Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) With few words, Missoula County on Thursday amended its contract with Outback Inc. to discontinue services at an outdoor homeless camp and transfer them instead to an indoor winter shelter.

Commissioners also approved a $350,000 contract with the Poverello Center to manage and operate the winter shelter. The city also has contributed the same amount for the shelter's winter operations.

“It helps them provide all sorts of services there,” said Blayne Metz, the county's shelter project coordinator. “There's no substantial changes to last year's contract, just a dollar value.”

The Missoula City Council over the past month has held roughly 12 hours of public hearings and debate over the span of four meetings. It also received criticism from a handful of advocates wanting the outdoor camp to stay open throughout the winter.

In contrast, no public comment was offered at Thursday's county meeting, which last just four minutes. In that time, commissioners discontinued Outback's contract at the outdoor camp and transferred it to the Emergency Winter Shelter.

It also approved the company's contract to provide chemical toilets at the winter shelter.

“We're finally ending the contract with Outback because the (outdoor camp) is closing,” Metz said. “There's also a contract providing them services at the Emergency Winter Shelter. They're somewhat interrelated.”

The outdoor camp closes on Nov. 16 and the city, which made its final decision this week, has no current plan to reopen it. The issue has been debated for weeks among city officials.

Metz said the county's decision to discontinue its contract for services with Outback at the outdoor camp didn't provide the required 30-day notice.

“It seemed more appropriate to do it in an official amendment this way,” Metz said. “We're providing them a new contract at the ACS. It's basically almost at the same cost.”

Metz said the amended contract includes one additional chemical toilet.

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