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Park board says library should stay in Ober

Park officials passed a resolution Feb. 10 stating unequivocally that they want the library to stay put.

In a reversal of a decision made two years ago, the board declared last Tuesday that it would negotiate with King County Library System (KCLS) officials to keep the Vashon Library at Ober Park for the foreseeable future.

New construction and remodeling the current library are both possibilities, said park board chair Mike Collins.

The new resolution could put an end to the stalemate that has existed between the park district and library officials for more than a year.

“We’ve re-established dialogue — we’re talking again,” Collins said, noting that before this year, discussions between the two entities seemed to have “reached an impasse.”

In February 2007, discussions about the future of Vashon Library broke down, after the park board wrote that, since “it disapproves of a remodel of the existing library building,” it would not give the library system a long-term lease at Ober Park.

The library system owns the building while the park district owns the land beneath it.

Library officials then stopped viewing Ober as a long-term location for the library.

“The 2007 resolution was made because (library officials) came to us with a ‘take it or leave it’ plan, a remodel of the library that would gain less than 2,000 square feet over the currently library — for more than $4 million,” said David Hackett, a park board member.

The library system’s plan had little consideration for Ober Park’s green space, he added, and “would rip apart the park.”

“There were no considerations for impacts on the park, no willingness to talk about it,” he said.

But Collins said he’s glad to put that chapter of relations between park and library officials behind him.

“I think this is significant,” he said. “I think we’re moving ahead. Where it’s going to go, I don’t know, but we’ve got to get this discussion going for it to move anywhere.”

Still, even as the library system begins to re-examine a site it had ruled out two years ago, KCLS officials are “in the final stages of completing a purchase-and-sale agreement” for a freestanding structure at K2 Commons, according to an e-mail sent by KCLS director Bill Ptacek to several Islanders recently.

The library system plans to continue concurrently investigating the two site options, he noted.

Some Islanders are hopeful that library officials will shift their focuse to Ober Park in coming months.

Ptacek will meet with the KCLS board of trustees Feb. 24, and they’ll discuss Vashon’s situation in light of the park board’s new resolution, which leaves no doubt about its sentiments.

“It should be here,” said park board member Bill Ameling at the board’s meeting in Ober Park last week. “I’ll fight the K2 project to the death to keep it here. I don’t think it does any good even to talk about another spot.”

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