Idaho Falls Citizen Journalism

Leslie Shumate's picture

9-20-17 LMS

Following lengthy Salmon City Council discussion a motion was made that the city donate the land and adjoining property under the old library to the Salmon Library District.

The September 20 motion was made by Councilman Russ Chinske contingent upon a good faith agreement that construction costs related to closing off adjoining walls and shared utility systems used by City Hall will be paid by the Library District. The association has always owned the building and had a one dollar per year lease arrangement with the city for the property on which the library was built.

Marynel Malcom, Chair of the Lemhi County Library District, acted as spokesperson for the district’s recent request to purchase the city owned land underneath the old library building.

Ann Loucks represented the Salmon Public Library Association and she gave a brief resume of the city’s long association with the library and history of building negotiations. In 2012 the association asked the city if it would sell the city owned land under the building. Loucks said at that time it was thought that the land and building would have to be sold if a decision were ever made to build a new library. Five years ago the land was assessed at $4.75 a square foot which came to $23,800. The association offered to buy the land for $30,000. The legalities of the city selling to a 501c3 non-profit association would have required a public hearing followed by an open auction in which the city would have to accept the high bid and the library association could have been out-bid for the property. Those negotiations were discontinued by mutual consent. 

Since then a Library District has been created and it is legal for one public entity to sell to another public entity because that involves public money to public money.

In 2015, thinking the association would have to use money from the sale of the building to build a new library the association offered to sell the old library to the city and the city declined. Since then thanks to grants and the tremendous, generous support of the community the new building was totally funded. The association is currently leasing the upstairs of the old library to the Lemhi County Historical Society Museum. The downstairs is used for community meetings, as a possible future home for a new youth educational program and for storage.

One of the council concerns all along has been what sort of buyer would become the next door neighbor to City Hall if the building and were to be sold to a commercial entity. Loucks told the council that if the association board ever decided to part with the old building it would go to the museum or the city. She said, “We were never interested in letting it go to anyone else.” Loucks said there is no intention of ever selling the building unless it is to the museum. She said the feeling is, it makes far more sense for the building and the property to all be in the realm of the library. 

The vote to donate the land with aforementioned contingencies was four to two in favor. The ‘yes’ votes came from Councilmen Jim Baker, Neal James, Russ Chinske and Rob Jackson. The ‘no’ votes were cast by Councilmen Jim Bockelman and Ken Hill.

Malcom will take the city’s offer to the Library District’s Board and report results after the board’s November meeting.

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