Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) A building adjacent to the Missoula County Detention Center will soon house the Sheriff's Department in a move intended to provide better supervisory control and management of the jail.

Commissioners on Tuesday approved the $2 million purchase of the property, located at 2415 Mullan Road. The property formerly housed Walla Walla University and sits across the street from the county jail.

“Missoula County went through the due diligence phase to purchase that building,” said county CAO Chris Lounsbury. “That space is slightly larger than the current square footage used by the Sheriff's Department on the second floor of the courthouse.”

Both the city and county of Missoula are planning to consolidate services in the downtown federal building. While that process is still in the planning phases, both governments have expressed a desire to consolidate the various courts in the courthouse.

For now, Lounsbury said that by moving the Sheriff's Department to the new location near the jail, the county can make room for pre-trial and youth court inside the courthouse.

“The civil function of the Sheriff's Office and courthouse security will remain in the courthouse. They'll continue to occupy a small portion of the second floor,” Lounsbury said. “But this will allow other court functions that are outside of the courthouse to move into the courthouse and co-locate with other court facilities.”

Lounsbury said the Mullan property went on the market just before the pandemic hit. While the county was interested in the building, Walla Walla University succeeded in the purchase.

However, the property recently became available with the asking price of $2 million. The county will fund the acquisition with cash reserves from its capital improvement plan, Lounsbury said.

“It will allow the detectives and admin side of the Sheriff's Office to co-locate directly across the street from the detention facility,” Lounsbury said. “It allows them to better have supervisory control and management of that facility.”