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Missoula City Council to decide on purchase of motel for COVID-19 shelter

Posted at 7:55 AM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 09:55:31-04

MISSOULA — Missoula health officials would like the ability to help those unable to quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic to have the opportunity to do so and the proposed purchase of a local motel may allow them to do just that.

Quarantining the infected population is one of the best ways to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Some people who need to quarantine don't have the luxury so Missoula officials are looking to purchase the Sleepy Inn Motel to provide that opportunity to those who don't have it.

"This is not exclusively for the homeless population I want to be clear on that," Missoula County Office of Emergency Management Director Adriane Beck said. "Non-congregate sheltering is really a holistic community approach in that we are providing community protection so that individuals that cannot otherwise safely isolate or quarantine in their home setting or if they don't have a home certainly that is the population that we are attempting to serve again to protect the community but to also protect those individuals."

Sleepy Inn
The Sleep Inn motel on West Braodway Street in Missoula.

While officials could pay for the use of hotels and their rooms it does not give them full control of the facility that they also stress will not be a medical facility. Funding to operate the shelter could partially be refunded by FEMA but the purchase of the property will not be.

The funding to purchase the motel is coming from the Missoula Redevelopment Agency (MRA) that would normally look for an appraisal before purchasing a property.

If any of us are involved in a real estate the safest thing to do is get a certified appraisal but that is not available right now," MRA Board Chair Karl Englund said about appraising the asset. "You know we have the opinion of a, and it's not an appraisal, but we have an opinion of a very well respected appraiser that this is a good thing. The price seems right. Saying that it was worth $600,000 six years ago before the bridge was completed and all that that doesn't matter."

It's been an expedited purchase process for these trying times. "We were moving the thing along to address the current need the fact that we don't have a full-blown 30, 60, 90-day appraisal on the thing. It's not ideal but it's hard to talk about ideal in these times," Englund said.

Officials say that after being used as a non-congregate shelter during the pandemic the area will go back to the city which intends to redevelop the property in the coming years.

It's a project that officials say the MRA will most likely be involved in. The MRA board approved the purchase on Thursday unanimously and now it will go in front of Missoula City Council for their approval.