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Voters lined up to register and vote at the Missoula County Elections headquarters at the fairgrounds in 2018.

The Missoula County Commissioners approved a $2.75 million buy-sell agreement with the Western Montana Mental Health Center Wednesday.

The county will gain a 7,711-square-foot office building and 7,700-square-foot warehouse, primarily for use by the Missoula County Elections Office. “We’re really looking for a great increase in convenience and efficiency in managing all of our elections,” said Missoula County Commissioner Josh Slotnick.

Currently, the Elections Office’s five full-time employees work in the Missoula County Courthouse, and set up an elections center at the Missoula County Fairgrounds 30 days before an election. These frequent moves proved disruptive to office staff, and the fairgrounds made tight quarters for the hundreds of temporary staff and volunteers who helped out on Election Day.

County Elections Administrator Dayna Causby told the Missoulian in March that renting the fairgrounds space cost the county $26,500 annually, and each move cost an estimated $13,500.

The county has been eyeing the Western Montana Mental Health Center’s property on Russell Street for months. In March, the county and mental health center entered a $1.87 million buy-sell agreement for the office building.

But that agreement left some major needs unaddressed. The county also expected to build a 4,200-square-foot addition, at a projected cost of $800,000 to $900,000.

With the new agreement, “we avoided that cost,” said Andrew Czorny, the county’s chief financial officer. Rather than having to build an addition, the county will gain a 7,700-square-foot warehouse, which will need some modification.

An estimate of the county’s total savings from this new deal was not readily available. Under the agreement county will continue to provide Western Montana Mental Health Center with 25 parking spaces, except during election time.

Slotnick said that the warehouse would also be used by the Sheriff’s Office and the Office of Emergency Management for trainings, and that both agencies would be involved in remodeling the space. Slotnick expects it to be ready for the November 2020 general election.

“This is really a central location and convenient, accessible space for all of Missoula County,” he said, calling the new agreement “a way better deal.”

Also on Wednesday, the commissioners unanimously approved a $34,684 agreement with Territorial Landworks Inc. for consulting services on the upcoming cleanup of the Bonner Mill site. That contract will be paid for out of Tax Increment Financing funds.

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