Imagine for a moment that Whitefish was the location of the proposed site for a new county jail. There would be a tremendous uproar about the potential for decreased property value, the lost revenue from the tax exempt land and buildings, and the negative reputation that a new jail would bring to that attractive, vibrant, successful community. Whitefish would not stand for it. Well, Columbia Falls, we are absolutely thriving right now and are progressing rapidly to be just as attractive and vibrant as Whitefish with our own unique brand of success. We certainly do not need the proposed new county jail dragging down our rising town. What we need is an UPROAR!
Having the advantage of coming from a law enforcement family, I can enthusiastically say that I appreciate the quality of our local officers, deputies, and detention center personnel, so I believe Sheriff Curry when he says that the jail is a good neighbor from the standpoint of SAFETY. However, I wholeheartedly disagree that a new jail would be a good neighbor from a financial and aesthetic standpoint. A jail in our area would seriously damage the charming character and appeal of Columbia Falls and set us back years in our hard-fought development. Therefore, I call upon members of the Columbia Falls business community and Chamber of Commerce to protect your investments in our recently revitalized town. I call upon residents of Columbia Falls and the surrounding areas to safeguard the appeal of your properties. I call upon the Columbia Falls mayor and members of city council to stand up for the progress of our city and tell the commissioners to upgrade the jail where it currently stands or to think outside of the box for a location. There are many other more innovative options, especially when working with the roughly $40-50 million that the county anticipates they may need for a new facility.
Make a short phone call or type a quick email to the county commissioners’ office. Send a brief letter to the editor of a local paper. Post your opinion on Facebook. But do it TODAY. You may not realize that the county has already entered into a buy/sell agreement with Weyerhauser for the Columbia Falls land where they appear to favor locating this new detention center. Time is very short to stop the deal. A five minute investment now could prevent years of negative impact in the future.
Does the Flathead Valley need more jail space? Most emphatically, yes. Is the Columbia Falls community the best option for that jail space? Absolutely, positively, no. If the county is having trouble developing and pursuing some of the decidedly superior and innovative alternatives to our town, I would challenge you to ask for a working group of volunteers from our practical, creative, forward-thinking Columbia Falls population. We have become really good at that sort of thing and I am confident that many of us would be more than happy to help you out.