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Wednesday, November 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Valley is pushing Spokane County Library District toward another bond

An estimated 10,000 children participated in reading or story time at Spokane Valley Libraries. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
An estimated 10,000 children participated in reading or story time at Spokane Valley Libraries. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The Spokane Valley Library bond rejected twice by voters has gained some new momentum.

Spokane Valley city councilman Ed Pace has changed his opinion on the project.

Pace was a vocal opponent when the Spokane County Library District tried to pass a $22 million bond.

“I hope we can be aggressively pursuing grants and corporate sponsorships and private donations to help fund this,” Pace told an almost full city council chambers on Tuesday evening.

The city and the library district have been working together for a year, trying to broker a deal that will make the library district confident enough in the city’s support so it will try for another bond.

This proposal would commit the City of Spokane Valley to a $1.3 million investment in a joint library project with the district that operates libraries in Spokane Valley.

The city’s proposed financial commitment includes $839,285 the library district paid the city for land on Sprague Avenue, which would put the library across the street from the new city hall.

That land deal closed five years ago and included a provision that the city would buy the land back if the library district couldn’t pass a bond for a new facility.

The city has held on to that money but would need to allocate an additional $461,000 to make it to $1.3 million.

The buy-back provision expires on Oct. 31 and City Attorney Cary Driskell said the amended inter-local agreement would extend that expiration date for five years and make it possible for the library to get yet another two year extension if needed.

The library district would also invest $1.3 million in the project, a sum that includes the money it already paid the city for the Sprague property and for another piece of property for a second, smaller library.

The bond had support from more than 50 percent of voters both times, but needed a super majority to pass.

Driskell said city staff has offered to help the library district come up with a smaller and cheaper building to lower the bond amount.

Eight Spokane Valley residents testified in support of the library, including Principal of Barker High School, Kamiel Youseph.

He said that a new library facility is incredibly important to students who don’t have access to internet and other technology at home.

M.J. Bolt pleaded with the council to please vote yes.

“We have more than 800 homeless students in Spokane Valley schools,” Bolt said, “and more than 40 percent of Valley households make less than $40,000 a year. We need this resource.”

Others asked the city council to please develop the land, which is one of few larger open lots left within city limits.

“We lost an opportunity at Painted Hills Golf Course which will now be developed,” Jaclyn Gallion said. “Please don’t let this land go.”

When it came down to a vote, Councilman Caleb Collier was the only no vote.

“Property taxes are death by a thousand cuts and if we pass this we are doing it to ourselves,” Collier said.

The bond would have cost property owners 11 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value – about $22 for a $200,000 home – every year for 20 years, and required voters approval of a capital facilities district.

Jane Baker, Spokeswoman for the Spokane County Library District, said prior to the meeting that the district board of trustees will be willing to look at the city’s proposal.

“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” Baker said. “When it’s passed, the board will look at the city’s proposal again.”

Last year, the library district made it clear it was done trying to float a bond because the process is expensive and time consuming.

The district said it would listen to voters and make do with a few renovations of its existing buildings.

Driskell said Tuesday evening that more public meetings and presentations will be scheduled, but probably not until September when city staff and council has moved into the new city hall.

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