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County library system asks voters for $172-million bond

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SNOQUALMIE VALLEY - Finding a quiet place to meet someone is a bit hard at the King County Library System (KCLS) Fall City branch library.

The meeting area consists of two tables at the far end of the library's 3,000-foot space, which used to be an old Seafirst bank building. Holding public events is so difficult at the branch that managing librarian Bruce Greeley said he either moves them to the nearby fire station, or just doesn't host the meetings at all.

"What makes us unique is that we are not a city [Fall City is in unincorporated King County]," Greeley said. "We have no central meeting space."

Greeley and other librarians throughout KCLS are hoping a $172-million bond, that will go before voters on Sept. 14, will give them a shot of much-needed funds to replace, expand and keep up their libraries. Absentee ballots were sent out last week by the county.

The proposed bond, which would replace a 1988 capital bond that will expire in 2011, is estimated to cost property owners about 8 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. If the bond passes, it would go into effect next year and $16 a year will be charged for a $200,000 home, and $24 a year will be charged for a $300,000 home. The present tax on the 1988 bond is 3 cents, but KCLS officials have said the proposed bond would cost taxpayers less in the long run then the present one.

Every one of the system's 43 libraries will be affected by the bond. Fall City would get a new 5,000-square-foot library at its current location on Southeast 42nd Place, while Snoqualmie would get a new 6,000-square-foot library located somewhere in the Snoqualmie Ridge neighborhood, a library that could be its own structure or leased space in an existing building. Construction would start on the Fall City branch in 2008, while the Snoqualmie one would begin in 2009. Library expansions also are slated for Carnation and Duvall, which would see construction start on their branches in 2009 and 2007, respectively.

While Greeley said support is easy to see from the library's regular visitors, it is harder to gauge county-wide feelings about the bond. The last capital bond KCLS put up for a vote in 2003 failed to receive the needed supermajority (60-percent approval) to pass, although it did get 52.5 percent.

That 52.5 percent was a good amount of support considering the KCLS did not do much in the way of educating voters about the 2003 bond, according to KCLS spokeswoman Julie Wallace. KCLS did little to campaign for the bond, and was not able to get sufficient information to the public. The vote for the bond also took place in February 2003, right before the start of the Iraq War and right after the Columbia space shuttle accident, so the timing was not ideal either.

This year, she said it is impossible to go into a library and not see flyers and posters explaining the bond. KCLS officials have gone to every community with a library to get feedback and answer questions, a move that was especially important in the Valley, which gave the last bond the second-lowest percentage approval of any place in the county (48.1 percent).

To get the word about the bond out to voters who may not be regular patrons of KCLS, advocates have used their own library support groups. Friends of the Fall City Library had a booth at Fall City Days, and Friends of the Snoqualmie Library had a booth at Railroad Days.

"We had 100-150 people come through our booth," said Sandra Brownrigg, president of the Friends of the Snoqualmie Library.

Brownrigg said she hopes initial misgivings about the bond in Snoqualmie have subsided. She said there is a strong emotional attachment to the current library's location on River Street and many people did not want to see it moved out of downtown.

Little has changed about the Snoqualmie library since it was built in 1975, however, and Brownrigg said the need for a new facility is so evident that support for the bond in the city has started to solidify.

Wallace said KCLS hopes people see that the entire county benefits from the bond and materials, no matter where it is spent. Since people are free to visit any library they want to, and since all libraries share materials, every person in the county can benefit from the passage of the bond.

"Regardless of where you live, you are going to benefit from it [the bond]," Wallace said.

* Friends of the Snoqualmie Library will be hosting an ice cream social to discuss the bond from noon-4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 12, at Autumn Park, 7121 Autumn Ave. S.E., Snoqualmie. For information about the bond, visit www.kcls.org.

Ben Cape can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at ben.cape@valleyrecord.com.

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