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Kootenai County to buy property in Hayden

by MADISON HARDY
Staff Writer | November 28, 2020 1:00 AM

Kootenai County and Kootenai Electric Cooperative have struck a deal to help both organizations: The power company is selling some prime property to the county.

KEC’s 11-acre, 56,000-square-foot facility comes with vehicle parking areas as well as fuel space, and the county is getting it for $4.72 million, less than the estimated $5.5 million appraised value and a fraction of the cost it would take to build a brand-new facility of the same size.

“If you were to try and build that facility today on 11 acres, it would be $25 million to $30 million, I suspect,” Commissioner Chris Fillios said. “With construction costs rising the way they are, this was something we needed to take a serious look at and decided it was in the best interest to proceed.”

The reduced purchase price comes as part of the agreement to allow KEC to continue operating out of the facility for the next three years rent-free. Discussions between the county and KEC have been ongoing for at least several months after KEC General Manager/CEO Doug Elliott approached county project consultant Shawn Riley about the idea.

“They’re not paying rent for three years, and that is included in the price,” Fillios said. “When we did the math and the value of those three years added to the $4.27 million would be fairly close to the appraised value give or take a couple thousand.”

Fillios said the county intends to pay the $4.27 million in one lump sum from the general fund balance.

Kootenai Electric Cooperative, a member-owned electric utility headquartered in Hayden, has been operating in the area since the late 1930s. As one of the largest electric cooperatives in Idaho with over 100 employees, KEC has implanted more than 30,000 meters and approximately 2,300 miles of electric line in Kootenai, Benewah, Bonner, and Spokane counties.

Negotiations stemmed from the county and KEC running out of space in their existing facilities. Through the agreement, the county plans to finalize the Hayden property purchase by the middle of December. KEC will continue to occupy the space while building a new headquarters. No new location has been named.

“KEC’s current headquarters have served our needs for more than 40 years,” said Elliott. “With the rapid growth in our community, KEC’s growing ranks and fleet used to serve our members are straining our headquarters facility. This agreement allows the cooperative to construct a new headquarters facility that will serve our members for the next 40 years.”

Kootenai County has been reaching the capacity of employees in their downtown locations for years. The last time the county built a new facility was the Administration Building in 1997, Fillios said, and its struggling to hold Kootenai’s approximately 850 employees. The county is also considering a new facility to house public defenders, prosecuting attorneys, and additional courthouses, among other departments.

It hasn’t been decided what departments will move to the Hayden facility once the three years have passed. However, the commissioners have looked into setting up a satellite location for driver’s or vehicle licensing, the community development department, support for airport operations, or general overflow.

“Since much of the county’s growth is in the north, we’ll be able to relocate or expand our departments into that building so that we can provide better service to the Hayden, Athol, and Rathdrum area,” Fillios said.

The sales agreement will be finalized at the commissioners' public meeting Tuesday with a tentative closing date sometime before Dec. 11.

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