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Renton to Explore Options for Public Participation in Library Site Selection Process

April 3, 2012

For more information contact:
Jay Covington,
Chief Administrative Officer, 425-430-6500
Kelley Balcomb-Bartok, Communication Specialist, 425-430-6522; cell # 206-498-5001

RENTON – The Renton City Council voted Monday, April 2, 2012, by a 4-3 margin, to decline to place an initiative petition on the ballot. The petition would require that any improvements for a downtown library must occur at the existing library location and not at any other location, unless the alternative proposed location for a downtown library is approved by a simple majority vote of Renton voters.

“The council took action last night to address a citizen petition that is invalid due to a number of legal requirements, and fails to address contractual agreements that we’ve had in place for some time,” said Mayor Denis Law. “Nonetheless, a good number of Renton citizens have expressed their desire to have an opportunity to vote on where the downtown library will be located, and it’s never been the intent of the council to ignore public opinion. We’re going to explore some options with the council to see if we can meet our obligations while also providing our residents with an opportunity to vote on the issue.”

In February 2010, Renton voters approved the annexation to the King County Library System (KCLS). A condition of that annexation included the construction by Renton of “replacement facilities for both the Main and Highlands Libraries on other properties within the city…” Subsequent to the annexation, the city completed site selection analyses for both the Highlands and Downtown library, and in May 2011 issued $18 million in bonds to finance the construction of both libraries.

In July 2011, the city and KCLS entered into a new agreement that obligated the city to fund the site acquisition, design, construction and other related costs for both new library facilities at the Big 5 site downtown and the Sunset Boulevard site in the Highlands. Design contracts have been approved and work is currently underway at both sites.

“In my opinion the initiative placed before us was invalid,” said Council President Rich Zwicker. “Those of us on the council who voted to concur with the administration’s recommendation did what we had to do. That said we are sensitive to the public concern about our library. I am committed to exploring our options, both legal and otherwise, to determine if there is a way we can bring this to a vote of the people.”