Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Missoula County on Tuesday extended its contract with two engineering firms in an effort to move projects through the planning and permitting process in a timely manner.

The two contracts with the WGM Group and IMEG Corp. were set to expire in March. Under the new agreement, the contracts will extend through the end of 2023, the county said.

“We're talking about a really creative solution in breaking a bottleneck to ensure projects in the subdivision pipeline move along swiftly,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “If our staff is booked up, instead of projects being put on the back-burner, we can farm out the information gathering piece to these other professional engineering firms so projects don't get stuck in the cue.”

Both the city and county of Missoula have experienced an increase in building permits as the pace of new development picks up. Some industry experts have said it takes too long to get a project reviewed and approved, and both the city and county have taken steps to speed up the process.

Under the direction of county planners, the two engineering firms will carry out the functions of the planning office. The tasks include preparing staff reports, permitting and review for regulatory compliance, and assisting with special projects, among other things.

The county said the firms will not be engaged on projects in which they're representing.

“We wouldn't engage them to do information gathering on projects which they are representing, so there would be no conflict of interest,” Slotnick said.