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Bieter: ‘Pause planning’ on Boise library; Costs are over budget, second vote can’t go on ballot

Another surprise move on the Boise Library project from Mayor Dave Bieter.

Bieter issued a news release saying ‘new information’ lead him to call for a pause to the planning process.

The project planning team told the city that the library project remains over budget. BoiseDev reported yesterday on a variety of actions contemplated to bring the initial cost under the $85 million budget.

The city committed to spending $11 million on architecture services from Safdie Associates & CSHQ, leaving $74 million for all other costs. The city paid out just less than $3 million of that contract to date. If the project ultimately does not resume, the city will not have to pay the remaining $7 million of the architecture contract.

The city emphasized construction costs are a key driver of current cost estimates. A spokesperson cited volatility with concrete and steel prices tied to tariffs on Chinese materials.

The current cost estimate stands at $104 million according to City of Boise spokesperson Mike Journee. That cost includes a “phased” theater component which wouldn’t be built initially – costing additional dollars in the future.

A January 8th cost estimate reviewed by BoiseDev also pegged the cost at $104 million. However, this included the theater project. In January, phasing the theater was estimated to delay about $9 million in costs, meaning the project has increased roughly the same amount as the theater would cost.

Said another way: In January the project cost $104 million with a theater. Now it costs $104 million without one.

The mayor said Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane told him the city could not put a special election on the ballot. The City of Boise planned to hold a public hearing to contemplate that idea this Tuesday. Bieter canceled it.

“I believe a new Main Library is vital to the future of our city and I will remain dedicated to making sure we have one,” Bieter wrote in a statement.

McGrane said the city would need to sue the county to overturn his decision.

McLean & Bieter tangle on the pause

Boise City Council President Lauren McLean, who is running against Bieter, said today’s action should have “happened months ago.”

“I will always love and support public libraries: they are essential to our identity as Americans and Boiseans. And I know that so many Boiseans also support a downtown library, but they saw problems with the project, process, and budget.”

The campaign for Bieter’s reelection bid issued a statement to supporters asking “Where has Council President McLean been.” The Bieter campaign said McLean never called for a pause to the project.

McLean responded to the Bieter campaign.

“Where have I been? I’ve been out talking with hundreds of Boiseans about their concerns, engaging them in conversations about our future, and standing up for our democracy by protecting the rights and reputations of signature gatherers who are residents in our city,” she said. “Rather than fund a PAC to prevent the ballot initiative, I supported the rights and reputations of signature gatherers.”

‘Vote for a vote’ still on

The library project will still be on this fall’s ballot. A citizen initiative will require a “vote for a vote,” which would ensure the city require citizen input before building a library project in the future. A separate petition from the same group will bring a similar vote for a possible stadium project.

Boise Working Together spokesperson David Klinger issued a release late Friday afternoon expressing relief that the project is on hold.

“Finally, our city leadership has acknowledged what a growing number of citizens have been saying for over a year — that the costs and consequences from this project are accelerating, while the ability of citizens to meaningfully influence the outcomes is steadily being eroded,” Klinger wrote.

Don Day - BoiseDev Editor
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at don@boisedev.com.

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