Second library in area not needed

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The Walla Walla County Rural Library District provides much needed and appreciated library services to rural areas in the county. The branches it has established in Burbank, Prescott, Vista Hermosa and Touchet have become integral parts of those communities, providing access to informational and recreational reading materials, movies, audio books, the Internet and other electronic resources in convenient locations.

They provide a gathering place for community activities, a safe place for children to go after school and during the summer, and enrichment programs for all ages.

The planned expansions and renovations of these facilities are both needed and wanted by those living in the service areas. At the public forums held by the RLD for strategic planning in Touchet, Burbank, Prescott and Vista Hermosa, there were requests for more space and better facilities. The building plans recently proposed by the RLD call for approximately $1.8 million to be spent on facilities in these locations.

This amount is well within the Capital Reserve Fund of 3.17 million dollars held by the RLD. These are funds which should be spent to improve service and facilities in these areas, improvements that have been too long in coming. The proposed annexation would in no way affect these plans nor would annexation adversely impact future service to these areas.

The proposal to build a second full-service library in the area immediately adjacent to the city of Walla Walla at a cost of $3.66 million has met with opposition throughout the urban area. Those who have protested have concluded that the county would be better served by a consolidated library system, with the city annexing to the county Rural Library District and with the Walla Walla Public Library serving as the central library for the district.

If the RLD dropped its plan to build a second duplicative and unpopular full-service library, there would be no need to borrow $2.29 million to complete its proposed $5.46 million building project. It would, in fact, have about $1.3 million left in the capital reserve fund for future use.

Incurring this loan debt would result in the loss of operating revenue every year for the life of the loan, estimated at 30 years.

This is money that could be better used to provide services throughout the rural library district, certainly a more judicious use of taxpayer money than a redundant second library.

Jacqueline George

Walla Walla

Comments

JustWondering 1 year, 10 months ago

Well written. Still - concern over the building of a new library seems misplaced (really - this is the 'block' to annexation?!)and some of the ongoing $ figures overlook the cost of currently leased space.

The new facility planned by the RLD will consolidate several activities now housed in leased space - administration, processing, technical services. It will also, in part, enlarge on leased space for collections and computers (Plaza Way). This seems a reasonable response to both rural and city residents who have noted the smallness of the Plaza Way library.

A new RLD facility, designed for 21st Century library operations, could be used to also provide processing, network and courier services for the WWPL should it be annexed. This would free up space at WWPL for an enlarged & current item collection, programming and other public service functions the city library staff enjoy (and we enjoy having them available for). And who cares where the offices, network hub and technical services reside.

The RLD's plan for a new facility makes sense to me. Hanging on to 1.3 million and, instead remodelling the WWPL as a library distribution center for the county does not.

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jcwestbrook 1 year, 10 months ago

Two facility setups do exist like this - and they are as close as the Mid Columbia Libraries in Tricities.

They have two facilities in Kennewick that are THREE miles apart. The Keewaydin Park library (19,475 square feet) which houses all administrative functions for the Mid Columbia Libraries and offers public library services, and the Kennewick branch (32,132 square feet) which offers public library services only. Their residents seem happy to use one or the other, or both. More locations mean more options.

The Walla Walla Public Library developed a Master Plan for their building around 2004. They were able to complete phase one of the plan with large donations and fundraising - which was to add on a much needed new children's room (and allowed for much needed breathing room in other areas of the building). But phase three would be to expand the building to 30,000 square feet - expanding to all property lines - and they identified the cost of phase three at 7 million dollars. No one involved has that kind of money (which is why it never happened) - and 1.8 million wouldn't go far to make that happen.

Personally, I don't think annexation would be approved by the voters. I think it's the same reason why a 7 million bond was never run to expand the Walla Walla Public Library - they knew it wouldn't have enough support to pass. In recent years the public voted to tax themselves for a new police station, transit taxes, sales taxes AND they just voted no for the third time on taxes to build an aquatic center (oddly at the same tax rate as the rural library tax). Both libraries need to go their separate ways and deal with the realities of serving their own populations with their own funds - and be open to annexation later.

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Jmg 1 year, 10 months ago

While there are two facilities in Kennewick in fairly close proximity, it should be pointed out that there are 73,900 residents in the city limits and over 153,000 in the urban area that are served by those libraries, quite a difference to Walla Walla's 31,000/42,000 population. Does Walla Walla need more options? Whatever happened to Phase 2 of the Master Plan? That might not be quite such a financial jump as to Phase 3. I guess another thing that should be pointed out is that that building project would be VOTED on by the citizens. The current building plan of the Rural Library District is NOT being voted on and it will be taxpayer dollars being spent - both from the Capital Outlay Fund and to repay the 2.3 million dollar loan that will be needed to fund the entire project.

It is a sad fact that the COMMUNITY of Walla Walla is not being considered. At a time when unavoidable financial shortfalls have made it more and more difficult for the City of Walla Walla to fully fund, not only the library, but other city services, that a solution that would strengthen the public library will not even be allowed to come to a vote because the Rural Library District Board of Trustees will not discuss annexation. A library which has served both city and county residents for nearly 40 years will soon be unavailable to county residents unless they purchase a card IN ADDITION to the taxes which they already pay for library service.

Why would not consolidating the two library systems and strengthening the existing primary library over the next two to three years and THEN considering another facility be a more practical approach to the issue of library services?

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jcwestbrook 1 year, 10 months ago

It's impossible to debate our differing opinions on whether the rural library is required to subsidize the city of Walla Walla or not - because I think we are both entrenched in our opinions. So I'll save us both the time. But I wanted to offer some facts about the USDA rural community loans because it's a really cool program once you look at what it can do for rural communities - and some clarification on the Mid Columbia Library numbers.

Benton county has a total population of 180,000. 70,000+ are in Kennewick and 49,000+ are in Richland. Leaving only around 60,000 in the other cities and unincorporated areas. Richland maintains a city library that is not part of Mid Columbia Libraries - so 49,000 people in Benton County aren't even in Mid Columbia Library's service area.

Mid Columbia Libraries also operates the Benton City Library, Prosser Library, and West Richland Library in Benton County. So yes, the population is different - and the library situation is more complicated than either of us originally stated.

The USDA loan is through the Rural Community Facilities Loan program - only available to small agencies serving populations under 20,000. It's a unique opportunity available to the rural library. These loans are given out to accomplish the building and/or expansion of rural community facilities like schools, libraries, hospitals, fire stations - even parks and pools. It's not like a loan from Chase Bank - it's a loan from the United States Department of Agriculture to develop community facilities in very rural areas. It's a way for small rural agencies to develop facilities without needing to increase the tax burden on their residents.

Rural areas may not have the population, or property value, to generate adequate funds from a levy without asking for a huge tax increase from their residents. But an agency may find themselves in the position of being able to afford a loan payment on the same amount within their current budget. This way funding of building expansion occurs within the current budget figures without asking for tax hikes up front.

If the rural library has crunched the budget numbers and can afford to make the loan payment within their yearly budget to accomplish the expansion of their library branches without increasing taxes on their residents - that sounds like a smart decision to me.

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