Today, a new series begins on Mondays:
“TRANSPARENCY IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT”
Yelm City Council’s intent to purchase the current library facility.
Members of the Yelm City Council approved an intent to purchase of the current Yelm Library facility on the second floor of the Fay Fuller Bldg. at Prairie Park for one million dollars.
While all agree the future of a library here will be an asset to southeast Thurston County, several have said the process to get to the decision was seriously flawed.
If anything, the City of Yelm has a reputation for eliminating public input to come to decisions. Council members have a history and disposition of usurping public due-process.
And why was the decision to spend $1,000,000 to purchase 8,400+ sq. ft. of space in Margaret Clapp’s building made without much public involvement, discussion and interaction with city officials?
How many times have we heard from Mayor Harding that the city could only afford to spend $600,000 for a library building, yet he put forth a proposal on April 27th to the Timberland Regional Library Board (TRL) for the City of Yelm to spend one million dollars, or 66% more than the mayor’s stated limits? On-the-record, he admittedly presented the one million dollar offer to TRL without prior consultation of the Yelm City Council.
Some residents within the Yelm library’s taxing district called the council to task on the lack of public involvement. Several expressed concerns that the agreement gave Margaret Clapp too much undue consideration to preserve her current Fay Fuller space over other options, without any public airing of the alternatives Mayor Harding said were considered by the city.
This Blogger agrees. The one million dollar proposed library purchase at Prairie Park should have worked its way through the council first, followed by a public hearing of all options and only then presented to the TRL Board.
Mayor Harding suggested to the TRL Board he thought the proposal would be acceptable to Yelm-area taxpayers and patrons after the public knew more about it.
And therein lies the problem. Members of the public dont know enough about the plan. Its no wonder people are skeptical.
Besides, there are a lot of unanswered questions, such as:
– what is the total cost of this project,
– is a 2nd floor library optimum for the next 20+ years, instead of a first floor facility,
– what interest rate will the city incur for a 20 year bond,
– how this will affect the taxes owed annually by Yelm residents, added to the city’s already burgeoning annual rate/fee increases, and,
– the key unanswered question is IF the city has the bonding capacity for one million dollars in this constricted, economic environment.
But since negotiations continue on the purchase plans, this deal is not set in stone, yet city officials have already launched efforts to raise money from the public to lessen what Mayor Harding calls a “burden” on Yelm property owners.
IS funding this library building purchase considered a “burden” already?
Support of a library in Yelm is NOT the issue,
regardless of the Save the Yelm Library group’s postings.
We all agree that a library will be a boon to the city, but as one of the most significant public buildings ever to be financed by the city, the one million dollar purchase of the property deserved a full public airing and thorough analysis by the council, city staff and Library Advisory Board.
That didnt happen. Instead Mayor Harding and the Yelm City Council rushed through an “intent’ to purchase the Prairie Park property and marched ahead in negotiations to obtain an agreement. Even the Library Advisory Board, tasked to raise citizen donations to reduce the “burden” of the library proposal expenses, do not know what amount of money or financial goals on which their fundraising objectives are to be based.
An additional question put to the Library Advisory Board was,
“Can the city afford the large amount of 8,400+ sq ft of space at this time, what with reduced demand for printed book titles from alternative electronic media such as Amazon’s Kindle and severe budget cuts in-store from the state and federal government?”
They do not know if the city can truly afford this large of a facility.
Perhaps 5,000 sq. ft of space is sufficient AND all the city can afford.
The Mayor and his City Council picked the site, approved a motion for an ‘intent’ to go to contract and developed a plan for the current locale, whose huge price tag the city will then place on the backs of his city’s property owners. The City of Yelm has a decades-long established contract with TRL for Yelm to provide a building. Harding has created a “we” (those inside the city) vs. a “they” (those library property taxpayers outside of the city) division because he has not wanted the city to fund the structure alone. Yet, Harding and the Council knew about the TRL lease expiration in 2001, so Yelm must honor the city’s word/contract to house a facility. And, with the majority of tax revenues and patrons from outside of the City of Yelm, those library tax contributors were invited to no hearing or Open House for discourse.
Thats not a public process.
Keven Graves is quoted from his November 25, 2005 editorial in the local newspaper:
“We (he & then Mayor-elect Harding) agree that a transparent government is better government.”
The purchase of the Yelm Library has been conducted in an environment far from being “a transparent government”.
‘TRANSPARENCY IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT’ WILL BE A WEEKLY SERIES DISCUSSING AN ISSUE EVERY MONDAY!
Quoting American Poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox:
“To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men.”
– Read more from KOMO-TV 4 news in Seattle:
“Fundraising ramps up to help purchase Yelm Library building”
– Mayor Ron Harding issues Proclamation of September as Library Awareness Month.