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Missoula County signs lease for new COVID test site; leaving fairgrounds

The City-County Health Department opened its drive-thru test center at the county fairgrounds in early April. But the location is less than ideal, leaving healthcare workers out in the elements.  The new facility off Flynn Lane will include a drive-thru bay located indoors. (Missoula Current file photo)

With the likelihood the pandemic will linger through the coming winter, Missoula County on Tuesday signed a lease agreement for a new COVID-19 testing facility with indoor capabilities.

The City-County Health Department plans to have the new facility, located at 4025 Flynn Lane, operational by early August. The lease agreement is good for one year at a cost of $9,275 a month.

“Their operations are based at the fairgrounds, but summer heat being the most immediate need and looking to the future for winter operations, this facility provides the climate they need for year-round access for the nurses to continue their testing activities,” said Adriane Beck, director of disaster and emergency services at the county.

The health department opened its drive-thru test center at the county fairgrounds in early April. It has been renting the location ever since for around $13,950 a month, according to county records.

But the location at the fairgrounds is less than ideal, leaving healthcare workers out in the summer heat and the approaching winter. The new 10,000 square-foot facility will include a drive-thru bay located indoors, along with needed office space.

“The primary impetus to move from the fairgrounds was the climate conditions and thinking about all seasons and finding facilities that would be appropriate for all seasons,” said Beck. “They’ve already established the traffic flow and feel that facility would handle it very well.”

With testing expected to continue into the foreseeable future, the health department began looking at properties that could accommodate its testing operation.

That search included other vacant commercial properties and schools not being used by the school district. The Flynn Lane property formerly served as the Garden City shop.

The county had intended to sign the lease last week, though the contract wasn’t ready.

“We believe this to be a FEMA eligible reimbursable cost,” said Beck. “We’re doing a back and forth with FEMA around testing and facilities to make sure they’re eligible. It’ll have a federal funding source whether it’s CDC or federal CARES Act.”