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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion

Valley may have library solution

The Spokesman-Review

When Spokane Valley voters approved incorporation as a city in 2002, it was inevitable that the change would ruffle the patchwork of service-delivery systems in Spokane County.

As long as the Spokane Valley was not a separate governmental entity, its residents received numerous local-government services from the county and others from various special-purpose districts. Becoming a city meant the end of relationships that previously provided the area with the likes of law enforcement, fire protection and library services. Replacements had to be arranged – often with the same providers but now under separate contracts.

The transition isn’t as simple as it sounds. Working out a deal for library services with the Spokane County Library District last fall was so tenuous that district officials feared they might have to close a branch if they couldn’t reach agreement. An overflow crowd turned out for a City Council meeting in December and broke into cheers when a council member moved for approval of the 2005 contract.

The uncertainty of having to negotiate and renegotiate service agreements is one of the tradeoffs Spokane Valley made in return for its municipal independence. As long as services are in place, patrons check out books and return them, use computers and avail themselves of the same array of library services at the 10 district branches pretty much as before.

But at the administrative level, there’s that annoying need to hammer out details of a mutually agreeable deal with the library district. That’s when the public’s anxiety flares.

Now, the Spokane Valley City Council is considering a reasonable solution. They are expected to schedule a May election at which residents could vote for annexation to the library district. That would put them back in the situation that existed before incorporation, at least for library services. They would be tax-paying patrons of the district, and the young city would no longer be a middleman.

Procedural rules prevented the council from ordering the election this week, but they need to follow through promptly. Residents of the city deserve reliable library services. If they want suspense, let them find it in a good novel, not a City Council meeting.

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