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YES – AND NO 6-3-15 LMS

Members of the Salmon City Council have held two lengthy discussions on whether or not the city should buy the adjacent Library building. The bottom line is the majority would like to have the building and, the majority questions the affordability when facing things like a new bridge, restrooms, pot holes and the proverbial unknown emergencies down the road.

The library building is conjoined with the City Hall building. About 25 percent of the library is actually city owned as is the land beneath the library. Everyone would like to see the Lemhi County Historical Society obtain the building for expansion of the Museum but there are no funds to make that happen.

During a May 28 meeting of the city’s Finance Team team members Ken Hill and Jim Bockelman favored a purchase stating the advantages of being able to control the building’s occupancy and keeping City Hall and the museum as one complex of buildings.

Finance Team member Councilman Jim Baker was not in favor due to there being no need for the building right now and contrary to some suggestions, did not feel that funds should be expended to move the Salmon Police Department from its present location. Hill agreed citing multiple reasons including insufficient downtown parking and the dog training opportunities at the Sacajawea Center plus future needs that property can fulfill.

Councilman Bockelman felt the city should own the library building and that it would be a quality rental property. Baker wondered about putting the issue before the public for an advisory vote and said he would be more likely to support a purchase if there was a probable lease/rental in the works.

Finance Director Amy Fealko said it would be nice to have the building but felt the price being asked for it could be better used in city infrastructure needs. She did say that returning Urban Renewal funds could go towards the purchase even though she had scheduled those funds for future use on streets.

The team discussed other funding avenues such as the contingency fund, selling some of the Sacajawea Center property or a City Bond to buy the building.

At the June 3 meeting of the full council Councilman Fred Waidely was adamant that money should go towards infrastructure and that there is no need for the building. He went so far as to say the building is an albatross for the Library Association in that the association does not own the land under it, there is no parking and that the city has no use for it. Waidely said the city does not have the money and he would not want to see the city go into debt for something that isn’t needed when there is a real need for infrastructure improvements. He also mentioned the amount of maintenance the building requires.

Councilman Russ Chinske agreed with Waidely and said the matter should be settled to give the library the freedom to find a buyer. He mentioned he’d love to see the museum expand into the building however there is no solid plan in place.

Councilman Rob Jackson said his biggest concerns are related to the connections between the buildings which in the past have been a proponent for his thoughts of buying but, he said when it comes down to expending money he thinks the city would be better off putting the money into the streets.

Councilman Hill said he would still like to see the city own the building but thinks that is tough to justify and Bockelman said it would be nice to have all the buildings together but there is no present need. He said he doesn’t feel the city should make the Library Association wait until November for the decision if the city has no intention of buying the building.

Baker reiterated his desire to put the matter before the voters in the form of a bond or advisory vote and said he was not ready to cast a yes or no vote that evening.

Bob Russell, President of the Lemhi County Historical Society, was present and invited to speak. He stated the museum’s dream of expanding into the building and creating a real visitor’s center and perhaps establish an historical research center. It comes down to there being no money to do that. As far as grant opportunities he said there would be more chance of obtaining money to renovate than to buy the building. Russell expressed the hope that whoever the new owner turns out to be, the building will be used as a public service to the community not as a commercial establishment.

Bockelman and Jackson decided perhaps it would be better to wait until the November deadline to decide and in the meantime conduct an advisory vote, perhaps by way of the city’s website.

Baker made a motion to postpone making a decision for two weeks. The motion passed four to two with Jackson, Bockelman, Hill and Baker voting yes and Waidely and Chinske voting no.

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