Rural library board rejects annexation idea

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The City Council will continue to discuss annexation at its next work session, scheduled for Monday at 4 p.m. at City Hall, 15 N. Third Ave.

The Rural Library District board will hold its next meeting Monday from 5-7 p.m. at Baker Boyer Bank, Plaza Way Branch, 1530 Plaza Way.

Both meetings are open to the public.

— The possibility of city residents becoming part of the Rural Library District — a move some believe would solve the Walla Walla Public Library’s funding problems — has been nipped in the bud by the Rural Library District Board of Trustees.

Last week, the Library Users Coalition asked city officials to move ahead with an annexation resolution, and the topic was added to the Wednesday City Council agenda.

But on the same day Council was to review the matter and take public testimony, district trustees sent a letter to Council stating the board would not consider annexation for at least three years.

“The RLD will not support any annexation proposal at this time. It is moving forward with its strategic planning process and believes 3-5 years are necessary for the libraries to establish themselves before any new relationship can be explored,” District Board Chairwoman Sandra Bradley wrote in the letter.

At Wednesday’s Council meeting, Bradley’s letter brought harsh comments from Council members and residents, who criticized the board’s decision and the state laws that give the non-elected library board the power to thwart annexation.

“Frankly, it seems like a flawed system when an un-elected board has so much power over an issue like this,” Library Users Coalition supporter Beth Call said.

Under state law, a voter resolution for annexation into a library taxing district can only go to a vote if the board of the library taxing district approves the resolution.

In spite of the board’s letter, some Council members vowed to continue to move toward annexation.

“It is very difficult for me to believe that five people, regardless what their statutory authority is, can thwart the will of 50,000 people living in this county. And I think we just need to see what happens,” Council member Barbara Clark said to applause from nearly two dozen annexation supporters.

Prior to the announcement of the rejection letter, members of the Library Users Coalition detailed several changes they felt were necessary if Walla Walla was to ever seek and win voter approval for annexation.

In hopes of getting residents to pass a resolution that would mean more property taxes, the coalition said the city would have to agree to lower its property tax levy “by an amount at least equal to the city’s current general fund expenditures for library services.”

The coalition also asked that the Rural Library District board be restructured and made up of two Walla Walla City Council members, at least one Walla Walla County commissioner and two additional county-wide elected officials, with no more than two trustees being members of the same legislative body.

Comments

Chas 1 year, 11 months ago

I'd prefer the County Library Board commit their money and resources to existing libraries in this Counties smaller towns and their schools. A new building, when there ample vacant commercial properties available seems an edifice to ego. We can be sure they'll include a brass plaque with their names.

If the Walla Walla City Library is underfunded then the Council should address that first. The County Library Board shouldn't become a secondary funding source for the City Council's failings.

Being a resident of the City of Walla Walla, I've no say of the County Rural Library Board. If I resided in the County, I begin a recall petition.

I strongly recommend people read and/or download the extensive meeting minutes found online. Or, also found at the City Library.

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0324633 1 year, 11 months ago

The RLD strategic plan does address remodeling and expanding the existing district libraries. Part of being able to do that involves consolidating admnistrative, technical services and some collection/public area space in a new building. Currently technical services functions, administrative and some collection space is in existing libraries and leased (Plaza & Jade) space. Of course available existing empty space is preferred. But the condition may be poor, location really bad or remodelling to support a heavily automated service center and library system - cost prohibative. Especially now, building new is more efficient. If naything the RLD has been too careful of spending money. Have you seen the current service center on Jade! Blocking the purchase of land and replacing the RLD Board w/city residents is critical to the City's plan to rescue the WWPL.

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