Renton library measure now has an explanatory statement

The Renton City Attorney's Office put into play the last piece of a ballot measure allowing Renton residents to decide where they want a new downtown library constructed.

At Monday night's City Council meeting, Zanetta Fontes, senior assistant city attorney, reviewed the 250-word explanatory statement she will submit to the King County Elections Office to meet the May 15 deadline for the Voters Pamphlet.

The Renton City Council was not required to take any action Monday night on the explanatory statement, which only required the approval of City Attorney Larry Warren.  The statement details the issues surrounding the ballot measure for where a new downtown Renton library will be constructed.

The statement that will appear in the Voters Pamphlet explains the cost of each option. The cost to renovate the Cedar River library is $10.1 million. There also would be $400,000 in costs to house the library in another location while the renovation is done.

The proposed new location west of the Piazza is projected to cost $9.3 million. This includes the cost of the land, the old Big 5 Sporting Goods store on South Third Street.

Fontes merged one of her 21 versions of the explanatory statement with one written by Stuart Avery, the spokesperson for Citizens for the Preservation of Renton's Cedar River Library.

The group led the successful effort to get the council to reconsider the location of a downtown library.

Although Avery thanked the council for its efforts to allow the public to vote on the issue, he found fault with some of the sentences in the statement that explain the cost of the two options.

"The beginning of the 250-word statement correctly points out there will be two new Renton libraries, so it should be stated what the budget for the two libraries is, and then how much each of the downtown libraries will likely cost," Avery said in an email. "No need to say, we only planned this much, but now you can spend more if you want. It's all coming out of the same $19,000,000 budget, not a separate budget just for the downtown location."

Phyllis Forister, who favors keeping the library over the river, addressed the council about King County Library System's plans to continue to spend money developing the location west of the Piazza in spite of the upcoming vote.

She called the council's actions throwing "good money after bad" and said they should not be allowed to continue to spend money when the location hasn't been decided.

"And KCLS cannot campaign either just like the city, they are held by the law that says they cannot campaign during these months between now and Aug. 7," Forister said.

Forister and others assume that KCLS is holding the city hostage by threatening a lawsuit if KCLS is not allowed to keep working on the Big 5 location.

Renton City Attorney Larry Warren said that this is not the case and KCLS has not mentioned a lawsuit.

"KCLS has requested that the architectural work proceed as it often costs more to stop and then restart professional service contracts," said Warren in an email. "There is also the element of increased construction costs if the Piazza/Big 5 site is chosen and the design work has been delayed. It's a matter of risk control and KCLS wants to keep design on schedule to control the other risks mentioned."

The vote on the downtown library location is scheduled for Aug. 7.


Here's the text of the explanatory statement:

In 2010, Renton citizens voted to annex to the King County Library System (KCLS). The annexation required Renton to fund and construct two new state of the art libraries to replace Renton's two existing libraries. Initially, the city proposed to locate the new downtown library at the site of the old Big 5 store west of the downtown Piazza and purchased that land. Since then, the Renton City Council decided to conduct a popular vote regarding the location of the new library in downtown. Voters are being asked to choose the location for the new downtown library construction. There are two locations under consideration: The existing library over the Cedar River (100 Mill Ave. So.), and the site West of the Piazza (508 South Third Street). The city has projected it will cost $10,100,000 to substantially renovate the existing Cedar River library to state of the art library standards. There may be an additional $400,000 cost for temporary relocation of the library during that construction. The combined amount exceeds the current budget for the downtown library development. The proposed new downtown location west of the Piazza is projected to cost, including land acquisition, $9,300,000. This is the amount budgeted. If voters choose the site west of the Piazza, the existing library bUilding will be repurposed for future alternative public use. If the Cedar River location is chosen, the site west of the Piazza would be repurposed or sold. Repurposing of either location will require additional undetermined funding.

Here's the wording of the ballot measure:

“After Renton voters chose to join King County Library System (KCLS), Renton contracted with KCLS to provide a state of the art library in downtown Renton. The library will be located at EITHER the existing library location over the Cedar River (100 Mill Ave. South), OR West of the Renton Piazza (508 South 3rd Street). If the Piazza site is chosen, Renton will keep the existing library building for alternative public use in the future.”

Voters are then asked which location they want. The decision is binding.



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