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KRL could ‘fully fund’ a new Port Orchard library by 2018

The new library building Port Orchard covets could conceivably be funded entirely by the Kitsap Regional Library — depending on how long the city is willing to wait for it.

“If our levy is approved in November, we would have the money to pay for the whole library by 2018,” KRL spokesman Jeff Brody said in a meeting with the Port Orchard Independent’s editorial board on Sept. 10. “Port Orchard is very high on our list of priorities. It’s just not the only priority we have.”

If approved by the voters in November, KRL has proposed to spend a portion of the revenue generated by its levy lid lift to fund a new library building in downtown Port Orchard.

That offer included an infusion of $3 million by 2013 or 2014 — by which time the city would presumably be ready to begin work on the downtown parking garage that would be built in conjunction with the library.

Because $3 million would fall far short of covering the entire cost of the project, however, the city would be expected to come up with the difference — a fact that rankles many in Port Orchard given that KRL would also be using levy revenues to completely build and staff an $8 million library branch in Silverdale and a $4.5 million branch in Kingston.

Brody said the district would sell six-year bonds to pay for the other projects and, once those were paid off, would have the necessary bonding capacity to fully fund Port Orchard.

That time frame would also be more realistic, he said, because, “In my opinion, there’s no way in the world the city of Port Orchard will be ready to build its parking garage by 2014.”

Brody said KRL would agree to fully fund the library structure — minus a “10 percent contribution from community fundraising” — under certain conditions, including:

• No part of the $3 million that KRL has set aside for the Port Orchard building could be used for major Port Orchard building maintenance before the new building project begins. The entire $3 million KRL has already committed for Port Orchard would be available for the building project.

• The city would provide the site for the new library for free and KRL would not have to purchase land for the project.

• KRL would own the building and be responsible for all maintenance and operating costs if it paid for construction.

KRL is seeking a 13.5-cent increase in its current levy lid, which would increase its cut of property taxes to 48 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The increase would generate an estimated $3.65 million annually above the current levy base of $9.3 million.

Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola, meanwhile, said the prospect of KRL paying for the entire library by 2018 was news to him.

“I was surprised to learn that the library district would fully fund a new building if we wanted to wait eight years,” he said. “That has never been brought forward as an option in all of our discussions. However, in my view at least, eight years is an awful long time to wait considering what the other areas are getting — and when.

“But we would certainly be up to listen to any proposal KRL has along thos lines,” Coppola said.

The mayor also disagreed with Brody’s assertion that the city couldn’t be ready to start construction work by 2013 or 2014.

“I do believe KRL is underestimating the (city) council’s resolve in moving this project forward,” he said. “We’ve made some progress in a couple of areas and learned our costs for construction may not be as high as we had originally anticipated, which would also impact the timeline.”

As for whether waiting until 2018 made financial sense for the city, Coppola said it would depend on what was done with the current downtown library building in the meantime.

“The building,” he said, “is in need of major repairs that will cost at least as much as — and possibly more than — the building is currently worth on the open market, and I don’t anticipate commercial real estate values taking a real big jump anytime in the near future.

“So that puts the ball back in KRL’s court,” Coppola said. “The city has at least two potential buyers right now, but has not moved forward waiting to see what the market is going to do. So will the KRL fund the needed repairs if we agree to wait? If not, will they agree to move so we can sell the building?

“Frankly, all of this leaves me a little discouraged,” Coppola concluded. “Once again Port Orchard is getting short shrift. Why are we less important than Silverdale or Kingston? In my mind, we’re not. But we’re being treated as if we were.”

KRL Director Jill Jean, however, denied that was the case.

“All I can do is ask Port Orchard, ‘What do you want?’” she said. “We care deeply about the Port Orchard and we want to do right by the community. But we have other communities to think about, too.

“Sometimes,” Jean said, “I feel like a conflicted parent whose children always think you love the other one more.”

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