By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

Missoula County commissioners on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a $3.1 million bond to fund three separate projects, including the purchase of the County Administration Building and the final phase of restoration work at the courthouse.

The limited tax general obligation bond also funds the purchase of a downtown parking lot on Alder Street, preserving it for future county needs.

“We're doing a private, negotiated sale with First Security Bank,” said Andrew Czorny, the county's chief financial officer. “We've been quoted a rate of 3.3 percent, which is very competitive.”

Of the $3.1 million bond, roughly $750,000 will fund the last phase of renovations at the Missoula County Courthouse. With much of the work thus far focused on the building's historic interior, the final phase will look to improve the exterior, including new landscaping.

Czorny said the project will include a new parking lot and lighting, a new irrigation system, and heated sidewalks. The county expects to bid the project by the close of February and complete work by the end of summer.

“The city arborist has told us the trees are well beyond their useful life, and they'll have to come down,” Czorny said of the courthouse trees. “We're purchasing fairly mature trees to go out there.”

Roughly $2 million from the bond will also go toward acquisition of the county's administrative building, located at 199 W. Pine Street. The county has been leasing the building and looks to transfer the property into county ownership by the start of February.

“We're reducing the lease payments for this building in half by issuing long-term debt,” Czorny said. “It's a good deal from that standpoint.”

Czorny said the annual debt service amounts to $161,442 at a 3.3 percent interest over 20 years. All three projects are rolled into the single bond, including $400,000 for Alder Street.

“It's a small issuance,” Czorny said. “Larger bonds lend themselves nicely to a public issuance, like Fort Missoula Regional Park. In times of uncertainty, such as the year following an election, you don't know which way interest rates are going to jump.”

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