BOISE — The fate of the controversial main library will be decided in the November election.
According to talking points for Boise Mayor Dave Bieter’s mid-August meeting with library donors and other stakeholders, the city will hold on to the $52 million budgeted toward the roughly $85 million project, while staff try to get the project in budget.
It isn’t known if the city will pursue a new architect, or continue trying to fit the current design by Moshe Safdie into the city’s price tag. City spokesman Mike Journee said much of how the project will move forward will be determined by the mayoral race in November.
“I don’t have any time frame on the $50 million at all,” Journee said. “We’ve got an important date coming up in early November around that conversation, but for right now there hasn’t been any time frame put on that.”
This project has raised the ire of multiple groups since the concept design was released to the public last summer. Conservationists were frustrated at the decision to relocate the historic 1940s-era log cabin from its site near the library to Julia Davis Park. Some residents were frustrated by the city’s goal to fit a $104 million project into an $85 million budget. Others questioned the necessity of the project at all, during an unprecedented affordable housing crisis.
The project angered so many voters that a concerned citizens group, Boise Working Together, gathered enough signatures to add a ballot initiative asking if voters would like to vote on any library project set to cost more than $25 million.
To stakeholders in August, Bieter said if the ballot initiative were to pass, the city would likely take it before a judge, according to a set of talking points given to the mayor prior to meeting with stakeholders. The Idaho Press obtained the talking points via public records request.
“… I think one way or another we’ll find ourselves in court,” the talking points for Bieter said. “I don’t ever want to predict what the outcome of a court case will be, because you never know, but we’re pretty confident that (the initiative) would be found unconstitutional.”
David Klinger, a member of Boise Working Together, said the group is confident the language will hold up in court.
“I think we’re on very solid ground,” he said. “This is an accountability set of propositions that asks for greater citizen oversight of their city government. That’s the essence of democracy.”
According to the talking points, Bieter was also slated to discuss with stakeholders the future of the log cabin near the main library. After public outcry over moving the historic building took up two lengthy late night hearings on the topic, the Boise City Council voted to move the historic structure, home to the literary nonprofit The Cabin, to the east end of Julia Davis Park near Cottonwood Creek.
Bieter’s talking points called the new location for the building “perfect,” and said the move won’t occur until the end of 2020 or in 2021 because of the ongoing daylighting of Cottonwood Creek that has to be completed first. Both Bieter and Journee said the long timeline will give city staff time to find a path forward on the library project before the structure is moved.
The Cabin’s executive director, Kurt Zwolfer, said he has heard no indication the city has changed its mind on moving the building, but when exactly it will be moved is going to be determined by the results of the election. However, he said the group is supportive of the building moving to the site in Julia Davis.
“My reading of the situation is that with city council, mayor and referendum up on this vote, this time table could change dramatically depending on what happens,” he said. “I would say based on the situation we’re in right now, we think that the best situation to have clarity is to move the building to the new site.”