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Renton City Council approves 19,500-square-foot library over the Cedar; watch the meeting, read documents: UPDATE

A drawing for a 19,500-square-foot library over the Cedar River was shown at Monday
A drawing for a 19,500-square-foot library over the Cedar River was shown at Monday's Renton City Council meeting.
— image credit: King County Library System

Ending months of debate, the Renton City Council voted Monday night to move forward with a 19,500-square-foot library over the Cedar River.

The schematic drawings the City Council accepted from the King County Library System and its architects also include a new entrance at the library's southeast corner, which will include a small plaza.

The council asked KCLS to consider adding another doorway in the entryway that would more directly connect the library to Liberty Park via the pedestrian bridge over the river.

The budget for downtown library construction was set at $10.4 million. That's about $1.5 million more than currently budgeted for the project, so the city will look at ways to raise that additional money. Options include extending the debt year by one year to 2022 for the bonds used to build the library, or finding money within the existing city budget by changing priorities.

Those bonds also pay for the new library in the Highlands.

The City Council also decided to hire an independent auditor to review the preliminary project budget and audit construction costs, one of the requests of the citizens group, Save the Cedar River Library . . . Again.

The City Council's decision allows KCLS to move forward with design work.

"The schematic is the design intent of the project," said Bill Ptacek, the KCLS director, which the council had in hand to review before making its decision.

"There's a lot more work to be done and blanks to be filled in," Ptacek said in an interview. But now KCLS and its architect can move to the design development phase which will lead to the documents necessary to apply for building permits, he said.

Ptacek said he's comfortable with an audit of the project, which he said has been done in other cities.

He pointed out that the KCLS process follows public works rules and regulations established by the state of Washington, including contingencies, the amount of money allocated for budget line items, contracts and how consultants are reimbursed.

The council's voice vote came after a lengthy public comment period for the large audience that allowed for some interaction with council members. Council President Randy Corman wanted to give everyone a chance to speak before a vote was taken.

Councilmember Greg Taylor voted against the schematic drawing, indicating he wanted more time to review all the documents that were emailed to council members last Friday.

Audience members questioned whether the schematic drawings met the requirement for completeness that's in an interlocal agreement between the City of Renton and KCLS. Jay Covington, the city's chief administrative officer, told the council the administration is sure the drawings meet the requirement.

The council, however, wanted to hear from the city attorney about whether the obligation was met. The council voted for the schematic drawings after the executive session. The council met in executive session, rather than in open session as suggested by Corman, because of the possibility for litigation.

A 19,500-square-foot library generally met with the approval of the members of the citizens group. There was still some disappointment in the new design for the entryway.

"You did not guarantee that that entrance will be saved," said Richard Bray, a group member.

He said the community didn't get the worst-case scenario, but he doesn't think the city got "the best-case scenario, either."

The Renton Reporter is continuing to work on details of this story.

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