Looking for a new home for its planning department, Missoula County on Thursday made a $2 million offer on a downtown building, a move it says will cost less than a long-term lease.

Commissioners signed the buy-sell agreement before noon and planned to submit its offer by the close of business.

“We had an opportunity to purchase a building for some of our space needs for Community and Planning Services,” said Commissioner Jean Curtiss. “It came on the market and already has lots of interest, so we want to put some earnest money toward it and put in an offer.”

The building, located at 602 Woody St., includes 8,200 square feet with 32 offices on the first floor and three on the second floor. It also includes nine parking spaces and a courtyard for future expansion.

Andrew Czorny, the county's chief financial officer, said the owners offered to lease the building at $18 per square foot and were seeking a five-year contract. That would have cost the county $172,000 a year.

“I spoke to the broker Tuesday on it, and he asked if we had any interest in purchasing it,” Czorny said. “He gave me a price of $2 million. At that price, we'd only pay $143,336 in purchase price versus the $172,000 in lease.”

Community and Planning Services learned last week that it would need to find a new location, as Partnership Health Center looks to fully occupy the space used by CAPS on Alder Street.

The county applied $10,000 in earnest money toward Thursday's offer and has until June 28 to complete due diligence. The building went on the market on Monday.

“It's a great building and it fits our needs well,” said Commissioner Cola Rowley. “It's a good opportunity and it should save us money in the long run instead of renting somewhere.”