Commissioners to Consider Holding Special Election on Countywide Marijuana Tax  

The Missoula County commissioners are seeking public comment as they determine whether to adopt a resolution to hold a special election for voters to consider a 3% local-option tax on marijuana sales.  

The first public hearing on the issue will be at the commissioners’ public meeting at 2 p.m. Thursday, July 1. The meeting will be held in the Sophie Moiese Room of the Missoula County Courthouse, and participants can also join remotely with the following information: 

Microsoft Teams meeting 

Join on your computer or mobile app 

Click here to join the meeting 

Or call in (audio only) 

+1 406-272-4824 

Phone Conference ID: 344 276 93# 

House Bill 701, passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor earlier this year, allows for the operation of marijuana businesses and taxation of retail sales in Montana counties where a majority of voters approved Initiative 190, which legalized the possession and sale of marijuana for recreational use in Montana. In Missoula County, 70% of voters approved I-190 in the 2020 general election.  

HB 701 authorizes counties to adopt a resolution placing a local-option marijuana excise tax of up to 3% on the ballot. If voters approve the ballot measure, the tax would go into effect 90 days later and would apply to all marijuana and marijuana products sold at adult-use dispensaries and medical marijuana dispensaries in the county. As of May 7, there were 48 marijuana dispensaries in Missoula County registered with the Montana Department of Health and Human Services.  

Current projections, based on a report issued by the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, estimate the tax would generate around $716,100 annually. Missoula County would retain 50% of the revenue, 45% would go to the City of Missoula and the remaining 5% would go to the Montana Department of Revenue to defray costs associated with administering the tax. City of Missoula administration will ask City Council members to adopt a resolution of support for the measure in the coming weeks.  

Revenue from the tax may be used for any activity, undertaking or administrative service that a jurisdiction is authorized by law to perform, including costs that result from imposing the tax or due to administrative burdens imposed as a result of licensing or regulatory requirements. Though City and County officials are still considering what the revenue could go toward, options being explored include using a percentage to offset property taxes, as well as funding community needs like the mobile crisis unit and preventing homelessness.  

Members of the public can submit comment at a public meeting, by emailing bcc@missoulacounty.us or by calling 406-258-4877. If approved, the countywide special election would be held either on Tuesday, Sept. 14, in conjunction with the potential Missoula municipal primary election, or on Tuesday, Nov. 2, in conjunction with the municipal general election.  

Missoula County Offices Reopened to Public June 1 with Guidelines in Place

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All Missoula County offices reopened to the public on Tuesday, June 1, with the following guidelines in place:  

  • Masks are no longer required of employees, public or clients within county buildings. It is strongly recommended for individuals who have not had the opportunity to or cannot be vaccinated continue wearing masks in public buildings, and the county will continue to have signage encouraging the wearing of masks inside all county facilities. 
  • No individual inquiries as to vaccination status are permitted. Please note that some departments may continue requiring masks in certain areas, such as the detention facility or in clinical settings within the health department and Partnership Health Center. 
  • Anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or who knows they were exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 is asked not to enter county buildingsPeople experiencing symptoms can call 406-258-INFO (4636) or their primary care provider to be screened for possible COVID-19 testing. 
  • To minimize foot traffic in county buildings, visitors are asked to limit bringing family and friends with them, unless they are needed for the intent of the visit. Social distancing will be practiced in county buildings, staff and visitors must be cautious of their surroundings and make every effort to remain at least 6 feet apart. Hand sanitizer will be provided at building entrances and visitors will be encouraged to use it.
  • Virtual services may still be offered in certain departments. It is recommended for visitors to contact the department for operation details. A county directory is available online at www.missoulacounty.us/directory or by calling 406-721-5700.

Reopening information for public-facing Missoula County departments is listed below.

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

  • Open, in-person, to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday 
  • Capacity: 10 people in the lobby, five at the windows in Treasurer’s Office 
  • Appointments are still not allowed, and people are still encouraged to go online to the Clerk and Treasurer’s site for services like motor vehicle registration, renewals and transfers, property tax payments or changes and requests for birth certificates and other records. If you show up in person, you will still get an email or text when they are about 15 minutes away from serving you.  

Clerk of Court’s Office, Courthouse Second Floor

  • Open, in-person, to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday
  • Capacity
    • Customer Service Area: three
    • Public Search Area: one
  • Appointments are preferred, but walkups are accepted. Appointments are required for marriage licenses (use the online marriage application here). The wait time for visitors without an appointment may be longer based upon recommended occupancy levels and as they serve visitors with an appointment. To schedule an appointment, call 406-258-4780 or email clerkofcourt@missoulacounty.us. The office recommends no more than one person to attend an appointment but will make accommodations as needed. Visitors with an appointment should enter the line on the right outside the office, while those without an appointment should enter the line on the left.  
  • Self-representing litigants (those without an attorney to represent them) are encouraged to submit paperwork by email (clerkofcourt@missoulacounty.us), fax (406-258-4899), mail (Clerk of Court, 200 W. Broadway, Missoula, MT 59802) or drop box (black drop box is located outside the Clerk of Court office door. Blue drop box is located next to the sidewalk on the west side of the courthouse off Woody). The regular fee for email/fax filings will be waived. You can also schedule an appointment. 

Commissioners’ Office, 199 W. Pine St.

  • Open, in-person, to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday 
  • Capacity 
    • Commissioners’ lobby: three 
    • Sophie Moiese Room: 30 in audience, five up front 
    • Admin 206 Conference Room: four 
    • Admin B14 Conference Room: 10 
  • New doors have been installed on the first floor of the administration building that require keycard entry for security purposes. These will be locked unless the receptionist buzzes you in. 
  • Most commissioner meetings starting mid-June will be hybrid (both on Microsoft Teams and in person) and will take place in the Sophie Moiese room of the courthouse, as opposed to the Admin 206 conference room. 

Community and Planning Services, 127 E. Main St.

  • Open, in-person, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday 
    • Land use information desk anticipated to open the week of June 7 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 
  • Construction will be taking place for the next four to six weeks, so many staff will continue to work remotely.  

County Attorney’s Office, Courthouse Fourth Floor

  • Open, in-person, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday 

Crime Victim Advocate Program, 317 Woody St.

  • Open, in-person, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday 
  • Appointments are preferred, but not required 
  • Services are still offered remotely as well as in-person. Advocates are able to meet with clients and provide accompaniment to court; however, they are also able to provide many services over the phone. 
  • Paperwork for people to file an Order of Protection is available for self-serve on the Crime Victim Advocate front porch at 317 Woody St.  
  • For general information, visit www.missoulacounty/cva

District Court, Courthouse Second and Third Floors

  • District Court, which is a function of the state, will begin conducting in-person hearings throughout June. Those with questions should contact their attorney or the courts for additional information.

Elections Center, 140 N. Russell St.

  • Open, in-person, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday 
  • Construction is taking place in the parking lot for the next little while. To allow for safe access, staff will provide all voter and candidate services in the Election Center warehouse on the east side of the complex, which will be open to pedestrian access only. Street parking will be available, as will a handful of spots in the adjacent Western Montana Mental Health Center parking lot. 

Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, 3400 Captain Rawn Way

  • Open, in-person, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday 
  • Capacity: 10 visitors in the main museum building 
  • Respectfully ask that people follow the arrows through the galleries. 

Justice Court, Courthouse, First Floor

  • Open, in-person, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday
  • Courtroom requires masks for all who have not been fully vaccinated by order of the Judges.
  • Still operating by Zoom hearings for initial appearances and law and motion, but people can be in person if they wish.
  • Bench trials for civil and criminal and temporary orders of protection (TOPs) are fully in-person.
  • Jury trials will be held if necessary.
  • Weddings can be held in the courtrooms with no capacity limit, but masks are required if needed by order of the Judges. Outdoor weddings are also an option to not have masks.

Missoula County Fairgrounds, 1101 South Ave. W. 

  • Open, in-person, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 
  • Construction is taking place, and bathrooms will not be available for the week of June 1, and walls will be in process of being painted. Starting June 7, construction will settle and services will be more accessible.  

Public Works, 6089 Training Drive

  • Open, in-person, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Training Drive office.
  • Seeley Lake Refuse District Office (located at 1708 Woodworth in Seeley Lake) will open Thursday, July 1 from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays for building permits. 
  • Capacity: two customers in the Public Works lobby 
  • Changes to the schedule and restrictions may occur. 
  • Email mcpw@missoulacounty.us or call (406) 258-4753 with any inquiries. 

Sheriff’s Office, Courthouse Second Floor 

  • Open, in-person, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday 
  • New concealed carry weapons permit applications and fingerprinting will be offered by appointment from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Appointments can be made by calling (406) 258-4810.
  • For Civil Process, please call (406) 258-4802 

The Detention Facility at 2340 Mullan Rd. is also reopening to the public. 

  • Reception will request that all visitors wear masks while in the facility. 
  • Four inmates will be allowed in each visitation room at one time. 
  • Visitors will be limited to three per inmate. 
  • An inmate’s eligibility for on-site visiting is dependent on their current housing assignment.  
  • It is the inmate’s responsibility to convey their availability to visitors for video visits. Video visitation can be scheduled online at icsolutions.com.   
  • There will be two kiosks available to visitors for on-site video visitation.
  • Visitors may deposit cash or make a debit/credit card deposit on the kiosk in the lobby. If they wish to avoid the fee while depositing cash, or if they have a cashier’s check/money order that they would like to deposit, there are envelopes and a safe next to the kiosk in the lobby that they may utilize. Funds will not be added to the inmate account until the end of the next business day. Visitors may still mail funds directly to the facility or make an electronic deposit with their debit/credit card online by visiting www.jailfunds.comMoney orders and cashier’s checks have a limit of $200.00. The inmate’s name, sender’s name and address as well as all appropriate fields must be completed. If all relevant information is not included, the money order or cashier’s check will be returned to sender. Funds can be mailed with the inmate’s name to 2340 Mullan Road – Missoula, MT  59808. Please address the envelope with sender’s return name and address. 
  • Inmates will receive mail Monday through Friday. Mail that is delivered on Saturday will be received on Monday evening. 

 Superintendent of Schools, 438 W. Spruce St. 

  • Open, in-person, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, often closed for lunch if both staff are offsite.  

Weed District and Extension Office, 2825 Santa Fe Court 

  • Open, in-person, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday 
  • Capacity 
    • Lobby by front desk: two
    • Small meeting room: four
    • Large meeting room: 13 
  • The Plant Clinic, 4-H Youth Development and Family Consumer Sciences are in the office full-time. Field season has started for the Weed District, so staff may not be in the office when you drop by. Make sure to call ahead or schedule an appointment with those at the Weed District office at (406) 258-4200. 

Public Encouraged to Comment on Draft Plan to Advance County, City Clean Electricity Goal

Missoula County and the City of Missoula today released a draft Implementation Plan that identifies collaborative projects to advance the city and county’s goal of 100% clean electricity for the Missoula urban area by 2030.

The city and county developed the plan with NorthWestern Energy in accordance with a memorandum of understanding signed by the three entities last year. The draft plan includes several projects to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency in the state. Among these are the development of a “green tariff,” which will give NorthWestern Energy customers the choice to purchase power from newly developed solar or wind farms; a community solar project in the Missoula area; and pilots of new rate structures that have the potential to facilitate the transition to a clean, modern electric grid.

The county and city invite input from the public on the draft plan. The document is available for review at https://www.engagemissoula.com/missoulas-100-clean-electricity-initiative. Comments on the draft plan are requested by 5 p.m. Monday, March 1. There will be an additional opportunity for public comment once the plan is scheduled for consideration at a meeting of the city council and board of county commissioners.

“Our 100% clean electricity goal was driven by our obligation to address climate change in order to protect our public health, safety and quality of life in Missoula County,” Missoula County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier said. “This Implementation Plan is an essential step toward that goal.”

The county and city jointly established the goal of 100% clean electricity in 2019, and subsequently signed an MOU with NorthWestern Energy committing the three entities to work together to pursue that goal. The MOU also committed the three entities to develop an Implementation Plan and to report on progress annually.

All the projects identified in the plan will require the collaborative efforts of NorthWestern Energy, Missoula County, the City of Missoula and other stakeholders, and some will also require approval by the Montana Public Service Commission.

“The projects identified in this plan have great potential to accelerate the shift to a cleaner electric grid,” Missoula City Council President Bryan von Lossberg said. “However, they aren’t enough on their own, to reach 100% clean electricity. We look forward to advancing these projects with NorthWestern Energy while also actively seeking additional partners and opportunities to achieve our goal.”

Missoula County, City launch COVID-19 Vaccination Coordination Team

Missoula County’s Office of Emergency Management, in partnership with the City of Missoula, will stand up a Type 3 Incident Management Team to coordinate COVID-19 vaccine administration throughout the county.

OEM Director Adriane Beck will oversee the efforts of the Missoula County Vaccination Coordination Team, which will open lines of coordination among all vaccine providers to ensure accurate and timely information and data exchange, coordinated vaccine efforts, sharing of resources where appropriate, and planning for each of the phases of vaccination in Missoula County. This team will remain in place until COVID-19 vaccine is widely available in Missoula County to any resident 16 or older who wants to get vaccinated.

Employing the incident management structure, more typically used in Missoula County to respond to natural disasters like wildfires and flooding, will provide the command and management infrastructure to coordinate logistical, fiscal, planning, operational, safety and other aspects of a large-scale vaccination effort among the many entities that will administer the vaccine as we move into Phase 1B.

“As the county enters Phase 1B and beyond, the team will develop strategies for identifying and connecting eligible citizens with a vaccine provider for administration as well as coordinate efforts around mass vaccination events across Missoula County,” Beck said.

The IMT will help centralize efforts among local hospitals and other healthcare providers, the University of Montana, the health department, pharmacies and other vaccine providers.

“We ask for the public’s patience as we develop the strategies necessary to ensure all those Missoula County residents who meet the phase 1B criteria can be connected to a vaccine provider in the quickest, most efficient manner possible,” Beck said. “We also ask for our citizens to be active participants in this process, pay attention to prioritization criteria, be informed about where you personally fall into the categorization and be ready to receive the vaccine when it is time. Much like boarding an airplane, the process goes much quicker when those waiting to board are ready to get in line when their section is called.”

Once these strategies are finalized, communicating up-to-date, accurate information about them to the public will be crucial. The Missoula City-County Joint Information Center, which consists of the multiple government agencies and community organizations responding to COVID-19, will help ensure timely information is widely distributed through the news media, social media, online at covid19.missoula.co and other channels.

Thank you, Missoula County Elections!

Election Day 2020 was an impressive turnout for Missoula County!  

Missoula County has 91,080 registered voters, and 72,632 of them cast ballots in the Nov. 3 general election. This equates to a 79.74% voter turnout and a ballot return rate of 90.84%. This is an impressive jump from the 2016 general election, when 60,088 ballots were cast by 81,579 registered voters, resulting in a 73.66% voter turnout, with 71% of ballots returned by mail.  

For the safety and health of our Missoula community, the Missoula Board of County Commissioners approved an all-mail election that was allowed under Gov. Bullock’s directive. Elections Administrator Bradley Seaman and his team incorporated best practices from the all-mail June primary election and set up an efficient work plan to make Election Day a success.  

As early as Sept. 23, staff, election judges and election aides were hard at work preparing. The Elections Center opened for early voting on Oct. 2 and then on Oct. 9, absentee ballots and the “I Voted” sticker mailed to over 79,000 active registered voters. Once the Elections Office drive-thru ballot drop-off opened the week of Oct. 12, a steady stream of vehicles hummed through the parking lot to deliver ballots. On Election Day eve, an estimated 82.4% of ballots had already been returned.   

The morning started early on Election Day, with the first person in line around 5:15 a.m. The line held a steady pace throughout the day as it ebbed and flowed between 200-250 people until 8 p.m., with an average wait time of 1.5-2 hours. Those waiting were mostly there for same-day registration, change of address or to register to vote in Missoula County (new, precinct to precinct or county to county). Thanks to coordinated efforts with ASUM, the Election Day shuttle ran every 15 minutes from McCormick Park to help everyone conveniently access the Election Center with ease. 

Citizens delivered pizzas, and a snack table also appeared, full of energy bars and water to keep people satisfied while they waited. A solo guitarist played to pass the time, while another voter pulled along their wireless speaker on a cart, booming their beats. Children joined their parents and were enamored by the appearance of Super Voter and our helpful sheriff’s deputies. When the last person exited the Elections Center around 10:15 p.m., staff had served over 1,150 voters, of which 328 are new voters in Missoula County’s system.

Eleven ballot drop-off locations were also busy throughout the county. Each station had a group of about five friendly workers accepting ballots and were stationed throughout Missoula and all the way out in Lolo, Frenchtown and Seeley Lake. These locations were a quick and easy way to vote and helped reduce the congestion in the Elections Center parking lot. All ballot drop-off locations, even as far away as Seeley Lake, had their final batch of ballots delivered to the center by 9 p.m. for signature verification and processing.  

At the fairgrounds across town, the counting center buzzed with ballots delivered from the Elections Center. Montana law allowed counting to begin on Monday, Nov. 2, and the team worked hard until about 11 p.m. on Election Day. New to this general election was the ability for anyone to watch the process via the YouTube live stream, which captured both days of counting.

The 45-member team consisted of five DS-850 high speed tabulator operators who received ballots from the five tabulator runners. If a ballot was sorted by the tabulator for review, the runners also carried ballots to the resolution and write-in boards for evaluation. The 15-member resolution board reviewed ballots to determine voter intent using the Secretary of State materials provided in the election judge handbook. Additionally, a 15-member board was designated to validate and tally ballots with write-in candidates. They also assisted the resolution board. Once processed and counted, two ballot sealers placed the counted ballots in ballot style containers.

One individual was responsible for operating the Balotar machine, which was used when the resolution board determined a ballot must be duplicated for a reason, such as a torn ballot.

On Friday, Nov. 13, the county Audit Board met to complete the post-election audit. In Montana, after each federal election, the Secretary of State’s office will randomly select precincts that must be hand counted by the county and compared to machine totals to ensure that the equipment worked correctly. Missoula County completed a successful audit of precincts Chief90, Clinton92 and Evaro94. This is done in addition to the public testing on and before Election Day to ensure that all equipment functioned properly on Election Day.

Missoula County verified and finalized the election results at the canvass on Tuesday, Nov. 17, when Elections Administrator Bradley Seaman, Missoula County Auditor Dave Wall and Missoula County Commissioners Dave Strohmaier and Josh Slotnick accounted for every ballot cast and ensured that each valid vote was included in the official results. This included absentee, early voting, Election Day, provisional, challenged, and uniformed and overseas citizen ballots. The canvass provides the space for resolution of any discrepancies to ensure completeness and accuracy before certifying the election.

Election Day couldn’t have happened without the team of five full-time elections staff, who led 284 extra workers who worked a total of 1,340 eight-hour days, – or a total of 453 extra day shifts – between Sept. 23 – Nov. 3.

Thank you to everyone who played a part in ensuring the integrity of the election in Missoula County.