Center tops county list 

In November Missoula County voters put the kibosh on a $16 million bond to fund a long-awaited emergency operations center on Mullan Road. But a life raft for the project—and many others in Missoula County—may come if and when the new Obama administration passes its massive economic stimulus package.

The center tops the nearly $30 million wish list Missoula County officials sent to Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Montana’s congressional delegation last month.

“We didn’t sell the need for that as hard as we should have,” says Commissioner Jean Curtiss, stressing the emergency center’s importance as the county’s population increases. “Our amateur analysis of where it lost and how it lost [by less than 900 votes] was that it was college students.”

Other “shovel-ready” projects on the 17-item list include wastewater treatment and water system construction in Lolo and Seeley Lake, respectively; expansion of Partnership Health Center; bike/ped trail infrastructure development; and culvert replacement to improve fish passage.

The county’s wish list is separate from the city’s own 31-item, $125 million list, which was included in a report drafted by the United States Conference of Mayors earlier this month.

Considering the competition for federal dollars, Commissioner Bill Carey recognizes Missoula County’s needs are unlikely to be considered a priority, but he remains optimistic.

“We put in our best hopes for what we’d like to get funded, but it’s all part of a big mix and it gets even bigger at the national level,” he says.

Curtiss and Carey did not know how money would trickle down if the stimulus package passes—directly to municipalities or filtered through states—but Carey, for one, isn’t holding his breath.

“There’s a real danger that it won’t get to the ground fast enough to make this year something less than a very tough one,” he says.
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