January 12, 2012 in Washington Voices

Spokane Valley mulls library land deal

Parcel could be divided to build new branch, expand Valley park
By The Spokesman-Review
 

The Spokane County Library District is proposing that the city of Spokane Valley join it in purchasing 8 acres of land to be split between the two entities. The district would build a new library on its half and the city could use its half to expand a nearby park.

The Spokane Valley City Council seemed receptive to the idea Tuesday. The district’s 20 year plan calls for a new, larger Spokane Valley branch to replace the one on Main Avenue, said district board of trustees chairman Tim Hattenburg. Plans call for a new building with 50,000 square feet that would include a 200 seat auditorium, two conference rooms and five quiet study rooms. The current Spokane Valley branch is too small and doesn’t have enough books, comfortable seating or computers, he said.

The new branch, plus other new libraries and remodeling projects across the district, would be paid for by a $50 million bond the district plans to put on the ballot in 2015 or so, Hattenburg said. The new Spokane Valley branch is expected to account for half of the money raised in the bond.

The district researched 19 different sites for the new branch that were narrowed to the top four. Vacant land at Sprague Avenue and Herald Road next to Balfour Park is the best of the four, he said. “The location meets our site criteria,” he said. “However, we only need the west half of the property.”

The property is owned by the Pring Corporation. Hattenburg said the property owner has said he will only sell the entire 8 acres and won’t consider the use of financing. The asking price for the property was not mentioned during Tuesday’s discussion. The eight acres includes two parcels, both of which are valued at about $780,000 by the Spokane County Assessor’s Office.

Jack Pring of Pring Corporation has donated hundreds of dollars to the election campaigns of every current council member except Ben Wick, which Councilman Dean Grafos touched on. “For disclosure, I’d like to say Jack Pring did donate to my campaign, but I haven’t bought a car from him yet,” Grafos said.

Mayor Tom Towey said the city is starting work on updating its parks master plan and that might be a good time to discuss purchasing the property. “We can certainly begin a dialogue,” he said.

Councilman Chuck Hafner said he thought the city should move faster than that. “I think we have to go while the iron is hot,” he said.

Balfour Park is undersized and having more land there could provide an area for car shows, said councilman Arne Woodard. “This is our downtown central park area, at least if we have the foresight and guts to do something about it.”

“I think this is great,” Grafos said. “I don’t see why this wouldn’t kick start that whole area.”

Councilman Ben Wick, taking part in his first meeting after being sworn in, was the only person to sound a note of caution. “Is it the best win on our side?” he said. “This is a great solution, but maybe there’s a better one out there.”

“I think at this point we can just do our due diligence,” said council woman Brenda Grassel. “It’s certainly an attractive possibility.”

“We don’t even know how much money we’re talking about here,” Wick said. “We should take some time and really look at this.”

The council agreed to have city staff gather more information on the proposal so it could be discussed at the council’s winter retreat on Feb. 7.

In other business, the council heard a report on the proposed renewal of the city’s park maintenance contract with Senske Lawn and Tree Care. The contract was put out to bid in 2010 and awarded to Senske for one year with six annual renewal options, said Parks and Recreation Department director Mike Stone.

Senske provides all the employees, equipment and materials to maintain the parks, Stone said. The proposal calls for a 1 percent increase to the contract, plus an additional $8,300 to maintain the new picnic shelter in Terrace View Park and nearly $60,000 to maintain the new Greenacres Park after it opens in June.

Senske has been doing an excellent job and sometimes sends crews to a park multiple times a day to make sure everything is in good shape, Stone said. The city has received very few complaints about Senske’s work. “We have a good partnership,” he said. “It’s a contract we monitor all the time.”

The council will vote on the contract renewal later this month.


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