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Politics pop: Missoula to receive $14M from federal American Rescue Plan

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The city of Missoula will receive around $14 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, while Missoula County likely will get around $23 million.

The $1.9 trillion act related to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will hand around $2.7 billion total to the state of Montana. The money will go to support a variety of plans, though Missoula Mayor John Engen told the City Council it may take some time to figure out how to best use it.

The money does not need to be spent until 2024. There will be limitations on usage, much like there was with the CARES Act in 2020.

"We will be in contact with council members and the community as we work through eligible expenses and opportunities to deploy these resources to serve our residents ... our hope is to work with Missoula County as well on any collaborative efforts that, again may be opportunities we simply hadn't imagined before these resources became available," Engen told council last week. "We're planning to put this money to good use."

From infrastructure to affordable housing needs, there are a variety of ways the city and county could potentially use the funds.

No plans have yet been drawn up as to how to spend the money. Montana received $1.25 billion from the CARES Act.

The county's estimate of $23 million was based off an estimate from the National Association of Counties and Missoula County has yet to receive official guidance from the U.S. Department of Treasury. 

"There are so many components to the act and so many other recipients in the community, that we want to make sure we're not duplicating efforts or in some way leaving programs or opportunities unfunded or at least unconsidered," Engen said. "So we'll be marching along." 

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Security updates at courthouse

On Thursday, the Missoula County Board of Commissioners moved forward with its phased plan for updating security at the Missoula County Courthouse.

The board approved a contract change order for $74,536 to add a security desk at the courthouse. There will be additions for monitors for cameras around the courthouse and grounds, as well as an informational desk for the public in a centralized location.

This is part of a multi-pronged approach to upgrading security. An additional sheriff's deputy has been added to provide security for the district courts, and a request in the budget to add two more deputies is in next year's budget.

"This is a component of a comprehensive approach to beefing up security, physical and also human resource wise in the courthouse," commissioner Dave Strohmaier said.

Officials urge pet vaccinations, waste removal

Missoula County is pushing for pet owners to keep animals vaccinated and to pick up dog waste with the arrival of spring.

In a Friday release, the county said that low-cost animal vaccination clinics will be available on May 5 in Seeley Lake, June 2 in Frenchtown and Sept. 1 in Clinton. The clinic in Seeley Lake will be held at the county satellite office, while locations in Frenchtown and Clinton have yet to be determined. 

Rabies vaccinations are $13 and a dog license is required. The county also added that unvaccinated dogs should not enter dog parks, and that in addition to rabies, pets also should be vaccinated against parvovirus.

"If a dog has not completed its full vaccination schedule, is under four months of age or is ill, it should not enter a dog park or any place where dogs congregate," said Animal Control Director Jeff Darrah in the release. "Dog park users can help prevent the spread of many infectious diseases by vaccinating their pets and picking up their pet's waste."

Health officials also pushed for dog owners to pick up their waste. Dog waste can contribute to stormwater pollution and can end up in the water supply.

Jordan Hansen covers news and local government for the Missoulian. Contact him on Twitter @jordyhansen or via email at Jordan.Hansen@Missoulian.com

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