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Library system takes next step in K2 purchase

The King County Library System hopes to sign a purchase-and-sale agreement this week to buy the former machine shop at the K2 site, the next step in its long-range plans to develop a new library a mile south of town.

The library system currently has a letter of intent to purchase the 10,000-square-foot space adjacent to the much larger former manufacturing and warehouse site. Kay Johnson, the library system’s director of facilities development, said officials plan to take their efforts to the next level and complete a purchase-and-sale agreement before the end of the year — possibly within a few days.

“We’re working on our due diligence,” she said.

The library system recently had a group of consultants examine the aging structure to see if it could be renovated into a library, Johnson said. The consultants came back with a positive response and a preliminary price tag of $2.5 million, she said.

“We think we’ll be able to do a nice job at the K2 site, assuming it all comes together,” she added.

All told, the library system has $6.2 million to spend on a new library for Vashon — nearly $2 million more than officials last reported. Johnson said the library system’s board “adjusted quite a few projects” that appeared to be underfunded — Vashon’s being one of them.

“We put an emphasis on new projects and expansions and remodels, and that’s where Vashon falls,” she said.

Meanwhile, Dick Sontgerath and Truman O’Brien, two Island developers who hope to transform the entire K2 site into a health center, athletic club, bowling alley and suite of offices, say they expect to close on their multimillion-dollar deal in January.

The two men, who are currently working to line up their financing for the ambitious project, had planned to close this month. But O’Brien said they got an extension until mid-January.

“We’re waiting on finishing up our financing,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien said he remains convinced the pieces will fall into place.

“I’m pretty confident, to tell you the truth,” he said.

The latest developments come at the same time that some community players are working to keep the library in its current location at Ober Park. Several Islanders have spoken out against the King County Library System’s proposed move, saying they like having the facility adjacent to the park and walking distance to other town amenities.

Tom Bangasser, an Island businessman who formerly headed the Vashon Chamber of Commerce, said he was concerned about the library system signing a purchase-and-sale agreement, because it’s “a more binding” document.

Bangasser has led a sometimes singular and often high-profile campaign against the effort. On Monday, he said he remains frustrated by the process and concerned about the impact the library system’s decision could have on the Island.

“I still believe the best place for the community library is in the town core,” he said.

“If they make a bad decision,” he added, “we’re the ones who are the recipients.”

Johnson, with the library system, said she knows many Islanders don’t want to see the library move to the K2 site.

Library officials recently ranked various factors at the K2 site as part of their site-selection process for a new Vashon library. Certain qualities about the K2 site scored high — visibility, capacity and access, for instance. But “community preference” scored low; in fact, it was the only “low” rating of the nine issues the library system examined at the K2 site.

“We know that a lot of people would prefer that the library stay where it is now,” Johnson said. “But we don’t think that’s an option. And at this site, we think we can remold it into something we believe people will like.”

Library officials say they were forced to abandon the Ober Park site because of the Vashon Park District, which owns the park and which has said it doesn’t want to see the library have a bigger footprint at the park.

The Vashon park board, however, concerned that the library system was misinterpreting its stance, wrote the county library board a letter in September saying it was still open to exploring “options for retaining the King County Library within the boundaries of Ober Park,” according to a copy of the letter.

Johnson said she hadn’t seen that letter, which was sent to Lucy Krakowiak, the president of the library system’s board. Asked if it would have a bearing on the library system’s site-selection process, she said, “It’s hard for me to comment.”

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