Renton Citizen Group Wants Input on New Library Design

The City Council is set to get a full update on the Cedar River and Highlands library projects at its next meeting.

Editor's note: Beth Asher's first name was incorrect in a previous version of this article. Also, the Sept. 18 open house will be in the Conferencing Center; an incorrect location was listed in an earlier version of this article.


A month after Renton voters decided to upgrade the Cedar River library building where it is instead of moving to the former site of the Big 5 sporting goods store, a citizens group offered up experts to help in design, construction and project oversight.

The Renton Residents Advocacy Coalition told the City Council on Monday night that it wants to be included in the design of both the Cedar River and Highlands library projects.Monday was the first council meeting since the election results were validated, with about 76 percent of voters choosing the Cedar River location.

Beth Asher, a Cedar River library supporter, told the council that the citizens group would offer a team of five professional experts in their fields to help in the design and construction phase and to help the city exercise project oversight for no cost.

David Keyes, a registered architect, is one of the team members. He said the King County Library System has a history of construction cost changes beyond the initial contracted cost. On average, the library system has a nearly 37 percent change in project construction costs, said Keyes, citing the library system’s capital project budget review for 2012.

Keyes pointed to the two different cost estimates for the downtown library project—a $10.1 million projection by Robinson and Co. prepared for the city of Renton, and a $13.1 million estimate prepared by Miller Hill for the library system. Monday’s nearly 40-minute presentation, which was expected to last just 10-15 minutes, appeared to upset City Council President Rich Zwicker, who asked Chief Administrative Officer Jay Covington, “There is no library plan; am I missing something here?"Covington advised that was correct.

Councilman Randy Corman, another Cedar River library supporter, told Zwickerthat he believed "the group is trying to get in front of the issue."  Covington said the council would receive its first library update next Monday, Sept. 17, at 5:30 p.m. He also said the city would engage the public in the entire process, and announced the first open house would be held Tuesday, Sept. 18, at 6 p.m. in the Conferencing Center on the seventh floor.

Asher said she didn’t think it was premature for the group to present its information this week, instead of waiting for next week. "Things can happen so fast around here, they have their meeting, then another," she said.Asher said current members of the Renton Library Board have no interest in the Cedar River location, as they provided money to the Piazza location, and the group wants to protect the citizens’ interest.

“We would like the project to proceed as a two-way dialogue, a win-win situation for the city and the residents," she said.

Richard Bray September 11, 2012 at 07:25 PM
It's fantastic that this group is willing to donate their professional expertise to make sure Renton taxpayers interests are served and watch over the project costs. I encourage KCLS and our City Council to work collaboratively with them. This Renton resident thanks the Citizens Group for turning-off the TV and getting involved to make a difference for the betterment of our community.
Stuart Avery September 14, 2012 at 04:05 AM
Renton residents concerned about the forward progress on the Cedar River and Highlands library plans should make note of the following dates and plan to attend. Monday the 17th. Committee of the Whole - 5:30 p.m. Meets at Renton City Hall, 1055 S. Grady Way, 7th Floor in Council Chambers. Agenda: Highlands and Cedar River Library Buildings Update. Tuesday the 18th. Committee of the Whole - 6:00 p.m. Meets at Renton City Hall, 1055 S. Grady Way, *7TH FLOOR CONFERENCING CENTER*. Agenda: Highlands and Cedar River Libraries Open House.
D. Charles September 15, 2012 at 12:40 AM
Dear Renton City Council President Rich Zwicker, We do not have a plan, that is correct, but what we do have in front of us is one of the most dumbfounding proposals from KCLS yet. The common belief is when putting lipstick on the dilapidated Big 5 site failed to woo many residents, KCLS paid a design firm $66,000 of our money to gold-plate a remodel of the existing Cedar River library. The inflated estimates were then sent to City of Renton voters two weeks before the library vote in an attempt to draw votes to dilapidated Big 5 site. It too mostly failed. Those wanting an appropriate-cost library remodel were shocked to see a $100,000 ceiling needlessly turn into an $800,000 line item in the new proposal. Other “upgrades” way out of proportion to the need were also discovered throughout the KCLS proposal. The feeling is that four city council members continue to scheme to get around the 3-to-1 vote to leave the library where it is by stuffing the advisory committee with only pro-dilapidated Big 5 site supporters and playing games with KCLS to pull off the move anyway. Telling us to ignore the KCLS proposal because it is not a plan is more scheming. The City of Renton Administration and KCLS have both proven beyond question to need close supervision on the library remodel on a day-to-day basis, not after the end game has been run. Talent is in place to do that. Exposing the current KCLS proposal as hair-brained is just the beginning.
Melissa Farmin September 15, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Mr. Charles you have hit the nail on the head! Only through continuous public oversight (pressure) will insure that the Council and KCLS will do what is right.


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