Get involved during budget season at Missoula County

Budget in brief screenshotIt’s budget season here at Missoula County, and we want to make the process as transparent and engaging as possible for you, the taxpayer. That’s why we created the Budget in Brief, which breaks down the various aspects of budgeting, from calculating property taxes, revenue and expenditures to highlighting the services and capital projects those dollars will fund.

Take a look at how the facts and figures broke down for FY 2018, then follow along as departments present their proposed budgets for FY 2019. You’ll find a schedule of the presentations below, and you can stay up to date by following @MissoulaCounty and the hashtag #MslaCoBudget on Twitter.

Once those presentations wrap up, commissioners will discuss any proposed modifications to each budget at public meetings throughout the summer. Following those, the preliminary budget hearing will take place on Thursday, July 26, with the final budget hearing slated for Thursday, Aug. 23. Both of those meetings will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. in Courthouse Annex Room 151.

You’re welcome to attend any meeting, at which you can offer comment to the commissioners. You can also submit your input via email at, by phone at 406-258-4877 or by mail at 199 W. Pine St., Missoula, MT 59802. You can always access the commissioners’ schedule online and view past budgets on the Financial Services website.

As commissioners wrote in the Budget in Brief, local government works best when those we serve participate in the process. We hope you’ll get involved.

Budget presentation schedule

All presentations will take place in Room 206 of the Missoula County Administration Building, located at 199 W. Pine St.

Tuesday, April 24

1:30-2:15 p.m.: Elections Office

2:30-3:30 p.m.: Technology

Wednesday, May 2

1:30-2 p.m.: Development Districts

2-3 p.m.: Facilities Management

3-3:30 p.m.: Financial Services/Debt Service

Thursday, May 3

1:30-2 p.m.: Missoula Public Library

2-2:30 p.m.: Missoula County Fairgrounds

2:30-2:45 p.m.: Historical Museum at Fort Missoula

2:45-3:30 p.m.: Risk and Benefits

Tuesday, May 8

1-2 p.m.: County Attorney

Wednesday, May 9

1:30-2 p.m.: District Court

2-2:30 p.m.: Justice Court 1

2:30-3 p.m.: Justice Court 2

3-3:30 p.m.: Relationship Violence Services

Monday, May 14

9-9:30 a.m.: Planning

9:30-10 a.m.: Parks, Trails and Open Lands

10-10:30 a.m.: Grants and Community Programs

1:30-2:30 p.m.: Weed District and Extension Office

Monday, May 21

1-1:50 p.m.: Roads/Bridges/Surveyor

1:50-2 p.m.: Seeley Lake Sewer District

2-2:45 p.m.: Rural Special Improvement District Program

2:45-3:15 p.m.: Building Division

3:15-3:30 p.m.: MS4

Wednesday, May 23

1-1:30 p.m.: Clerk of District Court

1:30-2 p.m.: Clerk and Recorder/Treasurer

Tuesday, May 29

9-10 a.m.: Office of Emergency Management/9-1-1

1-1:15 p.m.: Missoula Search and Rescue

1:15-1:30 p.m.: Seeley-Swan Search and Rescue

Wednesday, May 30

1-2 p.m.: Sheriff’s Office

Thursday, May 31

1-2 p.m.: Missoula County Detention Facility

Monday, June 4

9-10 a.m.: Health Department

10:30-11:30 a.m.: Partnership Health Center


2018 State of the Community: Commissioner addresses challenges, opportunities

Sentences for dad

What are some of the major challenges and opportunities facing Missoula County in 2018? From creating attainable housing and managing population growth to preserving our historical, cultural and environmental history, possibilities for progress abound within the county’s borders. Following a heartfelt introduction written by his children (see above image), Commissioner Dave Strohmaier addressed these issues and more in remarks delivered April 9 at the 2018 State of the Community.

Read the commissioner’s full speech below, and let us know your thoughts by emailing

2018 State of the Community Address

Commissioner Dave Strohmaier, chair

Board of County Commissioners

Dave StrohmaierOn behalf of the board of county commissioners and the over 800 employees of Missoula County government, welcome. A big thank you to City Club for hosting today’s event, William Marcus for moderating, President Bodnar and Mayor Engen, and to all of you for taking the time out of your day to reflect on the state of this place we call home. Indeed, home and place are at the heart of my comments today.

Right out of the chute, I need to get one thing off my chest. You’ll often hear folks talk about the city and the county as if they are two separate geographic areas. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I feel obligated to break the news that the city of Missoula actually is in Missoula County! And our fates are intertwined. The food you buy in a Missoula grocery store did not spontaneously generate in the produce department, and the beef raised in Potomac or Grass Valley, or the lumber milled in Seeley Lake, very likely will be purchased by someone in an urban area.

From my downtown Missoula office, I look across Pine Street to the city council chambers and city hall—daily reminders that municipal and county government have similar missions in the Missoula Valley. I also have a great view of the North Hills, Mount Jumbo, grazing elk and the ancient shorelines of glacial Lake Missoula, all emblems of the deep natural history of this place that help define who we are.

People are drawn here for pure water, wild places and cultural authenticity, not streams running orange from acid mine drainage or anonymous sprawl. When entrepreneurs come before the Board of County Commissioners seeking economic development assistance by way of Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund grants, we frequently ask them why they want to invest in Missoula County and, almost without exception, the first response they give is quality of life, which has everything to do with nature and culture.

In some respects, these are the good old days. The city of Missoula controls its own water destiny. We just celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the breaching of the Milltown Dam, and in June we’ll be celebrating the opening of a new state park at the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork rivers. The community of Seeley Lake is on a path to have its own wastewater treatment facility. And we’ve learned to embrace our rivers rather than treating them as open sewers. But more work remains.

Missoula County has partnered with the Lolo National Forest and Trout Unlimited to reclaim abandoned placer mines in the Ninemile watershed, but another $4.5 to $5 million is needed to fully restore Ninemile Creek and adjoining tributaries. We must remember the past in order to avoid the same mistakes in the future.

With the help of Representative Kim Dudik, the Montana Legislature and the Missoula County Attorney’s Office, we successfully negotiated the payment of over a million dollars in delinquent taxes on the Smurfit-Stone Container site, but the site remains badly contaminated and we must remain vigilant to get it cleaned up.

Climate change is real and we, in local government, have the power, and, I’d argue, the moral obligation, to make a difference. That’s why we’ve hired an energy conservation and sustainability coordinator to guide our efforts to lessen our carbon footprint. We must, and we are, preparing ourselves for the effects of a changing climate and nurturing community resiliency through good planning, such as updating our Community Wildfire Protection Plan and overhauling our 1970s-era land-use map. Viewed through the lens of resiliency, again, we must, and we are thinking creatively about how to balance attainable housing, agriculture, wildlife habitat and community character, and do so in a way that doesn’t undermine the very quality of life that defines this place.

Alongside a clean and healthy environment, culture also defines our quality of life. There’s a sign on the side of the Fort Benton elementary school in Choteau County that reads “Industry is Useless without Culture.” That phrase is every bit as powerful today, here in Missoula County, as it was during the New Deal era when the sign was first erected. All too often, and at our peril, we reduce the value of the arts, culture and the humanities to monetary value and forget the role that culture and heritage play in nurturing civil society and civic engagement. That’s why we support the Missoula Art Museum and its programming that reaches across the county. It’s why we see the fairgrounds as a nexus of urban and rural and worthy of investments. It’s why the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula is a steward of our county’s heritage, including stories of shame and trauma, like the World War II alien detention center. If ever there was a time to remember these stories, it is now.

Even the seat of our county government — the courthouse — is a symbol of our commitment to culture and environmental sustainability. I’m pleased to publicly announce that our renovated courthouse (yes the cyclone fencing will come down this spring!), has just achieved LEED Silver status, one of a handful of National Register-listed buildings in the country to receive this honor.

But culture in this place did not begin with names such as Lewis and Clark, Worden, or Paxson. The cultural landscape of this place extends back millennia, and remains the homeland of the Salish and Pend d’Oreille. On Oct. 21, 1891, the Weekly Missoulian reported, “About noon Friday the entire tribe of the Flathead Indians from the Bitter Root passed through the city, being en route to the Flathead Reservation. Many of them left their old home never to return, but they did not appear to be disheartened or cast down. They jogged along as though rather enjoying the change …”  I can assure you that there were a multitude of voices who were absolutely not “enjoying the change” as the U.S. Army escorted the Bitterroot Salish north, across the Higgins Avenue Bridge and on to the Flathead Reservation. Cultural trauma. Dislocation. Essential to remember.

Missoula, and particularly the place where you are seated today adjacent to Rattlesnake Creek, is known by the Salish as the Place of the Small Bull Trout. Tribal elder Louie Adams told the story of how his maternal grandmother was born at the present-day location of the University of Montana, and of his family fishing for bull trout in the waters outside this hotel. Place. Places that matter. Places that tell stories.

The Séliš-Ql̓ispé traditionally dug bitterroot throughout the Missoula Valley, such as where Shopko sits today and at Fort Missoula. We’ll soon be installing interpretive signage at the regional park that describes the homeland of the Salish and Pend d’Oreille people. We’ll also continue to restore bitterroot in a native prairie at the Fort and collaborate with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to honor tribal cultural heritage across Missoula County.

So friends, the state of Missoula County is strong. Nevertheless, there is work to do. Too many of our neighbors do not have enough to eat, have trouble finding housing, and struggle to make ends meet. Too many fail to understand the cultural landscape upon which we live and, as a result, risk repeating tragic mistakes of the past.

In the face of this, do we have the moral courage and empathy to reach out to those in need or do we succumb to the temptation to judge and blame and insulate ourselves with indifference? Are we more concerned about parsing whether we’re offering a hand up or a hand out rather than just offering a helping hand? Has the accumulation of wealth made us callous or blind to the circumstances beyond our control that shaped our lives and shape the lives of others, and that the lives of others are every bit as complex as our own? Do the bootstraps that some say we should pull ourselves up by keep getting longer and longer?

Here is the challenge of those of us at this table and those of us in this room: How do we create and sustain authentic places that honor our heritage and provide for the needs of residents and visitors alike? And how might the county, city and university partner in creating the conditions for an informed citizenry to realize their visions, hopes and dreams? We are all in this together. If ever there was a county up to the challenge, it is Missoula County. Thanks.

Missoula County Elections Office short nearly 350 election judges

Democracy.pngDespite a promising initial response to the County’s appeal earlier this month for 800 volunteers to serve as election judges, the Missoula County Elections Office is still coming up short by nearly 350 people.

The number of election judges is directly tied to the quality of customer service the Elections Office can provide voters over the 2018 election year. A lack of elections judges can equate to any number of deficiencies in delivering services to voters including longer lines, understaffed polling places (which could lead to consolidating polling places), fewer judges to register new voters and overworked judges.

Election judges can serve in a variety of capacities at the polls and at the Elections Center at the Fairgrounds and is a paid public service position. Training is required and individuals are compensated for their time.

Anyone who is registered to vote in Missoula County and is enthusiastic about the voting process is encouraged to apply. The Elections Office provides a new online class schedule and registration at Those interested can also call 406-258-4751 or email  with their name and contact information. Training is held in February at the Missoula County Fairgrounds and there are a variety of daytime, evening, and weekend classes.

Missoula County, CSKT Tribal Council celebrate 30 years


The Missoula County Commissioners met Tuesday with the Tribal Council of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation in the Tribal Council Chambers in Pablo.

The highlight of this annual meeting was the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement renewal between the county and sovereign nation, which was first signed in 1987, 30 years ago.

The Council and the Commission heard updates from staff members on several other projects the two governments have worked on together, such as reintroducing the Bitterroot plant and placing educational signage in the Fort Missoula Regional Park, an area that is part of a key, historic, native plant harvest site for Tribal members.  The two governments shared stories about involvement in the Roundtable for the Crown of the Continent. Both Commissioner Jean Curtiss and Richard Janssen, Tribal Natural Resources Department head, currently serve on the leadership team, and invited the Tribal Council to designate an additional representative.

Another highlight was celebrating the successful challenge of the wastewater permit for the old Smurfit Stone site granted to M2Green by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, and a pledge to continue working together to ensure the current assessment of the site is complete and results in a site that protects human and aquatic life.

Tribal Legal staff gave an update on the Tribal Water Compact and the extensive process required for it to move through the federal government’s executive and legislative branches.

Division of Fire staff from the Tribal Forestry Department presented a report about this past summer’s extensive wildfire season and the coordinated teamwork that happens when wildfires are burning in the area. The Tribal Council and Fire Control managers are pleased to be active participants in drafting Missoula County’s Wildfire Protection Plan.


Pop-up park coming to East Missoula on Saturday, Oct. 7

Pop up park

East Missoula residents and visitors will see a 24-hour pop-up park in their community on Saturday, Oct. 7, thanks to a $10,000 AARP grant. The AARP Community Challenge Grant funding will be used to demonstrate how pedestrian-oriented infrastructure improves public safety, creates a stronger sense of place and provides opportunities for people to gather and interact.

“This program is a great way to bring several community partners together to envision an engaging space in East Missoula,” said Karen Hughes, Community and Planning Services assistant director. “Ultimately, the hope for this project is to help build momentum and support for redevelopment of Highway 200 through East Missoula.”

East Missoula is experiencing increased economic and recreational activity, from redevelopment of East Broadway and the construction of Missoula College to the west to development of the riverside amphitheater and redevelopment of the mill site to the east. Local residents envision redevelopment of the Highway 200 corridor, which bisects their community, to a modern standard with curb, gutter, walkways, lighting and bicycle facilities.

This demonstration project will show, just for a weekend, what those improvements might look like. Thanks to the owners of Ole’s Country Store, the temporary park will be situated along a small segment in the middle of town. Business owners and residents will have the opportunity to provide feedback as to how their community center can be improved to provide adequate access for businesses, safe passage for all users of the transportation corridor, and a more inviting and thriving community center.

More specifically, the AARP grant is funding supplies needed to temporarily delineate a new access configuration along Highway 200 near the center of East Missoula, adjacent to Ole’s Country Store. This configuration will create better squared off corners that make turning off Highway 200 onto the slanted streets of East Missoula easier. Additionally, the park will exhibit what this roadway might look like with bicycle and pedestrian facilities. It will also create a temporary gathering space where folks can grab a bite to eat, spend time and visit with neighbors, learn about local efforts to plan for future growth and development, and share their thoughts and ideas about the new configuration.

Missoula County Community and Planning Services and the City of Missoula’s Transportation Planning Division applied for the grant in July to complement and implement outcomes from previous efforts, including the New Mobility West technical assistance project and a Highway Safety Audit, conducted by the Montana Department of Transportation.

Creating safe spaces within the smoke

Lolo fire

It’s back-to-school time and the wildfire smoke in our air is thick, especially in Seeley Lake and Lolo. This is bad for all of us, but especially for vulnerable groups, including our children.

It’s tricky to figure out how to address the health effects of wildfire smoke. We can’t import clean air. But thanks to collaboration between several local groups, we are implementing some practical solutions for some of our most vulnerable residents. In particular, many school children in the smokiest areas will be spending their days in classrooms with HEPA air filters to clean the air they breathe. Climate Smart Missoula launched the efforts that led to the Missoula City-County Health Department and Seeley Lake Elementary School pooling funds to buy air filters for classrooms. When the wildfire smoke in Lolo became hazardous, the Health Department and United Way of Missoula County worked together to buy enough filters for Lolo’s preschool, first through fifth grade, and special education classrooms.

This summer, Climate Smart Missoula also worked with Providence St. Patrick Hospital, an early partner and major funder of all these efforts, to buy HEPA air filters for older adults and families with young children who were at high risk for complications, but who were unable to purchase filters. Community Medical Center and NorthWestern Energy also provided funding. Missoula Aging Services, Partnership Health Center’s Seeley Lake clinic, and the Health Department’s asthma program distributed the filters.

These air filter projects have been on the Health Department’s wish-list for a long time.

“There’s a difference between telling folks they need to create a clean air space during wildfire season and actually helping them make it happen,” Sarah Coefield, air quality specialist with the Missoula City-County Health Department said. “I started to talk with Climate Smart Missoula about a program like this a couple years ago, and they jumped all over it. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to provide real relief to some of our most vulnerable residents during this incredibly challenging smoke season.”

Partnerships made it happen. Amy Cilimburg, executive director of Climate Smart Missoula, says, “It’s amazing what can be accomplished with such a collaborative effort, from generous funders to social service providers. We witnessed relief and many appreciative smiles as we plugged in these new filters. We wish we could have helped everyone. We’ll be living with wildfire for years to come, and with such a generous community, we’ll look to expand this program.”

Because wildfire smoke is common in the summer, some people may start to ignore the potential health risks. But it is still crucial to reduce exposure. Use of a HEPA air filter, especially in the room where you sleep, helps everyone, but especially the most vulnerable; pregnant women, infants, children, people with heart and lung problems, and anyone over 65.

None of this work could happen without the leadership and generosity of all these partners. Climate Smart welcomes any partners who want to help with efforts to keep our most vulnerable residents healthy during unhealthy smoke conditions. We also acknowledge the significant discount provided by the Winix Company which makes the HEPA filter model we chose. There are many good brands of filters, and we don’t recommend any in particular. Climate Smart has these tips to help you choose and use the best filter for your home or business. The tips were developed with guidance from the University of Montana’s School of Public and Community Health Sciences.

Western Montana Fair teams up with Wildland Firefighter Foundation

Fair logo

The 2017 Western Montana Fair is thrilled to announce the traditional Demolition Derby will expand to support the families of brave wildland firefighters who keep Western Montana safe every summer. The Fair is teaming up with the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, which helps families of firefighters killed in the line of duty and assists injured firefighters, to bring fairgoers the Put Out the Peaks Motor Rally. 

This exciting partnership formed in recent weeks to call attention to the urgent needs of the 2017 fire season. The motor sporting event will continue as the Western Montana Fair finale, but will grow from one performance to two and will be even bigger and more exciting than previous years.  A portion of the proceeds will go directly to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. Local firefighters will be on hand to collect additional donations and share information.

Wildland FFF logo“Firefighters are risking their lives so we can enjoy summer traditions like the Fair,” Fairgrounds Director Emily Bentley said. “Honoring their sacrifice – and the sacrifice their families make – is the least we can do. Community connection is a key part of our mission, and we want the brave men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to keep our community safe to know how grateful we are.”

“Wildland firefighters fighting fires in our community come here from all over the country,” said Jennifer Zaso, Wildland Firefighter Foundation Development Director. “Whether they live here in Montana or are hundreds or thousands of miles from home, when injured or killed, there are few resources to help, especially in the early hours and days of a tragedy. The Put Out the Peaks Motor Rallywill help provide urgent support to assist firefighters and their families and recognize and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice protecting our public lands.”

Thanks to sponsors at Iron Horse Towing and NAPA Auto Parts, WHR Motorsports – who brings Monster Nationals and Freestyle Motocross to Missoula every spring – will provide a world-class motorsports experience. Performances will include monster trucks, freestyle motocross (FMX), tough trucks, and mud bog. All Demolition Derby tickets already sold for the 4:30 p.m. show will be honored.

What: Put Out the Peaks Motor Rally

When: Sunday, Aug. 13, 4:30-6:30 p.m. and 8:30-10:30 p.m.

Where: The Missoula County Fairgrounds Rodeo Arena

Cost: $16 per show – use coupon code: PUTOUTTHEPEAKS for a $5 discount