Friday, December 01, 2023

ImagineIF board pledges to spend $70K on materials for Bigfork branch

Daily Inter Lake | February 26, 2023 12:00 AM

The ImagineIF Library Board of Trustees is pledging to buy $70,000 in materials for the system’s Bigfork branch once its renovation project is complete.

The promise comes as library supporters close in on a major financial milestone for the Bigfork effort. ImagineIF Foundation Director Adam Tunnell said at Thursday’s board meeting the nonprofit made a $225,000 contribution to the Bigfork Capital Campaign, putting their fundraising total at nearly $1.1 million.

They need $1.2 million to begin working on the Bethany Lutheran Church Ark Building, which library officials obtained last June to serve as the new home of the Bigfork branch. Bigfork’s current library branch is just over 1,400 square feet and the new facility will be 6,000 square feet.

ImagineIF cannot legally make donations to private entities, but it can pay for certain purchases or expenses. Board Chair Doug Adams proposed Feb. 23 using part of the $145,000 in their depreciation fund, which is uncommitted money for the library, to make the contribution. The purchase could also be made by pulling from other accounts — like their gift fund or by adding it to material purchases in the operating budget.

At the board’s last Finance Committee meeting, Flathead County Finance Director Amy Dexter told trustees that they would have to ask county commissioners for permission to use any money from their depreciation fund. Adams said last week that when he raised the question with County Administrator Pete Melnick, he was given differing advice.

Trustees agreed to get further clarification from the county on how they should proceed.

Trustees Carmen Cuthbertson and Jane Wheeler were in support of the $70,000 donation but did not want to make a decision at Thursday’s board meeting. The pair instead proposed that the board table it until its March meeting.

Others, like Adams, Trustee Heidi Roedel and Co-Chair David Ingram, wanted to go ahead. Because they were pledging to pay for the materials, they wouldn’t have to make that purchase until the renovation neared completion.

The motion passed three to two — with Adams, Roedel and Ingram voting in favor and Cuthbertson and Wheeler voting in opposition.

THE PLEDGE for financial aid came as trustees continued discussing potentially securing the former Herberger's building as a future site for its Kalispell branch.

The board identified the site as the best current option for a new Kalispell branch as it is located near downtown, accessible by foot and offered more space without the cost of building a new library from the ground up.

ImagineIF leases its current building from Kalispell Public Schools. District officials are looking to divest of the historic building owing to safety and accessibility concerns.

At the most recent school board meeting, Ingram asked members to keep the library board “in the loop” if the district decides to sell.

The library’s lease in the building ends in 2033.

Wheeler said she recently went on a tour of the 86,000-square-foot building along with Tunnell and several colleagues. She said the west side of the building is 40,000 square feet and features the newest construction. The east side of the building is older and totals 46,651 square feet.

The east side of the building contains the loading dock and a second floor, which Wheeler described as less impressive than the newer space downstairs, but it is priced at $45 per square foot compared to $125 per square foot for the rest of the building.

The current price of the entire building is $10.5 million. The property manager told officials of a buyer interested in purchasing half the building, which would benefit the library in terms of cost, according to Wheeler.

“I think we came away with a good impression of possibilities,” Wheeler said. “We were less than impressed with the second floor and the older section. But, I would like to see what the architects could do to make it an interesting and workable space.”

Overall it was “good to get into the building for an initial look,” Wheeler said while acknowledging more due diligence is required. She also met with architecture firm Cushing Terrell and requested preliminary drawings of the building as well as a cost estimate to retain the company.

Wheeler listed a few potential funding options for the move, including local grant opportunities through the county.

The board also passed a motion to put in a Capital Improvement Plan request with the county commissioners for future Kalispell facilities. That would begin the process of setting aside dollars for a move, whether to Herberger’s or elsewhere, Adams said.

IN OTHER board news, trustees passed two policy changes, one pertaining to the meeting room at the Kalispell branch and the other focused on service animals.

The latter move saw the adoption of a new policy to address working animals in the library. Ingram said they defined what a service animal is and people’s rights in regards to them as well as a distinction with emotional support animals, which are barred from the library.

Ingram said they wanted to add that if a service animal has been barred from coming back to the library because of an incident, their owner could still access library services.

As for the former policy tweak, the board changed the hours associated with the Kalispell meeting room, which has been discussed recently in relation to security concerns. New hours for meeting room use are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The next Board of Trustees meeting will be March 23 at the South Campus Conference Room.

Reporter Taylor Inman can be reached at

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