Renton City Council moves ahead with new libraries in downtown, Highlands
By TRACEY COMPTON
Renton Reporter Staff writer
June 21, 2011 · Updated 5:53 PM
The Renton City Council Monday night voted to build two new Renton libraries, one near the Renton Transit Center and the other in the Highlands.
Also in a 4-3 vote the council decided to move forward with issuing the sale of $18 million in bonds to pay for the libraries.
Voting to move forward with building the new libraries were council President Terri Briere and council members Rich Zwicker, King Parker and Don Persson. Voting no were council members Greg Taylor, Randy Corman and Marcie Palmer.
Taylor made a last-ditch effort to get the council to delay its vote again on an agreement with the King County Library System in order to get more community input. But the effort failed, with council members Corman and Palmer voting with Taylor.
Briere, Zwicker, Parker and Persson indicated in comments that they did not see the need to get additional feedback from the community.
Briere reminded the council in the Committee of the Whole meeting before the regular meeting that the process started in April and she thought they had done a fair job of getting public feedback.
Alex Pietsch, administrator of the city's Department of Community and Economic Development, made a presentation at the start of the meeting about the process to develop the new libraries.
The council has been reviewing whether to issue the bonds since April. The City Council decided in July 2009 to place on the ballot the annexation of Renton to the King County Library System. Voters approved the annexation in February 2010.
Taylor said he favored using the bond to pay for construction of the Highlands library. But he hoped the council would recognize the many phone calls, e-mails and personal meetings members have had with the community expressing opposition to relocating the current library to the former Big 5 site near the transit center.
Parker said he thought the "stars are aligned" in the finance package available to the city, in the need to revitalize the downtown core and in the availability of prime real estate in the Big 5 site.
Corman, who spoke in favor of Taylor's move, said that 90 to 95 percent of the public is opposed to relocating the current downtown library, just based on the public comment they hear in council chambers alone. Corman was reluctant to move forward until more investigation was done to see if there is a silent majority in favor of the library relocation.
Zwicker wanted clarification on Corman's 95 percent, saying he's talked to just as many people, weighed all the opinions and felt he could make up his mind. Zwicker didn't want to delay the vote and base his decision on an online poll.
Taylor found fault with Zwicker reducing resident's opinion to just saying it's a poll. Taylor did not want the council to get hung up on the tool; he just wanted credible information, he said.
Palmer said she was aware of the public's affinity for the downtown library based on a master plan that was done years ago, which ranked the library high on the public's list of importance to the city. Palmer sees two library camps. One camp is people who actually use the downtown library who are unhappy with the relocation idea. The other one is people who see the library as an economic driver, but don't use it, who support the relocation.
Persson wanted it noted that no matter what happened with the council's vote, the building would remain in the city's ownership to clarify some lingering confusion out there.
In the end the four yes votes allowed the city to move forward with the agreement that clarifies the roles and responsibilities of KCLS and the city and to issue the 10-year bonds to pay for the libraries.
A moderate crowd turned out, filled with those that opposed moving the library from over the Cedar River to the former Big 5 site and others who supported it.
"You worked very hard at making something happen that shouldn't have happened," said Phyllis Forister of Renton during the final public comment session of the regular council meeting. "Your ability to think outside the City Hall box is too small."
Forister is running against Persson for his seat in the Aug. 16 primary.
Next KCLS will finalize contracts with THA Architecture and Miller Hull firms selected to do the Highlands and downtown libraries respectively and they will begin the design process for both locations.
Contact Renton Reporter Staff writer Tracey Compton at email@example.com or 425-255-3484, ext. 5052.