Passion surrounding Renton’s downtown library remain high, despite the lack of TV cameras at Monday night’s public meeting to consider a ballot measure to determine the library’s location.
The nearly two-and-a-half-hour-long public meeting took place during the regular meeting of the Renton City Council, and included presentations by Senior Assistant City Attorney Zanetta Fontes, City Facilities Director Peter Renner, President of the Robinson Company Kirk Robison, King County Library System Director Bill Ptacek, 11 public comments and one letter sent to Council President Rich Zwicker via email.
Council will likely vote on the Library ballot measure and title at its next meeting scheduled for Monday, April 23.
In an effort to make the ballot title clear and unbiased, Fontes likened the task to a hanging mobile.
“When you tap one part, the whole thing jiggles,” she said of tinkering with the 75-word ‘concise statement’ of the ballot title.
Two elements of the statement were especially difficult: the cost and location description, she said.
“It seemed to me, from everything that I’ve heard, that cost is a very important element of this debate,” she said of her decision to include the $9,300,000 budgeted cost to build a new library building on the site at 508 South Third Street, also described as the “site west of the Piazza.”
Fontes left a blank space for the cost of rehabbing the current Cedar River Library, located at 100 Mill Ave. South because that cost is unknown.
“If the blank comes out, so does the $9.3 million … it’s the mobile again: tap one side and everything else moves,” she said.
When someone is in the quiet of the voting booth or the kitchen table, Fontes said her preference would be for the voter to see that information in the ballot title. If it’s not in the ballot title, then it must be in the explanatory statement, she said.
The description of the library location was another issue. Fontes chose, “the existing library location over the Cedar River,” and “West of the Renton Piazze.”
Fontes wasn’t the only one to struggle with the cost and location.
Council members and public commenters alike spent considerable time discussing cost and location.
Regardless, Fontes has the final word on how the cost a description of the library location will read on the ballot title.
To clarify the cost issue, Kirk Robison, president of The Robison Company, attended the meeting.
However, Robison was unable to speak to the cost of repurposing or renovating the current library building for other uses when asked by Council member Randy Corman. Robison could only estimate the cost if the building were to be used as a library.
Renner estimated “a general re-do of the building at $2 million,” plus the additiona cost for seismic upgrades and floor loading might bring a basic renovation to $3 million, but that’s just for the basic four walls and a room, he said. His estimate did not include anything additional such as furniture or landscaping.
Check back later today on Renton Patch for more on public testimony made at Monday night's Public Hearing.