Public Meetings Scheduled to Discuss Proposed Columbia Falls Jail Site

Flathead County accepting input on proposal to buy Weyerhaeuser sites for new detention center, sheriff's office

By Beacon Staff
The former Cedar Palace administrative office in Columbia Falls. Beacon file photo

The Flathead County Commission has scheduled two public meetings to discuss the potential purchase of 24 acres of land and an office building in Columbia Falls for a new jail site.

The meetings will be held Monday, Sept. 25 at Columbia Falls Junior High School, 1805 Talbot Rd., and Tuesday, Sept. 26 at the Flathead County Courthouse in Kalispell. Both meetings will start at 6 p.m.

All members of the public are invited to attend and provide comments as part of the commission’s “due diligence” on the potential land acquisition, said County Administrator Mike Pence on Sept. 14.

The commission approved a $2.6 million purchase and sale agreement for the properties on Aug. 31, kicking off a 60-day period of public comment before the deal is finalized.

The property, located at 500 12th Ave. W. and owned by Weyerhaeuser, is being considered for a potential adult detention center site and sheriff’s office. The 35,104-square-foot Cedar Palace office building is located on nearly 24 open acres of land zoned light industrial. There’s also a 5,862-square-foot data center building on the property.

The property was listed for sale earlier this year. The main office was built in 1982 and served as Plum Creek’s headquarters before the company merged with Weyerhaeuser in early 2016. The office closed in December 2016.

Flathead County’s current jail in Kalispell is overflowing. Built in the 1980s to hold about 60 inmates, the site now regularly houses more than 100 people on a daily basis. The county expanded jail space earlier in 2017 to hold up to 164 inmates.

Pence said in previous interviews that the commission was interested in the Weyerhaeuser land for several reasons, including acreage that could accommodate present and future needs.

If the commission moves forward with the purchase after the 60-day public comment period, it would need to ask voters to approve a bond request in the future to build the new jail. Voters would also have to approve a mill-levy increase to pay for the expanded operations.

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