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.