With North Highline annexation decided, potential closure of White Center, Boulevard Park libraries resurfaces

Under pressure from county and local political leaders, the King County Library System board agreed to postpone consolidating the White Center and Boulevard Park libraries into one facility near Southwest 128th Street until after the North Highline annexation vote.

Last week, North Highline voters overwhelmingly rejected annexation into Burien.

This week, the library system’s planning committee will consider the consolidation proposal again. The discussion will come at a committee meeting open to the public on Thursday, Nov. 15 at the Burien Library, 400 S.W. 152nd St. The meeting begins at noon with the North Highline library discussion at the top of the agenda.

Annexation proponents argued that the library system would go forward with their consolidation plan if annexation was not approved. Opponents said the annexation vote would not affect the decision on the libraries.

Proponents countered that with annexation, library officials would stick to the original plan as approved by voters in a 2004 library bond election to build a new White Center Library and remodel the Boulevard Park Library. Library system staffers have argued that the original plan is no longer cost efficient.

At a packed Nov. 29, 2011 library board meeting in Issaquah, it appeared the consolidation was a done deal when two of the five trustees voiced support. Trustee Lucy Krakowiak, also a Burien City Councilmember, recused herself from board decisions affecting Burien. It is not clear if she will continue to recuse herself now that the issue has resurfaced.

At the Issaquah meeting, trustee Rob Spitzner noted that officials from the King County Executive’s office, County Councilmember Joe McDermott, and the city of Burien had strongly suggested that the board hold off a decision until the annexation issue was decided.

County library system officials worry that Seattle residents are making the short trek over Seattle’s city limits to use the White Center library without paying for the service. Seattle operates its own library system.

With the 2009 annexation of Boulevard Park/Area X, the White Center and Boulevard Park libraries are within Burien’s city limits. A new two-story library was also constructed on the Burien Town Square site to replace the old library that occupied the current Burien Community Center site.

With the three libraries, Burien currently has one library per 16,000 people. With consolidation to the two large libraries, Burien would have one library per 24,000 people. The countywide average is one library per 36,000 people.

However, consolidation opponents led by White Center Library Guild president Rachael Levine argue the library system committed to a new White Center library and remodeled Boulevard Park library in the 2004 bond election.

They also say the White Center library is within walking distance for low-income Evergreen High and Cascade Middle students who may not have access to a computer at home or a private vehicle.

They also cite a greater need for libraries among lower income residents who may also have transportation difficulties.

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