Library, police station have new home

‘Plan B’ revealed; building purchased for both

The Liberty Lake police chief and library director heaved sighs of relief Tuesday night after the City Council voted to approve Plan B – purchasing a building on East Mission to house a new police station and library.

The council has been considering alternative plans for the cramped library after a $9.8 million bond to build a new library/community center failed at the polls in May.

A “Plan B” has been often mentioned, but no details were made public until Tuesday’s meeting. During the June 19 meeting the council approved $5,000 in earnest money to American Title Insurance Co. for “land acquisition parks/other facilities.” The property purchase was also discussed in a lengthy executive session on May 20, which was not open to the public.

Mayor Wendy Van Orman said before the meeting that she wasn’t sure why the process had been cloaked in secrecy, while at the same time refusing to release any details until the meeting began. “I don’t know,” she said. “I guess it’s because you don’t want to say anything because no decision has been made.”

Since the plan was unveiled at the meeting and a vote was immediately taken, the public did not have a chance to comment on the proposed plan. Van Orman said that the public had already voiced their opinion in the wake of the failed bond, including in several polls in the Liberty Lake Splash newspaper that had many people calling for using an existing building as a cheaper option. “We’ve pretty much gotten a clear direction from them,” she said.

The building at 23123 E. Mission Ave., previously housed Northern Technologies, Inc. It will be purchased for $1,968,300, down from the asking price of $2.2 million. The city anticipates spending about $670,000 on renovations, including building a wall to divide the building in two. The Spokane County Assessors Web site lists the owner as NTI Properties and the 2009 assessed value of the 1992 building is $1.5 million, though the building sold for $1.6 million in 1999. The 27,000-square-foot building will include about 19,000 square feet for the police department and about 8,000 square feet for the library, triple the amount of space it currently has. The building will have two entrances with separate driveways and parking lots. The city is expected to take possession on Aug. 6 and renovation should be complete by January, said Van Orman.

The building was originally identified as a possible police station in February. Currently, the nine-person police department is housed in cramped quarters in City Hall. There is no secure storage and other amenities are lacking. The move will free up space in City Hall for the ever-expanding city staff. The library will gain space for a meeting room, study areas, a storage area, offices and a work room, none of which the library has now.

The city can afford to pay for the purchase without borrowing money, said community development director Doug Smith. There is $2.6 million in capital projects funds, plus another $500,000 available from the general fund. Annual operating expenses are expected to run between $55,000 and $65,000, less than the $67,000 the city currently spends to rent library space.

Several council members expressed concern about essentially draining the capital projects fund when the second phases of Rocky Hill Park and the Arboretum still need funding and spending so much money in a slowing economy. “The revenues are flat this year,” said councilmember Neal Olander. “It’s scary to spend two or three million on something. We shouldn’t view this as a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

“I’m so torn over this,” said council member Susan Schuler. “I very much want to say yes, but I’m concern about spending this much money right now, today.”

Council members Brian Sayrs and Judi Owens were enthusiastic about the plan. “This is why we have the (capital projects) fund,” said Owens. “We’re meeting the needs of the city. I really think this is a good move.”

In the end, council members Neal Olander and Odin Langford joined them in supporting the purchase, even though they had expressed reservations about the amount of money involved. Councilman David Crump was absent.

Library director Pamela Mogan was pleased by the vote. “We are sure glad we’re going to have room to provide the services the city needs,” she said.

The new space means the library can finally take out all the books in storage, which are essentially out of circulation now. “If we can get the shelving we need, we’ll be able to bring them all out. We’re definitely going to need some more furniture.

“The cool thing is, there’s going to be space to do stuff.”

Nina Culver can be reached at 927-2158 or via email at ninac@spokesman.com.

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