City, county to split legal costs of placing new open space measures on ballot

As proponents of a new open space bond gear up to launch their campaign, Missoula County commissioners will set aside roughly $6,000 in the upcoming budget to cover legal representation related to the November election issue.

Commissioners on Tuesday engaged the services of Dorsey and Whitney to represent the county regarding the financing of the $15 million bond and its associated costs. The law firm will also represent the city of Missoula and its perpetual stewardship levy.

“They’re representing the city and the county in determining the bond language,” said Dori Brownlow, the county’s director of development. “It didn’t have anything to do with surveys. It had to do with getting the appropriate language. If there was an issue with it, we’d have them as legal council.”

With the support of the Missoula City Council, county commissioners last month voted to place the $15 million open space bond on the November ballot. The City Council also voted to place the perpetual stewardship levy on the ballot.

Brownlow placed the total legal fees at between $8,000 and $11,000, to be evenly split between the city and county.

“If (the bond) is not passed, we’ll split the fees with the city,” Brownlow said. “If the bond passes, then the fees will be paid out of the bond proceeds.”

Also on Tuesday, advocates of a new open space bond and the stewardship levy announced plans to launch a campaign to drum up support.

Proponents have said the 2006 open space bond helped open 5,300 acres to public access and add 19 miles of public trails. They also credit the bond for protecting 40 miles of waterways, 1,000 acres of wetlands and 9,000 acres of agricultural land.

“However, the 2006 open space bond funds are nearly gone, and there is still critical conservation work to do for future generations,” the Yes for Open Space campaign stated in a Tuesday release. “Passing a new county open space bond and a city stewardship levy ensures that we can maintain our commitment to water quality, agriculture and open space conservation as the county continues to grow into the future.”

Proponents will launch their campaign on Wednesday, Aug. 8, at 11 a.m. at Garden City Harvest, located at 1657 River Road.