August 16, 2012 in Washington Voices

Spokane County Library District proposes smaller library

Changes could impact Balfour Park expansion plan; 2013 budget proposal also presented to council
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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The Spokane County Library District’s plan for a new Spokane Valley library has changed, but it’s unclear if the changes will affect a proposed partnership with the city of Spokane Valley to buy land for a new library and expansion of Balfour Park.

The district wants to put a library at Sprague Avenue and Herald Road but can’t afford to purchase the entire eight acres owned by businessman Jack Pring. They proposed purchasing the land with the city, which would allow the city to expand the adjacent park. The original plan was for a 50,000-square-foot, two-story library on the site, but new plans call for a 30,000-square-foot, one-story building instead.

Library district director Nancy Ledeboer told the council Tuesday she’s heard concerns that a smaller library might not be big enough or enough of a draw to revitalize the area. The new plans also move the community outreach and IT departments from the new building, which will free up 10,000 square feet of space, she said. Having a one-story facility will also eliminate the square footage required for stairs and elevators. “One floor is much more flexible and open,” she said.

The library will still attract families, and small meeting rooms could be used for business meetings, she said. The new proposal also includes a 100-seat meeting room instead of a 200-seat auditorium. An auditorium would have fixed seating, limiting its uses, Ledeboer said. A large meeting room could be configured in a variety of ways and used for more things, she said.

“The modern library is much more like a community center,” she said. “It’s not just a warehouse for books.”

Right now the district is considering keeping the current Spokane Valley library branch to use as a service center and to store older books or multiple copies of newer books.

Councilman Arne Woodard said he approved of having an open floor plan. “I certainly like that concept,” he said.

The district’s new plan also increases the size of the proposed new libraries on Conklin Road and in south Spokane Valley from 12,000 square feet each to 15,000 square feet each. Any construction depends on the library district passing a bond, likely in 2015.

Mayor Tom Towey said the council should take a step back before moving forward with the library district partnership. The updated information is different than the original proposal, he said. “We based our decision on that information,” he said. “It was 50,000 (square feet).”

In other business, the council heard a report on the proposed 2013 budget. It includes a 1 percent property tax increase and estimates that sales tax revenue will increase by $890,000, said finance director Mark Calhoun.

The proposed budget includes $2 million for street preservation, which is well short of the estimated $10 million annual funding shortfall. This would be accomplished by transferring money from several other funds, including $855,000 from the general fund and $616,000 from the civic facilities replacement fund.

The facilities replacement fund currently holds $2.4 million set aside for the eventual replacement of CenterPlace. The Parks and Recreation Department has deposited more than $300,000 into the fund every year. The proposed 2013 budget not only pulls $616,000 out for street preservation but has also eliminated the annual deposit from the parks department, dropping the fund to $1.7 million.

Councilman Ben Wick said he was happy to see money earmarked for street preservation but has concerns about where the money would come from in the future. “How long can we maintain that level?” he said. “At some point we’re not going to be able to do that anymore.”

The city needs a plan for street preservation, said councilman Chuck Hafner. “We have to have a sustainable amount of money going into that every year,” he said.

The council also unanimously approved the Shoreline Master Program draft goals and policies and voted unanimously to approve a settlement with Spokane County related to its law enforcement and jail contracts. The city and Spokane County have had billing disputes for years – the city maintained it was overcharged in some areas while Spokane County contended the city owed money.

A new contract was negotiated in 2010 which solved the ongoing issue, but there was still discussion about who owed how much to whom. The settlement agreement approved by the council states that both governments will relinquish their claims and no money will change hands.

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