- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—Flathead County has a tentative agreement to buy the former Walmart building and 14-acre site in Evergreen for $2.8 million.

County officials are considering using the 130,000-square-foot former box store for a future expansion of the county jail.

The owner of the building, RIC Kalispell Trust of Brooklyn, New York, confirmed the tentative agreement and price via email, county Administrator Mike Pence said Monday.

“There are a lot of legal steps,” Pence said about the deal. “It’s subject to contingencies and actual signatures on a buy-sell agreement.”

The county is drafting a letter of intent to purchase the building and property, the next step in the process, he said.

“Until we have an official buy/sell, everything is tentative,” Pence cautioned.

One of the main contingencies of the county going through with the purchase is the feasibility of using the property for county purposes.

“The key use is the potential for a public-safety facility,” Pence said.

The county has retained Integrus Architecture of Spokane to conduct a $20,000 architectural study of the Walmart building. The county previously has worked with Integrus, a firm that has expertise in detention facilities, Pence said.

Another contingency is the environmental integrity of the site.

Roger Noble, owner of Applied Water Consulting in Kalispell, has been retained to conduct an environmental study for an estimated $17,000.

“We’ll do other due diligence as well,” Pence said. “We’ll look at the parking lot area, and we can do that in-house.”

A clear title to the property and an appraisal are other items on the county’s checklist.

Pence said the proposed purchase price of $2.8 million translates to $21 per square foot, “which seems like a reasonably good deal.”

The Walmart building was constructed in 1995 and Walmart is paying a lease on the facility through 2015.

For years the county has been contemplating how best to address a space problem at the Flathead County jail in the Justice Center.

The jail was built in 1985, but by 1992 daily prisoner counts often exceeded the number of beds. That scenario has played out year after year, with an average of 89 inmates in a facility built to house 63 prisoners at capacity.

Last year the commissioners created a funding mechanism to begin setting aside money for a jail expansion. The county is reclaiming property-tax mills not levied from past years and earmarking the new tax revenue for a jail expansion. The additional tax money, to be levied over seven years, is expected to generate close to $10 million.

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Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or by email at [email protected]

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(c)2015 the Daily Inter Lake (Kalispell, Mont.)

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