County buying Cedar Palace as possible site for new jail

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The Cedar Palace’s employees had their last day on Friday. The building is now empty.

By LYNNETTE HINTZE

For the Hungry Horse News

Flathead County is buying the former “Cedar Palace” and adjoining acreage owned by Weyerhaeuser Co. in Columbia Falls as a possible site for a new jail. The purchase price is $2.6 million.

The county commissioners on Thursday approved a purchase and sale agreement that begins a 60-day public comment period during which the county will take input before making a final decision on the land purchase. Earnest money of $130,000 is part of the deal.

The property is located at 500 12th Ave. W. in Columbia Falls.

The purchase includes a 35,000-square-foot office complex built in the early 1980s by former owner Plum Creek Timber Co., along with a data center building and close to 24 acres of land that is zoned for light industrial development.

Weyerhaeuser listed the office building complex and acreage for sale earlier this year.

Flathead County has been saving money for a new jail for several years and this summer opened a $1.6 million, 40-bed addition to the existing jail as a temporary fix until plans for a new jail can be solidified. The county converted space on the second floor of the Justice Center that previously housed the County Attorney offices.

The county’s five-year capital improvement plan includes $50 million in funding for a new jail.

The plan calls for spreading the expense of a new adult detention center over three years, with a $20 million earmark for fiscal year 2020 and $28.3 million in 2021. The capital plan anticipates asking voters to support a $37 million bond.

The county has saved $6.4 million for the new jail, including $1 million from the county’s payments-in-lieu-of-taxes federal allocation for this year.

Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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