County Library Considering Ownership of Discovery Square

By Beacon Staff

The Flathead County Library Board discussed the possibility of taking over ownership of the Glacier Discovery Square building in Columbia Falls, which would lead to a remodeling effort led by the library and the First Best Place organization.

The plan being considered would involve a donor paying off the current mortgage debt on the property – located at 540 Nucleus Ave. – and transferring the ownership to the library system.

According to Kim Crowley, the Flathead County Library System director, the library has $100,000 set aside for this project in its capital funds. The money could be used to help purchase the building, Crowley said, or for the remodeling and updating needs.

Moving the Columbia Falls branch of the county library to the Discovery Square building from its current location at City Hall has been a possibility for a while, Crowley said, and the Library Foundation established a partnership with First Best Place, a local nonprofit organization, several years ago.

First Best Place spearheaded the initial effort to raise money for the building’s needs, garnering over $400,000 in commitments for the project. The cost for the entire project is estimated around $1.5 million to $1.75 million.

The funds came from the county library system, North Valley Hospital, local donors and foundations. The money already pledged is contingent on the full funding being secured, according to a statement from the library.

If the library took ownership of the building, Crowley said the idea would be to shut it down and begin fundraising in earnest.

“We need to close it down, start fundraising and not put any more Band-Aids on it,” Crowley said.

If for some reason the project does not come to fruition and the remodel does not take place, then the library would have the building as an asset, Crowley said, and would be able to sell it if necessary.

“Of course I don’t want that to happen, but it is a safety net,” Crowley said.

Hilary Hutcheson, president of the First Best Place board of directors, said the organization is on board with the project.

“We think this is a smart move at this stage of the project,” Hutcheson said in a prepared statement. “It has always been a part of the long-term plan for ownership of the property to go to the most appropriate partner. We have a chance to pay off existing debt and complete another major step in creating this space for the community to love.”

Crowley said the next step in the process is a meeting in Columbia Falls on Sept. 19 with the library board, the library foundation, local government representatives and First Best Place representatives.

While the project is still in transition, Crowley said it is good to get moving on it again.

“It’s always been an exciting project but it’s languished a bit and we really want to get it going again,” she said.

For more information on the Flathead County Library System, visit www.flatheadcountylibrary.org. For information on First Best Place, visit www.firstbestplace.org.