Status of Missoula County operations amid COVID-19

Last updated Oct. 26, 2020

With the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, some Missoula County offices have delayed plans to reopen further or have returned to working remotely. Below are details for public-facing Missoula County departments.

Clerk and Treasurer’s Office, Missoula County Courthouse First Floor, 200 W. Broadway 

  • The office is closed to public entrance. This includes motor vehicle registration, renewals and transfers, property tax payments or changes, and requests for birth certificates and other records. 
  • Customers are encouraged to complete services online at missoulaclerk.us whenever possible.  

Clerk of Court’s Office, Courthouse Second Floor 

  • The office is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with limited staff. 
  • In-person services will be by appointment-only by calling 406-258-4780.  
  • Residents with questions about jury service are encouraged to email clerkofcourt@missoulacounty.us if possible. They can also call 406-258-4780 but should expect longer than usual wait times as the county continues to experience a large volume of calls.  
  • The office requests no more than one person to attend an appointment but will make accommodations for marriage license applicants to appear together. 
  • A maximum of three people will be allowed in the customer service area at a time. 
  • Those with appointments should wait in their vehicle until called to limit congestion and must maintain physical distancing of 6 feet in the customer service area. Tape markings on the floor will indicate 6-foot distancing. 
  • A cloth face covering is required for all customers. Disposable masks available upon request. 
  • Hand sanitizer will be available for customers, and staff will wipe down pens, counters and other items between customers. 
  • Only one person will be allowed in the public search area at a time. Customers should call 406-258-4780 to schedule an appointment. 
  • Marriage applicants may continue to apply for marriage licenses online, without an in-person visit. 
  • Self-represented litigants are encouraged to continue to submit paperwork by email, fax, mail or drop box. The regular fee for email/fax will be waived. 
  • Attorneys in cases not yet available for e-filing are encouraged to continue to submit pleadings by email, fax, mail or drop box. The regular fee for email/fax will be waived. 
  • Email: clerkofcourt@missoulacounty.us 
  • Fax: 406-258-4899 

Commissioners’ Office, 199 W. Pine St. 

  • Commissioners continue to hold their public meetings virtually via Teams. 
  • The public can check the commissioners’ schedule at www.missoulacounty.us for information ahead of each upcoming public meeting. 
  • Staff check email, mail and voicemail each day. 

Community and Planning Services127 E. Main St. 

  • The office is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. 
  • Appointments to meet with CAPS staff are strongly encouraged. Staff can meet virtually and in person with a limited number of participants.
  • Members of the public must to wear masks when visiting the office, and disposable masks are available if needed. 
  • Guests will need to sign in (including date and contact info) to assist with contact tracing, if necessary. 
  • The info desk will be staffed from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily to field questions from the public about zoning, permits, land use, projects or plans and can be reached by phone at 406-258-4642 or email at zoner@missoulacounty.us.  
  • The department encourages the continued submission of documents and forms electronically when possible. 

County Attorney’s Office, Courthouse Fourth Floor 

  • Majority of employees returned to working remotely and can assist the public by phone, mail or email.  
  • In-person assistance is available by appointment/invitation only for purpose of trials, hearings and prep. 
  • Employees working in the office must practice physical distancing for any in-person meetings, including department meetings, public meetings, meetings with law enforcement, victims, witnesses, other attorneys, etc.  
  • Attorneys, court staff, law enforcement, witnesses, etc., may be allowed in the office if accompanied by an employee, necessary for trial or trial prep, and NOT exhibiting any symptoms.  
  • Anyone in the office must wear a face mask, adhere to strict social distancing guidelines and comply with check stations in place. It is required that employees wash hands/sanitize often.
  • Disposable face masks will be available for those who need one.   

Crime Victim Advocate Program, 317 Woody St. 

  • The office will be closed to walk-in and in-person services Monday, Oct. 26 thru Wednesday, Oct. 28.
  • Paperwork packets are available outside the office in a clear tote.
  • For assistance with protection orders via phone, call the main line at 406-258-3830.
  • If you are experiencing an emergency, please call 9-1-1 or the 24-hour YWCA CRISIS HOTLINE at 800-483-7858.
  • Temporarily, advocates will not physically accompany clients to court appearances but are available via online platform, such as Zoom.
  • For general information, visit www.missoulacounty/cva 

District Court, Courthouse Second and Third Floors 

  • For a detailed list of procedures visit the District Court website. (District Court is a function of the state.)

Elections Center, 140 N. Russell St.  

  • The Elections Center will be open for the extended hours leading up to Election Day:  
    • Saturday, Oct. 24: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  
    • Monday-Friday, Oct. 26-30: 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. 
    • Saturday, Oct. 31: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 
    • Monday, Nov. 2: 7 a.m. 7 p.m. 
    • Tuesday, Nov. 3: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.   

Historical Museum at Fort Missoula3400 Captain Rawn Way 

  • Due to the uptick in COVID cases, the main museum building will remain closed for general visitation through Thursday, Dec. 31.
  • Tours of the main museum building and galleries are available for small groups by appointment only. Please contact Education Director Kristjana Eyjolfsson at 406-258-3473.
  • Museum grounds are open, and the public is welcome.
  • Museum outbuildings will be closed for the winter beginning Monday, Nov. 2, and will re-open for Forestry Day on Saturday, April 24, 2021.   
  • The museum is no longer accepting book donations.  
  • Volunteer activities are currently on hold. 
  • The museum plans to resume all normal activities when the state enters Phase Three.  

Justice Court, Courthouse, First Floor 

  • All court hearings other than trials, order of protection hearings, and landlord/tenant possession hearings will be held by conference call or video. Parties should not appear in court unless a judge or clerk instructs them to. 
  • Anyone who receives a ticket should contact the clerk of court at 406-258-3470 to schedule an initial appearance. 
  • Anyone physically appearing in a courtroom must use cloth face coverings. The court will provide disposable masks for those unable to provide their own.  
  • The court is conducting both criminal and civil jury trials and requires advanced notice if a jury trial is going to be continued or vacated. Extra jury confirmation hearings will be held to ensure this.
  • The court is officiating weddings again under limited circumstances.  
  • Upon request, initial appearances, trials and other proceedings will be available to the public via Zoom.  
  • Justice Court helpful links.
  • Additional COVID-19 procedures.

Missoula County Fairgrounds, 1101 South Ave. W. 

Missoula Public Library, 455 E. Main St.  

  • Curbside lending, online/virtual programming and reference services are available at the new building at 455 E. Main St.  
  • The opening date for the new building is to be determined.

Public Works, 6089 Training Drive 

  • Missoula County Public Works will transition to online-only permitting beginning Wednesday, Nov. 4, and the building will be closed to public access. Public Works will operate permitting in this fashion until the risk of COVID-19 is significantly reduced or eliminated. Permitting services are available online at www.missoulacounty.build. The public is encouraged to use the online services or call staff at 406-258-3701. Pick-up and drop-off boxes are available for coordinated plan drop-off and pick-up and are located outside the front door of the main office at 6089 Training Drive in Missoula.
  • Public Works inspections will continue in person, per usual operations, but may be re-evaluated to determine if changes are necessary to reduce risk. Inspectors will wear face coverings during inspections unless they have requested an accommodation as allowed under the state and local orders. For additional protection of both inspectors and homeowners, homeowners present during inspections will be asked to wear face coverings and maintain a 6-foot distance for the duration of the inspection. To limit the inspector’s time inside the home, discussions between the inspector and the homeowner will be held outside or via phone. On-site customers and contractors are strongly encouraged to wear appropriate personal protective equipment during the inspection and follow social distancing guidelines. To schedule an inspection, contact staff at 406-258-3701.
  • The Seeley Lake office will remain open to the public by appointment only. To make an appointment, contact the Seeley Lake inspector by calling 406-396-8148.
  • The Surveyors Office is closed to the public but is providing service online. Contact Steve Niday with any questions at sniday@missoulacounty.us.
  • Road crew employees are considered a part of the essential workforce because they take care of public infrastructure, so they will work their regular seasonal hours of Monday through Thursday. Road and engineering office staff will work remotely and will reply to all emails and voicemails as they are able. Please call 406-258-4753 or email the general email box at mcpw@missoulacounty.us.
  • Sewer and water services will continue with services as normal, but staff ask that people wear face coverings and maintain a 6-foot distance when in the presence of personnel performing these essential services.

Superintendent of Schools, 410 W. Spruce St.

  • Office is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., though office hours may vary due to limited staffing.
  • Public is encouraged to make appointments, use the drop box or mail correspondence.
  • Masks are required to enter the building.
  • There is a limit of one person at a time due to the small size of the reception area.  

Weed District and Extension Office, 2825 Santa Fe Court 

  • Office is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., though office hours may vary due to limited staffing.
  • There is a limit of two people at a time due to the small reception area and members or the public are strongly encouraged to call 406-258-4200 to make an appointment with the staff member they wish to visit.
  • Masks are required to enter the building.
  • Call with questions regarding programs or events.

Missoula County Elections Office Issues Important Reminders for November Election

As preparations continue for the Nov. 3 general election, the Missoula County Elections Office wants to remind voters of important information, including upcoming key dates.

Since Missoula County opted to conduct the election by mail, polling places will not be open on Election Day. All active registered voters will receive a ballot after they’re mailed Friday, Oct. 9. Ballots are due back to the Elections Office by 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3. Postmarks are not sufficient. Return postage is paid.

Residents can verify they are registered to vote at their current address at www.myvoterpagemt.com. Residents who need to register to vote or update their registration need to fill out the voter registration form found at http://missoula.co/registertovote.

Voters should keep the following dates in mind as the election approaches:

Friday, Oct. 2: All elections services, including voter registration, will be provided at the warehouse on the east side of the Elections Center complex at 140 N. Russell St. Voters should enter the parking lot at the corner of Prince and Wyoming streets. Look for the large “Enter Here” sign.

Friday, Oct. 2: Ballots will become available for in-person voting at the Elections Center. Voters can come by the Elections Center weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Election Day if they want to vote a ballot in person instead of their mailed ballot. The office also will offer extended hours leading up to and on Election Day:

  • Saturday, Oct. 24: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Monday-Friday, Oct. 26-30: 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 31: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Monday, Nov. 2: 8 a.m. 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 3: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

(Note: Office will be closed Monday, Oct. 12, in observance of Indigenous Peoples Day.)

If a voter chooses to vote at the Elections Center and does not wish to use their mailed ballot, their mailed ballot will be voided before the database will issue a new one. Residents who vote before Oct. 9 will still receive the voided ballot in the mail, but the voter database will not be able to accept the voided ballot if another ballot has been accepted.

Friday, Oct. 9: Ballots will be mailed out, which is the earliest the office can send them, per state statute. If voters have not received their ballot by Tuesday, Oct. 13, they should contact the Elections Office.

Tuesday, Oct. 13: The Elections Office will hold a satellite voter event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Frenchtown Fire Station, 16875 Marion St. Residents can register to vote, receive a replacement ballot, vote a ballot in person or drop off a ballot at this event.

Tuesday, Oct. 20: The Elections Office will hold a satellite voter event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Seeley Lake Tax Extension Office, 3360 Hwy. 83 N. Residents can register to vote, receive a replacement ballot, vote a ballot in person or drop off a ballot at this event.

Monday, Oct. 26: Last day of regular registration. After this date, residents will need to appear in person at the Elections Office to register to vote or update their information.

Tuesday, Oct. 27: The Elections Office will hold a voter satellite event from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the University of Montana Adams Center. Residents can register to vote, receive a replacement ballot, vote a ballot in person or drop off a ballot at this event.

Tuesday, Oct. 27: The U.S. Postal Service recommends mailing a ballot seven days before the election to ensure delivery by Election Day. If a voter has not mailed their ballot by this date, they should drop it off at the Elections Center during the previously listed hours through Nov. 2, or at one of the Election Day ballot drop-off locations listed below.

Monday, Nov. 2: By state law, voter registration will be unavailable after 12 p.m. Voters can still drop off ballots, receive a replacement ballot or vote a ballot in person until 7 p.m. that day.

Tuesday, Nov. 3: Election Day. Residents can register to vote, receive a replacement ballot and vote in person at the Elections Center from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Drive-thru ballot drop-off will not be offered at the Elections Center on Election Day; this service will be provided at McCormick Park instead. The following ballot drop-off locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day only:

  • Missoula Early Learning Center (Cold Springs), 2625 Briggs St.
  • Frenchtown Fire Station, 16875 Marion St.
  • Spring Meadows Fire Station, 9350 Ladyslipper Lane
  • Lolo Elementary School, 11395 Hwy. 93 S.
  • McCormick Park, 600 Cregg Lane
  • Clinton School Annex, 20359 E. Mullan Road
  • Potomac Greenough Community Center, 29827 Potomac Road
  • Seeley Lake Elementary School, 200 School Lane
  • Missoula County Fairgrounds, 1101 South Ave. W.
  • UM (Adams Center), 32 Campus Drive
  • Clearwater Credit Union, 2610 N. Reserve St.

Common voter questions are online at http://missoula.co/election2020faq. Residents can call the Elections Office at 406-258-4751 or email electioninfo@missoulacounty.us if they have additional questions.

Missoula County commissioners seek public comment on proposed budget

Following their preliminary budget hearing on Aug. 13, the Missoula County commissioners are encouraging members of the public to review and provide feedback on the proposed budget for fiscal year 2021.  

Missoula County’s preliminary budget for FY21 includes $170.2 million in overall revenue, which is based on certified taxable values the Montana Department of Revenue released earlier this month, as well as available cash savings from previous years.    

The budget calls for overall expenditures of $168.6 million, with much of that going toward sustaining current services and operations, which includes increases in operational expenses and negotiated increases in employee wages.   

Missoula County budgets an average of 2.5% to cover wage increases for the county’s 850 employees, about 85% of whom are covered by collective bargaining agreements. The county bargains those agreements in good faith and was able to honor those agreements this year. The county also continues to work toward paying all permanent employees a minimum, livable wage of $15 an hour. Wages for elected officials and contract employees were largely frozen due to current economic uncertainty.  

Approximately $1.1 million in the preliminary budget would fund new requests to enhance services and operations, such as funding new programs and adding new staff, equipment and technology.  

To minimize the impact on taxpayers, departments must fund all one-time requests with cash savings from the prior fiscal year. A dozen new, ongoing requests would require new property tax dollars. 

Read the detailed list of budget requests online or view the slideshow above.

If adopted as-is, the preliminary budget would mean an estimated property tax increase of $17.34 on a $350,000 home, or $1.45 a month.  

“What we choose to fund is a direct reflection of our values,” said commission Chair Josh Slotnick. “We believe this budget responds to the current needs of our county and also makes smart investments in our future. We encourage the public to take the time to review the budget and let us know your thoughts.” 

The county also anticipates approximately $3.4 million in COVID-19-related expenses in FY21. The county expects these expenses, which include operation of the county testing clinic, emergency operations center, non-congregate shelter and call center, to be reimbursable through CARES Act funding.  

Since Missoula County voters approved a 2-cent per gallon gas tax in June, the preliminary budget does not include any property tax increases for the county road fund. The county will be better able to predict revenue from the gas tax after it goes into effect in October.   

The public is encouraged to review budget documents, which are posted online at http://missoula.co/budgets. In addition to commenting during public meetings, residents can comment by leaving the commissioners a voicemail at 406-258-4877, emailing bcc@missoulacounty.us or mailing comments to the Commissioners’ Office, 200 W. Broadway St. Missoula, MT 59802.    

Commissioners will hold a virtual public hearing on the final budget at 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3. They will consider any additional public comment before voting to adopt the final budget at an administrative public meeting later that month.  

Missoula County Attorney Appointed to Board of National District Attorneys Association

Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst

The National District Attorneys Association has named Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst to its board of directors as a vice president and member of its executive committee.

“Pabst was chosen because of her leadership and long-standing commitment to criminal justice reforms and prosecutor well-being initiatives,” said NDAA President Nancy Parr. “We welcome her expertise and look forward to working with her.”

“It’s an honor to be chosen to work with such dedicated leaders,” Pabst said. “Criminal justice is at a crossroads on so many levels — racial inequality, gender inequality, mass incarceration – and it is exciting to be in a position to effect positive policy changes, not just at the local and state level, but nationally.”

Pabst has served as county attorney since 2015. She started her career as a prosecutor 25 years ago and has worked with the NDAA as a trial instructor for the past 20 years.

Formed in 1950, NDAA is the oldest and largest national organization representing state and local prosecutors in the country. With more than 5,000 members representing more than two-thirds of the state and local prosecutors’ offices, NDAA is recognized as the leading source of national expertise on the prosecution function and is a valuable resource for the media, academia, government and community leaders. NDAA’s mission is to provide state and local prosecutors with the knowledge, skills and support they need to ensure that justice is done and that public safety rights are protected.

Pabst will also chair NDAA’s new Prosecutor Wellbeing Task Force, designed to develop and disseminate resources, training and peer-to-peer exchanges for prosecutors around the country to promote their health and well-being.

Affordable housing and nonprofit assistance are top priorities in the Missoula community

Missoula County should prioritize increasing affordable housing for all and assisting nonprofits that provide public services, according to the results of a recent survey on community needs.

The Community and Planning Services Grants and Community Programs Division conducted an annual community needs assessment to gauge the community’s interests and funding priorities. The needs assessment was the first step in determining how to effectively use potential state and federal funds and to ensure that community development projects reflect community needs.

The following priorities were established through an online survey and virtual meeting.

  • The top two actions Missoula County should prioritize overall:
    • Increase housing that is affordable for all
    • Assist nonprofits that provide public services
  • Top two priorities for housing initiatives:
    • Support initiatives to maintain and/or increase affordable housing
    • Down payment assistance for low- and moderate-income homebuyers
  • Top two homelessness priorities:
    • Mental health and substance abuse services
    • Increased supply of permanent supportive housing
  • Top two strategies for increased economic development:
    • Increase the supply of housing that is affordable to the workforce
    • Job training and opportunities for at-risk populations (e.g. prisoner, re-entry, homeless, recovery, etc.)
  • Top two public infrastructure priorities:
    • Broadband internet coverage and access
    • Bike lanes and trails and streets and roads
  • Top two community facility needs:
    • Mental health center
    • Emergency housing facility (youth, domestic violence survivors, homeless individual/families)
  • Top two public services priorities:
    • Mental health services
    • Homelessness services including prevention
  • Top two priorities for COVID-19-related assistance:
    • Emergency rental assistance payment for low-to moderate-income households impacted by COVID-19
    • Financial assistance for small business owners

Every year, Missoula County conducts a community needs assessment to prepare for the release of federal funding opportunities, namely Home Investment Partnerships, Community Development Block Grants and Brownfield Assessment Grants. This assessment addresses the public participation requirement of the federal funding application process and is used to identify funding priorities in the county.

Missoula County competes with other Montana counties and communities for CDBG funding, which is awarded to the State of Montana from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development. Missoula County has secured CDBG funding to partially support the construction costs of the Poverello Center and the new YWCA Family Housing Center on Third Street, soon to be known as the Meadowlark. State CDBG funding also partially funded the updated wastewater system in East Missoula and an updated wastewater system for the resident-owned Buena Vista trailer court near the Missoula International Airport. Furthermore, the county has a CDBG housing repair grant for eligible households to support the costs of repairs needed due to health or safety concerns.

An artist rendering of the new YWCA Family Housing Center on Third Street, soon to be known as the Meadowlark.

The Missoula County Brownfields Assessment Program is just getting off the ground. This grant from the Environmental Protection Agency provides funding for phase I and phase II environmental assessments on properties where its expansion, redevelopment or reuse is complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. The grant also supports cleanup and redevelopment planning. Nearly every community in Montana has brownfield sites. Left untouched, a brownfield can pose insurmountable environmental, legal and public and private investment challenges. The grant is earmarked for properties outside of city limits; however, all potential properties would be considered.

This year’s assessment included an online survey distributed to Missoula County residents from June 3 – 17 through email, social media and ads in the Missoulian and Seeley Swan Pathfinder. The survey included questions about Missoula County’s housing, public services, public infrastructure, economic development and COVID-19 response and recovery. Staff received 207 responses. In addition to the online survey, Grants and Community Program staff conducted a virtual meeting seeking additional community feedback on June 25.  Representatives of Missoula service agencies and 13 community members attended the meeting.

Staff presented information on the assessment to the Missoula County commissioners on July 7, and it will be compiled into a final report that includes the survey results, meeting minutes and public comment. This report is a required component of federal and state grant applications, which are due in September; interested parties can contact the Grants and Community Planning staff to learn more.

To view the presentation, go to www.missoulacounty.us/grants and click on Community Needs Assessment.  

Missoula County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council lands grant for mobile crisis team

The Missoula County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council has received a $125,000 grant from the state Department of Health and Human Services to fund a mobile crisis team to respond to calls for people in mental health crisis instead of law enforcement or other first responders.

The grant will help fund a 10-month pilot project, which will create a team of two mental health professionals with basic medical training to assess and assist a person in crisis, and a peer-support specialist and/or case manager to ensure the person receives follow-up treatment and mental health services. Missoula County and the City of Missoula will provide matching funding, which, coupled with other grant funds received earlier this year, totals $380,000 to get a mobile crisis team up and running. Data from the pilot project will be used to inform future funding decisions.

“Having a mobile crisis team in Missoula County has been a need for a long time,” said Kristen Jordan, CJCC manager. “There is tremendous support for the implementation of this mobile crisis team from our community, our first responders and law enforcement and our Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.”

Mobile crisis teams reduce jail bookings and emergency room visits, decrease arrests and prosecutions, and allow for more appropriate use of law enforcement and first responder time. Research shows that every dollar spent on mobile crisis saves $5 to $7 elsewhere in the mental health and criminal justice systems.

Having a mobile crisis response team will allow people to call 9-1-1 and have a mental health team dispatched to the scene, independent of law enforcement or first responder presence. The county will contract with a mental health provider to deliver mobile crisis services through an RFP process expected to start next week. The goal is to have the mobile crisis team active by September.