Flathead County

County Approves Purchase of Kalispell Property for Future Detention Facility

The county commissioners approved a $3.9 million purchase of the 114.85-acre property south of Kalispell

By Micah Drew
A 114-acre parcel off of Snowline Lane south of Kalispell proposed for purchase by Flathead County, pictured on Oct. 12, 2023. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The Flathead County commissioners at their Feb. 22 meeting unanimously approved a final purchase agreement for a 114.85-acre property in the Lower Valley that could serve as the site of a future detention facility. The commission is purchasing the property, located at 225 Snowline Lane near the junction of U.S. Highway 93, for $3.9 million. The sale is expected to close by Feb. 28.

“This is an exciting day for me,” Commissioner Pam Holmquist said. “I just want to say this is just one tiny step, but it’s something we’ve discussed and had many meetings on for many many years and I think this is a good move forward to finally at least identify a location potential for the detention facility that is so much needed in our community.”

The current property owner, Robert King, initially approached the county commission last August offering to sell the property for $10 million to use for the proposed regional septage facility. The county instead purchased a different property in the Lower Valley on Wiley Dike Road for that project.

The King property is zoned SAG-5 (suburban agriculture) and is bisected by Ashley Creek. It has several existing structures, including a house, three-truck garage, shop building and hay barn.

Holmquist has spent more than a decade working towards the goal of expanding or replacing the county’s detention center. Last winter and spring, the commissioners held several forums to discuss options to expand the current capacity of the county jail, which currently has 98 beds. An assessment identified the facility’s kitchen capacity, mental healthcare and the current staff-intensive design as limitations.

The county currently has more than $16 million set aside for the detention facility, with roughly $2.5 million in savings allocated annually in the county budget. During a discussion in December, an initial construction cost analysis for a new detention center was estimated between $114 and $133 million, though more than $32 million in cost saving measures were identified during the discussions.

During the December meeting, all three commissioners emphasized they wanted to ensure the design of the detention center will fit Flathead County’s needs well into the future before committing to a price tag.

“I think being able to take this step is a huge step,” commissioner Randy Brodehl said ahead of Thursday’s vote. “I don’t know if the community recognizes the background of this, but we’ve made a lot of progress in a short amount of time.”

The vote to approve the purchase was unanimous, with commissioner Brad Abell absent.

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