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Council supports April library vote

It didn’t come easy or without debate, but members of the Enumclaw City Council voted Feb. 13 to set the wheels in motion for a spring vote asking if citizens wish to annex into the King County Library System.

The issue is nothing new in the city, having come up a year ago. Plans then were derailed when sufficient information wasn’t available in time to meet election scheduling deadlines.

The library has become a divisive issue as the council, during recent years, has pushed the library further and further down on the list of municipal priorities. Hours and staff were cut and finally, for 2012, the library was removed from the city’s general fund budget. It is being funded on a one-time basis from a pot of money generated by the sale and lease of city property.

Councilman Jim Hogan related how dire the library’s future is, if it is to be retained by the city.

Without a vote for annexation, he said, “we probably won’t have a library next year.”

There are just two cities in the county that are not governed by the King County Library System. Enumclaw and the city of Seattle are the lone holdouts.

The city council approved three items regarding the library’s future, dependent upon voter approval during an April 17 election.

First was a transfer agreement giving the KCLS ownership of the library building, adjacent parking lots and grounds. The transfer does not include the grassy area north of the library, which includes the community garden, or the area fronting Griffin Avenue that is home to the Loggers Legacy memorial. The parking lots retain their traditional usage, so there will be no change for the public. If the library system stops using the building as a library during the 50-year duration of the agreement, the building reverts to city ownership.

A key issue, City Administrator Mike Thomas said, is the KCLS would assume responsibility for all maintenance and repairs to the library building.

A second item was passage of an ordinance requesting annexation into the library system. It was noted the library system, which is independent of King County government, has already indicated it would welcome Enumclaw with open arms.

A final item to receive council approval was a resolution instructing the King County Council to put the annexation issue on the April ballot.

Money is the driving force behind the push for annexation and Monday night’s debate included a desire to assure Enumclaw voters know the fiscal impact of a “yes” vote on annexation.

Councilman Chance LaFleur noted that the proposed ballot title makes no mention of the new tax that would accompany annexation. City Administrator Mike Thomas said the financial issue would best be left to the education process leading up to the vote.

Members of the King County Library System pay taxes at a rate of 50 cents per $1,000 of property value. The owner of an Enumclaw home valued at $200,000 would have an additional $100 added to the yearly tax bill. Those outside the Enumclaw city limits historically have paid the tax.

 

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