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The new city park near Southgate Mall will likely be open in the next year, thanks to an alternate construction bid strategy.

Monday night, the city council approved securing a construction contract by February before plans are finished, with construction planned to start in early summer and finish by September.

Ellen Buchanan, director of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, said this leads to a more collaborative final design process between the city and the contractor, as well as being cheaper.

“Being able to price things in the winter months is very advantageous,” Buchanan said.

The method has been used by the MRA before, Buchanan said, during bidding for the Park Place garage and Mary Avenue construction.

The bidding procedure passed with one no vote from Ward 4 representative Jesse Ramos, who wanted to see a more traditional construction bid.

The MRA helped finance the $2 million purchase of the entire 12-acre triangular lot bordered by Johnson Street and North Avenue, to the west of Russell Street on the edge of the Franklin to the Fort neighborhood.

The park went through a couple of rounds of community review and planning in Fall 2017, which resulted in a concept plan with an off-leash dog park, pavilion and large open fields.

The last remaining segment of the Bitterroot Trail will be built alongside the park.

Parks and Recreation is working with the Missoula Redevelopment Agency to fund the park's construction.

The council also approved annexing Hawthorne Elementary School into the city.

The school and a neighboring field, which sits at the corner of South 3rd Street West and Hiberta Street in Orchard Homes, sit on 5.5 acres, which will be added into the city boundaries and rezoned.

According to school officials who spoke at the meeting, the annexation should coincide with sidewalk installation in front of the school, using Missoula County Public Schools bond funds.

The school also wants to be in city boundaries to have city police, fire and service response, rather than the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department and Missoula Rural Fire.

“I’m glad we’ll have emergency services at Hawthorne School,” Ward 2 representative Jordan Hess said. “It makes sense to have continuity across the district when we can.”

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City, County Government Reporter

Government reporter for the Missoulian.