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Leaders aim to fast-track headquarters building

Application has been submitted

— A land use and development application has been submitted for a new Colville tribal administration building.

The previous building burned to the ground July 29. Colville Business Council Chairman Michael O. Finley said at the time that the replacement building would be placed on a fast track for construction.

A land use development application for a conditional use permit has been submitted to the tribal Land Use Review Board and a public hearing is planned at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 5 in the Colville Tribal Credit conference room, 14 Moses St., on the agency campus.

Written comments will be accepted until 4 p.m. Sept. 4, or comments can be made during the hearing.

Land Use and Shoreline Administrator Pete Palmer did not return Chronicle phone calls seeking additional information on the project and development process. Tribal Property Manager Paul Tillman declined to comment.

The tribe proposes a phased development that would include demolition of houses and buildings on the agency campus and construction of a 200,000- to 260,000-square-foot facility to house about 59 tribal departments.

Finley said the building would be constructed on the site of softball fields between state Highway 155 and the former tribal headquarters site. Plans for the new building were announced before the fire.

The new building would have a bigger footprint than the old building and would be a change of use for some of the land. Some old houses would be razed. He said he’s not sure if the softball fields would be relocated.

“Right now our No. 1 priority is the new building,” he said.

The historic Skolaskin Church, which sits at the corner of the property across the street from the old administration building, would be moved. That church, built in the 1870s, was moved from the mouth of the San Poil River when Grand Coulee Dam inundated the area.

“It’s one of the oldest buildings on the reservation,” Finley said.

The road running in front of the old administration building would be closed and become part of the new building’s site.

Tribal officials plan to consolidate all tribal programs, administrative offices and the council into one building. They’re now spread all across the agency campus two miles south of Nespelem and, since the fire, into buildings in the town of Nespelem and south of the agency near the tribe’s correctional facility.

No cost estimate has been announced, but in a post-fire letter to tribal members Finley said the maximum cost would be $40 million.

“We are confident that the total construction costs should come in far below that amount,” he wrote. The council and tribal administrators are working with bankers to get a low-interest construction loan, meaning trust settlement money set aside under the Quam Quampt plan will remain in the bank and accumulating interest, Finley said.

He said when the final structure of the burning administration building came crashing down the morning of July 29, onlookers were left with “an overwhelming feeling of deep sadness and sorrow.”

The building, home to tribal government since 1975, “represented the changing of an era as Colville transitioned from the depths of obscurity to a leader among Indian Country’s elite in a few short years. Indeed, many of the things we enjoy today came from the blood, sweat and tears of past councils who worked tirelessly day in, day out – often times burning the midnight oil – to not only protect what we have but to improve our way of life.”

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