I have to respond to John Burg’s accusatory letter in a recent newspaper publication where he scolds our Sammamish City Council of “rolling over to the King County Library District for $5 Million to buy the existing library …” I am concerned his easy misconception of the situation is shared by others and will interfere with the ability of Sammamish residents to make an educated decision when voting on the bond proposal in November.
I have the privilege as a member of Sammamish Kiwanis Club to hear many informative guest speakers and have followed closely many of the local and regional activities that impact our lives and the quality of living here on the hill. The non-partisan, secular Sammamish Kiwanis Club’s goals are “Children: priority 1” and Community Awareness, so I have been following with interest the many challenges on all sides of issues facing the non-profit organizations, school districts (Issaquah and LWSD) and public entities involving our youth. After hearing from representatives in each camp on the future of the existing library property I want to share some of the knowledge I have gained and clarify certain limitations we must deal with.
I was proud to learn our Sammamish library is one of the most heavily used branches in the entire system. Consequently they had outgrown their facility and were unable to expand cost effectively on that lot. So, the residents of our city strongly supported the library bond issue that included plans to build a larger library to serve our growing community. At the time, the library district made it clear that the cost of the new library would be offset by the proceeds from the sale of the current property. They are obligated to maximize the value of the public’s investment.
The referenced $5 million in the bond proposal is based on the most recent appraisal, but before the purchase is completed, of course the city will secure an updated appraisal. Under state law, public entities such as the library system must sell the property at the appraised price. Note also that the KCLS bought the property of its new location from the city at the appraised price as well. The library system will be selling the building regardless — if not to the city, then to the highest bidder. Then our community would stand a very good chance of losing that cornerstone property for a much-needed gathering space.
My personal passion is to see that site at the corner of 228th and Inglewood Hill Road be secured for the sole purpose of establishing a center that provides badly needed social and recreational services for our youth, seniors and preschoolers. It is THE prime location: walking distance from schools, retail, medical and dental services, public transit and churches. The Boys and Girls Club is a perfect fit and have been very interested in securing that site but, like most non-profit service organizations, they are struggling to find the funds to afford it. I hope our community recognizes the important benefits of surrounding ourselves with family-oriented services. If the city doesn’t step up, the spot will more than likely fall into the hands of a retail or residential developer and we will have missed a golden opportunity to put something of real community importance in that central location.
A community center has always been one of the highest priorities voiced by our community when shaping the master plan. The bond is one way to enable the city to acquire prime property so they can implement the vision of its residents. I was very pleased to see the effort by our elected officials to endorse that goal and explore means to finance a purchase of this property and a partnership with the B&GC to establish such a center in the heart of our neighborhood. In my mind, the council is serving us well and acting responsibly with our tax dollars on this one.