Opinion

Renton sends strong message about library | Renton Reporter Editorial

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Finally, Renton has spoken loudly and clearly about its library.

While there are still votes to count, the public’s will is to preserve the beloved library over the Cedar River. The lead after the initial results were released Tuesday night is insurmountable.

But in making their wishes known, voters have chosen the difficult path, with a destination still years away. That’s OK. The decision was made with eyes wide open and pretty much every pro and con in play to weigh.

The Renton Reporter supported building a new library at the Piazza; we’re not backing away from that position. The Piazza site still seems to make sense, from a practical standpoint and a financial one. But what really matters is that the public has spoken.

Realistically, however, don’t count out the west Piazza site. The City Council could decide the city can’t afford the extra cost of refurbishing the Cedar library and still choose to build the Piazza library.

Some things have to happen first before the City Council makes any decision:

1. The council must commit to fully funding the new library in the Highlands; it cannot siphon off money from that much-in-demand library to pay for a new or refurbished downtown library. That commitment must come immediately, so the Sunset redevelopment in the Highlands can proceed unimpeded. The new Highlands library is an anchor for that redevelopment.

2. The public deserves clarity from the city, designers and the King County Library System on whether there are environmental hazards under the west Piazza site that would require expensive cleanup. That possibility gained traction in the election campaign.

But why does it matter now to find out whether there are extra costs or more accurate costs for the west Piazza library? It matters because even if the Piazza library is still cheaper, it has lost some of its cost advantage over the Cedar River library. A Cedar River library in a stronger financial position makes saving it a worthwhile policy goal at the expense of other considerations. And, besides, that’s the public’s will.

Still turning will into reality is that difficult path – negotiations between the city and KCLS hopefully will come up with an affordable plan, then there’s a long period of refurbishing. It’s the path the city will have to take.

If that path leads to a refurbished Cedar River library, then – and there’s no argument here – a cultural and historical icon is saved.

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