Lake Stevens ditches plan to cut ties with Sno-Isle Libraries

Days after a separation was proposed, the about-face was announced Tuesday in a statement by the library network.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118

LAKE STEVENS — Sno-Isle Libraries will stay in Lake Stevens.

The city reversed course on a pitch to leave the library district to help fund a new $30 million civic center, the city and Sno-Isle announced in a joint statement Tuesday.

“We are moving forward with the long-standing community goal of a new public library in Lake Stevens, constructed and operated by Sno-Isle Libraries,” Executive Director Lois Langer Thompson said in the statement. “Our library staff work hard to provide services that are valuable and meaningful to our communities. I appreciate Mayor Gailey’s response and support for this plan to make a new, larger library a reality for the community.”

Lake Stevens has been planning a new campus in the Chapel Hill neighborhood — with city offices, a senior center, a library and public meeting space — for the past few years. The project could cost the city about $1.5 million to $1.9 million in bond debt, Mayor Brett Gailey said.

In a news release last week, the city proposed that “voters must agree to leave the Sno-Isle Library District, and reassign the Sno-Isle levy you pay to the city” for the civic center project to move forward.

Sno-Isle runs 23 branches in Snohomish and Island counties. The network has served Lake Stevens since 1962, and the announcement of a possible severance came as a shock to Sno-Isle.

Langer Thompson called the city’s pitch “drastic and unnecessary,” and offered to address city officials’ concerns “to continue our longstanding partnership with, and service to, the people of Lake Stevens.”

Last week the mayor told Chy Ross, Sno-Isle assistant director of capital strategy and planning, he planned to float the idea of leaving Sno-Isle at a city library board meeting. But the news release, with an attached survey, blindsided Sno-Isle.

And it apparently blindsided city council members, including Anji Jorstad and Gary Petershagen.

“It’s awkward when I have constituents contacting me about something that I feel like I probably should know something about,” Jorstad said at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Petershagen added, in light of the library discussion , there’s “nothing more frustrating” than hearing about something from constituents rather than other city officials.

“I hope in the future we can have a little more dialogue and direct discussion between us folks,” he said.

What changed over the past few days wasn’t made clear in the joint statement from the city and Sno-Isle Tuesday.

Gailey said he and library officials came to a “great compromise, a great solution,” but did not go into specifics during Tuesday’s city council meeting. He instead read the joint statement.

In a separate statement, Langer Thompson simply told The Daily Herald “we found a pathway forward with the community.”

The library district is moving ahead on the construction of a permanent library in the city, funded by $3.1 million in state grants. Those grants have a timeline and a required match from Sno-Isle.

Other city officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; Twitter: @BredaIsabella.

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