furnish new library facilities, to renovate, expand and upgrade existing library facilities and to acquire new books, materials and equipment, as described in Exhibit A to Resolution 2004-03, and to undertake other capital improvements throughout the System as determined by the Board (collectively, the “Projects”), and further found it necessary, proper and advisable that the System incur indebtedness, issue not more than $172,000,000 of its general obligation bonds (the “Bonds”) maturing within 20 years, and levy annual excess property taxes to pay and retire the Bonds; and
WHEREAS, Section 3 of Resolution 2004-03 specifically provided that:
If the Board shall determine that it has become impractical to accomplish any of such improvements or portions thereof by reason of local or State circumstances, including, but not limited to, changed conditions or needs, regulatory considerations, incompatible development or costs substantially in excess of those estimated, the System shall not be required to accomplish such improvements and may apply the bond proceeds or any portion thereof to other portions of the improvements, to other capital purposes of the System, or to payment of principal of or interest on the bonds, as the Board may determine by resolution. In the event that the proceeds of sale of the bonds, plus any other money of the System legally available, are insufficient to accomplish all of the capital improvements making up the Projects, the System shall use the available funds for paying the cost of those improvements for which the bonds were approved that are deemed by the Board most necessary and in the best interest of the System; and
WHEREAS, as required by law, the proposition to incur such indebtedness and issue such Bonds for the Projects was approved by the voters of the System at a special election held on September 14, 2004; and
WHEREAS, at the time of their approval, the following projects were included among the Projects in the Capital Improvement Plan:
- Boulevard Park: Essential upkeep and maintenance of the library over the next 10 years.
- White Center Library: A new 10,000-square-foot replacement library on the current site; and
WHEREAS, as described in a memorandum (the “Capital Plan Revisions Memo”), a copy of which is attached as Exhibit A hereto and incorporated by this reference, KCLS staff has advised the Board that the local circumstances supporting the proposed projects at the Boulevard Park and White Center libraries have changed, and has recommended that the two facilities be consolidated into a single, new facility located south of the current libraries and between the two communities; and
WHEREAS, KCLS staff cited a number of factors to support its recommendations, including:
- Impact of the Burien Library
- Distribution of Square Feet per Capita
- Unresolved Annexation Issues
- Changing Nature of Library Services
- Operational Budget Constraints
WHEREAS, the Board Planning Committee carefully considered the Capital Plan Revisions Memo and referred the matter to the entire Board for further consideration;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE BOARD OF THE SYSTEM AS FOLLOWS:
Section 1. Findings. Based on the information presented by KCLS staff in the Capital Plan Revisions memo, the Board hereby makes the following findings regarding changed local circumstances:
(a) Impact of Burien library. Since its opening in 2009, the Burien Library has proven to be a destination library that not only serves the City of Burien, but also the broader North Highline area and draws library users from throughout the area, including South King County and Seattle, demonstrating that a well-located larger library will serve more people. Libraries in the area will need to complement the services at Burien.
(b) Distribution of Square Feet per Capita. After accounting for potential growth in the area, the square feet per 1,000 of population in the North Highline area is notably higher than the System average. In addition, growth trends during the past decade are inconsistent with growth projections for the area. If the population does not grow to the expected level, the disproportionate number of square feet per capita will be intensified.
(c) Unresolved Annexation Issues. Altering the capital plan to pursue an option that is not dependent upon annexation allows KCLS to select a site and plan for a new library immediately while construction costs are favorable. It also allows KCLS to select a new location that provides adequate distance between the North Highline libraries and the Seattle city limits.
(d) Changing Nature of Library Services. KCLS’s Services Strategy positions the System to serve members of the community that are not currently being served within the library buildings. With the new Library2Go outreach vehicles and expansion of online services, KCLS will reach many more patrons who otherwise would not use the library.
(e) Operational Budget Constraints. The economic decline that began in 2008 has impacted KCLS’s revenue stream. Revenue in 2012 will decline for the first time in the history of the System. Operating one consolidated and centrally located library results in significant annual savings in operational costs.
Section 2. Capital Plan Revisions—North Highline Area. Based on the findings regarding changed local circumstances set forth in Section 1, the Board hereby determines that it has become impractical to accomplish the proposed projects at the Boulevard Park and White Center libraries at this time as set forth in the Capital Improvement Plan and orders that the Capital Improvement Plan be revised to replace those two projects with a single project to consolidate the operations of those two libraries into a single, new facility to be located south of the current libraries and between the two communities. The Board further authorizes the application of Bond proceeds to pay all or part of the capital costs of such new library facility.
Section 3. Immediate Effect. This Resolution shall take effect immediately upon its adoption. Adopted this 29th day of November 2011.
- Richard Eadie, President
- Jessica Bonebright
- Rob Spitzer
- Jim Wigfall, Secretary
- Lucy Krakowiak