Posted: Mar 21, 2012 5:00 PM by Dennis Bragg (KPAX News)
Updated: Mar 22, 2012 10:22 AM
MISSOULA- There are still a lot of details to be ironed out, but leaders for the City of Missoula and Missoula County say they're ready to proceed with the idea of splitting the Office of Planning and Grants (OPG) next year.
The concept of separating the joint county-city OPG has been circulating for some time, but gained steam this winter as Mayor John Engen pressed for the change to improve efficiency for how permits and planning are handled.
Dismantling the joint OPG is basically a "wash" dollar-wise. The city will still spend $1 million a year to run the new "Development Services Office", once one-time set up costs are taken care of.
During a rare joint meeting with the city council and county commissioners on Wednesday Missoula County Chief administrative officer Dale Bickell explained costs are also equal for the county, with no additional full-time employees (FTEs) outside of the expense of making the transition.
"In looking at that, we don't feel that there is a need to add additional FTEs. So right now we feel that the on-going cost is not significant to the county."
For the most part, everyone at the table favored taking the next step, with the exception of Councilman Dick Haines, who wasn't comfortable moving forward without more concrete details on cost.
The others said they too see a lot of questions to be answered. But the general feeling was one of "getting to work" to iron out the details.
"Our intention here would be to continue to contract with Missoula County for a variety of services, including grants. Missoula County can maintain the Office of Planning and Grants largely in any way it sees fit." Engen said.
"In the end, it comes down to customer service. And our customers are those taxpayers out there. And it's imperative that we make sure we're delivering the best customer service we can. And this gives us that opportunity." Missoula County Commissioner Michele Landquist commented.
County commissioners approved amending the inter local agreement to allow for the OPG changes to be worked out in the coming months. The Committee of the Whole agreed, but the full council will vote next Monday.