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Liberty Lake buys property for expanded library

By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

The city of Liberty Lake moved at lightning speed last month to secure a building intended to be a new, larger Liberty Lake Library.

It was all coincidence, really. Mayor Cris Kaminskas was walking down East Mission Avenue from a city meeting back to work. She walked by a for sale sign at 23129 E. Mission Ave., which is directly east of the building that currently houses the city’s library and police department. It was a lightbulb moment.

“I kind of felt like that sign jumped out and grabbed me,” she said.

The city has long known that the current library, which is just under 9,000 square feet, is too small. The small parking lot is regularly packed for story times. The interior was redesigned around the end of 2020 to maximize the available space. A consultant did a needs assessment around the same time and concluded that the library should be between 16,500 and 19,500 square feet based on the current and projected population growth.

“We’ve been talking about the need for more space at the library for years,” said Kaminskas.

She spotted the sign on July 6. She and several city council members and library board members toured the building on July 11. “They were all just so excited,” she said.

The city council held an executive session on July 14 to discuss whether to purchase the building and an offer was made on July 15. The city council approved purchasing the building on July 19, Kaminskas said.

The city offered $2.175 million for the 14,400 square foot building and the offer was accepted, Kaminskas said, though the sale has not yet closed. There was a sense of urgency about buying the building because others were interested in it, she said.

“We didn’t have time to let it go by,” she said.

Kaminskas said she was surprised by how quickly everything came together and said if there had been a building for sale in a different part of town, she might never have noticed it. The building is currently occupied by Legacy Church and Kaminskas said the city plans to offer to let the church continue to lease the building for the next year. That would give the city some rental income that could be used for renovations and give the church plenty of time to find a new home.

“We are not ready to move in,” she said. “We have to do design work.”

The city needs to determine what sort of remodeling might need to be done to make the building suitable to be a library. “The bones are great,” Kaminskas said. “It will also give the library double the parking.”

She acknowledges that even though the size of the new building is a huge improvement, it’s not quite the 16,500 square feet the consultants recommended. “We think we can make that up by going vertical with some storage,” she said.

The city also needs to make some changes to the budget to cover the purchase price of the building. “We may use ARPA funds,” Kaminskas said, referring to the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. “We have 2.8 million left.”

Kaminskas said she also plans to explore grant options that are available to cities who are remodeling or building libraries.

What also remains to be determined is what will happen to the space the library is currently occupying. Kaminskas said it could be used as meeting space or the police department might be able to expand, but that will be decided later.

“I’m just really happy to have this strategic asset,” she said.

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