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NISQUALLY VALLEY NEWS OP-ED MISREPRESENTS LIBRARY ISSUE


Yelm Timberland Regional Library
Photo courtesy of Guustaaf Damave

Nisqually Valley News Editor/Publisher Keven Graves published an Op-Ed today titled “Time to focus on a new library”.

While I applaud his efforts in joining me on this call I started some five years ago (I know the lead of time required to acquire land, build a building and get moved), he incorrectly stated the following:

“As it stands, Yelm Timberland Library is refusing to cover any of the costs for leased space in Yelm, as it does at the current location at Prairie Park.
That decision by the Timberland board followed some complaints about the Yelm library being located in a privately-owned building rather than a structure owned by the city.”

This is absolutely FALSE!
The situation had NOTHING to do with any complaints to TRL’s Board.
I know this for a fact as I was Yelm Library Chair in 2007 and early 2008.

Timberland Regional Library (TRL) entered into a contractual agreement with the City of Yelm granting Yelm an exemption to operate a library in a private facility and share rent (TRL & the City of Yelm) for a ten-year period, the ONLY Library in the 19-library TRL system to operate in a non-public building, except Montesano which had their building donated to the city.
Property taxes are collected for TRL Yelm district operations from property owners inside and outside Yelm’s city limits and as public funds, must be used for a publicly operated library.
The 10-year exemption concludes on December 31, 2011, at which time Yelm was supposed to provide a public building from which to operate a library for TRL to continue as a partner. The TRL Board’s decision to not share rent in a private facility after 2011 had NOTHING to do with any complaints, except perhaps by a few other TRL libraries who did not like Yelm’s exemption. Yelm agreed contractually 9 years ago and has done little to fulfill the city’s obligation to property tax payers whose tax-monies are to go for public services, and not for paying rent in a privately-owned facility beyond 2011.

The City of Yelm has been called on this before by the state in collecting hotel taxes for a museum operating in a private facility, the same Prairie Park building as the library. The state then told the city they could only collect taxes if the funds go for a museum housed in a public building.

While Mr. Graves may find me distasteful & repugnant, these facts speak for themselves for those that have the ears & eyes to see them for what they are. No one filed any complaint with the TRL Board that affected TRL’s contract with the City of Yelm, which both signed in 2001.

Graves said in his Op-Ed:
“If the City of Yelm isnt able to get moving on a plan for whatever reason, perhaps its time for citizens to take the lead and launch a grassroots effort to find and fund a new home for the Yelm library.”

In late 2006, my wife & I met with a TRL Foundation representative and then Yelm Librarian Blalack about the potential of us providing seed money for a new library, because as strong supporters, we had donated $25,000 previously to the Yelm Library. We suggested a public-private venture to raise money with us providing an additional $25,000 initially to get others in the community to donate, even suggesting rooms could be named for donors. After our meeting, we were told the timing was not right. Then we learned the city was focused on a discounted land-purchase option provided by the Tahoma Terra developers and located in that development, which the mayor shared previously. Tahoma Terra later withdrew their offer to the city and the development has since defaulted. Since then, the city has done little to nothing. Recently, we told TRL officials that while our $25,000 offer stands, we will not make any further donations until the City of Yelm gets serious about a public library building, gets the community involved and we see some sort of public structure built.
If there is no community will for a library, then why should we commit to this kind of donation?
No future plans for the Yelm Library has been presented to us or this community.

Mayor Harding previously stated the city cannot afford to pay the library rent on their own after December 31, 2011 and will have to downsize. Harding has also publicly stated the library should be of a size to only serve City of Yelm residents, forgetting the Yelm Library is also funded by property owners’ taxes outside of Yelm’s limits.

WE ARE NOW 17 MONTHS AWAY FROM THE CITY’S 10 YEAR EXEMPTION CONTRACT WITH TRL ENDING & HAVE NOT HEARD ANYTHING FROM MAYOR HARDING OR CITY HALL ON THE LIBRARY’S FUTURE.

Also, Mr. Graves opened his Op-Ed by saying:
“The issue of flush toilets for Longmire Park is entirely separate from the need for a library building in Yelm.
The grant for the Longmore toilets was designated specifically for that project. The money could not be used for anything other than the purpose designated by the grantor.”

Two things on this:
1. I have always said IF the city would have made a public library facility as much as a priority as a public park toilets (for which they have had 9 years to do so), we would be well on our way to a wonderful public Yelm Library building.

2. Second-District Rep. Jim McCune wrote in his public newsletter:
“The capital budget (mechanism for the Longmire Park restrooms’ grant) provides funding for the construction and repair of public buildings and other long-term investments, such as land acquisitions and transfers. It is separate from the operating budget.”

When the city went to our state legislators for a grant, the capital budget does not specify for what purpose the city will request & use that money at the outset. The City of Yelm makes the specified request and once the city states the money is to be used for park toilets, then Graves is correct when he says:
“The grant for the Longmore toilets was designated specifically for that project.
The money could not be used for anything other than the purpose designated by the grantor.”
ONLY after the city specifies for what project the grant will be used is the city then required to use the money specifically for the grant project.

The city could have initially requested a grant for a library building, yet instead, put their energies & priorities for a park toilets grant, full-well knowing the library lease was ending in 2011.
Yelm told our district’s state legislators, “We want money for ballpark toilets” and so that’s what locked in the purpose of the grant.

The ballpark toilets funding and the library building are totally connected, for this shows the city’s priorities when requesting state funds. The city must have felt they would get TRL’s Board to agree to continue the lease partnership beyond 2012, what with Mayor Harding requests to TRL for all sorts of extension options beyond the end of the library lease! So, the city put the library facility on the back-burner, yet TRL has been up-front with city officials for years that they must provide a public building in 2012.
THAT was a major error on the city’s part.

So now you can see that YES, the ballpark toilets funding and the lack of priority for a library building are totally connected !

Posted by Steve on July 30, 2010 at 5:46 am | Permalink

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