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Missoula County, city ask congressional delegation for help in federal building rehab

The city and county of Missoula are asking the state’s congressional delegation to help seek funding for the eventual rehabilitation of the downtown federal building, saying it will be a heavy lift for local government to tackle on its own.

The federal government is expected to transfer the title to the historic building next September. As much as $40 million in rehabilitation work is needed to preserve the facility and prepare it for public use.

The city and county issued a letter to the delegation last week asking for its help.

“It’s keeping that project on their radar, and asking them to seek opportunities during appropriations in the next fiscal year to help with the historic preservation and rehabilitation of the building,” Mel Fisher, the county’s strategic initiatives manager, said of the letter.

The federal government announced its plans to convey the property to a new owner several years ago. After a lengthy process, the city and county received the opportunity to acquire the building for free from the National Park Service and its Good Neighbor Program.

In exchange, local government must preserve and maintain the facility in perpetuity. While the federal government has maintained the building in its original form, it will need significant rehabilitation for future use.

“As a condition of property conveyance, the county and city will have to undertake extensive work to preserve and restore historic elements of the building,” the letter states. “Many elements of the building require replacement or updating to meet contemporary code, to provide ADA access to all citizens, to configure spaces to provide public services, and to meet modern requirements for public service, from data to security.”

After exploring other options, they city and county found that acquiring and renovating the federal building would be the most cost-effective approach in meeting current and future space needs. Once the facility is acquired, it would serve to employ around 400 city and county workers, and serve as a one-stop shop for a host of government services.

It would also enable the city and county to dispose of other public properties in the downtown district, freeing them up for future redevelopment.

“We are eager to preserve the legacy of the federal government here in Missoula, and to improve the delivery of services to our constituents,” the county wrote. “We believe it is right and appropriate for the federal government to partner with us in securing its legacy and in passing to our citizens a building that is as beautiful and functional in 2023 as it was when first built in 1913.”

The facility has been empty for much of the last seven years.