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TO SELL OR NOT TO SELL 11-7-12 LMS

What seemed a simple request to buy a parcel of land from the city has unveiled a maze of ramifications that will require both buyer and seller to thoroughly research all possible alternative options.

The Salmon Library Association wants to purchase the land upon which the Salmon Public Library was built. The land belongs to the city which leases it to the Library Association for one dollar a year as per a 100 year lease that was negotiated in 1976. The present Library District was formed in the mid 1990’s. District monies pay for operation of the library but not for capital improvements.

The lease agreement, which is with the association not the district, is good for the next 64 years but there is no longer enough space in the building to accommodate the library’s user needs. The association has offered the city $30,000 for the property. The present library building is valued at around $150,000 and was built by the association. Under terms of the property lease if the library moves out of the building the building reverts to the city which would mean no return on the association’s many years of investment. Without some return the association would have no means with which to reestablish the library elsewhere.

Another aspect revealed by the association’s offer to buy the city land is that when an association requests such a purchase the city is legally obligated to enter an auction process and sell to the highest bidder which may or may not be the Library Association. If the land were sold to an entity other than the association and the library moved from the building the city could end up owning a building but not the land under it putting the city in the same situation currently faced by the association.

Ann Loucks, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Salmon Public Library, suggested that no matter who the highest bidder happened to be it would still have to adhere to the current one dollar a year lease agreement. She said she doubted that anyone would be interested in a property with an investment return of $64. City Attorney Fred Snook confirmed she was correct about adherence to terms of the existing lease.

Snook also said that if the Library District made the request to purchase the land the legal procedure would require no public hearing or auction since one taxing district can sell land directly to another taxing district.

Councilman Jim Baker remembered that about ten years ago the council approved an association request to expand with an addition on the north side of library building. Loucks replied that state codes have to be met and that area contains the only parking spaces available to the library.

Some of the options mentioned included: revisiting and ‘re-tweaking’ the original city-Library Association agreement; considering a sale between taxing districts; the city purchasing the library building, although finding the money would be a big question, and the possibility of the city simply deciding not to sell the property.

City Administrator George Ambrose said, “The decision has to be to sell the property in the best interest of the taxpayers of the city. That’s what the council has to decide, what’s in the best interests of city taxpayers.”

During a public comment opportunity Tom Taylor urged the city to consider selling the land to the Library Association because it is an entity willing to invest in the community. He said ownership of the property would ensure the association it won’t lose its past and future investments when the time comes to sell. He suggested the city could sell the property with a first right of refusal stipulation.

The council decided to send the question of selling the land to the city’s Finance Team for further investigation. The council voted five to one to have the Finance Team meet with library board representatives to discuss and explore options more fully. Councilman Ken Hill cast the only no vote saying he can’t see any set of circumstances where the city would be better off selling the land.


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