Tuesday, November 4, 2008

MISSOULA EMERGENCY RESPONSE: Defeated by 1,300 votes



Missoula County residents narrowly defeated a bond measure on Tuesday that would have built a new sheriff’s office and 911 emergency call center.

The bond issue was losing by 1,300 votes with 99 of 101 precincts reporting. There were 22,247 (51.5 percent) against the measure to 20,950 (48.5 percent) in favor.

The measure would have raised $16 million dollars over the next 20 years by taxing property owners $13.91 on every $100,000 of taxable value per year.

The estimated cost of the new center is around $23.5 million. The rest of the money would have come from the county’s reserves and annual budgeting.

Sheriff Mike McMeekin took the news in stride but said he worried that rising construction costs would cost the county and taxpayers significantly as a result of the defeat.

There was no organized opposition to the bond, and most of its opponents agreed with the need for a new center but felt that it was the wrong time to be asking voters to pay higher taxes.

Even one of the most public opponent of the bond, Democratic county commissioner-elect Michele Landquist, said she worried about openly opposing the bond measure, as she didn’t want be blamed for the bond’s defeat.

Supporters of the bond pointed to overcrowding in the Missoula county courthouse and outdated infrastructure as the reason that the new center was so crucial for the county. They say that as calls to 911 increase and county sheriff’s deputies continue to play a crucial role in county law enforcement, the current location, in the county courthouse annex building, will become increasingly insufficient.

In the end, McMeekin said that the bond’s defeat was “understandable given that the economic situation is the way it is.” He stressed that because the county needs the center, it will find a way to get the money.

Reporter Melissa Jensen provided some of the information for this article.

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