Columbia Falls city leaders generally favor the county building a new jail on Weyerhaueser lands adjacent to the Cedar Palace.
There are a few details the city would want to work out with the county, however. The land isn’t in the city limits and as such, doesn’t have city services like sewer and water.
The city would likely extend services to the site if the project comes to fruition, but that usually means annexation. But annexation also means annexation of roads. The city doesn’t want to annex the Truck Route, however, because of the maintenance costs over time. Currently, most of the Truck Route is in the county.
The city would likely try to hammer out a road agreement with the county so it didn’t have to maintain the Truck Route.
The jail, because it’s county-owned, would be tax exempt, so the city won’t see any revenue outside of city sewer and water fees.
Columbia Falls Police Chief Clint Peters favored the jail.
He noted it would mean about 175 employees in the city everyday, which would boost the local economy. It would also mean a greater police presence if the city needed it. He said contrary to some rumors, the move wouldn’t mean the dissolution of the city’s police department.
“The county’s already busy enough,” he said.
Council also wasn’t worried about the proximity to schools. The current jail facility, they note, is within a few blocks of several schools in Kalispell and the heart of downtown, without incident.
The city does expect Kalispell, however, to come up with some sort of counter offer to keep the jail there.
The one problem with a move to Columbia Falls is the jail will no longer be centrally located in the county.
Most jails across the state are located in their respective county seats.