County Administrator Ann Mary Dussault Needs a Time-Out

by jhwygirl

Ann Mary Dussault, County Administrator and former County Commissioner, was asked by Missoulian reporter Keilla Szpaller, for a story covering the numerous bonds and levy requests coming before the voters in the November election, about the regional 911 center:

“It’s way too early for us to be telling the public what the project is and how much it will cost,” Dussault said.

Really? Are you that unorganized for a multi-million dollar request for a multi-million dollar building? What, did the architects have free reign?

She said the project was in the hands of architects. When asked about a timeline, Dussault said she would no longer share timelines with the Missoulian because the county only gets “s–” for it. She then refused to answer further questions and said information must come from commissioners instead.

Did she just say SHIT?

Tsk, tsk, tsk, Ms. Dussault. That really is no way to treat neither the press nor the public that reads it.

You’d think she’d know better, no?

On the other hand, Ms. Dussault isn’t exactly known for her tact.

Gotta give Keilla Spzaller credit here – reporting on all the news that’s fit to print – and apparently more, as it were. The public deserves to know the full story.

It does paint a more accurate picture of Missoula County’s approach to public involvement.

Of course, I’ve blogged about the county’s approach on public involvement before. This post contains two tales (two for one bonus, readers!)

In Ann Mary’s defense, though, she probably doesn’t want to torpedo the proposal by having too much get out about it ahead of its time.

It might get too ripe.

That’s because my friends inside the courthouse tell me that Ann Mary’s plan is to move all departments- Licensing, Titles, Elections, Clerk & Recorder, Surveyor’s – even the Board of County Commissioner’s Office (did I get them all?) – all to the new 911 center proposed for a location off of North Reserve.

Yep, that’s right – move the seat of the county, the heart of the city, to North Reserve.

Missoula is one of Montana’s original 5 counties. From the Canadian border to Dillon, from the Idaho border to Georgetown lake, Missoula County was it all in 1864. And since that time (and even before, really), the heart of it all has been down in what is currently the heart of the city.

Dussault, apparently believes that the new heart of the county is out somewhere on Reserve Street.

A real visionary, huh?

All of this 911 center talk was kicked off by the need for the courtrooms and judge’s offices to expand. Also in the mix is the lack of parking for county employees. Some are upset that they have to walk the block and half from the lot over near St. Patrick’s Hospital.

Yep – those county employees can’t stand to hoof it 600 feet. And those judges need to have the entire courthouse, apparently. But even in the discussion that has been had, they won’t be needing all of it immediately – but sometimes in the next 40 years or so.

Business owners downtown, too, have heard the rumblings. Trouble is, Dussault has yet to accept an invite to a meeting of the Missoula Downtown Association to discuss the issue.

Maybe it’s time to get some input from the citizens that have to use the county adminstrative offices? Isn’t that, like, everyone?

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  1. The downtown planning consultants mentioned, during the public workshop a couple weeks ago, that they had spoken with the county about their prospects of dislocating from Missoula to Reserve. They seemed to be implying that there were other ways to accommodate their space needs downtown, but that this was still a very live question.

    You’re right that it’s a shame that this process of decision-making has to go on behind closed doors, without any knowledge or input from the government’s actual employers.

    It’s almost comical how Dussault started with the whole “I don’t know, its up to the architects” line, and then just broke down with “I’m just not going to tell you.” I guess that’s at least a certain kind of candor.

  2. good enuff for costco

    County governments are infatuated with building anew on greenfields. Gallatin County wants to build it’s jail and law and justice center out by the interstate instead of on the perfectly large enough 19 acres in town. Why? Because it’s easier.

    If governments won’t commit to dense urban building, then how can we hold anyone else accountable to that standard?

  3. good enuff for costco

    In Missoula the Clerk and REcorder is the Treasurer and so apparently that whole ball of wax will go out to Reserve. Pay your taxes, license and registration for cars, register to vote, file liens, record deeds, etc.

    Maybe they’ll have a drive up or two!

  4. goof houlihan

    Evidently, jh, only you and me and the guy who won’t let anyone post on his blog are interested in this. It IS a very interesting topic to me.

    Keeping government on Main Street is critical imo. In Bozeman, we’ve got the School District, the Federal Govt, the City and the county, all discharging at noon to eat and shop. People park, register a vehicle, go get lunch, do some banking, visit the library, and buy a 100,000 painting…

    Government gets people downtown as surely as a Nordstroms would.

    With Bozeman preaching it’s “walkable, dense, building up, mixed use, yada yada, it’s ultimate hypocrisy to ship it’s cop shop and courts out to the greenfields on the edge of town.

  5. I had a similar observation, goof, in a conversation today. Surely, I thought, this would be of interest. It sure got the traffic, but no comments. More hits today than even yesterday – which were pretty darn high.

    Maybe people are afraid of Ann Mary? She has quite a temper, as you can see. :-)

    I thought that you’d side on Dusault’s idea being somewhere out in left field- for exactly the reasons you site. People come to town to do all sorts of business and along the way they do more business. Attorneys and title companies are settled downtown – all the records for research are there. Plats, all kinds of stuff that has to be accessed by engineer and developer types.

    Then there’s the transportation issue – government should be easily accessible by public transportation, no? Missoula’s preaching “walkable, dense, building up, mixed use” too – but Ann Mary’s not buying it I guess.

    Me? Other than suspecting that there’s something in the water she’s drinking, I believe her ego is the biggest driver here. She’s got to be retiring sometime in the nearer future – and she wants to be able to look at some big old cement building out there on Reserve and say she did it.

    What town would do something like this? She’s nuts.

  6. airbo

    4&20 slings the heat–now you have done it!

    Breaking News
    Dussault announces plans to retire June 30
    Posted on March 19
    By KIM BRIGGEMAN of the Missoulian

    http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2008/03/19/bnews/br78.txt

  7. Binky Griptight

    “Commissioners Jean Curtiss, Bill Carey and Larry Anderson accepted Dussault’s request to retire on June 30 at an administrative meeting Wednesday morning. They also followed Dussault’s recommendation to appoint Dale Bickell, the county’s chief financial officer, to replace her.”

    Well, maybe, Dale can tell us the plans. That way, we can figure out if we need to build a police station downtown (either the Fox site or on the brownfield across the river), or if we could save a chunk of the city’s change by putting the cops in with the 911 center.

    Better yet, why not just do away with the City of Missoula all together?

  8. airbo

    Here is a plan:
    Move the poverello center to the fox site. They need a larger shelter. The river views would be nice for the homeless folks too.
    The police could move to the poverello’s block. This will keep them close to city hall, just in case the building department encounters an angry property owner.
    The county can build the 911 center and co-locate it with a new western Montana special police ops-training center.
    In a sweet hart deal, the county could leverage state and federal funds to cover the bricks and mortar. The deal will require the county jail and the pre-release center to process all the incoming inmates, sentenced to the Montana department of corrections.
    Then, when the state and federal money runs out-in three years, the Missoula county voters could approve a mill levy to cover the future operating cost of the 911/special ops center.
    After all that, we can have a plan to expand the county jail

  9. The 911 center is separate from the City Police – and the latest proposal I heard on that is trading the old Fox cite for a chunk of land out by Bonner (yep – BONNER).

    Now, there’s another Einstein plan, huh? What in hades is in the water downtown?!

    That proposal for the city police station – the trade of land – believe it or not, is actually an improvement over the original plans for the Fox site. In the original proposal, the city was giving it away to the mythical to-be-built $70,000,000 Performing Arts Center.

    You remember that one – the one that had to get a $10,000,000 sugar daddy or momma, which later became multiple sugar daddy or mommas and now, apparently, they’ve got no sugar daddies or mommies….but they’ve successfully suckered the County Commissioners, though, (with all their successes!) to put a $10,000,000 bond on the ballot – to buy the land and give the taxpayers the right to another chance to support them with another bond, only the second one would be (apparently) $60,000,000.

  10. I’ve should have added – knowing how some of the Homeland Security monies are being used, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they’ve got some nominal amount of money coming to help with it. I doubt it’s a significant portion – but hell, who in the hell knows what they’re doing….after all, it’s too soon to let the public know, and apparently, as I stated above, the architects have been told to “have at it.”

  11. The new Public Safety building is going in next to the jail on Mullan Road. I thought everyone knew that.

  12. This is the most recent I’ve been able to find.

    When did they decide that, carol?

  13. goof houlihan

    You guys need more left turns heading west on Mullan drive, because that stacking problem only holds up traffic for a couple of miles.

  14. One idea, that won’t likely come fruition on my lifetime, is another (horrors!) bridge over the Clark Fork – people heading home to the multiple subdivisions out there would head straight on through 3rd & Mullan (down by Wheat Monana) and then eventually cross a bridge to avoid that mess-of-a-intersection.

    Divine intervention is more likely, given the federal experts believe a bridge isn’t necessary for safe and efficient flow of traffic into and out of the Miller Creek area.

  15. The more bridges the better. I wish there was a foot bridge near the railroad bridge which they don’t let us sneak over anymore.

    No idea when the public safety bldg was decided, but that’s the word among the vendors. The property is already a “secure facility” anyway, whatever that means.

    Could use a light at Broadway and Palmer. When things get nasty near Reserve I turn on Great Northern or Latimer, where there is little congestion. That will get you to Costco or Barnes & Noble. Back streets like Great Northern are nice ways for the locals to get around – I wish there were an equivalent street on the west side of Reserve.

  1. 1 Missoula County Sure Doesn’t Make it Easy to Understand What They’re Doing « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] course, we know how they’ve enjoyed the possibility of public comment in the past. Or you could always try this post for 2 more examples of the BCC’s approach to public […]

  2. 2 More on Closing County Vote Polling Stations « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] officials sometime seem to get downright indignant, which appears to be the case now. Remember the time-out county administrator Ann Mary Dussault needed when pressed last year about the undefined plan to bring numerous bonds and levys before the […]




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