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King County rural library bond passing

KING COUNTY - It's time to revamp King County libraries.

That was the message sent by voters on Sept. 14 when they appear to have approved a $172-million bond that will be used to update existing facilities and build several new libraries, including locations in Snoqualmie and Fall City.

Although final election results won't be confirmed until later this week, unofficial results showed the bond receiving 63-percent approval (112,703 yes votes to 65,832 no votes). A 60-percent supermajority was needed for approval. King County officials still have about 60 percent of the absentee ballots to count as of the latest results last week. The election is expected to be certified Sept. 24.

The approved 20-year bond replaces a 1988 capital bond that is set to expire in 2011. The bond will cost county residents about 8 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, which equates to about $16 per year for a $200,000 home. The funds will be collected beginning next year.

King County officials said all 43 of the system's libraries will be affected by the bond. Fall City is slated to receive a new 5,000-square-foot library at its current location on Southeast 42nd Place, with construction scheduled for 2007. Snoqualmie would get a 6,000-square-foot library located somewhere in the Snoqualmie Ridge neighborhood. Construction on the Snoqualmie location could begin in 2009.

Library expansions are slated for a number of sites including Carnation and Duvall.

Last year the library system garnered 52.5 percent approval for a $158-million bond, which found them short of the supermajority needed for approval.

If the bond were to fail, library officials have said funds from the operating budgets would be used to pay for needed improvements at facilities. That move would find the library system cutting back on services.

The complexity and length of the new primary ballot means election results in King County will come in slower this year than in a typical election, King County officials have said.

The new 18-inch, consolidated ballot is 7-inches longer than ballots in previous primaries and each ballot includes an average of 54 contests and measures. The ballot grew in size due to the three separate party sections and a nonpartisan section. Tabulating the new ballot, which is essentially serving the purpose of conducting three separate primaries, takes roughly three times as long.

In past primaries, workers were able to tabulate more than 1,000 ballots per hour. Last week, workers tabulated an average of 300 to 500 ballots per hour.

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