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Enumclaw could scrap plans for April 26 vote on annexation into King County Library System

Plans that could lead to Enumclaw's public library being taken over by the independent King County Library System could be crumbling.

The stumbling block is ownership of the library building, which city property owners willingly paid for in the form of higher taxes. The building debt was paid off in 2009, the facility remains in good shape and was recently blessed with a new roof.

Now, the King County Library District wants it.

When the city first talked with the KCLS, it was assumed that Enumclaw would retain ownership and lease the building to the library system at a nominal rate. During subsequent talks with city administration, KCLS leaders said they prefer to own buildings where they operate libraries.

That didn't sit well with members of the City Council, who debated the issue Monday night. They first appeared poised to call a halt to the April 26 election but continue discussions with the King County Library System, leaving the possibility of a vote at a later date. Instead, they unanimously approved a motion forwarded by Councilman Mike Ennis that allows for a little wiggle room.

City and library system leaders are to talk again, with the hope of convincing the KCLS that Enumclaw should retain ownership of its valuable asset. If library leaders agree, the April 26 vote could go ahead as scheduled; if they are adamant in their desire to take ownership of the library, council members indicated a willingness to pull the plug on a vote for now, while still entertaining talks with the KCLS.

Council members called a special meeting for 7 p.m. Monday, March 7, to finalize a decision. There's a tight time frame, as the city has agreed to host an open house March 10 in which all details of the transfer agreement should be spelled out. Additionally, if the city wishes to cancel the April 26 vote, King County must be notified by March 11.

The city has, for the past couple of budget cycles, tossed out the notion of giving library operations to the countywide system. Of all the cities in King County, only Enumclaw and Seattle operate independent libraries.

Facing an ongoing financial downturn for 2011, members of the City Council voted Jan. 24 to put the matter to a public vote. The ballot measure, if passed, would result in city property owners annexing into the KCLS and paying taxes to support the district. Those favoring the move cite the city's inability to adequately fund the library that has been a part of city operations since the 1920s. In recent years, funding has been slashed, employee hours have been diminished and, for 2011, there was no money allocated for new library materials.

Others, including members of the Enumclaw Library Advisory Board, have spoken against annexing into the library system. They argue there are other options that could improve the Enumclaw library while keeping it in local hands.

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