News

Voters weighing in on bigger, newer libraries

By JODY ALLARD

Staff writer

Voters heading to the polls Tuesday will decide the

fate of a $158 million bond that includes an

expansion and a replacement of the two public library branches in

Federal Way.

If Proposition 1 passes, the King County

Library System will issue a series of bonds maturing

within 20 years to generate $158 million for capital

improvements to existing libraries and the

construction of new facilities countywide.

In Federal Way, the Regional Library Branch on First

Way South is slated to begin a $5.6 million upgrade in

2007. Among the planned improvements is a

10,000-square-feet expansion.

The South 320th Street branch, built in 1969, is scheduled

for replacement in 2008. The proposed bonds would fund the

construction at the same location of a new facility that would be 4,000 square feet larger. The cost of the replacement is

estimated at $6 million.

Libraries were selected for improvements based on

community input and staff recommendations.

"This whole plan was designed around meeting the needs

of the growing community," said Julie

Wallace, manager of communications for the countywide library system.

The branch on South 320th was selected for replacement

for two reasons, Wallace said: Its size

is simply not adequate to meet the needs of the

library's patrons, and the cost of maintaining

the building -- one of the library system's oldest --

is more than the cost of building a new facility.

Of primary concern to the branch's patrons are the

close proximity of computer terminals to study and

reading areas.

"We get a lot of people in here every day using

computers and using the library to read and to study, and sometimes

those activities going on at the same time can

interfere with each other," said branch manager John

Sheller.

Concerns over lack of computers and more space to use

them were key points during a November public

meeting the branch held to gain input from its

patrons, officials said.

An insufficient number of public meeting rooms to meet

the growing demand is also a problem, said Sheller.

The financial impact of the bond for King County

homeowners would be relatively slim. Officials

estimate the cost would be approximately 8 cents per $1,000 of assessed

valuation. For instance, the owner of a $200,000 home would pay

approximately $16 per year; a $300,000 home would be

assessed approximately $24 per year.

With the library system struggling to cope with a 40

percent increase in use over the last 10 years,

officials say the bond is necessary to maintain the

services patrons have come to expect.

At the South 320th branch, where the amount of items

checked out increased 7 percent last year alone,

Sheller said that despite the $158 million price tag,

patrons have been "very supportive" of Proposition 1.

Staff writer Jody Allard can be reached at 925-5565

and jallard@fedwaymirror.com

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