MISSOULA - The Missoula City Council on Monday night approved a resolution creating a special district with the county in order to claim the downtown federal building from the federal government.
Under its rules, the General Services Administration cannot release the building to multiple owners but only to a single owner. Creating a special district around the federal building creates that single ownership entity.
“We have an opportunity to take over a building for free that will be gifted to us from the federal government,” said council member Gwen Jones. “It will need some work to make it work for local government and to bring up to certain standards. But it's a great opportunity in a great location.”
Last June, City Council placed its unanimous support behind plans to accept the historic property, and the county did the same.
Both local governments are grappling with spatial needs that will only grow more acute in the coming years, and accepting, renovating and occupying the federal building carried the lowest cost of the other alternatives.
Early figures suggested the property would require around $40 million in work but that has since been refined. The city believes it can do it's share of the work for around $7.5 million.
“There's been some miscommunication in terms of what the numbers are,” said council member Stacie Anderson. “In the long run, this will save taxpayer dollars. Right now we're renting properties all over downtown and cobbling together services. This allows us to centrally locate and split the cost with the county.”
The city last week said that its other downtown properties, including council chambers and City Hall, could be sold to help pay for renovations to the federal building. The city could also chose to work with the private sector in redeveloping those properties, just as it is with the Sleepy Inn and the old library block.
City officials believe the federal government could hand the historic building over as early as January, but most likely by spring. Renovations would follow and the city and county would eventually consolidate staff and services into the federal building.
“We've been utilizing a consultant to deem out various costs. We're not going into this blind,” Anderson said. “It will meet a lot of our immediate needs and future needs. It will give us a chance to consolidate and hopefully serve the community better.”