News

Library's defenders turn up the volume

By PHILIP PALERMO

The Mirror

Typically, library goers are encouraged to keep their conversations quiet. Supporters of the South 320th Library branch, however, made sure their voices were heard loud and clear Tuesday.

More than 50 people attended the Federal Way City Council meeting to hear a presentation from King County Library Systems director Bill Ptacek.

His remarks centered on a controversial proposal to relocate the branch to a site just east of Sound Transit's new transit center near South 316th Street in the downtown area.

Ptacek said the relocation is still just one of several possibilities.

"I think the library system is interested in what is the best thing to do," he said, acknowledging what he called the "impassioned" response from citizens.

While the library system's board will ultimately make the decision whether to relocate, Ptacek asked the council to weigh in on the matter, saying the board takes the opinions of mayors and councils seriously when making decisions about libraries in their cities.

"We're the expert on libraries," he said. "You're the experts on Federal Way."

Councilman Eric Faison asked Ptacek about flyers made available to South 320th Library users before a 2004 countywide library system bond election. The flyers stated that, if approved, the bond would fund a renovation of the branch at its current location.

Ptacek said there is no question the flyer stated renovations would happen at the existing site, but added there is also no question the full text of the bond allows for plans to change if the need arises.

According to the bond text, the Library Board isn't required to accomplish improvements should they be deemed impractical for reasons such as changed conditions, higher-than-estimated costs or regulatory considerations.

The board, Ptacek said, is still trying to determine whether a relocation would be worth changing the plans they described in the flyer.

"The (library system) is very, very committed to what it said it was going to do" and "hasn't made any decisions on this yet," he said.

During the council meeting, more than 20 people took to the podium or submitted written statements decrying the possible relocation. Some said they saw the discrepancy between the flyer and the full bond text as a bait-and-switch tactic.

"That is false advertising," Luraine MacCleod claimed.

Others said Federal Way residents were baited into voting for the bond by the flyer stating the branch would stay put.

"A library system is a guardian of words," Radhika Kumar said, adding she hoped the system would be held to its own words.

H. David Kaplan said petitions to keep the branch at its current site include at least 700 signatures.

Several residents said a move into the downtown core, near the transit center that opened in February, would also endanger the the lives of children who can walk or ride their bicycles to the current location.

"It would be a nightmare," MacCleod said.

Supporters of the library's current location said they hope the board listens to what they've been saying.

"You have a golden opportunity to redeem yourself in the eyes of the public," MacCleod said.

Staff writer Philip Palermo: 925-5565, ppalermo@fedwaymirror.com

More debate to come

King County Library System officials will host another public meeting on the proposal to move the South 320th Street library April 12 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Federal Way City Hall. The main points include:

• A $172 million bond approved by voters countywide in 2004 called for tearing down and rebuilding the library branch at its current location. Officials now are suggesting building it near the Federal Way Transit Center that was opened downtown by Sound Transit in February, saying that location would be more central for more users. The project would cost an estimated $6 million and start in 2011.

• Opponents of a relocation say the current site, which is about a mile from where it would be moved, is accessible to a sufficent number of users and better for pedestrians and children. Foes also say the library system is trying to go back on its original plan proposed to voters.

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