Opinion

Council deserves applause for acting on resident concerns about library remodel

This is a letter to publically thank the Mercer Island City council for stepping up to the plate and being a role model of community governance on the issue of the proposed remodel by the King County Library System (KCLS).

The facts are these:

  1. The 2004 Bond issue that was raised by KCLS to renovate the libraries for which it is responsible stipulated $730,000 for “essential maintenance and upkeep, access to more books and materials and an automated materials handling system to speed delivery and reduce theft”.

  2. What Mercer Island residents received was a $3,400,000 complete remodel of the library that does not include the automated materials handling system but that drastically changes the design which the community originally created through a collaborative design process. Moreover it portends a closure of the library for up to a year without a suitable substitute facility. Residents believe that KCLS appears to be not only poor stewards of the taxpayer dollar, spending money just because they have it, but tone deaf when it comes to community objections, declaring that KCLS is in charge and KCLS know best, a complete contradiction of the process by which the Library was originally designed.

  3. City Council Members Bertlan, Grausz, and Wong attended a KCLS meeting on January 7 where the new design was presented to the community. It would be difficult, and contrary to the affirmations of such comments by KCLS Design Coordinator Ralph, to find anyone besides the KCLS staff and contracted architect, who were not stunned by the proposal. Wholesale gutting of the Library for what seems to residents little improved margin of improvement.

  4. Two members of the Concerned Citizens Regarding the Remodeling of the Mercer Island Library were invited to the city council retreat on Friday night at the community center to hear a KCLS presentation to the city council regarding the remodel. Other members of the Concern Citizens Regarding the Remodel of the Mercer Island library were also in attendance.

  5. The city council voiced its concern regarding the process by which the present design was created and asked KCLS for a 90-day delay while it appointed an advisory committee to take the issue under active study. The answer was that the City Council would have to take that up with the KCLS Board of Trustees this coming Wednesday, January 29th. KCLS reported they had followed its process and for them it was a done deal, citizens and city council objections notwithstanding.

When I say that City Council has been a role model for community governance I point to the following actions. First they became involved and personally attended the January 7th meeting. Second, they responded to resident’s concerns regarding, what most residents perceived to be as a train wreck waiting to happen, by scheduling a hearing on the issue with Mercer Island Residents as part of the City Council agenda on January 14th. Third, they included two residents at a meeting with KCLS at the City Council’s weekend retreat on January 24th. Fourth, the City Council explored, and supported residents’ concerns at this meeting and subsequently made their concerns known in a letter to the KCLS Board of Trustees to be considered at their Board meeting on Wednesday January 29th. In it City Council asks for a delay in construction so that citizens can actively be involved in the design process as they were with the present library.

Thank you Mercer Island City Council for your Leadership of our community.

All residents are invited to the KCLS Board of Trustees meeting on January 29 at the Bellevue library at 5:00 PM and each resident that would like can make a 3-minute presentation.

 

Gary D. Robinson

 

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