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County on deck to explore library relocation to Gateway Center

Daily Inter Lake | May 17, 2023 12:00 AM

Flathead County commissioners on Tuesday authorized a letter of intent that allows the county to explore the purchase of a portion of the Gateway Community Center as a possible future location for the Kalispell library.

Commissioners unanimously approved the letter, which is necessary to begin negotiations over the location with the Flathead County Economic Development Authority, which owns the space that formerly housed TeleTech.

However, County Administrator Pete Melnick said that another entity does have a contract that runs through May 31 with the development authority to potentially buy the space. The county would only look at the location if that agreement falls through, he said.

“The library board is interested in pursuing the space for potential relocation,” he said. “This letter opens up the doors for those discussions and to be able to build out what that could look like.”

It’s a move the ImagineIF Board of Trustees has resisted, in part because of its location away from downtown Kalispell, as they pursue a new home for the branch located now at First Avenue East. But last month trustees OK’d moving forward with the idea while setting a list of stipulations related to the relocation.

In order to agree to the move to the center, library trustees have indicated that the entire available space of about 60,000 square feet would need to be made available for the library, and the county would have to cover renovation and other costs associated with the new building. In addition, the county would need to help ease the financial burden of the move.

Melnick said the county would still have to negotiate with the library trustees regarding the stipulations before the building is purchased.

“We wanted to have the letter of intent in place before we start research on the building because it could take some time and maybe some funds to analyze the building,” he said. “This is exploratory at this point.”

A purchase price for the property remains undetermined. The letter says it would be the intent of both parties to enter into a purchase agreement within 90 days if the process moves forward.

Kalispell Public Schools, which owns the current building housing the library, has indicated an intent to sell the property in the near future. The library’s lease with the school district runs through 2033, but a new owner wouldn’t have to honor that agreement.

The historic building also comes with challenges for library operations including the need to staff three separate floors.

Library trustees did explore relocating to the former Herberger’s building in Kalispell Center Mall and the National Flood Building but ruled those out as viable options.

Features Editor Heidi Desch may be reached at 758-4421 or

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