Lease for library at Ober Park to be approved soon

The park board is poised to sign off on a proposed lease between Vashon Park District and King County Library System — a lease that would set the ball rolling on an expansion of the library in Ober Park.

The five-member park commission plans to approve the lease at its Tuesday, Nov. 10, meeting. The lease then heads to the library system for approval by its board, which meets Nov. 24.

The progress represents what may be the final chapter in the debate over the library's location, an issue that has stirred considerable interest and discussion on the Island.

Negotiations between Vashon Park District and the library system to keep the library at Ober Park broke down more than a year ago after months of discussion between the entities. It then seemed as if the library could move south of town to K2 Commons. But this year, the park board worked to bring KCLS back to the bargaining table, and now, both sides are only signatures away from approving a 30-year lease that will allow for the remodel and expansion of the Vashon Library.

After the lease is signed by both parties, a design consultant team will begin drafting plans for a 10,000-square-foot expanded library in Ober Park. The current library is about 6,200 square feet.

"I'm very excited for the community, because this is something that's been in limbo for quite a bit of time," said Vashon Park District board chair Mike Collins. "Soon, we'll get designs started and have something concrete to work with."

Library officials, too, seem glad that a lease is nearly finalized.

"We are excited to restart the design and planning and look forward to improving library services for the citizens of Vashon," Kay Johnson, the library system's facilities development director, said in an e-mail.

The lease — reviewed by lawyers for the park district and library system — includes clauses that require the library system to hold two public meetings and attend two park board meetings to discuss the designs for the library expansion.

Still, some Islanders worry that they won't have enough of a say in shaping the direction the library system takes when designing the expansion.

"We hope they will have a dialogue with us about their plans for our expansion," said Bonnie DeSteiguer, who has been active in the effort to keep the library at Ober Park.

She's one of several Islanders who serves on a library advisory committee created by the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council, a committee the library system has declined to officially recognize because its members were not appointed by elected officials.

Communities in incorporated cities, such as Shoreline and Renton, have library advisory boards that work with the King County Library System. And King County officials — Executive Kurt Triplett and Councilmember Dow Constantine — wrote a letter to the library system encouraging them to recognize Vashon's library advisory committee.

Currently, however, the Island committee is recognized only by Vashon's own community council.

"I'm hopeful that things will go well, but we still would like to have a dialogue with KCLS about their plans," DeSteiguer said.

The Vashon library advisory committee is weighing whether to survey Islanders about their priorities for the expanded library. They'd then communicate the results of that survey with King County Library System officials and those crafting the library designs, DeSteiguer said.

For now, she and others are still standing by for the library system and park district to sign off on the proposed lease.

"We'll wait until the lease is signed, and then immediately contact the library system and ask them how we can be involved in a dialogue with them," DeSteiguer said.

The community council's library advisory committee will meet at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18. All Islanders are welcome to participate in the meeting and the committee. Contact Bonnie DeSteiguer at 463-3487 for more information.

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