Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Members of the Missoula City Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to contract a local financial firm to provide bond counsel related to the issuance of tax increment financing.

The $30,000 contract with Dorsey includes services related to the proposed release of TIF funding to cover the city's recent purchase of the Bridge Apartments as affordable housing.

“This is an engagement letter with Dorsey to serve as bond counsel for issuing TIF debt that hasn't been issued yet,” said Leigh Griffin, the city's director of financing. “We always engage with bond counsel to make sure we have our legal I's dotted and T's crossed.”

The city bought the Bridge Apartments, located on West Broadway, last September from Western Montana Mental Health for $2.1 million. The property was poised to go on the open market, raising concerns that its 20 low-income tenants would be displaced.

The Missoula Redevelopment Agency drew funds from Urban Renewal District II to help finance the purchase. Dorsey will provide counsel to the city as it considers issuing $2.2 million in revenue bonds to reimburse MRA for the cost of buying the Bridge Apartments.

It also will cover an estimated $1.8 million to refund the city's outstanding Tax Increment Urban Renewal Revenue Bonds in District II.

“Bond counsel is a really specific expertise area in law,” said council member Amber Sherrill. “They (Dorsey) have been doing it as long as I can remember.”

After purchasing the Bridge Apartments, the city initially intended to seek another buyer to manage the property as affordable housing. But the city changed course and partnered with BlueLine Development on a plan that it believes achieves the same outcome as initially hoped.

The city will retain ownership of the property for the next five years while BlueLine manages the property. Both the city and BluLine will then explore ways to redevelop the site.