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Spokane City Council to discuss new services at former East Central Library building

A Spokane City Council member is hoping to start the process to open the former East Central library to new tenants.

She, and other community leaders had hoped to turn the space into a health clinic, community or cultural center. Spokane’s mayor said a police precinct was needed in that neighborhood and moved several officers into that building instead.

The City Council will vote on the future of the building Monday.

Spokane City Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson says she and other community leaders wanted the old East Central Library building to remain a community resource, as a health clinic, or as a site for cultural, or education programs.

“We want them to reflect the cultural vibrancy of East Central, or lacking services in that neighborhood,” Wilkerson said. We want them to be affordable services, we want them to have some experience working with diverse demographics.”

She says moving police from their old location in a church to the library has yielded few benefits for the neighborhood.

“There are six, maybe seven officers in a six-thousand square foot building,” she said. “And, they're there during the day, sometimes you see cars, sometimes you don't. The doors are locked, there's no community policing going on.”.

City Spokesman Brian Coddington spokesman said in an email that Mayor Nadine Woodward’s position on the location of the precinct has not changed. She’s repeatedly pointed to the business community’s support, as well as an online survey her administration launched that showed some in the neighborhood were concerned about public safety.

Freda Gandy, director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, which shares a parking lot with the old library, has also spoken out in support of the precinct.

The resolution city council will consider Monday will ask non-profits or other organizations that provide services to submit information showing their interest. Wilkerson says she hopes to have consensus, and a new provider in the building in the fall.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.