Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Before leaving office after two terms, outgoing Missoula County Sheriff T.J. McDermott sent a letter dated September 14, 2022, to the Missoula Board of County Commissioners about $530,000 that had been targeted to the Missoula County Detention Center.

Read Sheriff McDermott's letter to the County Commissioners here.

The Commissioners Respond

After reaching out to Missoula County officials for comment, KGVO received this statement from the Missoula County Commissioners on December 15.

There was an inadvertent error in the budget, which staff addressed after the sheriff sent his letter to the commissioners. No money was ever moved.

We can definitely understand how that was a frustrating situation for Sheriff McDermott though. The secure access and parking lot for the detention facility are still being built to ensure safety as the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space and Trinity projects come online in the next few months.

We are looking to meet a lot of community needs on that parcel of land, while also being mindful of how we spend tax dollars. We understand the sheriff's frustrations as we try to find solutions that can work for all the partners involved. We appreciate his willingness to collaborate and hope that can continue with the sheriff's office moving forward.

KGVO also requested the actual dollar amounts associated with the sheriff’s original complaint and received this statement on January 3, 2023.

The total cost for the Detention Facility parking lot and access road is about $698,500. Of that, $460,000 is being paid for out of the County's general fund, with the remaining $238,500 coming from the Sheriff's Office budget.

The New Sheriff Takes up the Cause of Safe and Secure Access to the Detention Center

Newly elected Missoula County Sheriff Jeremiah Petersen provided this statement to KGVO News regarding the parking lot and access road at his inaugural press conference on January 11 at the Missoula County Courthouse.

"You know, unfortunately, we know there's a housing crisis in Missoula, and we feel that everybody deserves affordable housing," said Petersen. "I think that we have been good partners, and that we have worked with the commissioners. And with the Trinity (affordable housing project) and the TSOS (Temporary Safe Outdoor Space) in good faith. I also feel that it is my responsibility to ensure the safety of our employees, and the people that were entrusted of taking care of, and that's the inmates at the facility. And so I think it's vital that we do have a secure parking lot and that we do have an access road for emergency personnel to come and go. Moving forward, we're going to continue to be as collaborative as we can, but I'm also going to voice my concerns because it's my responsibility to look out for my people."

"I'm very proud to have provided the leadership necessary at the time to protect the interest of our taxpayers and the safety of our county staff," said McDermott. "Out of respect for the current Sheriff, I'm not going to comment any further as this issue is now his to address moving forward."

The new TSOS hard-sided shelter facility officially opened on January 4, 2023.

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The Temporary Safe Outdoor Space new hard-sided shelter facility officially opened on Thursday, January 5. The TSOS is just off West Broadway near the new Trinity affordable housing complex.

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